Why Are Elbow Sleeves So Popular for Training?


by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

Have you ever spotted athletes rocking elbow sleeves during intense basketball games, tennis matches, or powerlifting events on TV? Wondering what the fuss is all about?

Well, these sleeves aren’t just a fashion statement — they’re a game-changer. Elbow compression sleeves aren’t just a trend; they’re a practical choice for injury prevention and providing extra muscle and tendon stability.

These sleeves have been in the game for decades, comprising various styles and thickness levels, often made from top-notch materials like Neoprene. Scientifically speaking, there’s a study hinting that compression sleeves do wonders, lowering pesky blood lactate levels and fighting blood pooling, which causes pain and swelling. No wonder athletes and powerlifters swear by elbow sleeves for a performance boost and post-workout relief.

In this article, we will dive deeper and discuss elbow sleeves and what their benefits are.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before engaging in any exercise program.

What Are Elbow Sleeves?

Elbow sleeves have become a staple in weightlifters’ gym bags, similar to the support that knee sleeves provide during squats and leg exercises.

These compression sleeves are meticulously designed to fit the elbow joint, delivering essential stability and relieving discomfort during intense training, particularly in pressing movements like the bench press. It is ideal for push-day exercises focusing on the chest or shoulders.

Moreover, they promote muscle recovery by improving blood flow to arm muscles, promoting faster healing, and reducing soreness between sets. Whether you’re new to weightlifting or a seasoned pro, investing in the right elbow sleeve tailored to your needs can significantly boost your training experience.


7 Benefits of Elbow Sleeves When Training

Below are some of the most important benefits of using elbow sleeves when training.

1.      It provides compression

Warming up properly before a workout is essential for better performance and avoiding injuries. Compression sleeves are a safe and effective way to warm up the tissues around your elbows.

When you wear elbow sleeves, your muscles and connective tissue get adequately warmed up, reducing the risk of injury and helping you perform at your best. It’s a simple and effective way to make your workouts safer and more effective.

2.      Improved protection

Dealing with discomfort, aches, and elbow pain can be quite bothersome. Elbow sleeves come to the rescue with their warming compression, providing protection and alleviating discomfort associated with conditions like elbow tendonitis, golfer’s elbow, and arthritis.

Moreover, these compression sleeves work wonders in safeguarding arm muscles and tendons, particularly during more intense pressing or pushing movements. It’s a practical solution to keep you comfortable and protected during various activities.

3.      Better athletic performance

Compression sleeves, traditionally recognized for improving proprioception (the body’s movement awareness), now have broader benefits. Recent studies show that improved proprioception, with the help of elbow sleeves, leads to advancements in sports skill performance.

A study of golfers and baseball players revealed that those who wore compression sleeves demonstrated increased accuracy and overall athletic performance. Beyond sensory awareness, these findings highlight a practical advantage in refining sports skills. The role of compression sleeves extends beyond support, suggesting a tangible impact on precision and proficiency in specific athletic activities.

4.      Better recovery

Research on the performance benefits of compression gear presents a mixed picture. While many advantages are associated with post-workout recovery, some studies indicate that compression sleeves can reduce inflammation and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) when worn after exercise.

For instance, a study involving athletes engaged in high-intensity sprint training and plyometric exercises observed a reduction in muscle soreness within 24 hours when wearing compression sleeves. The study suggests that wearing elbow sleeves accelerates recovery between workouts, enabling individuals to return to their training routines more quickly.

5.      Mental support for better workouts

Beyond the physical advantages, wearing elbow sleeves brings mental benefits. The added support instills confidence during workouts, encouraging you to push harder and attain better results. Investing in elbow sleeves can be a simple yet effective solution if you seek a way to enhance your confidence and performance.

6.      Improved blood flow

Elbow sleeves play a key role in improving blood flow and supporting healthy circulation, particularly during intense exercise sessions. This improved blood flow meets the body’s oxygen demands during workouts and can improve nutrient absorption post-exercise.

Consequently, essential nutrients crucial for muscle recovery are efficiently transported to the areas where they are most needed, promoting optimal recovery.

7.      Better endurance

Lifters value neoprene sleeves for improving strength and providing joint support during heavy lifting in the gym. However, the benefits of compression gear extend beyond strength training to endurance activities.

A study involving well-trained cyclists observed significant improvements in 40km time trial results when wearing elbow sleeves. Interestingly, the cyclists who wore a placebo garment in the control condition also demonstrated substantially higher power output during the faster time trial. This suggests that compression sleeves may have significant applications in improving endurance performance, showcasing its versatility across various athletic sports.