Q: Are knee wraps a good idea for squatting?
A: If you would like a simple answer, that would be no. Since I get this question a lot—and because so many athletes do use knee wraps—I need to elaborate.
The quadriceps tendon is attached to the quadriceps and the patella, which is the kneecap. When you squat, the tendon pulls on the patella. One theory about the benefits of knee wraps is that they reduce the stress on the tendon, thereby lowering the risk that the tendon will tear away from the patella. Perhaps there is some logic in that, as the weights being lifted in powerlifting are astounding. For example, the current men’s world-record squat is 1,250 pounds (566.9 kilos, made by Vlad Alhazov), and the women’s is 854 pounds (387.5 kilos, made by Becca Swanson).
Beyond those superhuman squats, the basic goal of powerlifting is to lift as much weight as possible for the shortest distance possible. Knee wraps will not make you stronger, but they will enable you to squat with more weight—often 10 percent or more, as the technology in powerlifting knee wrap design continues to evolve. Actually, I’ve heard that in the early days of powerlifting, some athletes would place a rubber ball behind their knees and then wrap their knees with Ace bandages. That provided a rebound effect out of the bottom position.
So if you’re a powerlifter, yes, you should use knee wraps—and you will also have to train with them to ensure that your technique in competition is the same as in training.
On the other hand, if you’re a competitive weightlifter, knee wraps are not a good idea because they can restrict the range of motion of the knee so you cannot squat as low. The primary reason so few athletes use the split style of lifting is that they have to pull the barbell higher to secure it over their head in the snatch or on their shoulders in the clean. Further, bulky knee wraps may affect the speed in which you can pull yourself under the bar. That said, many weightlifters use neoprene sleeves that keep the knee warm but do not have the restrictions of powerlifting knee wraps. In fact, numerous Olympic champions and world-record holders use neoprene sleeves in competitions.
Competitive sports aside, I am against knee wraps because they can increase the probability of injury outside the weight room. Further, squatting with tight knee wraps may affect the proper tracking of the patella and increase the risk of overuse injuries.
Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit www.CharlesPoliquin.com. IM
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