Knee Wraps vs Knee Sleeves?

What is the difference between Knee Sleeves and Knee Wraps? There are a few differences between the two starting at construction, material and performance expectation. 

What are Knee Wraps?

Knee Wraps

Image Source: Strength Shop UK

Knee wraps are a long piece of elastic material that wraps below and above the knee joint giving support to the surrounding muscles and ligaments during squats. By the wrap essentially absorbing and storing force on the eccentric movement (the downward movement) the energy is they used from the knee wraps to assist in not only expelling the stored energy in the wraps to assist the athlete into the concentric phase (upwards) but also at the same time giving support to the quadricep tendon. 
Knee wraps are designed more for powerlifting training, they can be seen cross over into the sport of Olympic weight lifting however due to the dynamic nature of Olympic lifting, knee wraps aren't always preferred by lifters in the sport. Although you do see some of the open weight category lifters wearing them.
The knee wraps do not show a presence in the sport of CrossFit very much, as CrossFit is a highly functional sport, this is where Knee Sleeves are seen. Due to the limited functionality of the wrap and its design knee wraps for running do not exist.

What are Knee Sleeves?

Rehband Knee Sleeve

Image Source: WIT Fitness

Knee Sleeves are a lightweight flexible sleeve made from neoprene. They come in a multitude of different thicknesses (3mm, 5mm, 7mm), lengths and sizes. The performance result of the Knee Sleeve is what determines the thickness of the sleeve you buy. A thick Knee Sleeve can make great powerlifting knee sleeves, making it another option for powerlifting apart from the wrap.
Working with lighter weights but at higher reps and over a period of time, the Knee Sleeves provide compression in and around the knee joint. This compression aids in blood flow, meaning faster recovery and it also keeps the joint warm, which is beneficial for outdoor training or running in WODs. 
The Knee Sleeve has a slight energy potential to store and expel, but at a much lower level than knee wraps. This is sufficient enough for squats for reps, wall balls, thrusters though!

Knee Wraps, Advantages and Disadvantages.

Advantages of wearing Knee Wraps for squats and lifting?

Performance is the main advantage here. Knee Wraps have been researched and tested on athletes in the past and results come back with athletes being able to display a 10% increase in power output. Therefore wearing these for max outs and performance sessions is where they work best with the least amount of damage to the body. For example, you should not use the on a 5x10 at 55% de load day. Use them sparingly and for when it counts.

Disadvantages of wearing Knee Wraps?

Just like any training accessory, the more you train with it, the more your body depends on it. Belts, lifters, and wraps are all accessories to help with performance, meaning by using these accessories, they will not “make you stronger” by wearing or using them. They merely only assist and aid with the strength that is already existing prior to wearing them. The Knee Wrap can be a dangerous accessory to over use as the way the wrap is secured onto the knee means there is some compression on the patellar into the knee resulting in restriction of movement and wear and tear of the joint. This can lead to an onset of arthritis in the joint at an earlier stage. 
If you are looking for knee wraps for pain, you should first question why there is pain and approach the pain that way. Sometimes an accessory shouldn't be used to mask pain and allow you to keep pushing on the pain. This could lead to much bigger issues and long term injury. Seeing a professional for the pain is recommended before buying wraps to help with pain. 

Knee Sleeves, The Advantages and Disadvantages.

Advantages of wearing Knee Sleeves:

Would be in the sports of Olympic Weight Lifting and CrossFit, for performance, support and recovery. In CrossFit we are working with lighter weights at higher reps and over a period of time, the Knee Sleeves provide compression in and around the knee joint. This compression aids in blood flow, meaning faster recovery and it also keeps the joint warm, which is beneficial for outdoor training or running in WODs. 
For the Olympic Weightlifting sport, a thicker knee sleeve can be worn, aiding in all the above advantages, but also giving a bit more energy storage and release from the Knee Sleeve due to the thickness of the neoprene.

Disadvantages of wearing Knee Sleeves: 

are similar to the wraps, in where the more you train with it, the more your body depends on it. However the risk of causing damage to the knee joint or the onset of arthritis is much lower and the Knee Sleeve is a lot more flexible therefore not restricting movement of the knee joint causing the patellar to rub against the joint groove.

Why do athletes wear Knee Sleeves or Knee Wraps?

Knee sleeves vs knee wraps in athletes. In simple terms, athletes wear Knee Sleeves to help support performance. Athletes wear Knee Sleeves and Knee Wraps to increase their performance output. If that be a 14000Km row at the CrossFit games, wearing knee sleeves for squats max out, or a Clean and Jerk at the Weightlifting Olympics to a 600lbs back squat at the strong man games. These accessories enhance performance and support strength that already exists in the athlete. 

Tia Toomey CrossFit Games

Image Source: Rogue

CrossFit athletes such as Tia Toomey (picture above) wear CrossFit Knee Sleeves in competition and training.

Whereas some Olympic weightlifters and Powerlifters wear the weight lifting Knee wraps.

Mattie Rodgers TeamUSA

Image Source: Team USA. org

This is because of the demands and performances of the 3 sports being so different. The athletes need to ensure they are able to receive the support vs flexibility they need from their knee accessory.

Should I wear Knee Wraps or Knee Sleeves? 


  • If you are a beginner, no. Train without accessories to begin. This will encourage you to build your own foundation of strength and stability. When you start to lift some serious numbers then introduce an accessory to support your foundation of training.
  • If you have been training for a while now (6-12 months) you can look at investing in some knee sleeves. They will act as a little support when going heavy in squats but will also can be used throughout your CrossFit training and Olympic weightlifting training also. 
  • 1 or 2 knee sleeves. That’s a personal choice. Some athletes wear 1 if they have recently had an injury or have had surgery. It is a precautionary accessory, to aid in rehabilitation. It also will keep the joint warm. But once again, it is a personal choice. 

Where do I buy Knee Wraps?

You can buy these in a few powerlifting and strength shops across the country. 

Where do I buy weightlifting Knee Sleeves and CrossFit Knee Sleeves? stocks a range of knee sleeves all in one place. Click here to head to the website to shop Eleiko knee sleeves, Rehband knee sleeves, and Rocktape Knee Sleeves to name a few.

How to put on Knee Wraps

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