Best 5 Knee Sleeves For Powerlifting in 2020 (NEW)

Knee sleeves are an important piece of equipment in a powerlifter’s gym bag.

The highest-quality knee sleeve is the Titan Yellow Jacket Knee Sleeve, which is the most widely used in the sport of powerlifting, and my top choice. Click HERE for sizing and pricing.

Knee sleeves are used for joint protection, warmth, and stability. With the right knee sleeve for powerlifting, you can feel more secure under the barbell and lift more weight.

While other pieces of powerlifting equipment on the market are seen as optional, the knee sleeve is an absolute must, which is why you’ll never see a competitive powerlifter without them.


My Top Knee Sleeve Picks

Here are the five best knee sleeves for powerlifting:

Highest Quality: Titan Yellow Jacket Knee Sleeve

The absolute highest quality knee sleeve is the TITAN YELLOW JACKET KNEE SLEEVE (click for pricing and sizing from Lifting Large). Some of the heaviest squats ever have been done with these sleeves. They are superbly designed and will last you forever.

Close Runner-Up: Strong Knee Sleeves by Slingshot

A close runner-up is the STRONG KNEE SLEEVES BY SLINGSHOT (click for pricing and sizing from Amazon). These are gaining popularity among top-level powerlifters, and have a tapered design at the bottom of the sleeve for a more comfortable fit.

Budget-Friendly: Mava Sport 7MM Knee Sleeve

If you’re looking for a solidly constructed knee sleeve, but don’t want to pay the premium price, then look no further than the Mava Sport 7MM KNEE SLEEVE (click for pricing and sizing directly from Amazon). You’ll save some cash, and still get warmth and support.

Most Versatile: Rehband 7MM Knee Sleeve

Some complaints about knee sleeves are that they’re only good for squats and deadlifts. But, if you’re looking for a multi-use knee sleeve where you can do virtually any exercise in the gym then you’ll want the Rehband 7MM KNEE SLEEVE (click for pricing and sizing on Amazon).

Best For Beginner Powerlifter: Rogue 5MM Knee Sleeve

For a beginner, you won’t need the thickness that comes with the high-end knee sleeves. You’ll only want a sleeve that’s easy to get on/off and provides joint warmth and stability. A great starter knee sleeve is the ROGUE 5MM KNEE SLEEVE (click for pricing and sizing on Rogue Fitness).


Best Reviewed Knee Sleeves For Powerlifting

Let’s take a look at each of these knee sleeves in more detail, so you understand the pros and cons of each design.

In deciding which knee sleeve you should buy, you need to ask yourself:

(1) Why do you want sleeves to begin with? (Is it for performance, knee stability, warmth, etc.)

(2) How much thickness do you need and are you a competitive powerlifter?

(3) Which knee sleeve fits your budget?

Why should you trust my recommendation?

I have been competitive powerlifting since 2007 — having competed at 12 National Powerlifting Championships and three World Championships. I have also been the Head Coach for Team Canada Powerlifting since 2012 and have worked with both World Powerlifting Champions and World Record Holders.

Each of the knee sleeves I have personally used at various times throughout my powerlifting career. As well, I consulted with 13 top-level powerlifters when writing this article, all who have worn these knee sleeves, and provided their feedback. This was to ensure my reviews weren’t based on my own personal likes/dislikes but incorporated a subset of the broader powerlifting community.

Let’s get started!


1. TITAN YELLOW JACKET KNEE SLEEVE

Titan yellow jacket knee sleeves for powerlifting
Titan Yellow Jacket Knee Sleeve: Best Quality & Performance

The Titan Yellow Jacket Knee Sleeve is one of the most popular choices among lifters and is the best knee sleeve money can buy for powerlifting.

The knee sleeve has a unique “X” stitch pattern across the front, which some lifters say provide greater knee stability, especially under heavy load. In fact, super heavy-weight squatter, Jezza Uepa, has squatted 1036lbs in these exact knee sleeves.

All sizes come in 7mm thickness and 30cm in length. If you want the most performance-enhancing benefit from knee sleeves, you’ll want to stick to these dimensions.

Other knee sleeve brands compromise on the thickness and length for various sizes, but with Titan, you can be guaranteed that every size will come in these dimensions.

The brand is also approved for competition use by the International Powerlifting Federation.

There are currently 3 generations of the Titan Yellow Jack Knee Sleeve. Each generation has been made slightly more durable, which prevents wear and tear. So just make sure you get the 3rd generation sleeve or else you might run into some fraying issues at the seams with extensive use.

A quick note about sizing: if you’re a competitive powerlifter you may want to size down because the tighter the knee sleeve, the more rebound you’ll get out of the bottom of a squat.

What I Love About About The Titan Yellow Jacket Knee Sleeve

  • The absolute gold standard in knee sleeve technology for powerlifting
  • A proprietary ‘X’ pattern across the knee cap to increase joint stability when lifting
  • The extra thickness and length make lifting feel way more secure
  • Extremely durable leading to no signs of wear and tear over time
  • Used by several World Champion powerlifters
  • Approved by the International Powerlifting Federation for competition use

Potential Cons

  • They’re on the higher end of pricing (for good reason though)
  • They sometimes are hard to take on and off if your legs are already sweaty
  • Not many color options to choose from

2. Strong Knee Sleeves by Slingshot

Strong Knee Sleeves by Mark Bell for powerlifting
Strong Knee Sleeves by Mark Bell: Runner-Up

The Strong Knee Sleeve by Slingshot is gaining in popularity among many top-level powerlifters.

Mark Bell set out to create a knee sleeve that mimicked the performance-enhancing benefit of knee wraps. He choice the thickest neoprene available on the market to ensure the construction was rigid and durable.

What I like about these sleeves in particular is the tapered bottom. This will provide a bit more suction to the calf muscle so that the sleeve won’t slide down as soon as you get sweaty.

The Strong Knee Sleeve also has 7mm thickness and 30cm length regardless of the size, and as of recently, has been approved for use in powerlifting competitions.

The reason why it’s the runner-up is that one lifter I spoke with said you need to be careful in terms of laying them ‘flat’ in your gym bag. If you bend or fold them they seem to lead to fraying. So as long as you are careful with how you store them, they should last.

What I Love About About The Strong Knee Sleeves

  • Highly supportive 7mm knee sleeve made from high-quality neoprene
  • More and more top-level powerlifters are preferring to use this sleeve
  • Designed with a rigid construction providing great support
  • They don’t slide down when you start to sweat
  • Approved by the International Powerlifting Federation for competition use

Potential Cons

  • Some complaints of early wear and tear if you don’t treat them properly

3. Mava Sport 7MM KNEE SLEEVE

The Mava Sport 7mm Knee Sleeve is a great budget-friendly option.

It’s still a great option for powerlifters who want a high-quality knee sleeve that doesn’t break the bank.

You won’t get the same 30cm length though on all sizes, like the Titan Yellow Jacket Knee Sleeve, as the length will depend based on the overall size. But you only need to be concerned with the length of a knee sleeve if you are a serious competitive powerlifter wanting to lift more weight in the squat.

Furthermore, the neoprene is slightly more pliable (less rigid), so you won’t get as much ‘pop’ out of the bottom of a squat.

The real downside though is if you are a competitive powerlifter, this knee sleeve is not approved for competition use.

If you simply want a knee sleeve for warmth and protection, and you don’t have a desire to compete in powerlifting, then this is a great choice.

What I Love About About the Mava Sport 7mm Knee Sleeves

  • The most cost-effective knee sleeve if you want 7mm thickness
  • It’s constructed with exceptional comfort and support
  • Slightly flexible neoprene that allows for greater versatility in movement patterns
  • Extremely easy to slide on and off (a major complaint about the more rigid-style sleeves)
  • Approved by the International Powerlifting Federation for competition use

Potential Cons

  • Length not as long as other knee sleeves (only a problem for serious powerlifters who want to lift more weight)
  • Not approved for use in powerlifting competition

4. Rehband 7MM KNEE SLEEVE

The most versatile knee sleeve is the Rehband 7mm Knee Sleeve.

For many years, this was the only knee sleeve option for powerlifters who wanted a 7mm knee sleeve. However, it wasn’t really designed for powerlifting, but rather Olympic weightlifting.

This sleeve was designed to be versatile across several different activities, including powerlifting, weightlifting and CrossFit.

The only drawback of being more versatile is that it doesn’t have a rigid construction.

I used to wear the Rehband 7mm knee sleeves when I first started to powerlift. Then when I got more advanced, I switched to a more rigid-style sleeve. This is because I wanted a little bit more ‘pop’ out of my squats.

The Rehband 7mm Knee Sleeve comes in a variety of colors, including black, red, camo, purple, and blue. It’s also approved for use in powerlifting competition.

What I Love About About The Rehband 7mm Knee Sleeves

  • Slightly more flexible, which allow for more versatility outside just the powerlifting movements
  • Seems to provide slightly more ‘warmth’ than the other knee sleeves
  • Available in several styles and colors
  • A company with a long history making knee sleeves, so you know you’re getting a good product
  • Approved by the International Powerlifting Federation for competition use

Potential Cons

  • Rehband knee sleeves are notorious for trapping moisture and odor – this means you have to dry them after each workout and wash them regularly

5. ROGUE 5MM KNEE SLEEVE

Rogue 5mm knee sleeves for powerlifting
Rogue 5mm Knee Sleeve: Best For Beginner Powerlifters

The Rogue 5mm Knee Sleeve is the best knee sleeve for beginner powerlifters.

You would be considered a beginner powerlifter if you haven’t competed yet or have less than one year of competition experience.

Until you are further along in your powerlifting career, you don’t need to worry about gaining a performance advantage by wearing rigid knee sleeves. All you need is a knee sleeve that is easy to get on and off and provides a bit of warmth to the knee joint.

The Rogue 5mm knee sleeve has the same construction as I detailed earlier with the 7mm version. You’re just simply paying for less thickness, which is actually a significant cost saving.

Sometimes with 5mm knee sleeves, the sleeve doesn’t stay in place on the knee-cap, and you’ll find yourself having to pull it up over the course of the workout. However, with the Rogue 5mm knee sleeve, this is not a concern. You never have to adjust it once you have it set in place.

For this reason alone, it’s the only 5mm knee sleeve that I will recommend.

What I Love About About The Rogue 5mm Knee Sleeves

  • It’s a great starter knee sleeve — it gets the job done well
  • One of the cheapest sleeve you can buy that’s still worth getting
  • It stays in place on the knee cap unlike other 5mm sleeves
  • Can be used for a variety of movements in the gym
  • Approved by the International Powerlifting Federation for competition use

Potential Cons

  • You will likely out-grow this knee sleeve and want something thicker over time
  • May lead to wear and tear quicker since it’s thinner

How To Choose Between Different Knee Sleeves?

How to choose your knee sleeves
Choosing your powerlifting knee sleeves

The following criteria was used in order to evaluate each of the knee sleeves for powerlifting. These are the features that you want to look for in a good knee sleeve.

Material

The material is what the knee sleeve is made out of, whether that’s neoprene, other synthetic rubbers, spandex, nylon or polyester.

Any good knee sleeve that you’ll want to wear for powerlifting should be made out of neoprene, or a combination of neoprene and other synthetic rubbers depending on the stiffness you desire. All of the knee sleeves reviewed fit within this category.

The spandex, nylon, or polyester knee sleeves are used for more non-lifting activities, such as hiking or running. They will keep your knees warm, but won’t support the knee joint under significant load or allow you to lift more weight.

Thickness

Knee sleeve thickness
Powerlifters like to choose thicker knee sleeves

The thickness between knee sleeves will vary between 3mm to 7mm.

Virtually all serious powerlifters choose to wear a 7mm knee sleeve because it will provide the greatest level of support. In most instances, the 7mm will allow you to lift more weight because of the compression on the knee cap.

If you find knee sleeves beyond 7mm thickness, you cannot wear it in powerlifting. This is because powerlifting rules say that the maximum thickness for knee sleeves in competition is 7mm.

While you can choose to wear 5mm knee sleeves if you’re a beginner powerlifter, you’ll want to avoid the 3mm knee sleeves because they won’t provide any support under heavy load.

All of the knee sleeves reviewed fall within 5-7mm thickness.

Length

Knee sleeve length
Knee sleeve length

The length of the knee sleeves will vary between 20cm to 30cm.

The longer the knee sleeve, the greater the support and compression, which will lead to stronger lifts. But just like powerlifting rules around thickness, the length cannot exceed 30cm if you are a competitive lifter.

The Titan Yellow Jacket Knee Sleeves and Strong Knee Sleeves are the only two sleeves that have the maximum 30cm length on all sizes. So even if you buy a size small, you’ll still get the 30cm in length. This is why you’ll see so many powerlifters wearing these two brands.

Other knee sleeves will scale their length depending on the size. This might be a problem if you’re a competitive powerlifter because you’ll want to optimize your knee sleeves for the longest possible length.

Design

Knee sleeve design
Knee sleeve design

The design of the knee sleeve refers to how it’s shaped and constructed.

Some knee sleeves have a larger opening at the top in order to make it easier to slide on and off, such as the Mava 7mm Knee Sleeve and The Rehband 7mm Knee Sleeve.

Other knee sleeves, like the Titan Yellow Jacket Knee Sleeve, keep the opening at the top smaller with a more ‘tapered’ look in order to prevent the sleeve from moving around while lifting and to provide added compression.

Some knee sleeve designs have certain contours that are more suitable for varied movement patterns (running, hiking, jumping, etc.), while others are hyper-specialized for the powerlifting movements. I only reviewed knee sleeves for powerlifting, not any other type of activity.

Stitching

Stitching on knee sleeves
Knee sleeve stitching

The stitching on any good knee sleeve for powerlifting needs to be reinforced in order to handle the constant loading requirements. You’ll want to make sure that it’s hemmed or enclosed on the edges.

Additionally, you’ll want to make sure the stitching isn’t in a place that will make contact with the barbell often since this will lead them to fray quicker.

Some of the older versions of the knee sleeves reviewed had fraying issues, but all of the new generation knee sleeves have sorted out these issues.

If you’re buying knee sleeves outside of the ones recommended in this article, I’d be concerned with fraying. But all of the ones reviewed here have high-quality reinforced stitching.

Ease-of-Use

Ease of use knee sleeves
How hard are the knee sleeves to put on?

You might think, how hard is it to “use” knee sleeves?

Well, the thicker the material, the tighter the knee sleeves, and the harder they are to put on. This is especially the case if you’re trying to put them on after you’ve already done a few sets of squats and your legs are sweaty.

Some powerlifters choose to buy really tight knee sleeves in order to gain every advantage possible to lift more weight. But, you can often see these lifters spending 10-minutes trying to put on their knee sleeves.

If this is a concern, either put your knee sleeves on before you start warming up, or choose a more flexible knee sleeve that follows the proper sizing.

Competition Approved

Which knee sleeves are approved for powerlifting competition
Knee sleeves for powerlifting competition

If you’re a competitive powerlifter, you’ll only want to buy knee sleeves that are approved by the International Powerlifting Federation.

With the exception of the Mava 7mm Knee Sleeve, all of the brands in this review are approved for competition use. So even if you’re not a competitive powerlifter today, your sleeves will be approved if you decide to step on the platform one day.

Any knee sleeve that is approved for competition must meet a certain quality standard. So rest assured, you’ll be getting a good knee sleeve from the recommendations in this article.

Price

Knee sleeves are certainly not the most expensive piece of powerlifting equipment. But you can expect to spend between $50-90 USD depending on the make and quality.

Given how many times you’ll wear knee sleeves for powerlifting, and how long they last, regardless of the money spent, you’ll find incredible value.


Powerlifting Knee Sleeves: Frequently Asked Questions

These are the top questions I get when it comes to wearing knee sleeves for powerlifting.

What Are The Benefits of Wearing Knee Sleeves?

The benefit of wearing knee sleeves is to provide the knee joint with warmth and compression. This will improve blood flow and increase recovery times. As well, the added compression increases stability, which can help you lift more weight.

Are Knee Sleeves Worth It?

Knee sleeves are worth it if you have some strength training experience under your belt and want to take your lifting more seriously.

This would be the case if you are starting to implement training with lower reps and heavier weights, or you’re on a powerlifting-specific program.

Knee sleeves are also worth the money if you are recovering from a knee injury, and want to increase the stability of your knee joint under load.

When Should You Wear Knee Sleeves?

As a powerlifter, you should wear knee sleeves for most squat workouts.

If you choose not to wear knee sleeves, it would be because you have a light workout (below 60% of 1RM). Some powerlifters also like to wear knee sleeves for deadlifts, in addition to any other lower body accessory movement.

Can Knee Sleeves Improve Your Lifts?

There has been little scientific research of neoprene knee sleeves on performance (strength gain). Much of the research draws conclusions from what we know about the use of ‘joint compression’ more broadly.

However, here is the research as it stands currently:

Knee sleeves may help generate more speed out of the hole

Miletello (2009) noted that acceleration from the bottom of the squat seemed to be the factor that separated more advanced powerlifters vs. novice powerlifters. It was noted that because wearing knee sleeves can decrease knee flexion at the bottom of the lift that it may help contribute to greater speeds out of the bottom.

Knee sleeves keep the joint in a better angle

Birmingham et al. (1998) researched the knee joint position with and without knee sleeves. It was concluded that the ability to replicate a specific joint angle while wearing sleeves was much easier versus not wearing sleeves. This means that you might have better knee tracking, which leads to better overall squat technique, with knee sleeves.

Knee sleeves increase warmth and decrease the inflammatory risk

Church et al. (2016) conclude that knee sleeves provide a level of warmth for the joint, which could potentially decrease inflammatory risk. While this doesn’t automatically lead to performance increases, if you can keep your joints healthy, you’ll end up lifting more weight over the course of your lifting career.

Knee sleeves might have some of the performance benefits of knee sleeve, but not to the same degree

Lake et. al (2012) investigated the use of knee wraps vs. no knee wraps, which concluded that lifters with knee wraps on average produce 10% more peak power when they squat. This should not be used to argue that knee sleeves can increase your squat performance by 10% because knee wraps and knee sleeves are much different.

Knee sleeves may increase a lifter’s confidence under heavy loads

powerlifters say that they like the ‘tight feeling’ on their knees, which gives them more confidence when they get underneath a heavy weight. Confidence is a hard thing to measure as it relates to your performance. But if you feel stronger under the barbell when wearing knee sleeves, then you’ll be in a much better position mentally to lift heavier loads.

How To Measure For Knee Sleeves?

There are two main ways to measure for knee sleeves. You will want to check the sizing guide for which method relates to the specific knee sleeve you’re buying.

1. Measure around the knee cap

The first method is measuring around the knee cap and then using the sizing chart accordingly. This is how you measure the Titan Yellow Jacket Knee Sleeves and Strong Knee Sleeve by Mark Bell.

2. Measure around the top of the calf

The second method is measuring around the top of the calf. From the center of the knee cap, measure 10cm down. Then, at this point, measure around your calf and use the sizing chart accordingly.

Keep in mind that a lot of competitive powerlifters like to size down from the sizing chart based on their measurements because they want more compression around the knee.

How Tight Should Knee Sleeves Fit?

The knee sleeve should be tight enough where it stays in place on the knee cap without having to continually readjust it throughout your workout.

When your knee sleeve is in place, it should feel like a gentle hug around your leg. It should not feel like it’s cutting off circulation to the lower part of your leg.

When you flex or bend your knee, you should feel some compression on the back of the leg.

Most competitive powerlifters like to have the knee sleeve as tight as possible without cutting off circulation. This might make the knee sleeve extremely hard to put on, but it’s the preferred fit for lifting heavy weights.

How Thick Should Your Knee Sleeves Be? (3mm vs. 5mm vs. 7mm)

Here is my recommendation on how thick your knee sleeves should be:

  • Use the 7mm knee sleeve if you’re a competitive powerlifter, lifting heavy weights, or are using them only for squats, deadlifts, and other compounded lower body exercises.
  • Use the 5mm knee sleeve if you’re a beginner powerlifter, just starting strength training, or want a more versatile sleeve that is good for all movements in the gym.
  • Use the 3mm knee sleeve if you want to wear it for any non-lifting activities (running, hiking, etc.).

How To Put on Knee Sleeves?

Here is how to put on knee sleeves:

  • Put the knee sleeve on over your calf
  • Grab the bottom of the knee sleeve and slightly roll them up about 1-2 inches
  • Grab the top and fold the knee sleeve all the way to the bottom
  • Grab under the bottom portion of the sleeve and pull up as high on the kneecap as possible
  • Then roll the top up, and the bottom down

This is the best video demonstrating how to put on a pair of tight knee sleeves:

Final Thoughts

There’s no lack of choices when it comes to knee sleeves. When you consider your specific strength needs and your goals as a powerlifter, then it can become easier to make a selection based on the list I suggested in this article.

References

Birmingham TB, Kramer JF, Inglis JT, Mooney CA, Murray LJ, Fowler PJ, and Kirkley S. Effect of a neoprene sleeve on knee joint position sense during sitting open kinetic chain and supine closed kinetic chain tests. Am J Sports Med 26: 562–566, 1998

Lake, J., Carden, P., Shorter, K. 2012. Wearing Knee Wraps Effects Mechanical Output and Performance Characteristics of Back Squat Exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(10), 2844-2849.

Church, J. B., Allen, T. N., & Allen, G. W. (2016). A Review of the Efficacy of Weight Training Aids. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 38(3), 11–17. 

Miletello WM, Beam JR, and Cooper ZC. A biomechanical analysis of the squat between competitive collegiate, competitive high school, and novice powerlifters. J Strength Cond 23: 1611– 1617, 2009