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Knee Sleeves for Deadlifts: Should You Wear Them + Pros & Cons

man putting on knee sleeves for deadlift

Knee sleeves are commonly worn during squats, but when it comes to exercises like the deadlift, opinions on their benefits vary.

The decision to wear knee sleeves during deadlifts should be based on whether you notice improvements in your technique, strength, and confidence while using them. However, it's essential to use them strategically, so you don't become overly reliant on them for stability and support.

Now that we've covered the quick answer, let's delve deeper into the advantages, disadvantages, and scenarios for knee sleeves.

Benefits of Wearing Knee Sleeves for Deadlifts

Knee sleeves are common for exercises like thedeadlift or RDLs. The main reason is the many benefits that come with wearing a pair during your lift. Here are six benefits of wearing deadlift knee sleeves.

1. Joint Stability

Knee sleeves offer added support to the knee joint, enhancing stability and reducing stress on the ligaments. This support proves especially valuable during deadlifts when the knee joint is in its most flexed position, with the barbell resting on the floor.

Similar todeadlifting barefoot, knee sleeves can help you stay balanced when you’re on the mat. 

2. Warm Up Your Joints

Knee sleeves keep your knees warm, enhancing blood flow to joints and muscles. This helps disperse synovial fluid, reducing friction and minor discomfort. Improved circulation also accelerates muscle recovery after intense deadlifting.

3. Acts as Shin Guards

Knee sleeves serve as effective shin guards for many lifters during deadlifts. Instead of wearing them on their knees, most choose to use knee sleeves to protect their shins. This aligns with the technique of keeping the barbell close to the body, starting with it on the shins, which engages the quads and glutes.

Maintaining barbell-body contact can lead to shin bruising or even bleeding. Knee sleeves act as a protective barrier, preventing such issues.

However, note that if you primarily use knee sleeves as shin guards, they may wear out more quickly.

4. Prevent Prior Knee Injuries

If you've had knee injuries in the past, knee sleeves can help prevent aggravating those issues. The compression provided by the sleeves stabilizes your knees, reducing the risk of sudden movements that could lead to re-injury.

5. Mental Confidence

Wearing knee sleeves can boost a lifter's confidence and focus. They provide a sense of security, allowing lifters to concentrate on technique and performance rather than worrying about injuries. As a result, many lifters find they can lift more weight with knee sleeves than without.

6. Increased Performance

During the deadlift, the knees don't flex as much as they do in a squat. Nonetheless, some lifters have mentioned feeling a slight increase in speed when lifting from the floor. This sensation could be linked to an individual's unique physique, particularly their limb lengths, which might require a slightly more bent-knee starting position for the deadlift.

Drawbacks of Wearing Knee Sleeves for Deadlifts

1. Sumo Deadlifts Can be Awkward

Many lifters who opt for thesumo deadlift stance over the conventional one tend to avoid wearing knee sleeves during their lifts. The reason behind this is that the wider foot placement in the sumo stance requires the knees to move more freely in an externally rotated position.

Some lifters believe that the extra compression from knee sleeves can hinder them from achieving the correct starting knee position for sumo deadlifts. This is another reason why opting for a 5mm knee sleeve can be beneficial—it provides less compression, allowing for better knee mobility in the sumo deadlift stance.

2. The Barbell Can Get Snagged on the Sleeve

Many lifters choose not to wear knee sleeves during deadlifts due to the risk of the barbell getting caught on the sleeve fabric. This can disrupt the barbell's momentum and make the lift more challenging.

The critical point of concern isn't when the barbell touches the main body of the sleeve but when it snags on the lower part of the shin, right at the bottom of the sleeve. When using 7mm knee sleeves, it's highly likely that the barbell will repeatedly collide with this part of the sleeve, hindering a smooth upward barbell trajectory.

To address this, opting for thinner knee sleeves can be a solution, as they are less likely to interfere with the barbell's path and help ensure a more seamless deadlift.

3. Skin Irritation

The comfort and flexibility of knee sleeves during deadlifts can vary depending on the fit and material. If they're too tight, they may pinch or dig into the skin, while a loose fit can lead to slipping or bunching during the lift.

Furthermore, some lifters experience issues with their bar path when using knee sleeves, as the bar can catch on the sleeve while sliding up the shins.

4. Can Cause Over-Reliance on Knee Sleeves

Knee sleeves are helpful for reducing pain and enhancing knee stability. However, it's crucial to remember they can't replace activities like stretching, massages, and mobility exercises. Some lifters might rely too much on knee sleeves because they feel good, and that can lead them to overlook other essential steps for recovery and injury prevention.

In other words, while knee sleeves have their benefits, they work best when you don't skip warming up your joints properly before a workout or neglect other recovery practices afterward.

5. Doesn't Help the Lift

Unlike usingstraps for deadlifts–which help with grip strength–knee sleeves don't provide much help in lifting heavier weights during deadlifts (andrack pulls). They lack the tension needed to assist in the lift, especially given the minimal knee bend in deadlifting. So, if you're aiming to increase your deadlift strength, knee sleeves may not be the ideal choice. However, they can still boost confidence, which might make them worth using.

6. High Cost and Maintenance

Premium knee sleeves can come with a hefty price tag, which might not be justifiable if you don't experience a noticeable performance boost when using them. Moreover, they demand routine care, like washing and air-drying, to prevent odors and preserve their elasticity. For some lifters, the cost and upkeep may not outweigh the potential advantages.

What to Look for in Knee Sleeves

When you're on the hunt for knee sleeves for deadlifts, there are a few crucial factors to keep in mind: 

  • Material:  Knee sleeves are often made from neoprene, which provides solid support, lasting durability, and good stretch. Neoprene sleeves also keep your knees warm, boosting blood flow and reducing injury risk.
  • Contoured Stitching: Look for contoured stitching, as it allows for freer knee movement.
  • Width: Knee sleeves vary in thickness from 3mm to 7mm. Thicker sleeves offer more support and warmth, while thinner ones provide flexibility and breathability. For deadlifts, go for 7mm sleeves for maximum support.
  • Length: Aim for a length between 20 to 30cm. Knee sleeve lengths may differ, but most designs cover the whole knee joint and extend slightly above and below it. This coverage offers the best support and stability for deadlifts.
  • Competition Approved: Keep in mind that only certain brands are approved for competitive powerlifters.

The Best Knee Sleeves to Buy for Deadlifts

  • TUFF 7mm Competition Knee Sleeves:These knee sleeves are uniquely long at 12.0 inches, boasting a tapered design and side seams for a perfect fit. What truly sets them apart is the exceptional support and compression they offer, enhancing blood flow, warmth, and reducing strain on your knees. Perfect for squats, powerlifting, and strongman training, these TUFF Competition Knee Sleeves are a top choice for serious athletes looking to optimize their performance and comfort.
  • TUFF 7mm X-Training Knee Sleeves: Tuff 7mm X-Training Knee Sleeves are a robust solution for those seeking top-tier support during intense workouts. These knee sleeves offer exceptional joint compression, optimizing blood flow to enhance your performance. Beyond that, you'll feel the immediate benefits of increased support, warmth, and a noticeable reduction in knee strain. TUFF Knee Sleeves are great for squats, Olympic lifting, and CrossFit training.
  • TUFF Double-Ply Knee Sleeves: TUFF double-ply knee sleeves boast a thinner material compared to our neoprene elbow sleeves, ensuring a comfortably snug fit. This unique design not only offers exceptional comfort but also allows for a more natural range of motion during your training sessions. Whether you're into powerlifting, strongman training, or weightlifting, these sleeves are your go-to choice for reliable knee support without compromising on flexibility and comfort.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Knee Sleeves


Wearing knee sleeves won't hold you back in any significant way. In fact, for most folks, these sleeves offer extra joint stability, warmth, and protection, boosting your confidence, aiding recovery, and ultimately increasing your overall strength levels.


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