Just like the right pair of knee sleeves, CrossFitters will benefit from having the right pair of elbow sleeves on hand for their workouts.
If you have upper body injuries or limitations, or simply want to experience one of the many benefits of elbow sleeves, this will help you.
Do you suffer from elbow tendonitis, golf or tennis elbow? Would looser joints and more stability help you bench or overhead press better?
If so, what should you consider when shopping for the right pair of elbow sleeves?
In this guide, we’ll look at what elbow sleeves are and why CrossFitters may need them, things to consider when buying elbow sleeves, and a review of the top elbow sleeves in 2018.
In a hurry? Here are the top picks:
Read through the guide, do your homework, and make an informed decision on the best pair of elbow sleeves for you.
What Are Elbow Sleeves?
Elbow sleeves provide compression, warmth, and a host of other benefits for your elbow joints.
Similar to the knee sleeve, athletes typically wear elbow sleeves to prevent injuries or mitigate the pain of an existing issue.
Elbow sleeves are designed differently to meet various needs, so diligently research and try them on before you buy.
Elbow sleeves are typically made out of single ply or double ply material and vary in thickness, although 5mm is probably the most common.
How Elbow Sleeves Work?
Elbow sleeves are designed to guide your elbow joint through the full range of motion while providing support.
As you move through exercises like push-ups or pull-ups, the elbow sleeve counters the force of the muscles surrounding the elbow like the biceps and triceps.
This distributes and decreases the load being passed through the joint which can prevent wear and tear over time.
The same idea applies for barbell movements like bench pressing, overhead presses, and bent over rows.
While the bar is moving, the elbow sleeves provide support so that your joint doesn’t have to take the whole load head on.
Depending on the thickness, elbow sleeves also work to keep your elbow joint warm so that fresh blood is pumped through the joint while you exercise.
This helps keep your joints feeling loose as you workout.
When To Use Elbow Sleeves
You’ve heard this before, but CrossFit defines it’s brand of fitness as constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.
Functional movements mean that the major joints of your body are doing most of the work. If you CrossFit, you already know this.
You’d be hard pressed to come up with a workout that doesn’t incorporate your shoulder or your hip joint.
Take week 2 of the CrossFit Open, 18.2 and 18.2a workout, for example.
In the workout, all 3 movements (dumbbell squats, bar facing burpees, and cleans) require heavy use of your shoulders and hips.
How does this apply to one needing to use elbow sleeves?
The emphasis on compound movements means that you’re also putting a lot of stress on your body’s smaller joints, too.
Your knees and elbows are the top 2 joints that come to mind. Even basic movements like push-ups and pull-ups can lead to issues after thousands of repetitions over time.
While most injuries can be prevented with proper programming and a commitment to good technique, wear and tear over time could lead to your joints needing some extra support.
Here are a few cases where using elbow sleeves for CrossFit might help you:
- If you suffer from elbow tendonitis, golf or tennis elbow
- If you’ve had surgery on your elbow or shoulder and want more support
- If you have poor flexibility in your upper body (especially in the front rack position)
- If you’re someone that needs more time to warm up than most before a workout
Keep in mind that most Olympic weightlifting organizations prohibit the use of elbow sleeves during competition, so don’t become so reliant on them that you can’t perform heavy lifts without wearing them.
Things To Consider When Buying Elbow Sleeves
Here are 6 things you should consider when picking out the right pair of elbow sleeves for your CrossFit training:
- Material- The material and thickness you choose will determine how comfortable your elbow sleeves are while you exercise. Choose carefully.
- Stability- How much support do you need? Are your elbow sleeves to prevent injury, or to help with one you already have? Will your performance decrease if your sleeves provide too much stability?
- Durability- For which movements will you use elbow sleeves? Keep this in mind. If you need them to do high rep exercises like push-ups, you’ll want a pair that is durable and long lasting.
- Mobility- Depending on thickness and material, you may sacrifice mobility in the name of compression. If possible, try them on first and go through the full range of motion of several exercises to get a feel.
- Joint Warmth– Elbow sleeves help keep your joints warm. Will that help you? Or are you notoriously hot already and perhaps need a lighter pair?
- Stitching- The stitching will help your elbow sleeves last.
Consider the price of each pair of elbow sleeves. Read the reviews.
See what you’re getting with each pair and if it’s worth it to spend extra on something that may or may not be useful to you, such as increased thickness.
Chances are, you can get a decent pair of elbow sleeves that fit your needs without breaking the bank.
Top Elbow Sleeves Reviewed For 2018
The Bear KompleX elbow sleeves are good for powerlifting, high intensity movements in CrossFit, and
The standard pair comes in 5mm thickness to provide support and stability with heavy lifts.
Rehband and CrossFit seem to made for one another.
You’ve likely seen someone rocking the blue Rehband knee sleeves at your box, but do the elbow variations hold up?
Short answer, yes. Rehband brands their elbow sleeves as one of the best options for people suffering from golf or tennis elbow.
If you are dealing with pre existing injuries, this may be the way to go.
You won’t find a better pair for injuries at the price of the Rehbands.
Another 5mm thickness Neoprene sleeve, the Strong Elbow sleeves from Rogue are the sibling product of the Slingshot elbow sleeves designed by powerlifter Mark Bell.
If you plan on doing lots of heavy lifting, this may be a good option for you.
Some reviews suggest that you go with the size above what the guide recommends or they can be difficult to get on.
As with most Rogue products, you’ll pay a little extra than any other option in this guide.
While many reviews of the Gym Reapers elbow sleeve boast about the comfort of the gear, it might not hold up for heavy lifting.
Some reviewers noted that within a few months of performing heavy lifts, the sleeves wore out or the seams ripped.
If you’re looking for a pair of elbow sleeves to perform bodyweight or high repetition exercises, these might be your choice. They fall in line as another reasonably priced pair of sleeves.
Elbow sleeves can be used in CrossFit for support, joint warmth, and increased performance on your workouts.
Whether you are trying to prevent injury or mitigate the problems of an existing one, the right pair of elbow sleeves can help decrease the wear and tear of the functional movements we perform as CrossFitters.
When you shop for your sleeves, be sure to do your research. Consider the 6 components listed in this guide, which are the material, stability, durability, mobility, thickness (joint warmth) and stitching.
You want a pair that is going to last and feel comfortable during your workouts. Ideally try them on before you buy and see what it feels like to perform different exercises.