5 Things to Consider When Buying Knee Sleeves

5 Things to Consider When Buying Knee Sleeves

Knee sleeves are a staple accessory used by powerlifters, however, their popularity has steadily increased and even avid gym-goers are finding the benefits of owning a pair.

What things should you consider when shopping for a pair of knee sleeves?

  1. Competition requirements

  2. How much compression you need

  3. What activity you’re using them for

  4. Shape and style of stitching

  5. Budget

Brands like SBD are often seen as the default option for most people, especially among competitive powerlifters. However, while they offer a high-quality product it may not be the right choice for everyone based on the 5 considerations outlined in this article.

In a hurry?  Check out our collection of sleeves for our recommendations on the best knee sleeves for squats and powerlifting.

  1. Competition requirements

The first question to ask yourself before purchasing a pair of knee sleeves is whether you will be competing in them because that will narrow your list of choices down to a handful of brands.

Each federation will have its own list of what is and isn’t approved that can be found on their website, and brands will usually mention in the description of their product whether they are IPF approved. If a product is IPF approved you can assume it’s approved in most other federations since their approval guidelines are most stringent.

However, having “IPF approved” denoted on a product usually means its price includes the cost of having that label, meaning if you have no intentions of competing or of competing in the IPF, looking at non IPF approved equipment may be a better option for you.

We have a whole list of IPF/USAPL Approved Equipment and IPL/USPA Approved Equipment

  1. How much compression you need

While you may think the more compression the better, that isn’t always the case especially if you plan on wearing your knee sleeves frequently and up to an hour or more in the gym.

Some lifters will own two pairs of knee sleeves, one for competition that is more compressive and another pair that is more true to size and can be worn comfortably. 

In my opinion most people should opt to get a more true-to-size pair unless they are exclusively purchasing in preparation for a meet and have already trained with a pair that fits more comfortably in the past.

The last thing you need is to realize the more compressive pair can’t make it over your bare calves just days before the meet.

  1. What activity you’re using them for

While powerlifters arguably popularized the use of knee sleeves, weightlifters, crossfitters and even just those with knee injuries also will own them for extra support and warmth.

And while a stiff and long sleeve is excellent for powerlifting, that might not be what you’re looking for as a crossfitter who has to transition into different movements or a weightlifter who needs a little more flexibility in the sleeve.

While the most competitive powerlifters will wear 7mm thick knee sleeves, other sports athletes or general gym-goers may want to opt for more flexible 5mm or even 3mm sleeves.

  1. Shape and style of stitching

Some knee sleeve brands have added additional features such as non-slip grips or stitching that tapers in order to keep the sleeve in place or to contour and bend better along with your knee joint.

Other knee sleeves come with silicone gel trim along the top for enhanced anti-slip technology.  One of the more annoying aspects of knee sleeves is the feeling of them sliding down your leg throughout the workout.

Knee sleeves can also come in a cone shape, which is especially good if you have proportionally larger calves and the more evenly cut sleeves tend to compress your calves too much.

  1. Budget

Ultimately your budget does matter because you shouldn’t have to break the bank for a decent pair of neoprene knee sleeves. While some lifters are willing to stretch their budget since knee sleeves should last you several years unless you just grow out of them, others would prefer to be more mindful of cost.

At the top end knee sleeves will cost in the range of 80-100 USD, a price you can expect with most IPF approved 7mm neoprene sleeves such as SBD and A7.

The next price tier is the 50-70 USD range where you can find the Titan Yellow Jacket. These are still competition-approved and may even be better options than more expensive varieties.

The least expensive varieties can be found in the range of 20-40 USD and are typically lesser-known brands, are less rigid styles or are not approved for competition but can still be great for training. Some examples include Black Crusher and Xena Knee Sleeves.

Final Thoughts

Knee sleeves are a great addition to anyone’s gym bag especially if you are training for strength in the squat; however there are a number of sleeves on the market and it can be confusing trying to decide which one to purchase.

You just need to have a good understanding of what purpose they are serving you, whether the design serves that purpose and of course what you can afford. There are quality products available for all use cases so do your research and find the right one for you!

About The Author

Avi Silverberg is the Head Coach for Team Canada Powerlifting and also runs the website PowerliftingTechnique.com.  He has coached over 300 athletes from first-time powerlifters to World Champions.  He has a Master’s of Science in Kinesiology where his thesis investigated the impact of high-intensity strength training on older adults.  When not powerlifting himself, he likes to immerse himself in various outdoor activities, such as hiking, climbing, and horseback riding.

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