This week we take a moment to review a pair of functional fitness Knee Sleeves from KASP Media.
Item: KASP Knee Sleeves
Price: $39 USD for a pair
Retailer: KASP Media
To knee sleeve, or not to knee sleeve?
It’s a question many functional fitness athletes find themselves asking nowadays.
When I first started training at a CrossFit gym back in 2009, there was not one person in my affiliate wearing knee sleeves. I do remember seeing one guy weightlifting in knee wraps, but knee sleeves? No one!
Fast forward to 2016 and it’s hard to find any CrossFit gym which doesn’t have a number of members wearing the knee support item.
These days you can purchase knee sleeves in all kinds of colours and styles with a number of brands now producing them.
Rehband can probably take credit for helping start the trend many years ago when it released the first real popular knee sleeve. Since then we have seen a number of other brands enter the ‘knee sleeve’ market, including Rocktape, SBD’s and Titans.
Another brand that has released a pair of knee sleeves is recent times is KASP Media, a newish fitness company based out of Michigan, USA.
I have used knee sleeves in brief periods during my time training, but never for an extended period until now. After tearing my ACL playing rugby in 2015, I decided to see how helpful knee sleeves are during rehab and recovery.
Over the past few months I have used a pair of KASP Knee Sleeves consistently during my training and recovery. Here are my thoughts on the item, and weather or not I think knee sleeves are a valuable addition to any functional fitness athlete’s gym bag.
Support: The main reason people purchase knee sleeves nowadays is for support and protection for their knees. Studies have shown that there is a statistically significant reduction in pain when knee sleeves are used. So if you struggle with knee pain or discomfort, tendinitis, or even pain due to mobility issues, then wearing knee sleeves could be a good idea.
Personally, I’ve certainly noticed an improvement in support while wearing the KASP Knee Sleeves. My knee region felt a lot more stable, supported and protected during training.
Confidence: Coming back from an ACL tear, confidence was one thing I had lost during much of my training. Every time I loaded a barbell onto my body I instantly thought of my knees and as a result became very cautious (which is probably a good thing during rehab stage). However, with the support and protection the KASP Knee Sleeves offer, I felt a lot more confidence when training with them. I felt I had more control while squatting and certainly felt (and heard) less creaking, crackling and crunching in my knees.
As a result, I was able to load more weight onto the barbell during training and slowly start to build back my numbers to where they were pre-injury. By no means should you expect your numbers to increase just by wearing knee sleeves, but the added confidence you will have in your knees may make it easier to load a few extra kilos to your lifts.
Style: The KASP Knee Sleeves come in a stylish black, white and blue design. While it is simple, it’s a pretty eye catching design and I personally like the simplicity of the logo and colours.
Material and Stitching: These sleeves are made from high quality neoprene and one of the best features of the product is its triple stitching. The three stitch seams make the sleeves a lot sturdier than many other brands, allowing for a longer shelf life.
Say Goodbye to Warm Ups: Before I wore knee sleeves I would spend a bit of time before training going through some warm up lifts to get a bit of blood flow to my knees and rest of my body (particularly during winter). However, once I started wearing knee sleeves I found that I could go straight into metcons, WOD’s and lifting exercises without a major warm-up.
I certainly found the knee sleeves allowed me to warm-up faster by keeping the knee joints warm, adding some mild compression and maximising blood flow to the muscles and ligaments of the knee. By no means should you stop warming up once you start wearing knee sleeves, but if you were to go straight into a workout without loosening up, at least do it with knee sleeves rather than without.
Warranty: The KASP Knee Sleeves come with a one year warranty, which is good sign the brand is confident in its product.
Price: KASP Knee Sleeves sell for around $39 USD a pair on Amazon, making them a fairly cheaper set of sleeves on the market. Brands like Rehband sell one sleeve (not two) for around the same price, so that’s roughly twice as much as a pair of KASP’s sleeves.
Thicker: With a thickness of 7mm, the KASP Knee Sleeves are a bit thinker than most other sleeves on the market which are usually 5mm. The extra 2mm gives you a little more support and warmth in your knees during training.
Hard to Get On: The KASP Knee Sleeves are a bit thicker and sturdier than many other sleeves on the market, and as a result they are a little harder to get on and off. While the added thickness makes them a little more sturdier, it also makes them a bit stiffer and harder to move around, and I often found myself on the floor struggling to take them off after a tough workout!
Smell: One of the biggest criticisms of knee sleeves in general is the amount they begin to smell after a few sessions in them. The Neoprene material the KASP Knee Sleeves are made of mean they are able to absorb sweat from the legs at an astounding rate, and as a result, begin to smell terrible!
After a few tough workouts you will start to notice the sleeves smell a bit, and before you know it they will be leaving a horrible stench in your training bag, car or even CrossFit Gym!
Availability: The KASP Knee Sleeves are currently only available in the United States making it harder for those outside America to get their hands (or knees) on them.
Restrictive: While the knee sleeves did give me added protection, security, warmth and confidence during training, I did find them to be a little bit restrictive, especially with the 7mm neoprene. I’m one who likes to train with minimal clothing and accessories, so wearing two knee sleeves during running, gymnastics and other functional fitness movements took a while to get used to.
Hot: These sleeves do get a bit hot during workouts, and during summer I often felt the urge to rip them off to cool down. On the flip side, during the winter months they are great!
How Effective are They?: While studies have shown a significant improvement in recovery and a reduction in pain while wearing knee sleeves, they do not show an improvement in performance. Yes, the confidence you get out of wearing them may very well be what you need to perform better, however studies actually show that there is no significant difference in performance for those wearing knee sleeves and those not wearing them.
That being said, it’s not like they negatively affect your performance by any means.
Overall I’ve had a fairly positive experience using my pair of KASP Knee Sleeves.
Coming back from a serious knee injury, the protection, support, warmth and stability the sleeves offered allowed me to gain more confidence during training. I also enjoyed the fact I didn’t have to warm up as much, and could go into workouts and training without having to do as much volume in the lead up.
While I initially thought the sleeves looked a bit cheap and tacky when they first arrived, I actually started to really like the simplistic design, and I was also a big fan of the extra 2mm thickness which gave me that little bit extra support and warmth during heavy training.
In addition the sleeves are quite affordable, sized well and extremely sturdy meaning you should be able to get decent lifespan out of them. Mine are still very much in great condition and i’ve been training with them for almost half a year now.
However, despite all the positives of the knee sleeves, I’m still unsure how much I’ll using them moving forward. Personally, I’m not one who likes to have things hanging off my body while training and I don’t like being restricted or hot in certain parts of my body. That’s just a personal preference though so not everyone is like me.
Due to my knee injury I will make an effort to wear the sleeves for any Olympic lifting exercises, but for running and gymnastics, I’ll probably leave them in my bag for now.
But if you’re suffering from knee pain and looking for something to make lifting more manageable, or just after some decent affordable sleeves for training, the KASP Knee Sleeves are a good product and I’d have no hesitation recommending a pair.