Suffering a knee injury during a workout or at any time at all is a serious thing. People of all ages and fitness abilities can suffer from knee issues caused by using incorrect form in the gym or from other sources such as arthritis or gout.
If you’ve ever had a problem with your knee joints, then you can attest to how it can unexpectedly affect all areas of your life. It impacts mobility, of course, but it can also be incredibly painful and debilitating. If knee injuries are not treated properly or given sufficient time to heal, they can reoccur and be worse the next time.
Of course, you don’t have to wait for a painful and inconvenient knee injury to help your knee health. There is a simple preventative measure you can take to protect your knee joints and encourage the long-term health of the ligaments that support the joint.
If you’re a regular on the fitness scene, then you’ve probably seen people wearing them in the gym or while running. They are generally inexpensive but effective at preventing knee strain, injuries, and joint discomfort during high-impact exercise and exercises that put a strain on your knees. We’re talking, of course, about the humble knee sleeve.
We’re going to point out some serious pros to wearing knee sleeves for moves such as squats and investigate how they work, so you can make an informed decision about whether you want to invest in your present and future knee health with a pair of knee sleeves.
What Are Knee Sleeves?
Knee sleeves are essentially tube-like pieces of elasticated fabric that are worn on the knees to help prevent injury and support normal knee joint function. They use compression technology to help stabilize the knee to allow for smooth and correct form while exercising.
Knee sleeves are often used in rehabilitation for knee injuries, but they can also be a preventative measure to lessen the likelihood of a knee injury, or re-injury occurring.
How Do Knee Sleeves Work?
Knee sleeves are becoming a more and more common sight in fitness settings. Their key benefits are these:
- Warmth - Knee sleeves provide warmth to the joint. Many people find that past knee complaints cause pain and discomfort during colder temperatures and damp weather. Although the science behind this is debatable, we do know that many materials expand and contract in cold weather, and therefore it’s not outside the world of reason to want to keep your healed knee warm in winter, especially if you’re about to use it in vigorous or high-impact exercise. Warmth can also make a difference to prevent injury. Knee sleeves keep the joint acting naturally even under strain and help increase blood flow around the joint. This aids in the normal functions of the supporting leg muscles and ligaments by ensuring both get enough oxygen.
- Knee Support - Knees often get the brunt of stress in many workouts. They have to support our body weight and often additional weights too during exercise. For this reason, knee sleeves are popular with weight lifters and powerlifters, as well as amateur athletes. Knee sleeves provide physical support for the knee joint using compression.
- Alignment - Having a physical reminder to pay attention to your knees can be a helpful resource in keeping your form correct and your alignment perfect. We frequently forget about our knees until there’s a problem with them, but knee supports can help draw our attention to them and help us pay attention to good form during exercise. This will help prevent injury.
- Compression - Knee sleeves use compression techniques to help reduce damage to the knee joint and help the recovery of it. Gym Reapers explains that using knee sleeves “warms up the impact area to regulate blood flow which helps alleviate pain”. Compression fabric supports the normal recovery of joints and reduces pain and inflammation during and after a tough workout.
How Do Knee Sleeves Help With Squats?
Squats can put a lot of strain on knee joints, especially if done incorrectly. Knee sleeves are no substitute for good form during exercise, but they can help support the joint to move with a normal range of motion during squat reps.
Compression helps to warm the joint and encourage blood flow to the area. Knee sleeves also restrict the movement of the knee cap, which can prevent serious injury to the area during high-stress exercises.
Some exercises are more impact-heavy on your knees than others. Running is a high-impact activity, because every time you put your foot down, it sends a jolt through your leg. Repeated trauma to the knee joints over time can cause damage.
Squats are another activity that can cause ligament strain. The best way to prevent overstretching the joint during a serious squatting session is to practice good technique while performing the move and to ensure you pay attention to the position of your knee. Knee sleeves help with this.
The presence of the sleeve alerts the brain to be more aware of the area. Particularly if you are doing deadlifts or squat presses, your focus might not be wholly on the good form of your lower half. Knee sleeves can help you pay attention to their alignment during the move.
You should never allow your knees to go past your toes during a squat. This can tear the ligaments which connect the supporting muscles to the joints, which will in turn force the joint to take more of the strain.
Many people wear knee sleeves during squat sets to help prevent damage and inflammation to the knee area. They are not the same as knee braces, though, so may not be suitable for rehabilitation purposes.
If you are at a high risk of a recurring knee injury, then a knee brace might give you better support than a sleeve. However, for light support and injury prevention, many people claim that knee sleeves help prevent injuries to knees from being both frequent and serious.
What Other Exercises Are Knee Sleeves Good For?
Knee sleeves are useful for other activities that require you to put stress on your knee joints. Jumping, for example, can put stress on the knees. If you jump rope as part of your fitness routine or do moves like butt-kicks, figure skaters, or high-knees, then knee braces can be a good idea.
The heavier you are, the more weight your knees are having to deal with, so if you’re doing high-impact exercise to lose weight, it might be sensible to invest in some knee sleeves to protect them from the strain.
Weightlifting increases the amount of weight your knees have to support by a lot, so this would be another good time to slip the knee sleeves on, and also weight machines such as the leg press that force the knees to take the majority of weight are excellent places to get the most use out of your knee supports.
Running, as we have said, can cause knee damage however old or fit you are, so many runners opt for knee sleeves during their workouts too as a preventative measure.
Not all activities require the added support of a knee sleeve. There are plenty of things you can do in the gym that don’t make your knees want to beg for mercy.
Low-impact exercises like cycling, running on an elliptical trainer, or rebounding on a trampoline have been proven to put a reduced strain on the knees and other joints, compared to high-impact activities. If you haven’t tried any or all of these exercises, then why not give them a try and give your knees a well-deserved break.
For aspects of your workout routine that do require a lot of your knees, do consider finding a knee sleeve to help prevent injury now and in the future. If your knees could talk, they would thank you.