Powerlifting Knee Sleeves

Knee Sleeves were created to provide the knee joint with moderate compression in order to keep them warm and “safe”. Knee sleeves are generally made out of neoprene. Regardless of your goals as a lifter, I highly recommend knee sleeves if you have the cash available. If you size them appropriately, they add nothing to your lifts, but they will keep your knees warm which will prevent tendonitis and other annoying issues that often crop up with creaky joints. Before I got my blue Rehband knee sleeves, I had semi-regular pain in both knees during and after squatting. This mostly occurred in-between sets as I’d get cold or directly after workouts when I’d begin to cool down. Sleeves fix both issues.

Rehbands (top left); SBD (top right); Titan (bottom left); Tommy Kono (bottom right).

Rehbands (top left); SBD (top right); Titan (bottom left); Tommy Kono (bottom right).

For those unaware, knee sleeves are absolutely not the same thing as knee wraps. Knee wraps are made of stiff, stretchy ply material. They’re often 2-2.5m in length and 8cm in width. When pulled tightly around the knee, lifters are able to squat more weight. How much more is highly individual. Some claim upwards of 70lbs from their knee wraps.

If you’re mostly looking to keep your knees warm, my preference is the Tommy Kono bands or Rehbands. The TKs are cheaper than the more popular Rehbands and they actually do a better job of keeping your knees warm. I have both products. After wearing Tommy Konos, my knees are literally drenched in sweat.
Rehbands (left) may cost more than Tommy Kono's (right), but this is one of those times where you get what you pay for.

Rehbands (left) may cost more than Tommy Kono’s (right), but this is one of those times where you get what you pay for.

There are two disadvantages of TKs compared to Rehbands. The first is the ease in which you can get them on and off. You can just pull Rehbands on and off with zero drama. TKs require a certain technique. Once you learn the technique though, it’s no big deal.

The second more important disadvantage of TKs is how easily they fall apart. They don’t last much longer than six months to one year of regular use. Rehbands will last you multiple years. A pair of Rehbands also cost twice as much at $84.90 versus the ~$42.95 that a pair of Tommy Kono’s cost. If you’re planning on using sleeves in your training regularly, and you should in my opinion, you’ll have to make the decision yourself. Do you want warmer knees, a bigger hassle, and less money spent on TKs or do you want to go with a drama free, less effective, but higher quality product in the Rehbands? You decide.

For you fashionistas out there, the Titan Knee sleeves might also be worth your while. Unlike virtually any other brand of IPF approved knee sleeves, Titan offers multiple different colors including red trim, blue trim, purple trim, grey trim, and possibly more. They’re not as high quality as the Rehband sleeves, but they are cheaper at only $60.
Titan Knee Sleeves

However, for the serious competitors out there, I recommend the new SBD knee sleeves.

SBD Knee Sleeves are the best of the best when it comes to powerlifting.

SBD Knee Sleeves are the best of the best when it comes to powerlifting.

At the IPF Raw World’s in 2013, Russian lifters were using plastic bags and a team of three coaches to pull these things on. As a result, the IPF created a new rule that mandated knee sleeves must be put on “unassisted”. So, if you still have to get them on by yourself, the strategy is to get two sizes smaller than you actually measure. Yes, you’ll legitimately get “pop” out of your sleeves if you do this. Of course, you can’t constantly train this way (your legs will fall asleep), but, for competition, it will make a difference. Some people are claiming upwards of 15-25lbs from their knee sleeves. This is a really significant boost and, frankly, not something that can be ignored when medals are often determined by less weight than that.
So what separates the SBDs from Rehbands? Well, there is really only three important differences. The Rehbands are 27cm long and the SBDs are 30cm. So, with SBD you get more coverage. More coverage means more support and more carryover. The second important difference is that SBD offers many more size options which means that you can be more precise with exactly how small the sleeve actually is. This allows you to size down effectively. With Rehbands, if you get two sizes down, you’ll never get it on your leg at all. If you get one size down, it doesn’t add as much to your squat. The third difference, and don’t laugh at me now, is color. SBDs only come in black and red. The original Rehbands only come in blue. If you’re one of those people who needs to match, both of these are likely to piss you off.

As you can see, I own SBD (left) and Rehband knee sleeves (right). SBD's just absolutely blow Rehbands out of the water in terms of lifting performance.

As you can see, I own SBD (left) and Rehband knee sleeves (right). SBD’s just absolutely blow Rehbands out of the water in terms of lifting performance.

Obviously, if you size down, the SBDs are HELL to get on. You have to decide if it is worth it to you. Then again, if you’re a serious competitor, it isn’t really much of a choice. You honestly can’t afford to leave 15-25lbs on the table. Are you also willing to do all of your lifts beltless to avoid the discomfort of a super tight belt? Yes, the super tight sleeves are quite annoying, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices to keep up with evolving equipment. This one of those times in my opinion.
Here’s a final comparison chart for you:
Knee Sleeves Comparison Chart

Reference Material

Tommy Kono Sizing Chart:
Tommy Kono Knee Sleeve Sizing Chart
Rehband Sizing Chart:
Rehband Knee Sleeve Sizing Chart
Titan Sizing Chart:
Titan Knee Sleeve Sizing Chart
SBD Sizing Chart:
SBD Knee Sleeve Sizing Chart
If you’d like to purchase any of the following knee sleeve brands, please visit these links:
1) Tommy Kono Knee Sleeves
2) Rehband
3) SBD
4) Titan

I highly recommend that you watch this video so you can get a true “feel” for what each of these products are actually like:

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Table of Contents

Powerlifting Gear I: Powerlifting Wrist Wraps
Powerlifting Gear II: Powerlifting Belts
Powerlifting Gear III: Powerlifting Knee Sleeves
Powerlifting Gear IV: Powerlifting Shoes