SHOULD KNEE SLEEVES BE A PART OF YOUR WORKOUT?
Wearing knee sleeves in sports is popular and you can frequently see people wearing them while working out at the gym.
Knee sleeves used in strength-training is most commonly made of neoprene, a rubber with elastic properties, that can provide the necessary compression.
Unfortunately knee injuries are common and can be a limiting factor for training strength. Emphasis should be on how to prevent it, and if knee sleeves have a role in that, we should use it.
The question is if knee sleeves add anything to prevention of injury.
There is evidence that knee sleeves improve neuromuscular control, but not reducing the cutting agility, on certain exercises. This can be translated into an effect where you can still move the whole body rapid, with change of direction or velocity, without any reduction by wearing a knee sleeve. Still the unconscious response of a muscle to signals concerning joint stability, which is a trained response, gets improved. The latter can be called proprioception and is a critical factor in preventing and avoiding injury.
But the evidence are diverging , and very much depend on the exact exercise being executed and studied. A small study from 2018 could not prove any effect on muscle activity and joint mechanics performing the back squat.
It is safe to state that one of the main reasons to wear a knee sleeve for healthy individuals, is compression and warmth. Compression and heat increases blood flow and reduces the perception of pain and discomfort. Continuing the compression after the workout with a compression garment and for 24 hours, can improve rehabilitation, and also performance to a limited extent. But, it requires 24 hours with compression. If you lift heavy loads, pain and discomfort can be important. It is difficult to believe that pain does not affect performance, and usually it is advised to decrease the load to a level where you avoid pain. This is where we find a key role for the knee sleeves.
You should note though, that proper warm up increases the heat and blood flow too.
There are many technical issues that also can affect your knees and result in pain, the first one is a lack of ankle mobility. If you are squatting this can cause serious problems, that a knee sleeve want solve. Your feets have to be stable and planted firmly onto the ground. Studies have shown that poor ankle mobility (particularly poor ankle dorsiflexion) can seriously affect squat performance. A 2012 study found that restricting ankle dorsiflexion affected knee valgus (pushing your knees too far out while squatting) and medial knee displacement (pushing your knees to far inwards) Stiff ankles can cause the foot or the knees to compensate, this can lead to your heels rising off the ground, or the inside or outside of your feet. It can also lead to your knees pushing outwards or inwards.
If you have any medical condition affecting your knees, you should consult a doctor. Maybee knee braces is a better option. Knee sleeves and knee braces are to different things, and used for different purposes.
To summarize the arguments for wearing a knee sleeve:
- increase warmth and adding its positive effect
- can increase proprioception
So, if you are at the point where you have decided to wear knee sleeves on your heavy parts of the workout, there are still some important factors to take into considerations.
Knee sleeves are made of neoprene. That means they are a product of the petrochemical industry, which in practice is crude oil. The negative impact on our environment is enormous and to this day there is no way to recycle neoprene. Nature itself uses hundreds of years to break it down, a vital problem addressed by surfers. As surfers are as fond of the nature and the sea, as their sport, they have tried to come up with solutions. First it was the limestone neoprene, that proved to not be as eco-friendly as believed.
Later on Patagonia and a company called Yulex, teamed up to produce a natural form of neoprene-free rubber, not containing many of the hazardous components of conventional neoprene. Their neoprene-free rubber became certified by the Rainforest Alliance and Forest Stewardship Council®, and is the most sustainable neoprene there is right now.
Squatbar decided to develop our knee sleeves from the Yulex rubber, and with minor modifications, it provided the required stretch and desired compression.
If you decide to wear knee sleeves, make sure it is made of sustainable and neoprene-free rubber – that means the Squatbar knee sleeves.