Bodybuilders and powerlifters often wrap their knees with elastic bandages when squatting with extremely heavy weights. In theory, this offers protection to the knee from the stress of heavy weights—but until recently there was no data proving it works.
Researchers from the U.K. had lifters wrap their knees and squat with 80% of their one-rep max to determine the effects the wraps had on the biomechanics of the squat, compared with when the men performed the squats without wraps.
The use of knee wraps significantly improved the force production of the squat, particularly during the descent, or eccentric, phase of the lift. However, the wraps significantly impacted the biomechanics of the squat, restricting the lifters’ movement at the hip joint and forcing them into a more upright posture while causing greater flexion at the knee.
Knee wraps create a mechanical advantage that occurs when elastic energy, generated during the lowering phase, is released. Much like when you press down on a spring, the energy is stored, and then upon release, it accelerates upward. The study discovered two major points: 1) wraps alter squat technique enough to compromise lower-body development, and 2) the combination of the modified body positions and the physical barrier at the back of the knee joints may place more stress on the joints.
Knee wraps should not be worn when increasing lower-body strength is the goal. Relying on artificial aids can actually weaken the knee joints, making them more vulnerable to injury.