Knee sleeves are worn for multiple reasons by strength athletes. Two of the major reasons are for extra knee support and maintaining joint warmth. There are different levels of thickness knee sleeves provide for athletes, and their thickness is often dependent on an athlete’s sport and needs. A thicker sleeve like SBD Knee Sleeves are typically preferred by powerlifters and strongman competitors, while thinner sleeves are utilized most by functional fitness athletes and recreational lifters.
SBD is a company that makes a variety of high-end supportive lifting gear for elite strength athletes. They’re based in the United Kingdom and have become widely known in the powerlifting and strongman communities. When we received our pair of SBD knee sleeves I was excited to put them to the test.
I prefer to lift in a powerlifting style, so I tested these sleeves heavily with low-bar back squats, high-bar back squats, and to add variety, the power clean.
Stability of SBD Knee Sleeves
SBD knee sleeves are made with a 7mm high-end neoprene, which is on the thicker end for knee sleeves.
These sleeves hugged my knee extremely tight and provided a lot of stability when standing or at the bottom of the squat. Stability is possibly one of the first things you’ll notice that makes these sleeves a little different. If you’re looking for a stable, more rigid knee sleeve, then SBD could be a good choice.
There’s a taper on the calf and quad that help squeeze the leg in the right areas. This taper helped provide a little pop out of the hole of the squat, which is a feature that most look for in a stable knee sleeve.
For athletes who need a sleeve to help keep their knee warm and mobile, as opposed to providing stability and a bounce out of the hole of the squat, then these sleeves may not be the best choice.
Comfort and Fit
For a very stable and stiff sleeve, I personally liked the comfort these sleeves offered. Some sleeves on the thicker side can turn off athletes due to the inability to easily bend the leg. I found these sleeves to be a good balance of a thick, stable sleeve, while providing some mobility. Keep in mind I said some mobility, as these sleeves weren’t the best for moving freely like thinner sleeves can provide.
The tapered edges were also a positive feature of this sleeve because they provide both the upper and lower leg with support. I liked the tapering aspect and they stayed really secure for most of my lifting, but they did slide down a little bit on my quad as I got progressively more sweaty. This could be an issue for lifters who have very pronounced quads, or purchase a size that isn’t their perfect fit.
The sizing chart of these sleeves fit true to the actual size of my leg. SBD’s website has specific instructions when picking your size that I would highly recommend looking over before making a selection. Finding the right size is a huge plus, especially for for those who are buying these for competition purposes. These sleeves are on the list of IPF and IWF approved equipment, so you can wear them in formal competition. During a competition you’ll be lifting for a large amount of the day, so having a comfortable sleeve that fits true is a huge plus.
The neoprene these sleeves use feels sturdy and allows very little stretching when pulling on them. There’s a softer inside layer and a little thicker layer on the outside. This is a traditional feature of knee sleeves for comfort purposes. I personally liked the neoprene for two distinct reasons, but had one issue with it. First, I really liked how the material isn’t sponge-like, so it didn’t absorb sweat and stain easily. Second, I really liked how it snaps back to it’s original shape when bent. This is what provides this sleeve with its pop out of the hole.
The one issue I had was related to the first point I mentioned above, and that was the lack of sponge-like material. I did experience the sleeve sliding down my quad a little bit as I got progressively sweatier. This was an issue when I was preparing for a set and felt the sleeve slide before actually moving the weight.
I didn’t sense any immediate durability issues with these sleeves throughout my gym sessions. I liked that the SBD knee sleeves has reinforced stitching to ensure there isn’t early ripping. Also, the tapered ends have a piece of cloth that prevents early fraying. This cloth is stitched with a triangular stitching pattern, which was a cool feature that I haven’t seen on a lot of sleeves.
There could be one issue with future durability, and that’s with the amount of pop this sleeve offers in the squat. I’m interested to see how this pop is impacted over progressive usage and time and whether it holds up after dozens of training sessions.
The price of these particular sleeves start at $90.00. This is a high price point for knee sleeves, but that price could be justified for the lifter who wants a sleeve for competition or heavy lifting. These sleeves are both IPF and IWF approved for competition, so you can wear them legally in powerlifting and weightlifting competitions.
For the recreational lifter or functional fitness athlete, then the price may be a little high.
Rating 1-5 (5 being the highest)
Comfort and Fit: 3.8
The SBD Knee Sleeves held up well to our tests and proved to be a stable option for strength athletes. They’re IPF and IWF approved, so they’re approved for most weightlifting and powerlifting competitions. Also, they provide a strong, stable feeling, which a lot of lifters prefer when moving maximal loads. I did find one issue with them, and that was with them sliding down my leg as I got increasingly sweaty.
For the serious strength athlete who needs a stiff sleeve that’s competition approved, then the SBD Knee Sleeves may be a solid choice.