For non-equipped or raw lifters, the knee sleeve is one of the most important pieces of equipment available to allow powerlifters to move more weight and support the knees in the squat.
Below you’ll find the best knee for a variety of use cases. Choose the one that makes sense for your needs!
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Knee Sleeves for Powerlifting
- 2 Best SBD Knee Sleeve Alternatives
- 3 Best Cheap Knee Sleeves Under $50
- 4 Best Knee Sleeves for Weightlifting
- 5 Other Excellent Knee Sleeves
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions about Knee Sleeves
- 7 Approved Knee Sleeves by Powerlifting Federation
Best Knee Sleeves for Powerlifting
If money is no object for you, then you should probably just go with the SBD knee sleeves. These are widely considered the best knee sleeves for squatting among powerlifters and are the standard against which other knee sleeves are measured. They cost about $82 and are approved by the IPF, USAPL, and USPA.
The knee sleeves I’d broadly recommend are the Strength Shop Inferno knee sleeves, offering comparable quality to SBD for quite a bit less. They cost about $50 and are approved by the IPF, USAPL, and USPA.
Lifters seeking decent bargain sleeve should check out Nordic Lifting knee sleeves, offering a rock solid product for about $40 per pair (Amazon).
Recommended for lifters who want a high quality, tight fitting knee sleeve.
SBD knee sleeves are generally considered the gold standard of knee sleeves. They are known for their ultra-tight fit and quality build. If you have the cash, SBD sleeves are a solid pick for knee sleeves.
SBD knee sleeves are 7 mm thick, 30 cm long, and made of high quality neoprene. This is the maximum thickness and length allowed for knee sleeves in powerlifting competition.
Sold by Starting Strongman for $82.
Best SBD Knee Sleeve Alternatives
If the SBD knee sleeves are a little too expensive for you, the best two alternatives are the Strength Shop knee sleeves and Stoic knee sleeves.
Inferno Knee Sleeves by Strength Shop ($50)
Strength Shop strikes the perfect balance between quality and price with their Inferno knee sleeves.
Much less expensive than SBD sleeves. 7 mm thick, 30 cm long - the maximum allowed by the IPF and USPA.
The Inferno Knee Sleeves are another top pick when it comes to best value knee sleeves. They’re a bit less expensive than Stoic knee sleeves, running about $50, and are still excellent knee sleeves.
Just like SBD and Stoic, Strength Shop knee sleeves are 7 mm thick, 30 cm long, and made of high quality neoprene.
Here’s a review if you’re interested in learning a bit more about the Inferno knee sleeves.
Stoic Knee Sleeves ($67)
Recommended for lifters seeking the perfect balance between quality and price.
Stoic knee sleeves are definitely a hot piece of powerlifting gear in 2020. They’ve been compared (see below) to powerhouse brands like STrong and SBD and come out roughly equal while costing quite a bit less. I have not personally tried these yet, but I think they’re going to be my next knee sleeve purchase.
I’ve seen nothing but good things written about them and they seem to be in it for the long run, looking to convince skeptics with quality and sturdiness.
Specification-wise, they are very similar to SBD knee sleeves. Stoic knee sleeves are also 7 mm thick, 30 cm long, and made of high quality neoprene.
Available from Amazon for about $67.
Best Cheap Knee Sleeves Under $50
Nordic Lifting Knee Sleeves
Recommended for the budget-conscious lifter who still wants a good knee sleeve.
The Nordic Lifting Knee Sleeves are a solid choice for the budget conscious lifter. These are still solid sleeves that will serve you well, while costing about half what the leading brands go for.
Plus, they are USPA approved, so they can be used for competition in that federation.
Unfortunately, they are not IPF or USAPL approved.
Personally, I like to have a pair of “competition sleeves” and a pair of training sleeves to keep my competition sleeves in good shape. These are a great pick for training or competition.
Available from Amazon for about $40.
Best Knee Sleeves for Weightlifting
Rehband Knee Sleeves ($80 Pair)
Recommended for weightlifters who want a durable, high quality sleeve that is slightly shorter and slightly looser than SBD sleeves. This can allow for more easier mobility in lifts like the clean and jerk or snatch.
IPF and IWF approved and renowned for quality, Rehband Knee Sleeves are some of the most popular knee sleeves amongst top lifters.
I find these are not quite as snug as the SBD sleeves, though they’re very well made and have served me well. If you need to wear knee sleeves for longer sessions (such as CrossFit WODs or long leg days in the gym) these are a great option for support and comfort.
They also are a great option for lifters that may want a bit more mobility and a bit less stifness, like olympic weightlifters.
Rehband knee sleeves are 27.5 cm long. This is slightly shorter than most knee sleeves, which utilize the full 30 cm allowed by most competitive equipment rules. I didn’t notice any major difference due to this and don’t think it should be a concern.
Sold on Rogue for $75 to $80.
Other Excellent Knee Sleeves
Slingshot STrong Sleeves by Mark Bell ($80)
Recommended for those seeking a slightly less expensive alternative to SBD knee sleeves.
Reputed to be as tight fitting and supportive as SBD Sleeves, Mark Bell’s STrong Sleeves have been a popular newcomer on the knee sleeve market and cost $10 less than the SBDs! These are constructed to last through the toughest squat sessions, year in and year out. Definitely worth the investment.
Sold on Amazon for about $80.
Frequently Asked Questions about Knee Sleeves
What do knee sleeves do?
Knee sleeves are a key piece of lifting equipment for a few reasons:
- They keep your knees warm during lifting, reducing inflammation in the tendons.
- They provide you with support and “bounce” out of the bottom part of the squat, especially when “sized down” for an extra tight fit.
In short: knee sleeves keep your knees safe and can add some weight to your squat. They can also keep your knees feeling good during long lifting sessions.
What lifts should I wear knee sleeves for?
For powerlifting, knee sleeves are nearly exclusively worn during the squat. Knee sleeves are generally not worn during the bench press or deadlift.
For weightlifting, it is a bit more varied and can come down to personal preference of the individual lifter. Still, it is not uncommon to see knee sleeves worn during the snatch and the clean and jerk.
When should I start wearing knee sleeves?
This is a tricky question, as it is pretty subjective. There is no universal time when an individual should start wearing knee sleeves.
For warm and support, it is okay to wear knee sleeves during a lifter’s novice phase, but it is not a requirement.
If knee discomfort develops, knee sleeves will not necessarily resolve the issue. It is best to consult a physician with an understanding of weightlifting in order to determine if an issue with lifting form is causing knee discomfort. A good place to start would be this article on knee pain by Squat University.
In terms of essential pieces of lifting equipment, these are really a no-brainer.
How are knee sleeves different than knee wraps?
Knee wraps are significantly more supportive than knee sleeves. As a result, knee sleeves can add much more weight to an athlete’s one rep max in the squat vs. knee sleeves.
The types of knee wraps worn for powerlifting are much stiffer than those worn for weightlifting, as weightlifting requires much more knee mobility. Still, some olympic weightlifters will wear light knee wraps in competition.
Approved Knee Sleeves by Powerlifting Federation
It’s always important to abide by the equipment rules established by the federation you plan to compete in.
You can find links to official rules and lists of approved equipment for the IPF, USAPL, and USPA here: