Inzer, SBD, Stoic, Iron Rebel, A7… .the list of companies selling knee sleeves seems to grow by the day.
With the increase in popularity of powerlifting equipment, quality and quantity has vastly increased over the last decade or so. The most recent equipment is the knee sleeves. Before the early 2010’s, almost everyone competed in knee wraps and sleeves were unheard of. It wasn’t until the popularity of raw division increased over the years that more companies began to capitalize on the demand for this supportive equipment. So what’s the point of sleeves and do they really make a difference?
The evolution of knee sleeves in Powerlifting
The modern use of knee sleeves is derived from the use of knee wraps in equipped powerlifting. Though not as widespread today, equipped powerlifting relies upon the use of thick, supportive suits that heavily assist in lift execution. These suits are commonly paired with knee wraps to considerably increase joint rigidity on squat. More rigidity yields more stability, and that in turn means more weight on the bar. But with the spread of raw powerlifting, knee wraps gave way to a different kind of joint support.
Enter the knee sleeves: nerfed descendents of knee wraps that offered comfort and warmth, but little support. In the modern era, though, that would start to change.
In Modern Powerlifting
Using knee sleeves for reinforcement has gotten pretty popular lately. It began with brands offering more supportive designs, and now it’s like there’s a contest to see who can find the smallest pair they can still stuff their quads into.
I won’t say whether or not it’s worth it, because it depends on why you’re doing it. Do you need supportive sleeves for possible competitive advantage? Or are you using them for general comfort on the joint?
For comfort, using appropriately-sized sleeves can make squatting less painful and provide better stability for the joint. However, they’re probably not necessary unless you plan on maximizing the weight on your squat in a competitive environment.
That said, the newer sleeves tend to be stiffer, and they offer a bit more support. Since they can potentially add weight to the bar, you’re often forced to use them if you plan on competing in a totally even field.
But if you don’t plan on competing in an even field,
Personally I don’t care to compete in a totally even field and the discomfort associated with these types of sleeves outweighs the possible increase in my squat. Now I do use knee sleeves but I opt for properly fitting ones that do offer a bit of support but mostly warmth and comfort. At the end of the day you should use sleeves if you plan on competing in the raw division but the level of support you want and the discomfort you are willing to endure is totally up to you.