To many BJJ is not just a sport, but it is a lifestyle. Despite the name “gentle-art” in truth it is anything but. Years of impacts, wrestling shots, and resisting takedowns can take a serious toll on your knees. After some time spent training, you might be thinking about buying a knee pad to prevent injury or to rehab an old injury, but which one is the right one for you?
Reviews Of The Best Knee Pads For BJJ
Cliff Keen is known for their quality wrestling gear, and this breathable knee pad is no exception. The Cliff Keen Wraptor Knee Pad has air vent holes that allow greater breathability. It also has “stretch mat” panels that contour with the shape of the knee. This is important because you don’t want to feel like you have a hard plate on the front of your knee while you’re rolling. Instead you just want light, but effective, padding.
Although the McDavid Hex Knee Pads aren’t specifically designed for BJJ, they can offer bit of extra padding both on and off the mat . Some of the best Jiu Jitsu athletes are the ones that supplement their Jiu Jitsu with weight lifting, or cardio – and these lightweight sleeves are perfect for a wide range of sports.
ASICS is one of the biggest name brands in sportswear. The ASICS Gel Conform Knee Pad, as the name suggests, uses a gel based pad instead of typical foam padding. This makes it both comfortable when rolling, and also lightweight. It’s easy to slip on and off after practice, and put into your gi bag so you never forget it. It also comes with a choice of white or black.
These Mizuno Elite 9 SL2 knee pads were made specifically for volleyball – a sport which demands its athletes repeatedly land on their knees when returning a tough serve. Their design includes extra padding, which is perfect for Jiu Jitsu – especially if you’re a player who loves to shoot in for single or double-leg takedowns! They also come in a choice of black or white.
One of the more technical knee pads on this list, the Bauerfiend Sports Knee Support includes something called a “patellar” knee pad. This means that the pad is shaped in a circle rather than just a flat piece of foam. The purpose for this is to surround the knee, providing support for the kneecap. This knee pad is also longer, providing support to the muscles around the knee.
While this knee pad is pricey – Bauerfiend knee pads offer unparalleled support.
The Meister MMA Power Lifting Knee Wraps aren’t actually pads – instead, like hand wraps for MMA, this product wraps around your knee. Many BJJ practitioners like to supplement their training with heavy duty power lifting before or after practice. If that is what you like to do then these straps are for you.
Similar to the Bauerfield knee pad, these long sleeve knee pads are from Fox Racing. The Foxing Racing Enduro knee sleeves were made for mountain bikers and are built to withstand heavy wipeouts. If you have a lot of BJJ partners who train hard at your gym, these offer you a huge amount of protection. Also the long fit strengthens the joint and offers protection for the leg.
Jiu Jitsu Knee Pads 101
Knee pads in Jiu Jitsu must live up to higher standards than knee pads in most other sports. They have to be able to stay on while you’re sliding around on the mat, also they have to be flexible. Especially if you’re going to an open mat, and plan to be rolling for a long time, you need to have breathable material.
Additionally, Jiu Jitsu knee pads need to be able to absorb a lot of impact as Jiu Jitsu can sometimes mean taking quick wrestling shots. Over time, these impacts can take a toll on your knees – so it’s important that the padding be able to cushion these blows.
Finally, knee pads for BJJ need to offer support to the surrounding muscles. Trying to do dramatic takedowns is stressful but also trying to resist being taken down can be strenuous. By supporting the muscles and tendons around the knee you reduce the likelihood of catastrophic injury.
Materials and design
The material and design of the knee pads is very important. First, the material needs to be breathable. Long rolling times on the mat can cause you to sweat profusely and you don’t want to feel like you have to take off your knee pad to keep going. The material also has to be astonishingly flexible.
BJJ is a sport that is built around compromising and unusual positions. Sometimes your knees will be bent, while others they might be straight out. You don’t want a knee pad that feels good when you’re sprawling your legs, only to pinch you when your legs are squeezed to your chest.
Finally the material needs to provide support, and absorb impact. The best knee pads for BJJ are ones that provide a pad around the knee cap. This supports the patella and will prevent deterioration over time. Also it’s better to have a longer sleeve, which will support muscles around the knee and help keep the knee pad in place.
Weight and length
More padding is more better, right? Well, when it comes to BJJ there is a certain size and weight you want when looking at the padding. You don’t want to feel like you’re balancing on top of a foam block when you’re on your knees.
You also don’t want a thin linen wrap that’s constantly coming undone when you’re in half guard. What you want is something between the two. Something that is lightweight, but also able to absorb impact. New knee pads are often made with a special kind of gel. This makes them lightweight, but also strong.
Also for BJJ purposes, longer knee pads are better. This is because you want something that will provide support for the muscles around the joint. Just buying something that pads the knee itself may not be the best option for long term Jiu Jitsu training.
The role of knee pads in injury prevention
You might think to yourself that if you have no knee pain during practice, why even spend your money? DO NOT fall into this classic trap. If you are planning on training BJJ for the long term, you want to think about injury prevention not just recovery. One of the biggest threats to people who train frequently is injury.
While knee pads can’t guarantee you won’t get injured, they provide some protection against many common injuries. BJJ is stressful on the legs, and knees are one of the most common reported injuries.
If you don’t take care of your knees you risk developing a wide range of chronic conditions, including Chondromalacia patella which is a painful disorder where the cartilage under the kneecap starts to deteriorate.
In order to prevent these sorts of chronic overuse problems, you need to strengthen the muscles around the knee joint. In addition to exercises that target these support muscles, a knee brace is one way to get extra support to the joint. This extra support is why longer knee braces are generally better for training.
Types of knee pads for BJJ
There are many knee pads specifically for BJJ – your instagram feed may even include ads for a few different models! However knee pads are very versatile products and can be used in a lot of different sports. Don’t feel like you need a BJJ specific model. You can even wear them if you have a physically intensive job or feel like you need a little extra support throughout the day.
The best knee pads for BJJ are lightweight, with pads that surround the knee. Keep in mind though that just because a knee pad doesn’t specifically advertise it’s for BJJ, doesn’t mean you can’t take it into the gym. Feel free to ask your coaches or training partners if they have any recommendations.
Knee pads vs. knee braces
Knee braces offer much more protection than knee pads, however it is much harder to move while wearing one. A knee brace has padding all around and can protect your leg from more than just impact. Many knee braces have rigid plastic or metal supports. Some knee braces also protect against hyperextension. These are commonly worn by cyclists, to protect against falls.
Although many people assume a brace is only for people recovering from an ACL injury or surgery, this is not the case. A brace can be worn by anyone who wants to protect their joint.
People in BJJ don’t often use knee braces. They limit mobility and can make quick movement cumbersome. Braces that include hard plastic or metal pieces can also bother your training partner. Ideally by wearing a knee pad, you’ll never need to use a knee brace. Keep in mind that braces with rigid parts are illegal in all major BJJ competition rulesets.
How do knee pads work?
Knee pads provide extra support during training, and can absorb impact. Although many people assume they are only for people recovering from an injury, they can and should be used to prevent injury.
Do I need to wear knee pads for BJJ all the time?
No, you don’t need to wear them all the time. But if you are training frequently, they might be a good idea as they can provide support long term and protect against overuse injuries.
How long do knee pads last?
This depends on the brand. Nothing lasts forever. It’s a good idea to read reviews and ask your gym mates if they have used the brand before.
How do I take proper care of my jiu jitsu knee pads?
Thankfully knee pads don’t require much upkeep. Keep them away from sharp things that could poke or tear them. It’s also important to keep them clean. Most knee pads can be thrown in the wash with your gi and belt – although be sure to check to see if they have special washing instructions.
A knee pad can be a great investment for long term training. Although there is no way to completely prevent injury, you will find that providing extra support to your joints is easy insurance against injury.
It is important that you pick a knee pad that is comfortable and that will not fall off while you roll. Thankfully there are a wide range of knee pads for BJJ to choose from.
Jack is a BJJ blue belt, and holds a bachelors degree in English Literature.
“He enjoys traveling, reading, and the Bow and Arrow choke.”
“He hopes to one day start teaching English overseas, and become a published author.”