The squat is one of the most effective compound exercises done in the weight room. It’s a movement that the uninitiated refrain from, and the elite love to sing about. It’s more than just the activation of different muscle groups; the squat is a test of human power and endurance. It is the movement that truly defines what your limits are. If done correctly though, it is very highly rewarding. Nothing says fitness enthusiast than a set of well-chiseled quads.
In many lifting competitions, knee wraps are a mainstay. Pretty much all Olympic lifters have these knee wraps, and they serve more than just a cosmetic function. They are extremely practical and help lend more stability to the knee joint.
The knee joint is a hinge-type. It has a complicated movement of gliding and rotation. This means that there is a constant shift in the articulating surface. The tendons and ligaments in the joint maintain the stability and movement, and with training, grow to accommodate more work.
When a knee wrap is applied, it provides external support to the knee. This support enables the knee to bear larger loads, and that is why power lifters use them so often. Despite this apparent benefit, knee wraps have their shortcoming. They are only effective when you are squatting very heavy weights.
For someone who just squats to keep fit, knee wraps are counterproductive. While they do lend some support to the knee, they take away some of that lifting work from your quads. This slows down your gains as your quads are not exposed to as much work as they should. In addition, they limit your degree of movement as they constrict the joint. This can set you up for injury.
Habitually using the knee wraps deprive your knees some of that stability work. If there comes a time when you stop using them, your knees will not be able to adjust to the same level of work that they were too before. This again, predisposes you to injury if you push yourself too hard.
Things to remember
This is not to say that knee wraps are all bad. There are those athletes, bodybuilders and fitness junkies who get accustomed to them. If you are one of these, there are some rules you should follow. You should wear the wraps loosely to ensure that there is plenty of circulation in the joint. The material the wraps are made from matters. The thicker the fabric, the more the protection it will offer you. A little elasticity is desirable, but too much of it will reduce how much support you get from them. You also have to wrap them the right way. There are illustrated guides inline that can show you the proper way of doing this.
So, should you use knee wraps when squatting? The answer is subjective. But the recommendation is to use them only when performing very heavy squats. Otherwise, you are better off without them.
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