If you don’t get geeked by fitness gear, gadgets, and gizmos, I understand. 

Such gewgaws are like supplements—unnecessary and usually a lot of sizzle with very little steak.

Also like supplements, however, if you have the budget and inclination, there are a few workout “accessories” you may want to invest in.

A good weightlifting belt and pair of squat shoes can make a marked difference in your lower-body workouts, for example.

What about joint sleeves and wraps, though? Do they do anything or are they the BCAAs of training trinkets?

Let’s start with sleeves, which are tight-fitting (usually neoprene) . . . uh, sleeves . . . you wear over your knees or elbows.

People often use sleeves to improve joint comfort and stability during heavy sets, and studies on knee sleeves in particular show they do just that.

There’s more, too. 

Research shows that knee sleeves can also increase squat 1RM strength, improve muscle coordination, and increase muscle and joint temperatures (which in turn can enhance quadriceps performance).

YMMV, but I’ve squatted with and without knee sleeves many times over the years, and I can say with certainty that I perform slightly better with them than without. 

As for using elbow sleeves when bench and overhead pressing, I don’t know of any research on this, but it’s fair to assume it may be of benefit as well. I myself have never bothered for whatever reason.

Now, wraps are a different kettle of fishsticks. 

These are long strips of stiffly elastic material that you very tightly twine around your knees or elbows before squatting or pressing.

Unsurprisingly, wraps don’t improve comfort, but studies do show that knee wraps can increase the amount of weight you can squat.

Interestingly, however, in one experiment, although knee wraps helped participants move more weight, they also reduced the amount of force their leg muscles produced while lifting. Theoretically, then, if used often, knee wraps could impair muscle growth.

Sleeves, on the other hand, don’t appear to have this unwanted side effect.

So, in summary:

  1. Neoprene knee sleeves may help you perform slightly better in your lower-body workouts if you feel better wearing them than without.
  2. Anyone who enjoys such knee sleeves may also want to try neoprene elbow sleeves when benching and overhead pressing.
  3. Knee wraps are best left to strength athletes whose primary focusing is lifting as much as they possibly can when they step on the platform.

And as for which sleeves you should buy, I use these ones from Rehband, but SBD also makes excellent sleeves. Make sure to buy the right size for your joints, too—don’t size down thinking that even tighter is better.

So much for sleeves and wraps.

+ Scientific References

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