Knee Wraps: should you use them for squats?

A while back I wrote about using wrist wraps to prevent pain with pressing movements (bench press, etc.).

I’ve also used knee wraps occasionally without any ill effects.  But I’ll probably put them away for good after reading an article that was published in the Journal of Strength Conditioning.  Researchers compared the squatting technique of resistance trained men in the squat with and without the assistance of knee wraps (using 80% of their one rep max).  The wraps did increase the “mechanical output” (meaning it would help lift heavier weights).  But it also possibly increased their chances of injury:

“The elastic properties of knee wraps increased mechanical output but altered back squat technique in a way that is likely to alter the musculature targeted by the exercise and possibly compromise the integrity of the knee joint. Knee wraps should not be worn during the strength and condition process, and perceived weakness in the knee joint should be assessed and treated.”1

This is a simple risk/benefit issue.  If you are a competitive powerlifter then you’ll want to use every advantage possible to lift more weight.  Otherwise you may want to consider doing some (or most) of your lifting without wraps.

There is another option I haven’t mentioned here: knee sleeves.  Using these may be a happy medium,  providing some support (and keeping your joints warm) without altering the mechanics of the lift.  I’m just speculating here, since no research has been done on squatting with sleeves (that I’m aware of).

Reference:

1. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Oct;26(10):2844-9. Wearing knee wraps affects mechanical output and performance characteristics of back squat exercise.

Weightlifting Straps

I prefer use chalk as a way to keep a good grip. But I also use lifting straps in certain circumstances. The premise behind straps is pretty simple–your grip may be a “weak link” which keeps you from training other muscles at maximum intensity.

WristStrap

But here’s the dilemma: you don’t want weightlifting straps to become a “crutch” which keeps you from developing grip strength. So be sure you are doing plenty of work (pulling, etc) without straps.

Here are situations where I use straps:

*High volume training: whenever I’ve done “German Volume Training” (10 sets, 10 reps) or similar types of training (lots of sets/reps) my grip wears out on the last few sets of back work. Straps come in handy here.

*Fatigue: Sometimes I do Romanian deadlift after squats or regular deadlifts (depending on how I have set up my training split).  This means I’m very tired and covered in sweat. Straps help me focus on working my hamstrings without worrying about dropping the bar .

*Equipment issues: You may encounter situations where the grip threads on barbells, etc, just aren’t that great and straps give an extra measure of safety.

*Gym rules: a lot of gyms (even good gyms) don’t allow chalk.  This is unfortunate, but to be honest, I understand the gym owner’s perspective–a lot of trainees would not think twice about making a huge mess (just think about how many people won’t bother to re-rack their weights).

I’ve always just used the plain, cotton version.  Right now I’m using a pair of Grizzly brand straps that I’ve had for a while, but I’m guessing the brand isn’t terribly important (it’s just a strap, after all).  You can click the image to check them out on Amazon and look at other brands/designs as well.
GrizzlyLiftingStraps

Fat Gripz

Fat Gripz are an inexpensive alternative to thick bar training.  They fit over standard barbells/dumbbells, instantly making the bar twice as thick. You could just keep a pair of these in your gym bag and slip them over the bar whenever you want to change things up a bit (or if you are using a routine that calls for thick bar training).  Just click the image to check them out.
Fat Gripz Fat Gripz