How Knee Sleeves for Powerlifting Work
Chances are good that you’ve seen at least one person at your gym working out in knee sleeves. While knee sleeves are often used for powerlifting, not everyone understands how they work. These sleeves can help guard against injury, warm up the knee joint, increase proprioception, and improve recovery.
Knee sleeves are useful as a prophylactic injury defense. They are different than knee braces, since braces are meant to protect an existing injury. They can help guard against injury by keeping the knee joint warm. When your joints are warm, discomfort generally lessens, and your injury risk is reduced.
Knee sleeves for powerlifting also help to improve proprioception. This means that your body is better able to sense where your joint is and how it’s working.
Lifters often talk about a mind-muscle connection, and knee sleeves can help you establish a similar sort of connection, which leads to better form and therefore to a decreased risk of injury.
These sleeves also work as compression gear, which helps to decrease recovery time. When compression is applied to a given area, the flow of blood through that area increases. Because blood flow increases nutrient and oxygen delivery to muscle tissue, this can help aid the recovery process.
Types of Knee Sleeves for Powerlifting
While most knee sleeves look similar to the untrained eye, there are a few different types that are designed for different activity levels. These types are classified by the thickness of the neoprene material used to make them:
- 3mm (or similar) thickness – These are some of the thinnest available knee sleeves. Generally, these would not be a good fit for powerlifters, as they do not provide enough support. This thickness is ideal for endurance sports.
- 5mm (or similar) thickness – This is a medium-thickness that is good for all-purpose activity. These may be good for those who want a balance of agility and strength, but these are not ideal for powerlifting.
- 7mm (or similar) thickness – This thickness is best for powerlifting. Since powerlifting, and particularly squatting, can be taxing on the knees, it logically follows that a support like this one would be ideal.
How to Use Knee Sleeves for Powerlifting
Using knee sleeves to powerlift is fairly simple. Most types of knee sleeves just pull on over the knee. Some brands may require a special technique to get them on, but after you’ve mastered that learning curve, putting them on becomes routine.
It is very important that you make sure you get exactly the right size of knee sleeve, particularly if you are a competitor. The exact way to measure will vary depending on the brand you choose, and some brands offer special instructions for those looking to wear sleeves in competition.
Other makes of knee sleeves offer charts that differentiate between “standard fit” and “tight fit.” Those looking to compete, or to at least somewhat emulate the fit of sleeves in a meet, should go for the tight fit.
Once you have selected the appropriate size of sleeve and have mastered putting them on (this can challenging, especially for the tighter fits), actually using the sleeves is easy. They are designed to stay in place, so there isn’t anything special you need to do when actually lifting.
However, because these sleeves can help improve proprioception, it can be helpful to think about where your knees are during your lifts. This may help improve your form as well as your overall body awareness, which is helpful as your lifts progress in weight.
How to Maintain Knee Sleeves for Powerlifting
Part of why knee sleeves work is because they keep your knees warm. This can unfortunately lead to a lot of sweat. There are a few different ways you can keep your knee sleeves fresh.
In between washings, it’s best to turn them inside out and let them air-dry in between workouts. Keeping them in a gym bag can lead to mildew growth.
However, you will sometimes need to wash your sleeves. The most obvious way to clean them may be washing them with a regular load of laundry. This is a good way to clean them, but it is very important to not put them in the dryer, as this can degrade the neoprene.
Rather, letting them air-dry after washing is best. Alternatively, you can boil them for about five minutes, then add some soap to the pot and leave it there as they cool. You can then rinse and air dry them.