Knee sleeves are a popular and effective accessory designed to offer stability and compression for heavy lifting. While this supportive equipment is essential for many strength athletes, getting them on can be a bit of a challenge.
So how do you put on knee sleeves? To put on knee sleeves you should start by folding the sleeve in half and sliding the folded sleeve onto your calf. Position the sleeve's top edge just below the knee before unfolding the sleeve and pulling it up your leg. Adjust the sleeve accordingly to ensure there are no folds or wrinkles.
To help you get your sleeves on more easily, I’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of putting on knee sleeves and explain the things you could be doing that are making the process more difficult.
Why Are Knee Sleeves Hard To Put On?
While it would be nice for knee sleeves to just slide right on like a jacket or a lifting belt, they’re more like squeezing into a tight pair of jeans, especially when you're dealing with high-quality, durable materials like the ones used in Gymreapers knee sleeves.
There are a few reasons why knee sleeves are harder to put on:
Snug and Secure Fit
The primary purpose of knee sleeves is to provide support and stability during your powerlifting workouts, particularly during squats. To do that job, they need to be snug and fit securely.
The tightness is essential for keeping the sleeve in place during your workout and ensuring that it offers the necessary compression. However, this tight fit also means that putting the sleeve on can be a bit of a struggle.
Individual Anatomy and Leg Size
Powerlifters come in all shapes and sizes, and so do their legs. The natural curves and contours of a person's thighs and calves can make putting on knee sleeves more difficult. This is especially true for athletes with well-developed leg muscles, as the sleeves need to accommodate the increased muscle mass.
People with larger calves tend to have a more difficult time pulling their knee sleeves into place than those with smaller calves and larger quads.
GymReapers' knee sleeves are designed to provide a comfortable fit for a range of body types, but it's crucial to find the right size to ensure they stay in place during your workout.
High-Quality Materials and Durability
The materials used in knee sleeves play a significant role in their effectiveness and longevity. High-quality knee sleeves, like those from GymReapers, are made from durable materials that are meant to last.
These materials are designed to provide the right balance between support, compression, and flexibility. However, this durability and sturdiness can also make the sleeves more difficult to put on initially.
Over time, as the material adapts to your body and you become more accustomed to the process, putting on the knee sleeves should become easier.
8 Steps For Putting On Tight Knee Sleeves
Although putting on knee sleeves can be challenging, there are steps to follow to make the process easier.
Step 1: Choose the Correct Size
Before attempting to put on your knee sleeves, ensure you've chosen the correct size. Consult Gym Reaper’s sizing chart to find the right fit based on your measurements, or borrow a pair from a buddy to gauge what size fits you best.
The right size will provide the necessary support and compression without compromising comfort or mobility.
Step 2: Fold the Knee Sleeve in Half
Begin by folding your knee sleeve in half, so that the top edge is touching the bottom edge. This will make it easier to slide onto your leg, especially if you're working with a particularly tight knee sleeve.
Step 3: Sit Down with Your Leg Extended
Find a comfortable place to sit down, preferably on a bench or chair. Extend the leg you want to put the knee sleeve on, keeping it straight and relaxed.
Step 4: Slide the Folded Sleeve onto Your Calf
Slide your foot through the knee sleeve so that the folded crease is up top and the edges are down below. Pull the folded knee sleeve up onto your calf, ensuring the top edge of the folded crease is positioned just below your knee joint.
Step 5: Unfold the Sleeve
Unfold the knee sleeve by pulling the top half of the sleeve up over your knee. The top of the sleeve should sit above your knee by a few inches, and your knee cap should sit around the middle of the sleeve.
Step 6: Adjust the Sleeve for a Secure Fit
Once the knee sleeve is fully unfolded, take a moment to adjust its position on your leg. Ensure that it's centered over your kneecap and provides even compression around your knee joint.
Step 7: Double-Check for Folds or Wrinkles
Inspect the knee sleeve to make sure there are no folds or wrinkles in the material. Folds and wrinkles can cause discomfort and reduce the sleeve's effectiveness during your workout.
Step 8: Repeat for the Other Leg
If you're using knee sleeves on both legs, repeat the process for your other leg. Always remember to take your time and adjust each sleeve to ensure a secure and comfortable fit.
5 Things To Avoid When Putting On Tight Knee Sleeves
Knee sleeves are hard to put on as it is, so it's important to avoid making the process even more difficult with one of these mistakes:
1. Avoid Putting on Knee Sleeves While Sweaty
Trying to put on tight knee sleeves when your skin is sweaty can make the process even more difficult. The moisture can cause the material to stick to your skin, making it harder to slide the sleeve up your leg.
To avoid this issue, ensure your legs are dry before putting on your knee sleeves or use a bit of baby powder to reduce friction.
2. Avoid Wearing Knee Sleeves Over Clothing
Wearing knee sleeves over clothing like leggings or sweatpants can reduce their effectiveness and make them more likely to slip during your workout.
To maximize their support, compression, and stability, ensure you wear them directly against your skin.
3. Don't Take Sleeves Off Between Sets
It can be tempting to remove your knee sleeves between sets for some relief. However, constantly taking them off and putting them back on can be time-consuming and exhausting. Instead, try to keep them on throughout your workout, only removing them when you've finished all the exercises that require additional knee support.
4. Avoid the Use of Excessive Force
While it's true that putting on tight knee sleeves can be challenging, avoid using excessive force to pull them up your leg. This can not only damage the material but it also puts unnecessary strain on your muscles and joints.
Instead, take your time and gently work the sleeve into position. If you can’t get the sleeve into position without excessive force, then you probably need to size up.
5. Don't Neglect Proper Care and Maintenance
To keep your Gym Reapers knee sleeves in top condition, avoid neglecting their proper care and maintenance. Regularly clean your knee sleeves according to the manufacturer's instructions and allow them to air dry.
This will help maintain their shape and elasticity, making them easier to put on and more effective during your workouts.
For more information on taking care of your sleeves, check out “How To Wash Knee Sleeves (The Proper Way)”
I’ve Heard of Lifters Using Plastic Bags To Put On Knee Sleeves, Should I Do That?
The plastic bag method is a technique some lifters use to put on tight knee sleeves more easily, especially when intentionally wearing sleeves a size or two smaller than they can fit into on their own (often done for competition or max effort attempts in the gym).
The method involves placing a plastic bag around your leg before sliding the knee sleeve on, reducing friction between your skin and the sleeve.
The idea is that the slippery surface of the plastic bag allows the knee sleeve to glide more smoothly over your skin, making it easier to put on. The bag is removed once the sleeve is in place on your knee.
Sometimes competitors do this in competition to fit into a smaller sleeve that will give them even more compression, similar to a knee wrap.
Since knee wraps and knee sleeves are not usually allowed in the same division of competition, competitive lifters will use this method to get as much compression out of a sleeve as possible to get more spring out of the bottom of their squat. Some have even gone so far as to wear knee sleeves so tight, they have to be cut off to be removed.
It should be noted this practice has been outlawed in some federations, where now it can be required to demonstrate you can put on and remove your knee sleeve without any assistance.
As such, it's essential to be practical and consider the implications of using this method. If you find yourself having to use plastic bags to put on your knee sleeves, or physically cut them off after a meet, you’re probably taking it too far.
Knee sleeves should provide support and compression without causing discomfort or restricting your blood flow. A sleeve that is too tight may not only be challenging to put on but could also negatively impact your performance and increase the risk of injury.
Instead of resorting to the plastic bag method, it's best to ensure you have the right size knee sleeve in the first place. Consult GymReapers' sizing chart to find the appropriate fit based on your measurements.
If you're still experiencing difficulty putting on your knee sleeves, consider going up a size to find a more comfortable and effective fit. Remember, the goal is to strike the right balance between support, compression, and comfort.
If My Knee Sleeves Are Bunching Up Behind The Knee, Am I Putting Them On Wrong?
If your knee sleeves are bunching up behind your knee, it could be due to one of the following issues:
Bunching may occur if you didn't properly unfold and adjust the sleeve while putting it on. Make sure to unfold the sleeve once you get it in place below your knee, taking the time to smooth out any wrinkles or folds as you go. Once the sleeve is fully extended, ensure it's centered over your kneecap and provides even compression around your knee joint.
Wrong Size or Fit
Bunching may also be an indication that your knee sleeves are not the right size or fit for your legs. If the sleeve is too large or too small, it may not sit correctly on your leg and can lead to bunching behind the knee.
Consult GymReapers' sizing chart to ensure you have the right fit or try on someone else’s sleeves for reference to see what feels best.
Worn-Out Knee Sleeves
Over time, knee sleeves can lose their elasticity and shape, leading to bunching and reduced effectiveness. If you've been using your knee sleeves for an extended period, it might be time to replace them with a new pair.
Do Knee Sleeves Require A Break In Period?
Knee sleeves, particularly those made from high-quality materials like Gym Reapers' knee sleeves, may initially feel tight like you need to break them in. After a few workouts, the sleeves will conform to the shape of your legs and gradually become more comfortable as they mold to your body.
There’s no real “break in” period required for knee sleeves, the best way to get used to them is to wear them as normal during your workouts. As you perform your exercises, the material will gradually adapt to your leg's shape and movement.
That said, knee sleeves shouldn't lose their elasticity or become excessively loose after only a few uses so if you’re noticing that they are offering less compression and support then the quality of your sleeve is questionable.
High-quality knee sleeves are designed to maintain their support, compression, and shape even with regular use. However, it's essential to take care of your knee sleeves and follow the manufacturer's cleaning and maintenance instructions to prolong their lifespan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is There A “Top” and “Bottom” Side To Knee Sleeves?
Yes, there is a top and bottom side to knee sleeves. The top side is usually wider to accommodate your thigh, while the bottom side is narrower for your calf. Make sure to check for any labels or markings indicating the correct orientation.
Is There A “Front” and “Back” Side To Knee Sleeves?
Yes, knee sleeves have a front and back side. The front side typically has a more contoured shape to accommodate the kneecap. Look for any logos or specific design elements to help you determine the correct placement.
Should Knee Sleeves Go On Easily?
No, knee sleeves should feel snug and secure when putting them on. It's normal for them to be tight initially, as this ensures proper support and compression during your workout. Over time, they will conform to your leg and become slightly easier to put on.
Do You Wear Knee Sleeves Differently Based On Specific Lifts?
No, knee sleeves should be worn the same way regardless of the specific lift you're performing. Ensure they're positioned correctly, centered over the kneecap, and providing even compression around your knee joint.
Can Sliding Knee Sleeves Over Socks or Leggings Make Them Easier To Put On?
While sliding knee sleeves over socks or leggings may make them easier to put on initially, it can reduce their effectiveness and cause them to slide out of place during your workout. For best results, wear knee sleeves directly against your skin.
How Tight Should Knee Sleeves Be?
Knee sleeves should be tight enough to provide support and compression but not so tight that they restrict movement or cause discomfort. Consult GymReapers' sizing chart and choose the appropriate size based on your measurements.
How Often Should I Replace My Knee Sleeves?
Replace your knee sleeves when they lose their elasticity, support, or become damaged. Regularly cleaning and maintaining your knee sleeves according to the manufacturer's instructions will prolong their lifespan and ensure optimal performance.