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Getting the best out of your knee sleeves - 4th July, 2021

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 I don't know  about you, but I love my knees. Preferably when I don't feel any pain from them as well. We all need to look after our joints, but why do the knees always feel like they are the most important?

There are lots of methods to protect your knees when working out, but good maintenance is also helpful. This can include good oils within your diet, such as including plenty of fish, or supplementing with  Omega 3 oils or capsules.

But what about protective sleeves, and what are the benefits?

Neoprene knee sleeves are readily available at most sports good shops, and depending on the intensity on your exercise, an the weight you lift, will be available in various thicknesses. And not to forget, width to accommodate for various diameters of legs. Some sleeves will also come with support rods for additional support.

Sleeves have been nothing but a life-saver for me when I'm at my local CrossFit box. I realized quite quickly that I need extra support once I started training there. There was a lot of new movements I was struggling to grasp, and when I was getting the grasp of it, I noticed old knee injuries flair up. I was quick to buy a cheap and simple pair of sleeves, and straight away, I noticed a great difference!

A lot of knee pain, instability and discomfort with the likes of front squats, deadlifts, box jumps, and even burpees to an extent, have been non existent while using my sleeves. And there is good science to explain why;

The compression allows for better blood flow around the joint, which helps any inflammation that may be present. To assist with this, I usually use an ibuprofen gel or CBD balm prior to putting my sleeves on.

They can also assist with the recovery process, as they eliminate body heat loss. People often forget how vital this is. Whenever I finish a workout, I often want to take my sleeves off, but I instantly remind myself of a regular scenario when I used to box, when our trainer would remind us to stick a jacket on when leaving the gym to avoid this heat loss. Small caveat, I'd recommend that too. Last thing you want to do is risk catching flu during the winter months due to having a raise body temperature and walking into the cold air. Wrap up!

And another benefit of these "knee scuba suits", is the fact they will assist in your range of motion. If you worry about not being able to get deep on your squats due to previous discomfort, the combination of the the previous stated points allow you to get deep and explode back up without any discomfort.

Now, if you are a regular knee sleeve user, how many pairs have you gone through due to the residual scent of sweat?

No matter how many time you wash them in a row, you might still have a slight odor left over. However, I have found a good method to getting rid of the stench, and not getting rid of a decent pair of sleeves;

  • First up, get those sleeves off, and into a basin of salt water. 3 tablespoons should do it, and leave them overnight.
  • Next morning, stick them in the wash, but use an oxidized soap powder. 
  • Once they're done, make sure you hang them outdoors on the washing line to get some good air around them.
  • And to help keep the smell at bay in your bag, use a deodorizing pouch. I recommend the SmellWell range.

So that's it! I cannot recommend using sleeves, or even wraps, to protect your knees. And don't think they are just good for big weights and lifts. They can also help with rowing cycling and running.

- Andy Blackwell is a CrossFitter, cyclist and graphic designer. He currently lives in Edinburgh with his wife and 4 dogs.