Knee Support

3mm vs 5mm vs 7mm Knee Sleeves: All The Differences Explained

3mm vs 5mm vs 7mm Knee Sleeves

As a personal trainer, one training equipment question I’m often asked by clients is what knee sleeve thickness is ideal: 3 mm, 5 mm, or 7 mm?

Here’s what I tell them:

The 5mm and 7mm knee sleeves are ideal for general fitness, powerlifting, olympic weightlifting, and bodybuilding because they offer joint support, warmth, and a modest strength boost. The 3mm sleeves are good for endurance athletes and folks who need minimal knee support while training.

I’ll outline the differences between knee sleeve thicknesses further so that you can rest assured that you’re choosing the best sleeve to suit your needs.

Key Takeaways

  • The 3mm knee sleeves are useful for casual lifters because they provide just a bit of support and warmth without feeling stiff or affecting the range of motion.

  • The 5mm and 7mm knee sleeves offer more support, warmth, and versatility, making them ideal for most athletes.

  • My recommendation for most lifters is to pick 7mm knee sleeves because after awhile using 5mm knee sleeves you'll find yourself wanting more support anyways.  

  • The Differences Between 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm Knee Sleeves Explained

    The differences between 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm knee sleeves explained

    The differences between 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm are represented in the following table:









    Almost none

    Moderate support

    Excellent support, especially with a tighter fit

    Knee mobility

    No impact

    Small impact

    Moderate impact, especially with a tighter fit


    Can be worn for extended periods

    Feels compressive but still comfortable

    May not be comfortable enough to keep on between sets

    Best for

    Everyday activities, light exercise, and endurance training

    Olympic weightlifting, CrossFit, and bodybuilding

    Powerlifting and general strength training

    Material used

    SBR, neoprene, elastic, nylon, silicone, spandex

    Neoprene (almost always)

    Neoprene (almost always)

    3mm Knee Sleeves

    The 3mm knee sleeves are among the thinnest knee sleeves available.

    Benefits of 3mm Knee Sleeves

    The benefits of 3mm sleeves are:

    • They feel light and don’t limit knee mobility

    • They don’t trap as much heat or lead to excessive sweating

    • They are ideal for less intense training, especially endurance exercise

    • They provide some joint comfort and are useful for everyday activities

    Who Should Wear 3mm Knee Sleeves?

    Those who primarily do endurance training, lift lighter weights, and don’t need as much knee support would do best with 3mm knee sleeves. 

    Additionally, people with previous knee injuries can wear 3mm sleeves during training and everyday activities to keep their joints warm and ache-free.

    Related Article: Knee Braces Vs Knee Sleeves: 4 Differences + Which Do You Need?

    5mm Knee Sleeves

    Put simply, 5mm knee sleeves are the middle ground between support and mobility.

    Benefits of 5mm Knee Sleeves

    The 5mm knee sleeves are slightly thicker and offer some unique advantages:

    • More knee support without impairing joint range of motion

    • More warmth to keep joints lubricated

    • Comfortable to wear for an entire training session

    • Useful in various activities (barbell training, conditioning work, Strongman lifts, etc.)

    Who Should Wear 5mm Knee Sleeves?

    Given their decent support, 5mm knee sleeves are useful for many athletes, especially first-time knee-sleeve users. 

    I would recommend 5mm sleeves for:

    • Everyday gym-goers who need some knee support and warmth to go through their lower body training

    • CrossFitters and Olympic lifters who enjoy some knee support but also need mobility to perform at their best

    • Competitive powerlifters, when doing high-rep training or going through a hypertrophy-focused block
    “The 5mm knee sleeves are great for general purpose strength training. We particularly like them for CrossFit and lighter weightlifting, where they are a good balance between extra support and free movement.”

    -Oleksiy Torokhtiy, European & World weightlifting championships medalist

    7mm Knee Sleeves

    7mm Knee Sleeves

    The 7mm knee sleeves are popular among powerlifters and strength enthusiasts who need more joint support and don’t mind giving up a bit of mobility. 

    Benefits of 7mm Knee Sleeves 

    The benefits of 7mm sleeves are:

    • Greater joint support and knee stability

    • More warmth, which could reduce joint wear and tear over time

    • More durability than thinner options and less likely to stretch out

    • Can provide a modest strength boost during squats

    Who Should Wear 7mm Knee Sleeves?

    Those who would benefit from thicker and more rigid knee sleeves are:

    • Powerlifters who need maximum support during training and competition

    • Strength enthusiasts looking to maximize their progress and add more weight to the bar

    • Bodybuilders who enjoy heavy training and care about their strength development

    • First-time buyers who lean more toward strength training and are looking for a durable option

    • Larger individuals who need extra knee support to feel comfortable and confident in their training

    Knee Sleeve Recommendation

    Knee Sleeve Recommendation

    The 7mm knee sleeves by Gymreapers are a fantastic option for powerlifters, bodybuilders, first-time buyers, and bigger lifters who need more joint support in their training. They provide excellent knee support without feeling too stiff or affecting joint range of motion.

    These sleeves consist of high-quality neoprene, the same material used to make diving suits. It is known for insulating and trapping heat, allowing trainees to warm up their joints more quickly, even when training in a cold environment. 

    The result is reduced wear and tear, fewer training-related aches, and greater comfort, even when lifting close to your 1RM.

    Neoprene is also known for its elastic properties, allowing the sleeves to store potential energy when descending during squats. As a result, the sleeves provide some support at the bottom position in the form of a ‘bounce,’ which could favorably impact 1RM performance.

    Another benefit of neoprene is that it sticks to the skin and keeps the knee sleeves in position, even during longer and more intense training sets.

    As an added benefit, these sleeves come with reinforced stitching, which ensures durability for many years. However, should there be a problem, Gymreapers offer a 1-year replacement guarantee.

    If you aspire to compete in weightlifting or powerlifting, rest assured that you can use the Gymreapers knee sleeves. They are IPF and USAPL approved and compliant with IWF rules

    Related Article: How Much Are Knee Sleeves & Are Expensive Brands Worth It?

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is a 3mm sleeve good?

    Yes, 3mm knee sleeves can be valuable for people who don’t need much knee support and those who’ve previously dealt with injuries. However, 5mm or 7mm sleeves would be better if you enjoy heavy strength training.

    Do I need 5mm or 7mm knee sleeves?

    The 5mm knee sleeves are beneficial for a wide variety of trainees, including Olympic weightlifters, CrossFitters, and bodybuilders. These provide some knee support and warmth without feeling stiff or affecting joint range of motion.

    However, 7mm knee sleeves are better for serious strength trainees interested in lifting as much weight as possible. Thicker knee sleeves improve joint stability, promote comfort, and boost confidence when handling heavy weights.

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