Blood flow isn't the most glamorous part of fitness, but it is one of the most important.
It is through proper blood flow that your body meets the demands of muscle tissue for oxygen. One of the best ways to promote blood flow during exercise is to use an elbow cuff, also known as a compression cuff.
Made of neoprene, the elbow sleeve is a piece of exercise equipment that applies pressure directly to the muscles and connective tissue around the elbow. The result is increased blood flow and improved exercise performance.
An elbow cuff is a tight cuff that you pull into your arm. They're made of neoprene material -- the same material used in wetsuits -- and once you put them on, they cover your upper forearm down to your lower triceps.
You can think of them as a padded sleeve that is snug and snug without cutting off circulation. The benefits of the elbow cuff we'll discuss below come from this compression of muscle tissue and joints.
Elbow Pad Type
There is only one type of elbow cover, which is made of neoprene. However, there is also an elbow sleeve that is very similar to the elbow sleeve.
The biggest difference between them is that elbow sleeves focus on compressing tissue, while elbow wraps support joints. We will discuss another difference between elbow cuffs and elbow cuffs below.
Designed for maximum support, compression and stability, the Elbow Sleeve or Compression Sleeve is ideal for supporting your performance crossfit, bodybuilding and weightlifting.
Elbow cuffs compress your musculature and connective tissue directly. This helps support athletic performance while reducing post-workout soreness.
Unlike the elbow sleeve, the elbow guard is a long piece of stretchy nylon. Hold one end in place, carefully wrapping the elbow. Depending on the type of elbow wrap you purchased, you can either tie and fold the other end, or simply lay it flat with the Velcro straps.
While elbow pads do provide some degree of compression, they are designed to provide functional support during weightlifting exercises, such as the bench press.
Depending on the type of exercise you prefer, you may be more comfortable with elbow wraps. Here's more on the key differences between elbow wraps and elbow sleeves, and which may be better for you.
Since they are made of neoprene, elbow sleeves are a more flexible option. You can perform all the exercises you would normally do with a full range of motion.
Elbow braces, on the other hand, limit movement somewhat to support the connective tissue during heavy workouts. For example, during the bench press with maximum weight, elbow wraps limit movement to avoid wrist and elbow hyperextension.
level of support
Think of the support as the scaffolding of a building. It is the structural support that keeps the building standing. Elbow wraps provide practical support during workouts. As we just mentioned, the restricted movement of the elbow ensures that there is no chance of hyperextension. That's why elbow pads are ideal for powerlifters and anyone doing heavy-duty workouts.
The elbow wrap provides more compression than the support provided by the elbow wrap. The Elbow Support Sleeve exerts direct pressure on the tissue to promote blood flow and improve exercise performance.
It's not impossible to set new personal records with elbow pads, but when you're upping your 100% single-rep max, you'll most likely want to opt for elbow pads.
Elbow sleeves couldn't be easier to put on. You just pull them over your arms, make sure the elbows are fully covered, and start your workout.
Elbow pads have a learning curve. You have to practice wrapping the elastic nylon strap properly so that it supports your elbows without being too restrictive. Mastering the balance of "not too loose" and "not too tight" takes time, patience, and practice.
Knee pads are a good example. You can't do squats when you wrap your knees. When the wrap is too loose, you may get stuck at the bottom of the isometric section. You want to limit your movement to prevent hyperextension, but not so that your body gets hit and you can't get a workout.
type of activity
You've probably noticed the sleeve vs. wrap trend: for certain types of workouts, one will be much better than the other.
In general, elbow cuffs are the recommended option for workouts that require a full range of motion and quick maneuvers without determining your rep max. Crossfit, bodybuilding, and weight loss workouts are great examples of when elbow sleeves are useful.
On the other hand, if your focus is on getting bigger or going home, then you should lean towards elbow wraps. Elbow pads are ideal for weightlifting, strongman, or any type of workout where you can lift to near a one-rep max and try to set new personal records on a regular basis.
Elbow Cuff Tightness Precautions
Some people recommend buying a size smaller than the actual size. The logic behind this is that it helps the elbow sleeves stay tighter for longer.
We believe that if it's a high-quality elbow sleeve, you don't need to downsize. The compression should last a long time no matter how many times you wear it each week. We also have a detailed size guide for our sleeves, which should help remove the confusion of buying the right size for you.
What to look for when buying elbow pads
Not all elbow sleeves are created equal. Below, we'll go over some details to look out for when shopping for a compression sleeve.
The gold standard for elbow casing material is neoprene. This is what provides the desired compression. It also helps to safely raise the temperature of the overlying muscles and connective tissue. If it's made of anything else, leave it alone.
You need to find a pair of elbow sleeves that will continue to provide pressure despite the intensity of your workouts. In general, thicker neoprene elbow sleeves tend to have more elasticity, springing back after being stretched for a few hours a week.
Continuing the point above, you want a piece of exercise equipment that will be long term. When it comes to elbow sleeves, you'll want a durable pair—made from thick neoprene. But you can also extend the life of your sleeves with proper care and washing. We'll discuss how to properly wash elbow sleeves below.
When Should Elbow Pads Be Used
type of activity
We've talked about this throughout this article, but need to repeat: Elbow sleeves are great, but they're not great for all types of workouts. Here's a list of common exercises and the types of elbow sleeves that work best:
- Powerlifting: Elbow Pads
- CrossFit: Elbow Sleeves
- Bodybuilding: Elbow Sleeves
- Hercules: Elbow Pads
- Weight Loss Focus: Elbow Sleeves
- One-Rep Max Workout: Elbow Pads
- Weekend sports (eg, football): elbow sleeves
Where can I buy elbow pads?
ZSZBACE offers one of the industry's leading elbow sleeves. If you're a powerlifter or strongman, we also offer elite quality elbow pads.
The ZSZBACE features 5mm neoprene flexible elbow sleeves designed to provide stability, support and compression during your toughest workouts.
Whether you're crushing WOD or your goal is maximizing hypertrophy, you can confidently pursue your goals with warm muscle and connective tissue.
Best of all, no more guessing about your size. We provide a detailed size guide and contoured fit for perfect joint compression and warmth. With its optimal breathability and comfort, you'll love these elbow sleeves.
The 40", Iron Bull Elbow Wrap gives you the ideal length to control wrap tension and tightness. We also use our Velcro Velcro system to give you the security of locking and loading. You'll feel at ease each time it's over - no need to worry about knots unraveling because you have hundreds of pounds above your head.
Our elbow pads protect your elbows and help you lift more weight. Easy to adjust, you get the perfect amount of compression you need every time - not to mention higher levels of support.
Frequently Asked Questions - Frequently Asked Questions About Elbow Cuffs
What size elbow cover should I buy?
As we mentioned above, some brands or fitness experts will tell you to downsize. We don't think you should do this. In fact, reducing the size to prevent the material from stretching may end up speeding up deterioration.
You can check out our custom sizing guide to help you determine the best elbow sleeve size for you.
Can Elbow Cuffs Help Treat Tendonitis?
Absolutely. If you're recovering according to the RICE formula, the "C" stands for compression. Elbow cuffs are an excellent way to reduce tension and inflammation in the tissues around your elbows.
Be sure to use elbow cuffs in combination with rest, ice, and elevation. Also, consult your doctor or physical therapist for forearms, elbows, triceps, and biceps.
How often should I wash my elbow sleeves?
This will depend on the type of exercise you're doing. If you are constantly covered in sweat and chalk dust, you will need to wash them more often.
Don't throw them away with other clothing while they're still soaked in sweat and chalk. To naturally kill germs in the gym and sanitize your sleeves, we recommend soaking them in a diluted white vinegar solution.
While you can put them in a light wash setting with regular clothes, we prefer that you hand wash the sleeves and let them air dry. This will greatly extend the life of the compression sleeve.
Will my elbow sleeves eventually stick out and become too loose?
Sleeves can lose elastic snaps without proper care. But it's very easy to avoid this. Here are some ways to properly care for your sleeves to keep them lively and durable:
- Don't wash them in the machine - especially during rough spin cycles designed for large objects like quilts
- Do not dry them in the machine - especially at high heat, as this will break down the neoprene very quickly
- Do not constantly pre-stretch the sleeves before putting them on
- wear only when needed
Can I wear elbow sleeves throughout my workout?
Continuing on the last point above, you should only wear elbow sleeves when needed. Depending on your workout, this will most likely apply to your entire workout, from warm-up to cool-down.
However, you should not wear elbow sleeves around the house unless advised by your doctor. For example, if you have tendinitis, your doctor may recommend that you wear your sleeves for an hour a day while raising your arms.
Safer lifts, faster recovery with elbow pads
We want you to crush those PR goals. We also hope you don't get hurt. Elbow pads are an invaluable piece of fitness equipment that prepares your body for a workout so you can follow along and improve your performance during your workout. Best of all, they keep you safe, so you can go back to the gym and kick ass again.
Elbow sleeves pay for themselves time and time again. Any serious lifter should keep a pair in his or her gym bag.