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Two of the most popular knee sleeve brands available today are Rehband and SBD. I’ve tried both, incorporating them into my heavy squat workouts for 3 weeks, and I’m here to give you my thoughts.
So are Rehband knee sleeves or SBD knee sleeves better? SBD knee sleeves are better for elite competitive powerlifters (not beginners), but Rehband knee sleeves are more comfortable, more versatile, and can be worn for different types of training. Rehband knee sleeves are also more widely available online and in some cases more cost-effective than SBD knee sleeves.
Before we compare each feature head-to-head, let’s review each knee sleeve and discuss their pros and cons.
Rehband is one of the most recognized knee sleeve brands on the market, especially amongst weightlifters and CrossFitters. They were used by many competitive powerlifters before other brands started creating knee sleeves.
- Available in three different levels of thickness (7mm, 5mm, and 3mm)
- Available in a variety of colors
- Can be worn for CrossFit and HIIT workouts
- Great for lifters who have never worn knee sleeves before
- Sold in singles
SBD knee sleeves first became available in 2013 and have since become widely used by powerlifters and strongman competitors.
They are known for their snug fit and high amount of support, even though it comes at the expense of comfort and versatility.
- Standard 30cm length provides more coverage and support
- Available in a wide range of sizes
- Many lifters like that they provide a good bounce out of the hole when squatting
- 7mm knee sleeves are too compressive to wear for anything other than squats
- Not available in a lot of colors
- Would only recommend to lifters who have worn other knee sleeves previously
Rehband vs. SBD Knee Sleeve: Face-to-Face Comparison
Materials and Construction
Both Rehband and SBD make their knee sleeves out of neoprene, a material that’s durable, flexible, and keeps heat trapped in the body. But as you’ll see, the SBD knee sleeves have one unique benefit that gives them an edge over the Rehbands.
Rehband knee sleeves are made from 70% SBR (a synthetic rubber that has anti-abrasion qualities and a lot of stability) and 30% neoprene. The cover and lining are made from 100% polyamide, a material known for its strength and durability.
All of the stitching on the Rehband knee sleeves is reinforced, which makes them less likely to rip. It also makes them comfortable to squat in, since there are no uncomfortable seams that could pinch your skin.
The SBD knee sleeves are made from high-grade neoprene. Like the Rehband knee sleeves, the SBD knee sleeves have reinforced stitching that prevents the seams from fraying.
The SBD knee sleeves feature diagonal stitching that starts on the top outer edge of the sleeve and wraps across the back of the knee, ending at the bottom edge of the inside of the knee. This gives them their support and offers a high amount of stability.
In addition to their 7mm knee sleeves, SBD also sells a 5mm weightlifting knee sleeve that allows for more dynamic movements. They are abrasion-resistant, so they won’t rip or tear when performing cleans or snatches.
You can even wear them when you deadlift without worrying about the bar snagging on the material.
The 5mm SBD knee sleeves also have an antimicrobial lining, which helps prevent odors.
The Winner: SBD
Both the SBD and Rehband knee sleeves are made from high-quality neoprene and have reinforced stitching for added comfort and durability. But since SBD sells a knee sleeve with the added benefit of an antimicrobial lining, they beat out the Rehbands.
There are a few design differences between the Rehband and SBD knee sleeves that set each one apart.
Rehband knee sleeves feature a patented anatomical design that conforms to the shape of the knee. The middle of the sleeve is curved, which provides a snug fit around the knee. It also allows you to move your legs naturally when you’re not squatting.
The top of the Rehband knee sleeves have a wider opening than the bottom, which makes it easier to get them on and off.
SBD’s knee sleeves are patented as well, but theirs are less contoured and more cylindrical. The openings on the top and bottom are the same. It provides support for a larger part of your leg, but it’s harder to get them on and off, and it limits your movement for other exercises.
The Winner: Rehband
Even though the cylindrical design of the SBD knee sleeves contributes to its support and stability, it makes them less comfortable than the Rehbands if you’re going to wear them throughout the duration of your workout.
SBD was the first brand to create a knee sleeve that’s 30cm long, which is the maximum length allowed for competition. Other brands eventually followed in their footsteps, including Rehband, who introduced their version of a 30cm-long knee sleeve in 2020.
The Winner: SBD
Even though Rehband now sells a 30cm-long knee sleeve, it’s still relatively new. There aren’t many reports of how well it performs.
On the other hand, 30cm has been the standard length of all SBD knee sleeves for several years, and they have a proven track record amongst competitive powerlifters.
Knee sleeves should last for a long time if you take care of them properly, even if you wear them multiple times per week.
All of Rehband’s knee sleeves are high quality and built to last.
I’ve had a pair of 5mm Rehband knee sleeves for about four years now. I wear them 1-2 times per week and they are showing no signs of falling apart. They’ve never stretched out, and the stitching is still intact.
I’ve also never had an issue with them smelling, but I train at home and hang them up immediately after my workouts.
If you train at a gym, I recommend not leaving your knee sleeves in your gym bag for too long and airing them out as soon as you can to prevent odors. I’d also avoid putting them in a washing machine and dryer to prevent the material from breaking down.
SBD knee sleeves are also known for their durability. I’ve seen reports of lifters who have had them for several years and have yet to replace them.
I’ve also heard some lifters say that their SBD knee sleeves stretch a bit after some time, but it’s not so significant that it affects their performance.
The Winner: Tie
Both knee sleeves are durable and hold up well, even through multiple workouts per week, so there’s no clear winner.
Most powerlifting knee sleeves are 7mm thick, which is the maximum thickness allowed in the IPF and USAPL. Both Rehband and SBD have 7mm knee sleeves in addition to knee sleeves of other thicknesses that serve different purposes.
Rehband’s knee sleeves are available in 7mm, 5mm, and 3mm.
- The 7mm knee sleeve offers the most amount of compression, but it’s not as flexible. It’s good for heavy static lifts (like squats).
- The 5mm knee sleeve is less compressive and has more mobility, making it a good option for CrossFit and other dynamic workouts. They’re also good for beginner lifters who just want a knee sleeve to keep their knees warm. These are the sleeves you can wear throughout the duration of your workout.
- The 3mm knee sleeve provides the most range of motion. It doesn’t provide the support needed for powerlifting or weightlifting, but it’s ideal for endurance or conditioning workouts.
SBD’s knee sleeves are only available in 7mm and 5mm.
Like the Rehband knee sleeves, the 7mm SBD knee sleeve is the most compressive and least flexible. Most lifters wear them for heavy squat sets only.
The 5mm SBD knee sleeves have more stretch and can be worn for cleans and snatches. They also allow for a greater range of motion, which is beneficial for weightlifters who usually squat ass-to-grass.
The Winner: Tie
Even though Rehband offers a 3mm knee sleeve and SBD doesn’t, it doesn’t offer any benefit for strength athletes. And since you can get a 7mm or 5mm knee sleeve from either brand, it’s difficult to declare a winner in this category.
You can read more about the differences between 5mm vs 7mm knee sleeves in my other article.
If powerlifting is your main sport, you may prefer to wear knee sleeves for heavy squats only. But if you train for other sports or activities in the gym, you’ll want a knee sleeve that you can wear for multiple movements.
Rehband’s 7mm knee sleeves are too stiff to wear for dynamic movements, but they’re comfortable to wear for an entire training session or competition day.
The 5mm Rehbands are the most versatile since you can wear them for lifting, CrossFit WODs, or HIIT workouts. I wear mine for WODs with a lot of squatting, and I can comfortably run and do other movements in them.
Many powerlifters state that SBD’s 7mm knee sleeves can only be worn for heavy squats because their rigidity makes it difficult to move around in them. Some lifters have even said that they have to fold their SBD knee sleeves down in between sets.
The 5mm knee sleeves are more flexible and have more stretch, so it’s easier to perform explosive movements such as cleans and snatches in them.
The Winner: Rehband
Rehband and SBD both have 7mm knee sleeves that are best suited for heavy static lifts and 5mm sleeves that are better for more dynamic movements. Rehband’s knee sleeves are more comfortable to wear for a longer period of time, though, so they beat out SBD in that regard.
Sizing and Fit
Knee sleeves should be tight enough to offer compression and support, but not so tight that they cut off your circulation or limit your movement.
Rehband’s knee sleeves are available in sizes from XS – XL. I followed their sizing instructions to a T when I bought mine, and they fit perfectly. In fact, I still use my original pair even though I’ve gained a few pounds since I got them, and they still perform well.
SBD’s knee sleeves are available in sizes 3XS – 5XL. No matter your body type or how tight you prefer your knee sleeves, you can get a fit that works best for you.
As I mentioned earlier, some lifters say that they stretch after about a month of use. You may want to consider getting a size smaller if you want the most amount of compression. But if you like a more comfortable fit, you should get your regular size or go up a size.
Some high-level powerlifters purchase two pair of knee sleeves, one in a larger size (for training purposes) and one in a smaller size (for competition purposes). This is because they want to get the most support in competition, but wearing a smaller size in training all the time wouldn’t be practical or comfortable.
The Winner: Tie
Even though Rehband’s knee sleeve sizing is more accurate, I’m calling a tie between the two because I like that SBD has more inclusive size options.
In my opinion, investing in a pair of knee sleeves is worth it. Higher-priced knee sleeves tend to be more durable, and you’ll save more money in the long run by not having to replace them every few months.
Rehband’s knee sleeves are sold as singles instead of in a pair. This makes them less cost-effective, but the price difference between their 7mm knee sleeves and SBD’s 7mm knee sleeves is nominal. You can also easily find them on Amazon or Rogue.
All of SBD’s knee sleeves are sold in pairs. They range in price based on the thickness and model, with the 5mm knee sleeves costing slightly more.
SBD knee sleeves aren’t sold on Amazon, which makes them less convenient to purchase online.
The Winner: Rehband
Even though Rehband’s 7mm knee sleeves are more expensive and all of their knee sleeves are sold individually, Rehband wins the price category. They’re also more widely available than the SBD knee sleeves.
Approval for Competition
If you’re a competitive powerlifter or weightlifter, your knee sleeves need to be approved for competition.
SBD knee sleeves are approved by the USAPL, IPF and USPA. They’re also IWF compliant.
Rehband’s 7mm knee sleeves are approved for the USAPL, IPF, and IWF, but not for the USPA.
The Winner: SBD
Since SBD knee sleeves are USPA-approved while Rehband knee sleeves are not, they have a slight edge over Rehband.
For a complete list of USAPL- and IPF-approved gear, check out the article IPF & USAPL Approved Equipment & Gear for Competition.
What Are the Differences Between Rehband and SBD Knee Sleeves?
If you’re still having trouble deciding between Rehband and SBD knee sleeves, check out the recap below.
- Patented anatomical design: Rehband knee sleeves aren’t just angularly shaped, but are contoured to the shape of the knee. This provides a more even amount of compression and helps them stay in place.
- Available in three different levels of thickness: No matter what sport you participate in, you can find a knee sleeve that works best for you.
- Unique fit for the right and left knees: Each sleeve is designed to specifically fit the left or right knee, whereas most other knee sleeves can be worn on either knee.
- Standard 30cm length: Unlike Rehband who has its own line of 30-cm long knee sleeves, this is the standard length on all SBD knee sleeves.
- More size options: SBD’s knee sleeves are available in sizes 3XS to 5XL. This wide range means you can get knee sleeves that are more tailored to your body type.
Related Article: SBD vs STrong Knee Sleeves: Pros, Cons, Which Is Better?
The Final Word
For most lifters, the Rehband knee sleeves will offer a sufficient amount of support and warmth. But there are a few scenarios where the SBD knee sleeves would be a better choice.
Use the Rehband knee sleeves if:
- You also do CrossFit.
- You also practice the Olympic lifts or compete in weightlifting.
- You’re buying knee sleeves for the first time.
- You want to wear them for more than just squats.
- You want a more comfortable knee sleeve.
- You’ve been competing in powerlifting for less than two years.
Use the SBD knee sleeves if:
- You’ve competed in powerlifting for 2+ years.
- You like knee sleeves with a high amount of compression.
- You plan on wearing your knee sleeves for heavy squats only.
If you’re a competitive powerlifter, you should also check out the Titan Yellow Jackets. They’re preferred by many world champions because they stabilize the knee and provide a lot of support for heavy squats.
They also top the list for my Best 5 Knee Sleeves for Powerlifting.
About The Author
Amanda Dvorak is a freelance writer and powerlifting enthusiast. Amanda played softball for 12 years and discovered her passion for fitness when she was in college. It wasn’t until she started CrossFit in 2015 that she became interested in powerlifting and realized how much she loves lifting heavy weights. In addition to powerlifting, Amanda also enjoys running and cycling.