The Best 6 Exercises To Use Elbow Sleeves For Pain-Free Support

elbow sleeves

Work for pain-free support with elbow sleeves and these top exercises.

You may have seen elbow sleeves before but haven’t used them. There are certain exercises where elbow sleeves can be of great help and offer pain free support to your elbow joints so you can lift big, plow through any workout and see gains. With a snug, comfortable fit, yet still versatile for all of those lifting wants and needs, elbow sleeves are the perfect fitness accessory to have in your gym bag alongside things like a weightlifting belt and knee sleeves.

Able to provide nice compression, elbow sleeves work to improve blood flow and enhance recovery, all while supporting the elbow to distribute tension evenly. With better blood flow and circulation, you bring comfort to the muscle and thus only enhance your ability to see great gains. Using these with certain exercises will only help you in the long run.

We’ve pulled together some of the top exercises to use an elbow sleeve so you can see better gains and overall pain free support.

SBD Elbow Sleeves
Image courtesy of Inner Strength Products

Best Exercises For Elbow Sleeves

  • Bench Press
  • Pull-Ups
  • Lat Pulldown
  • Squats
  • Skull Crushers
  • Shoulder Press

Bench Press

The bench press is something we all love to do, and putting up big numbers is something to easily show your dominance over others in the gym. Great for working your chest, what you’ll find is the enhancement of many pushing movements (1). That being said, the bench press puts some pressure on your elbows, and a good elbow sleeve will help you here as you hold heavy weight and need to bend your elbows to get a full range of motion and complete the movement. That strain can be a lot, but with the right support, you won’t feel as tight in the elbow.

Bench Press Benefits

  1. Bigger chest: By working to push that weight, this targets your chest the most and you can really beef up your chest strength that way.
  2. Enhance pushing power: Since this lift is all about the push to get the weight up, your power output will be enhanced for better performance.

How To Do The Bench Press

Lie on the bench with your feet planted on the floor. Grab the barbell with your hands a little more than shoulder-width apart. Lift the bar off the rack and gently lower to your chest as you breathe in. Your forearms should be about 90 degrees from the ground as you touch your chest and with your feet planted on the ground, initiate the upward movement to return to the starting position.


The pull-up is an upper body strength exercise performed with the pull-up bar and most likely your bodyweight. The added bonus is the ability to add weight if need be to really beef up those gains (2).

Since this exercise requires you hanging and taking the load in your arms, elbow sleeves will offer that compression needed so you can lift yourself up with no problem.

Pull-Ups Benefits

  1. Strengthen arms and back: This is a great muscle builder for your arms and back, while also working to develop that V-shape taper.
  2. Functional exercise: Able to build muscle and allow for those gains to be made for sport specific movements, this also works well for functional ones and everyday activities.

How To Do Pull-Ups

Grab the pull-up bar with your palms down and hang from the bar. With an engaged core, pull yourself by the elbows up to the bar until your chin passes it. Lower yourself down and repeat for your desired number of reps.

Lat Pulldowns

The lat pulldown is a serious lat builder and one that works other upper body muscles well. Used with the pulldown machine, this allows you to get a great exercise while also enhancing spine stabilization and enhancing shoulder health (3).

Elbow sleeves are great here for the fact that this movement requires serious load on those elbows. As the point of movement, although your lat muscles do get work, your elbows will feel supported as you lift big weight.

Lat Pulldown Benefits

  1. Effective lat builder: This exercise will build lat strength and allow you to maximize those pulling movements, since your lats are pivotal.
  2. Enhance spine stabilization: By strengthening those back muscles, you work to stabilize the spine and provide for better support.

How To Do The Lat Pulldown

Position yourself on the machine and grab the handles with your desired grip. As you pull down towards your chest, squeeze your shoulder blades, keep your core engaged and feet planted on the ground. Slowly return to the starting position for the pulldown and repeat for your desired number of reps.


The squat is a staple exercise for many since it will enhance lower body growth, so you only see the best gains. This is certainly one of those exercises that you will see promote muscle while also working to improve power and explosiveness (4). Given the position of your elbows, especially on low bar squats, an elbow sleeve can alleviate some of the pressure of supporting the barbell so you can get low into that squat pain free.

Squats Benefits

  1. Increase lower body strength: Working your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, this is a great lower body exercise to boost strength, stability, and certain sport specific and functional movements.
  2. Better power: The nature of this movement requires the best for power and explosivity and will promote both as you look to optimize performance.

How To Do Squats

Place the barbell on your traps and shoulders with your feet shoulder width apart. With a tight core, bend your knees while keeping your spine neutral, squatting down to your optimal range of motion. Once at the bottom, drive through your feet to return back to your starting standing position.

Skull Crushers

Skull Crushers are perfect for those looking to maximize their upper body routine, particularly their triceps. Great for building muscle mass and enhancing stability, what you will find is improved overall triceps.

With such a load given the amount of weight, you will find that elbow sleeves will relieve pressure and tension felt in the elbows, while also improving blood flow since your arms

Skull Crusher Benefits

  1. Tricep strength: Since you are solely moving weight using the triceps, you will see that you can overload them pretty easily, increasing strength.
  2. Tricep Size: Being that you can overload the triceps fairly easily, skull crushers are great for increasing size in your arms.

How To Do Skull Crushers

Lay on a bench with and select an appropriate weight with either dumbbells or a loaded barbell. Raise the weight above your head and bend your elbows to lower it towards your skull, almost touching it, but not quite, as you want to keep tension on the triceps.

Shoulder Press

Building up our shoulders can be a challenge, but the shoulder press is one of those exercises to do just that. Building those boulder shoulders, this exercise also works to boost core strength and allow for better overhead pressing movements (6).

Since this requires load on the elbows, and that load going overhead, elbow sleeves offer great support as you push that weight to see great gains.

Shoulder Press Benefits

  1. Increase shoulder strength: This exercise will really work those shoulders and allow for the best by optimizing your range of motion and overhead mobility.
  2. Core work: Since this exercise requires quite a load overhead, keeping your core tight is important and will prove to pay off in the long run.

How To Do The Shoulder Press

Choose your desired amount of weight and stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Grab either dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell so it is at about your upper chest and engage your core for stability. When ready, lift the weight overhead, extending your arms and locking them out at the top. Continue this overhead press movement for your desired number of reps.

elbow sleeves

Benefits Of Elbow Sleeves

Elbow sleeves can benefit you in a number of ways and it is important to put a focus on support and your physical health in order to lift big weight. Benefits of elbow sleeves include:

  • Offer compression: A snug fit will work well as you look to warm up the elbow and provide for better blood flow (7).
  • Support your elbow: This helps distribute tension differently so other smaller muscles also feel supported, better assisting the elbow.
  • Increase stability: Provide that increased stability for big lifts so you see increased strength.
  • Promote better recovery: Improved blood flow and circulation will enhance recovery to optimize your physical health and see better gains.

What To Look For In Elbow Sleeves

When choosing your elbow sleeve, it is important to look for fit. You want the sleeve to offer support and compression, but also allow for optimal movement, for this will affect the exercise as a whole. The kind of material used is important as well, for you want the sleeve to physically feel comfortable and not too scratchy, itchy, or any of those uncomfortable feelings. Since you will use these for plenty of lifts, it is also important to note the durability of the product. A product worth your time and money will last you a while no matter how much you use it.

Our Favorite Elbow Sleeves

Made from a high-grade blend of elastic and cotton fabric, these sleeves offer Level 3 compression, designed to apply optimal tension around your elbows.

Iron Bull Strength Unleash Elbow Sleeves are definitely our favorite elbow sleeves, and thy are crafted from a high-grade blend of elastic and cotton fabric, to provide comfort and compression. These sleeves offer Level 3 compression, which is designed to apply optimal tension around your elbow but not to the point where they are so stiff that you lose the ability to complete a full range of motion or are uncomfortable.

Iron Bull Strength
Testing Iron Bull Strength Elbow Sleeves

This superior blend of materials in these elbow sleeves adapts to your elbow contours, giving you a truly personalized fit and ensuring a custom fit while retaining its form and tension under the pressures of heavy lifting. 

The high-grade material of Iron Bull Strength Elbow Sleeves ensures stability, breathability and durability, letting you push your limits while keeping you cool and dry. This marks a significant improvement over traditional neoprene elbow sleeves. Neoprene is a material that traps in the moisture and can often feel hot, sticky, and uncomfortable during intense exercise. The cotton component in Iron Bull Strength’s Unleash Elbow Sleeves blend promotes breathability, effectively wicking away sweat and allowing the skin to breathe, so you won’t have sticky, smelly elbows.

Check out the Iron Bull Strength Elbow Sleeves review.

Also, check out our list of the Best Elbow Sleeves for more great products to maximize pain-free support!

Wrap Up

These top exercises for elbow sleeves are great to put into your routine and can really enhance all areas of your gains. With the right elbow sleeve, you can work to promote support and better compression to allow for only the best in terms of blood flow, recovery, and growth. Check out some top elbow sleeves and see how they can improve your performance today.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

*Images courtesy of Envato


  1. Tungate, P. (2019). “The Bench Press: A Comparison Between Flat-Back and Arched-Back Techniques”. (source)
  2. Ronai, P.; et al. (2014). “The Pull-up”. (source)
  3. Newton, H.; et al. (1998). “The Lat Pulldown”. (source)
  4. Kubo, K.; et al. (2019). “Effects of squat training with different depths on lower limb muscle volumes”. (source)
  5. Winwood, P.; et al. (2015). “A Biomechanical Analysis of the Farmers Walk, and Comparison with the Deadlift and Unloaded Walk”. (source)
  6. McKean, M.; et al. (2015). “Overhead shoulder press- In-front of the head or behind the head?”. (source)
  7. Pereira, M.; et al. (2014). “The Effects of Graduated Compression Sleeves on Muscle Performance: A Randomised Controlled Trial”. (source)
Austin Letorney
Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.