Knee Wraps: The Benefits and Drawbacks
You can use two kinds of wraps in the gym: wrist wraps and knee wraps. We have already discussed about wrist wraps in the previous post. More or less the same logic applies to knee wraps. In general, unless you’re squatting and deadlifting a ton of weight, a person with healthy knees who wears them is wasting his or her time – or worse. Unfortunately, many weight training accessories are commonly misused and as a result do nothing to enhance the efficacy or safety of a workout. We know you’ll make the right decision. You are free to ask additional advice in the comment section below the post.
What are knee wraps?
Knee wraps are somewhat similar to an “Ace” bandage, but they are much stronger and thicker. They are made of the same elastic material that is typically found in wrist wraps. The allowed width is the same as for wrist wraps, 8 cm (3 inches). But they can be 2.0 meter, 2.5 meter or even 3.5 meters long.
Knee wraps serve two purposes. The original purpose of knee wraps was to help protect the lifter’s knees from injury. But due to the “lifting up” effect, knee wraps can also add significantly to how much a lifter can squat.
- Preventing knee injury. They act as reinforced set of tendons and protect the knee joint during the squat while enhancing the explosive power out of the bottom of the lift. In other words, they keep everything tight and in place. Knee wraps also keep the knee joint warm and therefore better lubricated with synovial fluid.
- May allow you to lift more weight. When you tightly wrap you knees with the legs straight, the joint is locked in that angle. Then when you bent your legs, the knees want to spring back in position. This helps the person to lift more weight. The amount of assistance varies greatly depending on the type of wrap used and how tightly it is wrapped. Tight power-lifting knee wraps add 20 to 50 pounds to the lift, in some cases even more, with an average of about 30 pounds.
However, you should take into account that there’s no scientific research to support the efficacy of knee wraps, although some people (and manufacturers) swear by them.
Disadvantages of using knee wraps
The main reason you perform exercises such as squats and deadlifts in the first place is to strengthen the muscles around the knee joint. When you wrap your knees, you remove a significant amount of the workload from the muscles and transfer it to the wraps. Simply put, wearing knee wraps defeats the purpose of the exercise. Being able to lift more weight is good only if it comes as the result of your muscles getting stronger, not because you’ve fortified yourself with wraps.
Ironically, wrapping your knees to protect this complex and vulnerable joint may actually end up jeopardizing your safety rather than ensuring it. Squatting with knee wraps hinders the development of the tendons and ligaments of the knee. In other words, your knees will become dependent on the wraps. As you progressively increase the weights you use, your ligaments and tendons increase in strength alongside your muscles. If you wear wraps to much, your knees will not feel the need to strengthen.
Some evidence indicates that tight wraps are detrimental to the knees. This is because they restrict the natural range of motion and do not allow good blood flow to the knee and calf.
In addition, knee pain has many causes, such as the kneecap putting too much pressure on the bone underneath. Knee wraps may increase this pressure and make the pain worse. One solution is to buy a knee wrap that has a hole built in for the kneecap. The wrap provides support while the hole reduces pressure on the knee cap.
When to wear knee wraps?
There are only a few good reasons to wear knee wraps:
- Nearly all professional powerlifters wear knee wraps in competition.
- If you are going for extremely heavy set or new one-repetition maximum.
- If you’ve recently suffered a knee injury, you may need the support.
How to put knee wraps?
For the spiral fashion, you star little above the knee, then wraps around the knee going downward, overlapping each wrap, then back up again. The end is then tucked underneath a previous wrap.
For the crisscross method you wrap once above the knee, leaving some of the end of the wrap sticking out. You then cross over the knee in a diagonal fashion, then make one wrap around just below the knee, then cross over the knee in the opposite fashion as the first cross, thus making an “X”. The crisscrossing is continued until you run out of wrap, leaving just enough to tie the wrap onto the first end that you left handing out. Please note that not all knee wraps will work for the crisscross method of wrapping. Most of today’s wraps are to stiff to allow the crossing and tying of the wraps.
Either style works well; the final choice is down to the individual lifter.
Whichever method you use, keep you leg straight and wrap tight around the knee. In fact, you will not be able to bend your knee it is wrapped properly. But once you put the weight on your back, the extra weight will “push” you down and then the wrap will help to “lift” you back up.
Lifting heavy weights safely without knee wraps
One of the stated objections to training with heavy weights is that it’s injurious to the bones and connective tissue. However, this objection is without merit. Training with heavy weights is actually quite safe as long as the emphasis is on lifting the weight, as opposed to attempting to thrust it or torque it. Trying to move a weight that’s simply to heavy for the muscles involved requires the use of “outside” forces such as momentum and body leverage. Lifting a heavy weight with the aid of these outside forces amplifies the force transmitted to the joints and connective tissues, thereby increasing the risk of injury.
The solution is quite simple. You should increase the weight you are lifting gradually over the longer period of time. That way your muscles, bones, and connective tissue will get stronger and injury free. As you get stronger, you will find you are able to lift progressively heavier weights without knee wraps.
It is important to know when to use and when not to use weight-training accessories such as wraps, straps, fitness gloves, and weight belts. For non-competitive lifters, we find knee wraps to be completely unnecessary and harmful in most instances. If functional strength and muscle gain is what you’re after, you’ll be better off allowing your joints to function naturally. Occasionally wrapping to try and break a long standing personal record is fine.