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If you are reading this article, you’re probably looking to either buy your first pair of knee sleeves, or wondering if there’s merit in upgrading your current pair.
5mm or 7mm references the width of the material that knee sleeves are made of, with these being the 2 most popular options.
So what is the difference between the 5mm vs 7mm knee sleeves? 5mm knee sleeves are more suited towards general strength training, weightlifting or CrossFit where providing support to more dynamic movements and maintaining joint mobility is important alongside strength. 7mm knee sleeves will be best for competitive powerlifters as they’re thicker and provide more overall joint support.
In this article, I’ll go over the pros and cons of 5mm and 7mm knee sleeves and which one will suit your needs best.
Want the quick answer? Here’s My Recommendation for Powerlifters
If you’re in the market for the highest quality knee sleeve as a Powerlifter, I recommend the Titan Yellow Jacket knee sleeves.
You can read more here about why they are the Best Knee Sleeve for Powerlifting.
7mm Knee Sleeves: Overview
7mm knee sleeves are the most popular size of knee sleeves for powerlifters.
It’s the standard width that all powerlifting companies will make, with some offering further options.
If you see a powerlifter wearing knee sleeves, 99% of the time they are going to be 7mm thick.
Benefits of 7mm Knee Sleeves
There are several benefits to 7mm knee sleeves:
- They offer more joint support
- They are best for maximising strength
- They are more rigid than thinner options
- They are the maximum thickness allowed within powerlifting
- They have better longevity
Due to 7mm knee sleeves being thicker they will be more rigid than the thinner options, and therefore offer more joint support.
They’re also best for maximizing strength performance, specifically any kind of squatting or knee flexion/extension dominant exercises.
They are also more durable and hold their shape better and for longer.
Who Should Wear 7mm Knee Sleeves?
7mm knee sleeves are quickly becoming the standard option for most lifters.
Here’s a few scenarios where I think they are a must have:
Given the benefits I’ve listed above, you won’t be surprised that I’m recommending 7mm sleeves for powerlifters.
As a sport that is solely about maximum strength, having a sleeve that supports this is clearly important.
These are worn from the recreational level, to the world champion level and 7mm sleeves will undeniably help maximise your performance.
The main benefit is the added support and stability in the bottom of the squat that gives you extra drive out of the hole.
This can add 5-10kg to most lifters squats.
Whilst this does not sound like much, if you are going for a personal best squat or in a tight competition with other athletes, that 5-10kg can give you a great lead starting a competition.
This support goes beyond the bottom of the squat though, I feel way more confident walking out my heaviest squats with my knees feeling more stable as I take those 3 steps back.
Larger lifters are going to suit a thicker sleeve.
Whether you’re buying for strength goals, general support or any other reason, a 5mm sleeve just won’t be sufficient for larger individuals.
Larger joints need comparatively larger support and in my experience, 5mm sleeves can feel more like a joint warmer than actually supporting the joint.
I’ve always felt noticeably more confident and stable using a thicker sleeve for my squats.
On larger individuals thinner sleeves can end up stretching quickly too which means you have to buy a new pair sooner as well.
First Time Buyers
Ultimately, you want a durable, longer lasting sleeve that is going to last you putting it through a lot of training.
7mm sleeves will last longer overall and maintain their shape and structure a lot better than a thinner sleeve.
My current pair are over 4 years old and show very little signs of wear!
Those Looking to Add Weight To Their Lifts
Powerlifter or not, some people just want to get stronger.
7mm knee sleeves will help you with that.
Now I’m not saying they’ll instantly add 50kg to your squat, but everyone I know feels stronger squatting with a pair of 7mm sleeves.
The added stability and support to your knees, especially in the bottom of the squat, can improve your performance.
Most lifters will see a 5-10kg improvement in their squat from using knee sleeves. For some, that’s the equivalent of weeks and months of hard training.
I know I feel more confident in the bottom of my squats as well when my knees feel stronger and more supported.
7mm Knee Sleeve Recommendations
Best Overall: Titan Yellow Jacket Knee Sleeves
The X-Seam Technology, exclusive to this knee sleeve, adds another level of knee stability and overall durability to these.
You won’t find a higher quality and more supportive knee sleeve on the market.
In fact, International Powerlifting Federation super heavyweight, Jezza Uepa has squatted a massive 1036 lbs in these exact sleeves.
However, if you go to buy these, ensure that you are getting the third-generation model to guarantee the best quality.
The only real con with these is their premium price tag.
With powerlifting being more popular than ever before, we now have an abundance of great options for 7mm knee sleeves.
Here are some other options I recommend:
- STrong Knee Sleeves
- Stoic Knee Sleeves
- Rogue 7mm Knee Sleeves
- Mava Sport 7mm Knee Sleeves
- RehBand 7mm Knee Sleeves
5mm Knee Sleeves
While 7mm knee sleeves are more commonplace amongst powerlifters, 5mm sleeves are a great option for others.
Benefits of 5mm Knee Sleeves
There are several key benefits to 5mm sleeves:
- They are more versatile
- They are more comfortable
- They are less restrictive
- They still offer knee support and stability.
The main benefits of 5mm knee sleeves is that they are more versatile all round, and support a wider range of movements than the more restrictive and less comfortable 7mm options.
While they may not provide the same support as a 7mm knee sleeve, they will still be a noticeable improvement in support and stability than no sleeves.
Who Should Wear 5mm Knee Sleeves?
Here’s a few scenarios where I recommend 5mm knee sleeves:
CrossFitters and Weightlifters
Many athletes that partake in CrossFit or Weightlifting will favour a 5mm knee sleeve.
Since they are less restrictive and generally support a wider range of movements beyond maximal squatting, they suit the multi-event nature of CrossFit and the increased range of motion involved within weightlifting.
General Resistance Trainers
The main benefit of 5mm sleeves is their comfort and versatility and due to this they will suit a wider range of needs within general resistance training.
The uses of knee sleeves go beyond maximum effort squatting.
If you are looking for some extra knee support, warmth and stability within your training, then 5mm knee sleeves are going to be a great choice.
7mm knee sleeves can feel pretty restrictive on larger lifters, let alone shorter or lighter lifters.
A 5mm knee sleeve will have all the same performance benefits as a 7mm knee sleeve, it will just be better suited to you as an individual.
Yes, I recommended a 7mm sleeve for powerlifters where maximum strength is the goal.
But what about times when it isn’t?
I know my 7mm knee sleeves can feel pretty uncomfortable if I’m doing a higher rep set or higher volume session overall.
A 5mm knee sleeve can help here.
Giving you a more comfortable knee sleeve, with less restriction and distraction throughout your sets can be a great change.
However, if you’re a competitive powerlifter I would buy a 7mm knee sleeve first for competition, and only purchase a 5mm knee sleeve as a second ‘training pair’.
5mm Knee Sleeve Recommendations
Best Overall: Rogue 5mm Knee Sleeve
The Rogue 5mm knee sleeves are cheaper than my other recommendations which makes the budget friendly.
They still provide great support, are incredibly versatile and therefore suit a variety of exercises.
Rogue always provides premium quality products and there’s no change here. These sleeves are great quality, comfortable and survive serious training.
If you are after a sleeve to support your training, without being uncomfortable or restrictive, then this is the sleeve for you.
Considering your needs will be paramount in deciding which option is best for you.
A 7mm knee sleeve will be perfect for powerlifters, larger individuals, those looking to increase their maximum strength or those just looking for a more durable sleeve.
Whereas a 5mm knee sleeve is more suited towards CrossFit, weightlifting and general resistance training, along with smaller individuals and those looking for a less restrictive, more comfortable sleeve.
About The Author
Jacob Wymer is a powerlifting coach and PhD Candidate in Biomechanics and Strength and Conditioning, researching the application of barbell velocity measurements to powerlifting. He is involved in powerlifting across the board, from athlete to meet director. Jacob runs his coaching services at EST Barbell. You can also connect with him on Instagram.