If you’re like many of my athletes, you may be wondering how to properly put on knee wraps.
After all, failing to wear them properly will just cause your skin to hurt and negate any performance benefit.
There are multiple things you should know about knee wraps to get the most out of them, and below is my step-by-step guide on how to use them properly.
Benefits Of Using Knee Wraps
The 5 main benefits are knee wraps are:
1. A Modest Strength Boost
The most popular benefit of knee wraps, and the reason why strength enthusiasts enjoy using them, is the modest strength boost they provide.
Knee wraps can help you lift more weight by offering more compression, which stabilizes the knee joints and helps properly you out of the bottom of a squat.
Because of their elastic properties, knee wraps stretch and store potential energy during the eccentric portion (lowering portion) of squats, which essentially allows you to spring out of the bottom position.
The tighter knee wraps are, the greater the ‘bounce’ out of the bottom, allowing lifters to squat more weight.
On that same note, wearing knee wraps for squatting can allow you to perform a few extra reps across all training sets, which could lead to a stronger training stimulus and more progress.
2. Improved Bar Speed
The elasticity of knee wraps and the potential energy that builds in the lowering phase allows you to lift weights more explosively.
For this reason, lifters interested in power training (movements that require strength and velocity, like weightlifting) could benefit from knee wraps.
However, it’s worth noting that you must still control your training tempo and resist the urge to divebomb squats in an effort to rebound off the bottom position and do quicker reps.
Controlling your reps is necessary to keep the tension on your muscles and reduce the risk of injury. Chaotic movements under load can cause excessive stress on your joints and connective tissues (tendons & ligaments).
3. Potentially Reduced Quadriceps Tendon Stress
The quadriceps tendon attaches the four quadricep muscle heads (rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis) to the patella (knee cap).
Repeated knee flexion and extension (bending and extending the knees) under load can place stress on the quad tendon, leading to inflammation (like tendonitis), characterized by pain, tenderness, and swelling. In more severe cases, cumulative stress can lead to a strain or tear, taking you out of the gym for months.
According to some experts, knee wraps may offer protection to the quadriceps tendons and reduce the injury risk. The idea is that wraps reduce the pulling force experienced by the knee tendon, which becomes increasingly beneficial as the weight on the bar increases.
4. Pain Relief
Compression garments are suggested to have a positive effect on pain, muscle soreness, and post-workout recovery. Therefore, it isn’t a stretch to assume that knee wraps can limit knee pain, allowing lifters to follow through with their planned training or competition.
In one paper, researchers examined the mechanisms behind these effects in patients with knee osteoarthritis. The authors came up with several hypotheses, including that pain could lessen through the stimulation of tactile (touch) receptors in the skin.
They also state that “aspects such as improved proprioception may be present and promote beneficial functional effects, such as better stability during movement.”
Proprioception is the awareness of your body’s position and how parts of the body move through space. In weight training, knee wraps can improve the lifter’s understanding of how their knees move, positively impacting technique and stability.
5. More Confidence
The final notable benefit of knee wraps is the confidence boost they provide. Like a lifting belt, wraps promote stability, allowing lifters to tackle heavier weights more safely.
Over time, this could make lifters more comfortable under heavier weights and more confident in their ability to set new personal records.
Related Article: Can You Use Knee Wraps on Elbows? No, Here Are Alternatives
Who Should Use Knee Wraps?
Powerlifters are the primary group of lifters who should consider knee wraps because of their positive impact on strength and explosiveness, which are key components in the sport.
Wraps provide knee stability and store energy during the eccentric phase of a squat, allowing lifters to lift slightly more weight, which could provide a competitive edge.
Strongmen can also use knee wraps, but they may not be as effective as they are for powerlifting because wraps provide a lot of knee compression, which can get uncomfortable after a while.
To get the most out of wraps, strongmen should wear them for short, intense activities but take them off during longer, endurance-based tests to reduce the likelihood of cutting off circulation.
“Another event you can wear knee wraps for is a moving event. Now I would only recommend using them on the heaviest ones for short distances. Do not wear them on max distance events; your hamstrings will fatigue very fast.”
Olympic weightlifters can also use knee wraps for extra joint support during their heaviest lifts. Wraps are beneficial because they can provide velocity out of the bottom of a snatch or clean and support the knees during knee flexion.
However, it’s worth noting that knee wraps are more likely to limit joint range of motion, which could impact a lifter's ability to receive the bar. Plus, they take longer to put on, which can be problematic during a fast-paced competition.
For these reasons, Olympic lifters generally prefer knee sleeves over wraps.
Who Should Not Use Knee Wraps?
Most lifters don’t need knee wraps in their training, especially if they don’t aspire to compete in powerlifting, weightlifting, or strongmen.
The people who are less likely to benefit from using wraps are:
Beginners who are yet to master the core compound lifts (especially the barbell back squat) and who have yet to build a solid strength foundation
Amaterur Bodybuilders who primarily do high-rep training to promote hypertrophy and rarely put near-maximal loads on the barbell for squats
- Recreational CrossFitters who practice circuit-style training, jumping from one activity to the next, primarily doing high-rep sets
When To Wear Knee Wraps
Suppose you’re sold on the idea of knee wraps. Your next question probably is, “But when should I wear these, and for what activities?” Let’s explore some movements and scenarios to get a better idea:
The Movements & Activities Where Knee Wraps Make Sense
Here are the exercises where it would make sense to use knee wraps:
- Barbell squats (low and high-bar, front squat, zercher squat, overhead squat, etc.)
- Leg press
- Olympic lifts (clean and jerk, snatch, power clean, squat clean, push jerk, etc.)
- Short-distance strongmen events, where you go “all out” briefly
Implementation (Scenarios Where Knee Wraps Make Sense)
Here is how I suggest incorporating knee wraps into your training routine for the exercises and activities listed above:
After warming up. You won’t need the extra compression and support during your warm-up sets when the weights are lighter, but you may want to use them for your main working sets at higher weights.
With 80+ percent of your 1RM (sets of 1 to 5 reps). This is where it makes the most sense to wear knee wraps for the extra support and the potential performance boost.
- When dealing with knee discomfort or pain. Wraps can be helpful to alleviate temporary and moderate discomfort, but you must be mindful and ensure the problem isn’t getting worse.
How To Wear Knee Wraps Properly: Step-By-Step
There are a few ways to put wraps on your knees, but here is the most straightforward approach:
- Take a knee wrap, sit down, and extend your knee.
- Place one end of the knee wrap against the outside of your knee, and hold it in position with your free hand.
- Loop the wrap around your knee, over the knee cap or slightly below, pulling it tight enough to feel some joint compression.
- Continue to wrap the fabric over your knee, covering the area from just below to just above your knees. With each rotation of the wrap around your knee, you can adjust how tight or how loose you want the wrap to be.
- Use the velcro strap at the end to lock the knee wrap in position. Or if you’re using a wrap without a velcro fastener, then tuck the end of the wrap under the wrapped fabric to secure it in place.
- Do the same for your other knee, and you’re ready to start your set.
More of a visual learner, check out our YouTube video:
How Tight Should Knee Wraps Be?
Knee wraps should feel reasonably tight and you should feel somewhat restricted when you walk up to the barbell. However, your wraps shouldn’t be so tight that they prevent you from performing the movement correctly.
The ideal level of tightness for most people is when they can achieve a parallel squat and feel increasingly more compression around their knees as they descend. A good pair of knee wraps that are tightened appropriately will provide some ‘bounce’ out of the bottom position.
You don’t want to feel like there’s nothing on your knees because that would mean the wraps are too loose and not providing any benefits.
If after testing knee wraps you decide you don’t like this level of compression, then you would be better off wearing a pair of 5-mm or 7-mm knee sleeves.
What To Look For When Buying Knee Wraps
Most knee wraps available today are between 72” and 82” (182.9 to 208.3 cm) long. In general, 72” is enough to loop the wrap over your knee several times and get the necessary support.
You should look for knee wraps that are at least 3” (7.6 cm) wide. That width means the fabric covers a larger area, ensuring adequate support for the entire knee.
Given how much support knee wraps should offer, you should pick a pair that’s at least 0.2” (5mm) thick. Anything less would limit the support you can get, even if you tighten the wraps well around your knees.
Look for wraps made of elastic material that stretch to a reasonable degree. This is important because you have to pull the wraps as you loop them around your knees to achieve a tighter fit.
If the material isn’t elastic, getting the same snug fit will be more challenging. Plus, a lack of elasticity would mean your wraps cannot store the same potential energy as you descend during a squat, so you wouldn’t experience the same boost out of the bottom position.
It’s best to go for a pair of knee wraps with velcro straps because they’re easier to secure into position.
The alternative is a pair of wraps without velcro, where you simply tuck the end piece under the fabric. However, such wraps are more likely to loosen mid-set and ruin your groove.
Knee wraps are subject to plenty of stress, which means you need a durable pair if you hope to use them for a few years. I recommend knee wraps with reinforced stitching because this type of stitching will reduce the risk of the fabric fraying.
The final thing to look for in a solid pair of knee wraps is some sort of a guarantee because it gives you peace of mind, allows you to get more use, and provides insurance against potential defects.
My Top Recommendation As a Strength Coach
I recommend the 72” knee wraps by Gymreapers because they balance comfort and support, last a long time, and come with a velcro strap for a strong and secure fit during your training.
The high-performance, elastic material, and strong velcro strap allow you to dictate the compression level and ensure a snug fit for optimal knee support, stability, and injury prevention.
These wraps are 72” long and 3.25” wide, which is ideal for covering the knee area. On top of that, the fabric is 0.25” thick, which is what you need when squatting or leg pressing hundreds of pounds.
The enhanced elastic material used to make the knee wraps comes with reinforced stitching, ensuring durability and a lower risk of fraying, even after years of consistent use. Plus, you get a one-year replacement guarantee should any issues arise with your knee wraps.
To top it off, the Gymreapers knee wraps come in multiple colors: all black, navy, red with white, and black with red, gray, green, tan, pink, or white horizontal lines. You can check out all the designs here.
When should you use knee wraps?
It’s best to limit your use of knee wraps to your heaviest sets of squats, leg presses, and other lower-body exercises. Wraps provide the necessary compression to protect your joints, muscles, and connective tissues, but you don’t want to become overly reliant.
Can I use knee wraps for knee pain?
Knee wraps can be an effective remedy against nagging pain and knee soreness, which means you can mask minor to moderate discomfort. However, knee wraps aren’t meant to treat the various causes of pain, and you shouldn’t solely rely on them, especially if the pain is significant or appears to be worsening.
Do you wrap a knee straight or bent?
Best practices dictate straightening your knee before applying the wrap. Looping the wrap on a bent knee could make it difficult to tighten the fabric enough and get the necessary compression.