Neoprene Knee Sleeves of Varying Tightness Augment Barbell Squat One Repetition Maximum Performance Without Improving Other Indices of Muscular Strength, Power, or Endurance.


Machek SB(1)(2), Cardaci TD(1)(2)(3), Wilburn DT(1)(2), Cholewinski MC(2), Latt SL(1)(2), Harris DR(1)(2), Willoughby DS(1)(2)(4).
Author information:
(1)Exercise and Biochemical Nutrition Laboratory, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.
(2)Department of Health, Human Performance, and Recreation, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.
(3)Department of Exercise Science, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina; and.
(4)Mayborn College of Health Sciences, School of Exercise and Sport Science, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Belton, Texas.


Machek, SB, Cardaci, TD, Wilburn, DT, Cholewinski, MC, Latt, SL, Harris, DR, and Willoughby, DS. Neoprene knee sleeves of varying tightness augment barbell squat one repetition maximum performance without improving other indices of muscular strength, power, or endurance. J Strength Cond Res 35(2S): S6-S15, 2021-Neoprene knee sleeves are commonly used by powerlifters and recreational users but are heavily under-researched. Furthermore, no data exist on whether knee sleeves of varying compressive tightness impact muscular performance similar to commonly used knee wraps, which are both generally effective and more so when increasingly constrictive. Fifteen resistance trained, knee sleeve naive, recreational weight lifting men (22.1 ± 4.1 years; 177.5 ± 5.9 cm; 87.8 ± 7.8 kg) visited the laboratory on 3 separate occasions one week apart, assigned in a randomized, crossover, and counterbalanced fashion to either a minimally supportive control sleeve (CS) condition, a manufacturer-recommended sizing neoprene knee sleeve ("normal" sleeve; NS), or a one size smaller (than NS) neoprene knee sleeve (tighter sleeve [TS]). On each visit, subjects sequentially completed vertical jump (countermovement and squat jumps for both peak and mean power), one repetition maximum (1RM) barbell squat, and GymAware assessments (peak power, peak velocity, and dip) at 90% (reported) and 100% (tested) 1RM as well as one-leg extension (1RM, repetitions to failure, and total volume load at 75% 1RM) tests. All data were analyzed using one-way repeated measures analysis of variance at p < 0.05. Analysis revealed a significant condition effect on barbell squat 1RM (p = 0.003; η2 = 0.339), whereby both NS (p = 0.044; 166 ± 24 kg) and TS (p = 0.019; 166 ± 21 kg) outperformed CS (161 ± 22 kg), with no difference between neoprene sleeves. Conversely, no other tested parameters differed between knee sleeve conditions (p ≥ 0.05). The present results demonstrate that neoprene knee sleeves may function independent of tightness, relative to recommended sizing and ultimately unlike knee wraps. Furthermore, the singular benefits observed on barbell squat maximal strength potentially suggests an exercise-specific benefit yet to be fully elucidated.