Your knees need to be supported when performing heavy compound leg movements like the squat. Sometimes, knee sleeves are enough to accomplish this. However, knee wraps are best suited for the job at the heaviest weights and in elite competitions, as they provide the most support for your knees.

What are Knee Wraps?

Knee wraps are long fabric wrapped around the knees when performing heavy lifts, especially squats. They are commonly used in Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding. They are a step up from knee sleeves in the support, compression, and power they provide to the knees.

Who Should use Knee Wraps?

While athletes outside the gym community commonly use knee sleeves, knee wraps are more specific to squatting and other similar leg movements. Knee wraps are also not recommended for casual gym goers or beginners, and they are far from necessary to lift heavy weights. Knee wraps are typically for powerlifters, bodybuilders, weightlifters, and strongman competitors to use in their training during heavy squats. They are worn very tight and provide even more rigidity and support when compared to knee sleeves. For this reason, it's highly recommended that anyone who thinks they may want to use knee wraps tries knee sleeves first. Knee wraps may be suitable if you've already used knee sleeves but crave more compression, support, and rigidity to improve your squat power.

In powerlifting, knee wraps are only allowed in equipped formats. Raw powerlifting permits knee sleeves, but not knee wraps. For this reason, it's crucial that those who aspire to compete in raw powerlifting formats refrain from relying on knee wraps during heavy squats. That said, there are a couple of distinct types of knee wraps that work slightly differently. So, what are the different types of knee wraps?

What are the Different Types of Knee Wraps?

There are two main types of knee wraps that you'll find being sold on the internet and in stores. These are traditional knee wraps and more modern hook and loop knee wraps.

Traditional Knee Wraps

Traditional knee wraps are just a long piece of durable material about 72 to 82 inches long. It'll have tapered ends and be made of a material that sticks to itself when stretched out and layered. It can be challenging to get these wraps to stay in place, and it's recommended to have somebody else wrap your knees for you the first few times and explain what they're doing. This is to avoid the wraps falling mid-lift, which could be frustrating at the very least and tragic in the worst case.

Hook and Loop Knee Wraps

Hook and loop knee wraps have a somewhat misleading name. These are just knee wraps with a Velcro-like mechanism that holds the outer end in place on your knee. This completely avoids the hassles of traditional wrapping and reduces the risk of slippage. Hook and loop knee wraps are simple to put on. You just start the end without Velcro behind your knee and wrap it around the knee in parallel layers starting from the bottom. Each layer should overlap the last but move up the knee by about half the width of the strap each time. Once you reach the top of the knee, wrap back around to the bottom of the knee one last time and attach the Velcro end to the wrap where it lands.

When Should You Wrap Your Knee?

For starters, you should not keep your knees wrapped throughout your entire gym session. While this may be something you can get away with in a pair of knee sleeves, as they are more flexible and provide less compression, tightly wrapped knee wraps can restrict blood flow to the lower leg. You should always aim to wrap your knees immediately before starting the set you intend to use them on and unwrap your knees immediately afterwards. This allows you to wrap them fairly tight without fear of hurting yourself by restricting blood flow. A good rule of thumb is that your knee wraps should feel tight, allowing you to walk freely without feeling numb.

Another consideration about when you should wrap your knees is which sets you will utilize them for. Some extreme bodybuilders, for instance, will only wrap their knees when squatting three plates or more. (315 pounds or 140 kg) However, chances are that for somebody new to using knee wraps, 315-pound squats are very challenging if you can even lift that much. You'll only want to pull them out for heavier sets. For somebody who can squat 315 pounds as a one-rep max, perhaps 185 or 225 pounds would be the level where they'd feel like a knee wrap would help. The easiest way to tell when you should use a knee wrap is to try them out on a few different squat sets. Once you've gotten used to how they feel and what they do for you at each weight, you'll be able to tell whether or not using them would improve the set. If an amount of weight is quite challenging for you, the force applied by the knee wrap will give you more strength to complete the movement and can help you achieve more reps.

Key Benefits of Using Knee Wraps

Direct Mechanical Assistance

Knee wraps store elastic energy at the bottom of the squat, which is released into your legs upon rebounding. This extra energy helps you push the weight up more quickly and can directly improve the amount of weight you can lift by up to 10%.

Better Kinesthetic Awareness

The pressure applied by knee wraps gives you improved awareness of the knee's position throughout the squat, helping you to tweak your form. This can provide additional indirect benefits to your overall squat performance.

Increased Compression and Warmth

Wearing knee wraps throughout heavy squats provides significant compression and will warm your knees more quickly. The combination of these two effects can reduce the risk of knee injury and improve the longevity of the tendons and ligaments in the knees. It can also reduce or alleviate the pain felt throughout the movement and the soreness resulting from your workout.

Stability and Confidence

The rugged support of knee wraps makes the joint of the knee significantly more stable. While this alone can help guide the knees through the correct path, it also gives you more confidence to push through a problematic squat with maximum effort.

Choosing Knee Wraps for Powerlifting

Regarding the types of wraps, hook and loop knee wraps are recommended for beginners or anyone who is not inclined to try the traditional wraps for aesthetic or esoteric purposes. They are far and away the best option for most people. Also, it's recommended to get a pair that are at least 80 inches long. This will ensure that the wraps have enough length to cover the knee, even after you've become a seasoned lifter with massive quadriceps. Finally, you have to choose a brand. SBD, Inzer, and Slingshot are a few great brands to look into. However, the truth is that the brand of your knee wraps matters less than most people think. Choose a pair within your budget with excellent reviews; your experience is bound to be great.