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Knee Wraps: To Wrap or not To Wrap?

To Wrap or not To Wrap? That is the question!

By Mike Brennan – BSc (Hons) Sports Science

Knee wraps (not to be confused with knee sleeves) are utilised by some weight trainers ranging from recreational gym users to competitive powerlifters. Anecdotal evidence has indicated that the tight fitting and elastic nature of the wraps allows the lifter to increase the amount of weight used/repetitions performed during squats (Harman & Frykman., 1990). Sounds great right? However, more recent research has actually shown that wrapping the knees may come with some associated risks.

 

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WHAT RISKS?

A recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (Lake et al., 2012) had participants perform back squats (80% 1RM) with and without knee wraps. They compared performance characteristics and mechanical output between the two conditions (with knee wraps versus without knee wraps).

This study demonstrated that although there was an increase in power in those who wore knee wraps, this also significantly altered the lifters squat technique in a manner that could potentially cause injury to the knee.

In addition, it was also suggested that using knee wraps may conceal potential weaknesses in the knee, which again, could possibly predispose the individual to knee injury.

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SO…..TO WRAP OR NOT TO WRAP?

The aforementioned research appears to show that the use of knee wraps during squats may be to the detriment of one’s knee health. This is very much in contrast to the perception that wearing knee wraps will PROTECT the knees during heavy squats. With this in mind, those of you who are currently using knee wraps or considering doing so should be aware of the potential risk of injury. If you are already using them, I would seriously consider asking yourself WHY you are using them and are the extra kilos worth it?

It goes without saying that lifting without your knee wraps will initially require you to reduce the weight on the bar. This of course may mean eating a slice of “humble pie” but your knees will thank you in the long run! If you’re are considering adding them to your training arsenal, it’s probably worth reconsidering.

 

              References:

Harman, E. and Frykman, P., 1990. BRIDGING THE GAP-RESEARCH: The effects of knee wraps on weightlifting performance and injury. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 12(5), pp.30-35.

 

Lake, J.P., Carden, P.J. and Shorter, K.A., 2012. Wearing knee wraps affects mechanical output and performance characteristics of back squat exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 26(10), pp.2844-2849.