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Elbow Sleeves: What Are They Good for & Should You Be Using Them?

Discover the many advantages of compression elbow sleeves, from reducing injury risk and providing additional support while strength training to improving blood circulation.

Rosie Ford
Elbow Sleeves: What Are They Good for & Should You Be Using Them?
Table Of Contents
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Imagine you're a weightlifter training for months for the competition. You've spent countless hours doing cardio, strength training, and stretching to prepare for the big day. However, as the final day approaches, you begin to feel a dull pain in your elbows every time you lift.

At first, you try to ignore it, thinking it's just a minor ache that will disappear with time. But the pain persists and even starts to affect your lifting form.

You become worried that you may be unable to complete the lift or injure yourself. That's when a fellow weight trainer suggests you try using elbow sleeves.

You've seen others using them before but never thought much about it. However, with the competition just around the corner, you decide to try them.

You purchase a pair of high-quality elbow sleeves and put them on before your big day. Almost immediately, you notice a difference.

The sleeves provide a comfortable compression around your elbows, reducing the pain and supporting your arms. As you continue to use the elbow sleeves, you realize that they're helping to alleviate your elbow pain and improve your weightlifting technique.

With the added support from the sleeves, you can maintain a more stable arm position, leading to a smoother and more efficient running stride. On the competition day, you wear your elbow sleeves under your running gear and feel confident and supported throughout the event.

You stand first, proud of your accomplishment and grateful for the recommendation to try elbow sleeves. Felt amazing, right? This can become a reality!

All you need is a good elbow sleeve. And if you're unaware, here's everything you need to know about compression elbow sleeves, what they are good for, and why you should use them.

What Are Elbow Sleeves?

What are Elbow Sleeves

Compression elbow sleeves are a type of sleeve that is designed to provide compression and support to the elbow joint during physical activity.

These sleeves are typically made from stretchy and breathable materials, such as neoprene or spandex, and fit snugly around the elbow area.

The compression provided by these sleeves can help improve blood flow and reduce inflammation in the elbow joint. This can be especially beneficial for athletes who engage in activities that stress the elbow, such as weightlifting, tennis, golf, or basketball.

Additionally, compression elbow sleeves can also provide support to the muscles and tendons surrounding the elbow joint. It can help reduce the risk of injury or strain during physical activity. It's important to note that compression elbow sleeves are not a replacement for proper technique or warm-up and cool-down routines.

However, they can be a helpful tool for athletes looking to reduce pain, improve joint stability, and enhance their overall performance.

Type of Elbow Sleeves

Currently, there is a single variation of elbow sleeves manufactured from neoprene. Additionally, an elbow wrap is available, which bears a striking similarity to the sleeve.

The key distinction between the two products is their respective areas of focus: elbow sleeves prioritize tissue compression, while elbow wraps aim to provide joint support.

Let's get into their differences in detail!

Elbow Sleeves

Elbow sleeves or compression sleeves are engineered to offer the utmost support, stability, and compression. These features make them a go-to option for individuals engaged in high-intensity workouts such as CrossFit, bodybuilding, and powerlifting.

By delivering targeted compression to the connective and muscle tissue in the elbow, these sleeves offer enhanced athletic performance while minimizing post-workout soreness.

Elbow Wraps

Elbow Wraps

In contrast to elbow sleeves, elbow wraps are elongated elastic nylon pieces. To use them, you must secure one end and cautiously wind the wrap across your elbow by fastening it with a Velcro strap or by tying and tucking the other end (depending on the wrap you purchased).

Although elbow wraps provide some degree of compression, they primarily deliver functional support during weightlifting exercises, such as the bench press.

Your preferred workout routine will ultimately determine whether an elbow sleeve or an elbow wrap is better for you. To help you make an informed decision, let's delve deeper into the key differences between the two products.

Support Level

Consider support as a building's scaffolding - it provides the necessary structural reinforcement to uphold the building. In much the same way, elbow wraps offer genuine support during workouts, reducing the risk of overextension thanks to the restricted movement in the elbow. This makes them ideal for powerlifters and anyone participating in high-load exercises.

Elbow sleeves, on the other hand, are more geared towards compression as opposed to support. These sleeves facilitate optimal blood flow by applying direct pressure on the tissue, resulting in improved workout performance.

Attempting to achieve a new personal best while wearing elbow sleeves is not out of the question. However, when lifting the maximum weight you can comfortably manage, it is advisable to select elbow wraps to ensure adequate support.

Flexibility

Neoprene, the material used to manufacture elbow sleeves, confers increased flexibility to this option. This means you can execute exercises with a full range of motion while wearing them.

In contrast, elbow wraps partially limit movement to support the connective tissue during high-load exercises. For example, when performing a maximum-weight bench press, the elbow wrap reduces movement to prevent overextension in the wrist and elbow.

Activity Type

It's easy to discern that one of the two options is superior for specific workouts. Generally, if you need to move with agility and execute a full range of motion without evaluating your maximum weight, elbow sleeves are the way to go.

If you're more interested in reaching new heights, elbow wraps should be your preference. They are perfect for powerlifting, Strongman workouts, or any exercise involving near one-repetition maximums, with frequent personal record-setting attempts.

Furthermore, it's recommended to use elbow sleeves for CrossFit, bodybuilding, and weight loss exercises.

User Friendliness

One of the significant benefits of elbow sleeves is their simplicity. You can easily slip them on and start your workout without any fuss. Cover your elbow completely, and you're good to go.

In contrast, elbow wraps require a bit of practice to get it right. You must learn how to wrap the elastic nylon strap to adequately support your elbow without being overly constrictive. Achieving the right balance between being "not too loose" and "not too tight" takes patience, time, and plenty of practice.

Why Use Elbow Sleeves

Why Use Elbow Sleeves

Compression garments, including elbow sleeves, have been the focal point of many recent fitness studies. The following are some of the well-documented benefits of elbow sleeves that make them worth wearing during your workout sessions:

Provides Compression

Properly warming up your body before a workout enhances athletic performance and reduces the possibility of injury. Compression sleeves are considered a safe and effective way to increase the temperature of the surrounding tissues.

In the case of elbow sleeves, the muscle, and connective tissue will be sufficiently warmed up and ready for the workout ahead, reducing your risk of injury and maximizing your potential for overall performance.

Better Athletic Performance

Proprioception, or the ability to sense the body's movement, has long been acknowledged as a benefit of compression sleeves. However, recent studies have shown that its improvements go beyond that. It has been discovered that enhanced proprioception through compression sleeves translates to advancements in sports skill performance.

In one study, research was conducted on golfers and baseball players, and it was found that individuals who wore compression sleeves experienced increased accuracy and athletic performance.

Improved Blood Flow

Elbow sleeves enhance blood flow and promote healthy circulation, especially during rigorous exercise routines.

This increased blood flow satisfies the body's demand for oxygen during a workout and allows for better nutrient uptake post-workout. As a result, the essential nutrients responsible for muscle recovery are delivered to where they are most needed, ensuring optimal recovery.

Promotes Recovery

Elbow sleeves not only benefit you during workouts but also post-workout. Compression elbow sleeves significantly positively impact muscle and connective tissue recovery after exercise.

According to a study, researchers stressed the importance of compression garments for workouts that heavily focus on eccentric movements like squats and deadlifts. These exercises are a core part of CrossFit and powerlifting workout routines. The benefits of elbow sleeves extend beyond the gym, helping you recover quickly and return to your next workout.

Reduces Injury Risk

Elbow sleeves have been shown to reduce your chances of getting injured in a few critical ways. Firstly, they boost healthy blood flow and circulation, thus reducing the risk of injury. Secondly, they aid preparation for exercise by warming up the muscles and connective tissue.

Finally, elbow sleeves provide an ideal balance of support and mobility during weightlifting, CrossFit, and bodybuilding workouts. This combination of benefits means you can lift with confidence and reduce your risk of injury.

When to Use Elbow Sleeves

Elbow sleeves can be highly beneficial during various types of workouts. Here are some examples of when elbow sleeves can provide substantial benefits:

Powerlifting

powerlifting

Elbow wraps are better suited for powerlifting workouts where the focus is on achieving new personal records or reaching near your one-repetition maximum.

However, you can still incorporate elbow sleeves into your PR-focused workout routine by wearing them during warm-up and cool-down. Elbow sleeves are highly effective at warming up muscles and connective tissues and promoting proper cool-down.

Elbow sleeves are also helpful for powerlifting workouts that don't require a constant weight increase. They support your forearms, triceps, and the connective tissue in the elbow during classic powerlifting exercises like bench presses and deadlifts.

CrossFit Training

CorssFit Training

If there were ever a workout ideally suited for elbow sleeves, it would be CrossFit or other similar cross-training style programs.

CrossFit workouts demand full-body exercises and Olympic lifting with a fast yet safe tempo. A healthy level of compression and support is also needed, along with unrestricted movement. This is where neoprene elbow sleeves can provide the necessary support and compression.

These sleeves offer perfect elbow compression, promoting healthy blood flow without restricting movement. They keep your connective tissue warmed up and prepared to handle whatever the workout of the day (WOD) throws your way.

Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding

CrossFit exercises may lead to tendonitis or tennis elbow due to the rapid pace and Olympic movements inherent in the workout.

Alternatively, traditional bodybuilding exercises present the issue of overuse injuries from sets that consist of 20 to 30 repetitions during a periodization program.

This is where elbow sleeves can play a role in protecting your elbows during your workouts. It can help you get ready for the volume of work ahead and shield you from repetitive strain injuries.

How to Put on Elbow Sleeves

Whether you're using elbow sleeves for weightlifting or injury prevention, putting them on properly can make all the difference in your performance and recovery. And guess what? It's not that difficult.

Follow the steps down below to put on an elbow sleeve properly:

  • Put your arm through the sleeve.
  • Pull it up the arm until its top lies in your tricep.
  • With your hand, smooth it out.
  • Ensure your elbow is fully covered, and keep the sleeve's bottom on your forearm.
  • Flex your arm 1-2 times to help it adjust to your body.

Additional Tip

While some suggest purchasing an elbow sleeve one size smaller than your actual size, a high-quality elbow sleeve should provide sufficient compression and support in the correct size.

The compression should last an extended period, regardless of how frequently you wear the sleeve. To ensure you purchase the correct size, we offer a detailed sizing guide for our sleeves that takes the guesswork out of choosing the ideal size for your arm.

What to Look for When Buying Elbow Sleeves

What to Look for when buying elbow sleeves

Elbow sleeves have so many benefits, but when buying them, it's essential to keep a few things in mind. Do you want to know what they are? Come along!

Material

Neoprene is widely considered the gold standard material for elbow sleeves. Neoprene sleeves offer the necessary compression and support while also safely increasing the temperature of the covered muscle and connective tissue.

It's important to note that if an elbow sleeve is not made of neoprene, it may not offer the same level of support and compression, so choosing wisely when purchasing a sleeve is essential.

Longevity

Choosing a durable pair of elbow sleeves is crucial if you want them to last long. A pair made with thick neoprene can offer both durability and support. However, it's essential to remember that proper care and washing can also help extend the life of your elbow sleeves.

To properly wash your elbow sleeves, start by turning them inside out. This will prevent any buildup of bacteria or sweat on the sleeves. Once they are inside out, hand wash them in cold water with mild detergent.

Avoid using bleach or fabric softeners, which can damage the neoprene material. After washing, rinse the sleeves thoroughly and hang them to air dry.

Proper care and washing allow your elbow sleeves to last longer and support your workouts.

Durability

To ensure you receive sufficient compression throughout your entire workout, it is essential to select elbow sleeves that maintain their elasticity despite the intensity of your workout.

Thicker neoprene elbow sleeves are often recommended because they have excellent elasticity, allowing them to retain their shape even after being stretched out for several hours each week.

This ensures you receive the necessary support and compression during your workout routine while maximizing longevity.

Activity Type

If you're a fan of elbow sleeves, you know how amazing they can be for providing extra support and keeping your joints warm during tough workouts. But did you know that not all elbow sleeves are created equal?

Depending on the type of workout you love, you may opt for an elbow wrap or an elbow sleeve. An elbow wrap is ideal for maximum support for powerlifting, one-rep max training, or strongman workouts.

CrossFit and bodybuilding enthusiasts, on the other hand, will love the breathable comfort of an elbow sleeve.

And if you're focused on weight loss or enjoy weekend sports like flag football, an elbow sleeve will keep you comfortable without restricting movement. So, consider your go-to workout and choose the elbow sleeve that's just right for you!

FAQs

1. Can an elbow sleeve help with tendonitis?

Following the RICE formula for recovery, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, can help alleviate pain and inflammation around the elbow area. An elbow sleeve can be an effective way to apply and maintain compression to the affected area.

However, using an elbow sleeve with rest, ice, and elevation is critical. It's also a good idea to consult with a medical professional, such as a doctor or physical therapist, who can evaluate your condition and recommend appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises for the muscles surrounding the elbow, including the biceps, triceps, and forearm muscles.

2. Can I wear my elbow sleeves for the entire workout?

It's crucial to use elbow sleeves only when necessary during your workouts. Depending on the intensity and type of exercise, you may need to wear them for the entire workout, including warm-up and cool-down.

However, wearing elbow sleeves around the house is only recommended if specifically recommended by a doctor. In the case of conditions like tendonitis, a doctor may suggest wearing the sleeves for a limited period during the day while elevating the arm to reduce inflammation and pain.

It's crucial to follow the recommendations of a medical professional and avoid unnecessary use of elbow sleeves.

Final Words

Elbow sleeves are a versatile piece of gear that can benefit athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. Whether you're recovering from an injury, looking to prevent one, or simply wanting to improve your performance, elbow sleeves are definitely worth considering.

By providing compression, support, and warmth, they can help protect your elbow joint, reduce injury risk, and enhance blood circulation. Plus, they come in a wide range of materials, allowing you to find the perfect match for your needs and preferences.

So, whether you're a powerlifter, CrossFitter, or bodybuilder, or want to stay active and healthy, consider picking up a pair of elbow sleeves based on longevity, durability, activity type, and experience the benefits for yourself.

Article Sources

  • Alves, Ragami C., et al. "Training Programs Designed for Muscle Hypertrophy in Bodybuilders: A Narrative Review." Sports, vol. 8, no. 11, Nov. 2020, p. 149. www.mdpi.com, https://doi.org/10.3390/sports8110149.
  • Hettchen, Michael, et al. "Effects of Compression Tights on Recovery Parameters after Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage: A Randomized Controlled Crossover Study." Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2019, Jan. 2019, pp. 1-11. Semantic Scholar, https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/5698460.
  • Hong, Wei-Hsien, et al. "Effects of Compression Garment on Muscular Efficacy, Proprioception, and Recovery after Exercise-Induced Muscle Fatigue Onset for People Who Exercise Regularly." PLoS ONE, vol. 17, no. 2, Feb. 2022, p. e0264569. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0264569.
  • Hooper, David R., et al. "Roles of an Upper-Body Compression Garment on Athletic Performances." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 29, no. 9, Sept. 2015, pp. 2655-60. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000000909.
  • Lim, Chung Sim, and Alun H. Davies. "Graduated Compression Stockings." CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal, vol. 186, no. 10, July 2014, pp. E391-98. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.131281.
  • Xiong, Ying, and Xiaoming Tao. "Compression Garments for Medical Therapy and Sports." Polymers, vol. 10, no. 6, June 2018, p. 663. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.3390/polym10060663.

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Rosie Ford

Rosie began her career in communications as a writer and later as a communications coordinator for renowned university of South Carolina. She is also trained in the field of article writing specially related to fitness and yoga.

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