Knee Support

Knee Sleeves vs Knee Wraps: Differences and Which Do You Need?

Knee Sleeves vs Knee Wraps: Differences and Which Do You Need?

If you’re looking for added support and performance-boosting benefits for squats, then you may be wondering whether you should use knee sleeves or knee wraps.

Most lifters will need knee sleeves rather than knee wraps because they can be used for a wider variety of exercises and different styles of training. However, those whose primary goal is to squat as much weight as possible should use knee wraps instead of knee sleeves.

To help you decide whether you should use knee sleeves or wraps, I’ll outline the benefits and drawbacks of each piece of equipment and highlight their differences.

Key Takeaways

  • Knee wraps offer more support and compression but they are more difficult to use, less comfortable, and do not keep your knees warm between sets.

  • Knee wraps can add approximately 70 lbs to your squat, whereas knee sleeves add 50 lbs at most.

  • Knee sleeves are the more practical choice for most buyers as they are easier to use, more comfortable, and can be used for a wider variety of exercises than knee wraps.

  • Knee Sleeves

    knee sleeves

    Knee sleeves
    are typically made of neoprene material and are designed to fit snugly over the knee joint. They provide compression, warmth, and support to the knee during exercise. 

    Knee sleeves come in a variety of thicknesses, with thicker sleeves providing more support and compression. Thinner sleeves (3mm) are mainly used to keep the knees warm between sets.

    Knee sleeves are approved for use in every raw powerlifting division in the world. However, in some federations, only select brands are approved so you will need to check the specifications of your federation if you are planning on competing. 

    Benefits Of Knee Sleeves

    The benefits of knee sleeves include:

    • Injury Prevention. Knee sleeves can help prevent injuries by providing support and compression to the knee joint during exercise. It also helps to keep the joint warm which increases blood flow and reduces aches and pains.

  • Increased Stability and Performance. Knee sleeves can help improve the stability of the knee joint during exercise, which can help enhance lifting technique and help you lift more weight.
  • This stretching and compressing of the sleeve can aid in lifting 10-50 lbs more depending on the type of knee sleeve and how it is used. 

  • More User Friendly. Knee sleeves are very easy to use, simply fold them in half, slide them up your knee, fold the other half over, and leave them on.

  • Better Versatility. Knee sleeves can be used for any exercise that involves flexing and extending the knees (i.e. squats, leg extensions, leg press).

  • Drawbacks Of Knee Sleeves

    The drawbacks of knee sleeves are:

  • Limited Support. While knee sleeves do provide some support to the knee joint, they are not as supportive as knee wraps.

  • Limited Compression. Knee sleeves do not provide as much compression as knee wraps, which may be a drawback for athletes who require a higher level of support.

  • Who Should Use Knee Sleeves

    who should use knee sleeves

    Those who would benefit most from knee sleeves are:

  • Lifters That Want To Improve Their Squat. Knee sleeves are a good option for athletes who require moderate support and compression for their knees during exercise. This support will add approximately 10-50 lbs to the athlete's squat.

  • Lifters With Past Injuries. Knee sleeves are particularly beneficial for athletes who have had knee injuries in the past or are at a higher risk of knee injury due to their sport or training regimen. They are also suitable for those with minor aches and pains that are alleviated when the knees are warm.
  • However, knee sleeves should not be used by athletes with a current knee injury without being advised to do so by a physiotherapist.

  • Most Powerlifters. Those who compete in Raw powerlifting should be using knee sleeves to be as competitive as possible in their sport and to reduce the risk of injury.

    Knee Wraps

    Knee Wraps

    Knee wraps are made of a stretchy, elastic material that wraps tightly around the knee joint. They are designed to provide a significant amount of support and compression to the knee during heavy lifting. 

    Knee wraps come in different lengths, with longer wraps providing more support and compression while also being harder to wrap. 

    Regardless of length, the tighter the knee wrap is pulled around the knee, the more compression it will offer the lifter.

    Knee wraps are not allowed in raw divisions of powerlifting, but they are popular in equipped divisions of powerlifting.

    In the IPF (the largest global body of powerlifting) knee wraps are only permitted in the equipped division as they do not have a “raw with wraps” division. However, the USPA federation, they have “raw with wraps” and “equipped” divisions.

    Benefits Of Knee Wraps

    The benefits of knee wraps are:

  • Increased Support. Knee wraps provide a significant amount of support to the knee joint, which can help improve lifting technique. Knee wraps are typically wrapped much tighter than knee sleeves and can create extra support for the joint through compression.

  • Increased and Controlled Compression. Knee wraps provide a high level of compression to the knee joint, which can help you lift maximal loads.
  • If you want more compression they can be wrapped tighter, and if you want them looser then wrap them looser.

  • Increased Strength. The added support and compression provided by knee wraps can help athletes lift more weight than they would be able to without them. Knee wraps can add as much as 70 lbs to a squat if wrapped properly by an experienced knee wrapper.

  • Drawbacks Of Knee Wraps

    The drawbacks of knee wraps are:

  • Limited Mobility. Knee wraps can limit mobility in the knee joint, which can make it difficult to perform specific exercises. 
  • Many lifters in knee wrap divisions struggle to squat to competition depth (hip joint below the top of the knee), which is why it’s common to see missed lifts because of lifters not meeting the set standard.

  • Uncomfortable. Knee wraps can be uncomfortable to wear, as they need to be wrapped tightly around the knee joint to provide adequate support and compression.
  • Knee wraps cut off the circulation in your leg. This can be painful and will mean that the wraps will need to be taken off and re-wrapped for every set if used properly.

  • Hard To Use. The most effective way to secure knee wraps is by allowing someone else to wrap your knees. This can make knee wraps hard to use because you need to have a reliable training partner who knows how to wrap your knees properly with you every time you squat.
  • There are some methods of wrapping your own knees which can be a great alternative but are usually seen as less effective.

    Click here for a tutorial on how to wrap your own knees

    Who Should Use Knee Wraps

    Who should use knee wraps

  • Competitive Strength Athletes. Knee wraps are a good option for athletes who require a high level of support and compression for their knees during heavy lifts. 
  • They are particularly beneficial for powerlifters and weightlifters who are attempting to lift maximal weights in their sports.

    Differences Between Knee Sleeves vs. Knee Wraps

    There are several key differences between knee sleeves and knee wraps:

    • Compression: Knee sleeves provide a moderate level of compression to the knee joint, whereas knee wraps provide a much higher level of compression.

    Due to this, you can expect much more additional poundage added to your squat from knee wraps than knee sleeves.

    Knee wraps increase a lifter's squat up to as much as 70 lbs when wrapped properly while even the thickest knee sleeves can only provide up to 50 lbs at most.

    • Support: Knee wraps provide a much higher level of support to the knee joint than knee sleeves, which can help you keep your knee joint in the proper position while lifting heavier loads.

    • Mobility: Knee sleeves allow for a greater range of motion in the knee joint compared to knee wraps. For this reason, it is easier to reach competition depth with knee sleeves than with knee wraps. 

    Additionally, training with knee sleeves results in better quad development than knee wraps because they allow for a more extensive range of motion.

    • Comfort: Knee sleeves are generally more comfortable to wear than knee wraps, as they are made of a softer material and do not require the same level of tightness.

    This can depend on the knee sleeve and how the knee wrap is wrapped however most individuals prefer knee sleeves for this reason.

    • Durability: Knee wraps tend to be more durable than knee sleeves, as they are made of a more robust material.

    Knee sleeves are one solid piece and a softer material that will be more susceptible to stretching out and losing their elasticity over time.

    • Adaptability: Knee wraps can be adapted to what you want on a day-to-day basis by tightening or loosening your wrap job, whereas knee sleeves have a set level of tightness.

    • Versatility: Knee wraps can only be used for the squat exercise whereas knee sleeves can be used for essentially all lower body exercises.

    Knee Sleeve Recommendation


    My favorite knee sleeves are the Gymreapers 7mm knee sleeves because they are light, comfortable, and easy for beginners to learn how to use. They also come with a 1-year replacement guarantee, so if you have any defect issues they'll send you a replacement for free.

    Knee Wrap Recommendation


    If you’re leaning toward knee wraps, then I recommend the Gymreapers Knee Wraps because they are cheaper than other brands, long-lasting, and come with a velcro closure that helps to keep them secure while you’re squatting.

    Gymreapers knee wraps also come with a 1-year replacement warranty. 

    Related Article: Wearing Knee Sleeves For Squats

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Are Knee Wraps Or Sleeves Better?

    The best option will depend on the athlete's goals and personal preferences, but most lifters will prefer knee sleeves as they are more versatile. Knee wraps provide a higher level of support and compression but they can limit mobility, whereas knee sleeves provide a more moderate level of support and compression.

    Should You Wear Knee Sleeves If You Have Bad Knees?

    Knee sleeves can be very helpful for managing aches and pains in the knee joint by keeping the joint stable, increasing blood flow to the working muscles, and keeping your joints warm between sets. That said, they will not cure an injury so if you’re in pain you should talk to a physiotherapist.

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