Knee sleeves vs knee wraps for weightlifting

Liam Rodgers
September 3, 2022

Should you use knee sleeves for weightlifting? What about russian knee wraps? It's bewildering - so we're going to make it nice and simple, and answer the most pressing questions out there, all in one article.

Are knee sleeves and knee wraps good for your knees? Can they prevent knee injury - that bogeyman of Olympic weightlifting training? Are they a waste of your cash, or are they the best thing since Stash hook grip tape?

Today, we're looking at these common knee accessory choices and what they can do for you. You know what the title is and you know here this is going - so let's get straight into the good stuff...

Supporting the Knee Joint

The main purpose of both knee sleeves and kneee wraps is to support the knee joint - they keep the knee warm, provide lateral stability, and maintain constant (light) compression. These help maintain warm and happy knee providing compression to combat the axial compression from weight lifting, and the expansive forces on the knee joint.

If I press down on your knee with enough weight, it starts to 'bulge' outwards, until it just explodes. The compression of a knee sleeve or knee wrap counters this.

Whether you prefer knee sleeves or knee wraps, the point is that you should just a knee support based on it offers the knee.


What are Knee sleeves?

Knee sleeves are a relatively recent choice that came into fashion with the Rehband knee sleeves. They were a 5mm neoprene knee sleeve that offered a mild support and kept the knee warm.

These knee sleeves were - as the name suggests - a rehab and pain management technique. As weight lifting messes up your knees (especially with how Fil trains), there were a lot of international lifters wearing knee sleeves at the Olympics and European weightlifting championships.

Taner Sagir wears a single knee sleeve at the Athens olympic games, 2004 - one of the more visible examples of elite weightlifters using knee sleeves. Credit: Getty Images. Obviously.

This caught on and normal, intermediate lifters and lifetime intermediates started wearing knee sleeves. Now it's popular in all kinds of weight lifting - olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and even those CrossFit types.

Why Use Knee Sleeves?

The main appeal of knee sleeves is that they're easy to use and they don't run the risk of mis-wrapping like knee wraps. You put them on your knees, and they do their thing. This is a convenient piece of training kit that you can throw in your gym bag, forget about, and watch gather disgusting sweat-smell.

They're also pretty versatile. We make Stash weightlifting knee sleeves with a thinner material because we like to promote a simple philosophy: weight lifting knee sleeves are there for everyday support, and knee wraps are for heavy duty squats and cleans.

Thin knee sleeves - 5mm or 7mm - are great for everyday use and stand up to normal use. You can also get 9mm neoprene knee sleeves like SBD and Hookgrip, whch are much heavier support but lack some of the versatility and control you'd get from knee wraps.

We love the stock sleeves as a way to get everyday support, but they don't carry you through the bounce of a squat with as much support.

Athlete Notes
We like to think of the Stash weightlifting stock sleeves as support and comfort, not a performance booster - you lift heavier weights because your knees feel warm and buttery - not because of the elastic energy!

What is a knee wrap?

Knee wraps are a length of elastic material that you wrap around the knee joint, helping you lift heavier weights using elastic energy. They're more supportive and customisable than knee sleeves and typically provide heavier support.

This is the philosophy that led us to build Stash Reserve knee wraps - they're your reserve tank on those max effort squats and cleans, where you need a stronger knee brace and every drop of mechanical output. It's not cheating if it's allowed in comp - by definition!

Heavy durty knee wraps - durable, supportive,a nd they won't rui your all-black aesthetic.

These protect knees and prevent injuries - just like sleeves - but are designed with heavy weight in mind. You don't want to wear knee wraps for an entire workout, unlike knee sleeves, as they're quite restrictive and the elastic material does bite at the skin sometimes, depending on how you wrap.

Be careful to wrap around the quadriceps tendon and avoid limiting patella movement too excessively.

You want to support the knee, you're not trying to garrote it. Calm down, Dexter.

Why Use Knee Wraps?

I like to use knee wraps when I feel squirrely about the weight and the transition into the upward phase, out of the hole, is key. Again, this is about squeezing out every drop of mechanical output from the knee joint - specifically for the back squat, but also in the front squat.

Any time you're getting a turnaround that depends on knee strength and turning the energy of the eccentric portion into more knee extension, knee wraps are a good choice. This can also take some of the stress off the quadricep tendon when you're leaning into elastic energy that's not just the deforming of your tendons.

For most weightlifters, both prevent injury, and the question of wraps or knee sleeves is answered with "how much are you lifting?".

Imagine wrapping your knees for snatch. That doesn't make much sense, but heavy weight clean and jerks, squats, or jerk recoveries make sense.

Knee sleeves vs knee wraps for weightlifting

So, knee sleeves vs knee wraps for weightlifting. Knee wraps vs knee sleeves. What's the best choice?

Ultimately, we advocate for having both in your gym bag - it's the best way to ensure you're prepared for any eventuality. Your knee sleeves come out for everyday training, while reserve knee wraps are - you guessed it - reserved for heavier lifting.

Having access to both types of knee accessory is perfect for the average weightlifter.

"Oh, you would say that, you're the one selling the kit" - yeah, we are.

As it happens, you can get both a pair of reserve wraps and knee sleeves for less than the price of a single pair of SBDs or Hookgrip sleeves. Less than £50 for the best answer to the eternal wraps vs knee sleeves debate, and happy knee joints.

You're welcome.

We're selling them because we want weightlifting knee sleeves and wraps to be cheaper, better, and more convenient. The combination purchase of knee sleeves and wraps is also really effective because you can apply a knee wrap over stock knee sleeves - one of the benefits of thin knee sleeves for weightlifting.


For flexibility, Knee sleeves are just better. Especially the thinner kind like the Stash stock sleeve V1 - they're not as restrictive which makes them better for more exercises. This kind of sleeve is also super versatile, making them great for CrossFit knee sleeves.

It wasn't our initial intention, but we're not going to argue with it if it's helping people.


One of the most common complaints about knee sleeves is that they're not breathable. They make you sweaty in the knees, unless you're rolling them down and flopping them back up between sets of back squat or whatever you're up to.

No sweat on these; fresh to death and dripped out in Stash knee sleeves.

We heard this exact complaint from Olympic silver medalist and obvious juicer, Dmitry Klokov. This is a fair complaint, but most of us aren't averse to getting a bit sweaty - it's why the Stash stock sleeves are actually extra breathable and offer knee joint support without excessive sweat.

We've got your back, Dima, mate. We're ahead of the game.

Knee support

When it comes to support, there's no question: knee wraps are better for elastic energy, lifting heavier weight, and doubling up as powerlifting knee wraps. They don't increase blood flow in the same way as a knee sleeve's light support, but they trade it off for better mechanical output, and you take them off between sets because of this penchant for limiting patella movement.

Even the best knee sleeves don't compare, and we'd rather run light sleeves and knee wraps, rather than trying to build a sleeve that does the job of wraps. It just doesn't work, even if popular brands like SBD knee sleeves have been popular with weightlifters and powerlifters alike.

Wear knee sleeves for comfort, wear knee wraps because you're about to do something that gets the whole gym watching.

Knee wraps change the way you back squat, for example, and some people even consider them cheating. The tendency to bunch up at the back of the knee is common to both wraps and knee sleeves of thicker construction.

Overall, wraps provide more knee support, and we think this makes them uniquely useful. I'm no orthopedic doctor, so you'll have to take that with a pinch of salt, and hope your synovial fluid doesn't start coming out of your eyes because you wrapped your knee wraps too tightly.


Unlike knee wraps, the best knee sleeve designs can be worn between sets comfortably. I personally think the Hookgrip sleeves are better for this than the legendary SBDs, but basically:

thinner knee sleeve = more comfortable for an entire workout

The focus on keeping a joint warm and preventing injury means that ergonomic knee sleeve designs like the Stash weightlifting knee sleeve are comfortable throughout a workout and "cool down". Whatever that is.

Comfort isn't our main concern for knee wraps, because you should be more worried about lifting the barbell. Unlike knee sleeve use, knee wraps should be on for your set and off between them.

If you watch Fil lift, you'll realise this can buy you another 30 seconds between sets if you muck about with the knee wraps for long enough. Don't tell coach.

Lift more weight

This is the thing: knee wraps help you lift heavier weights. Knee wraps vs knee sleeves is an easy question if you just want to lift the most.

This is because the elastic energy from the eccentric portion is captured better in the stiffer elastic material and rougher design. Especially if you wrap tightly. You get to turn more weight into upward force at the same bar weight, which is why the question of knee wraps vs knee sleeves even exists.

Nobody would wear knee wraps if they didn't make lifting heavy easier. Wearing knee wraps is a staple for any strength sport because they work: strongman, powerlifting, and weightlifting all bond over a good knee wrap. They're so effective that triple-ply wraps even have their own category in powerlifting.

The answer is clear: comfort and blood flow from knee sleeves vs knee wraps' massive contribution to your force output when lifting. That's why we say both is best!

Cheeky Disclaimer: Knee Sleeves vs Knee Wraps, and Knee Injuries

To be crystal clear, neither of these items is good for unfucking an unstable knee, nor will they make your weak knees strong. They're supportive equipment for comfort and to keep the joint warm, reduce risk of knee injury, and maintain energy from the downward phase of a movement.

Don't expect knee sleeves or wraps to actually lift the weight for you. We can all benefit from a bit of support, but unreasonable expectations are going to make you look like a knobhead when you don't add 40kg to your clean and jerk from your knees sleeves. Shocker, that.

Knee sleeves are probably best when rehabilitating a previous injury and you want to feel more secure during heavy olympic weightlifting.

Knee wrapping is probably a bit heavy for a previous injury, and you may want to go through phases of training with no sleeves, as it's easy to ignore pain or limitations when wearing knee wraps, especially when you're wrapping tightly.

We're legally obliged to tell you this is not a knee brace in the physiotherapy sense - but that should be common sense. Athletes wearing knee sleeves get support and comfort, not a new bionic exoskeleton that does the work for them.

Knee Wraps vs Knee Sleeves: FAQ

This is the mandatory section where we answer questions about knee accessory choices before they come up. If you're missing something, this is probably where you'll find it!

Are knee wraps good for weightlifiting?

Yes - knee wraps are great for weightlifting. They're a little too thick for snatches, in our experience, and best for heavy squats and clean and jerk. The reserve wraps are designed to do all of it, but you'll get more benefit when you're using more weight.

Why do weightlifters wrap their knees?

My knees hurt, man.

Weightlifters wrap their knees for extra support and to get a little elastic support at the bottom of heavy lifts. Knee sleeves keep the knees warm, while knee wraps help lift more weight.

These are a good combination to own, and we like to think that getting them both at a good price, with excellent quality, is reason enough to go with Stash weightlifting supplies for weightlifting knee wraps or sleeves.

Should I wrap my knees when squatting?

You should wrap your knees when squatting if you're going very heavy. Wraps and knee sleeves are good for support at different difficulty levels: wraps are best for really difficult work, while knee sleeves are your "everyday" choice for lighter movements.

Which knee sleeves are best for weightlifting?

Stash stock knee sleeves v1 - of course. Thin, comfortable, supportive, and easy to wear under wraps, too.

We make knee sleeves that are perfect for their job, and that work perfectly with knee wraps when you want extra support. This helps keep the knee cap comfortable and lets you add the support of our russian knee wraps.

Do I need knee support when squatting?

You don't need knee support when squatting, but it's popular because it makes squats feel better and can be a nice addition. It's a way of boosting comfort, smoothness, and helping your knees at the point when they're most stressed.

We like knee supports - both knee wraps and a good thin knee sleeve. Covers all your bases.

Should I wear knee sleeves to deadlift?

You should only deadlift in knee sleeves or knee wraps when you've already got them on - or if you're doing a really deep deficit deadlift. They won't help, but you may get the bar stuck on the material, depending on your technique.

If you're having pain in the knee joint during a deadlift - which is quite a shallow knee bend - you might need a chat with a physio.

We often perform snatch deadlifts and clean deadlifts in knee sleeves because they're already on, and we don't see the value in taking them off, either. Pretty neutral, overall!

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