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Reebok JJ 2 Review (JJ Watt Trainers)

The original Reebok JJ 1 turned out to be a surprise hit. Personally, I had a ton of great training sessions with the shoe, but it was never really enough for me to drop my Nano’s or Metcon’s for. Just because it wasn’t quite there for me, doesn’t mean it wasn’t for other people though. It became my staple recommendation for people looking for a more supportive shoe that they could also run and lift weights in. People that tried the JJ’s, ended up loving them, and for good reason – you could just do anything in them. For the meager $100 asking price, they were a bargain.

Like any other shoe, they weren’t without their problems. Sizing was based off of giants feet but didn’t initially come in larger sizes, they were a little tall and a little too bulky for some people. Depending on how you wanted to lift weights, the heel-toe drop could have been detrimental as well. Either way, they were an excellent training shoe that made for a great alternative CrossFit shoe. The JJ’s are a shoe designed to the exact specifications of JJ Watt and as far as I know, he doesn’t do CrossFit, so Reebok hit the nail on the head with the JJ’s.

Reebok’s new JJ 2’s attempt to fix some of it’s predecessors shortcomings by giving the shoe almost a complete overhaul while maintaining some of the features that made the original so good, but did they go too far?

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Looks/Construction

I didn’t mind the way the original JJ’s looked, but I didn’t love them either. The first colorway was pretty basic, but almost every one after that looked pretty good with the exception of the icing on the cake one. The only colorway for the JJ 2’s at the moment is black with a white midsole and translucent grey outsole, which is safe, but looks good enough to wear from the gym to the street without anyone hating. The silhouette doesn’t have any dashing lines or panels so the shoe overall in black is pretty unoffensive, but boring. If you like black (who doesn’t), you’ll love this colorway.

Other than any shoe in their CrossFit line, Reebok usually puts out shoes that kind of feel cheaply made; this is not the case with the JJ’s. The JJ 2’s feel like tanks built to standards on par with Reebok’s flagship Nano series shoes. Not to be confused with NanoWeave, the JJ’s sport Reebok’s patented FlexWeave (LenoWeave?) upper giving the shoe an even higher quality feeling than the previous JJ’s. Why the difference in name, I have no clue, because they’re pretty much the same exact thing. Like the NanoWeave found on the Nano 7’s, the FlexWeave upper moves with your feet extremely well. Unlike the Nano 7’s, the midsole and outsole combination also does as well. The FlexWeave upper also leads to virtually no hotspots or bunching up, giving you a much more comfortable, seamless feel inside of the shoe. They also feel much less bulky than its predecessors but still feel like a big shoe in comparison to a lot of other training shoes. If you’re on the bigger side like JJ Watt, I’m sure you won’t notice this much at all.

Other tidbits like the tongue have been changed for the better. The once anemic tongue is gone and now there’s a nice padded one that stays in place a lot better. The lacing system is different as well, but I didn’t think the previous one was bad in the first place. Probably the best change to the construction of the shoe is that it’s a low instead of a mid cut. The ankle collar actually has a little more cushioning, it just doesn’t extend down into the shoe as far. Don’t fret, your ankles still feel nice and secure inside of the JJ 2’s.

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Fit

Sizing the JJ 2’s is a little bit more normal now, the sizing feels much more true to Reebok training shoe sizing than the original model’s titan sizing. They’re still very much a wide shoe, but the length is akin to typical running shoes so size them accordingly. Personally, I wore a 9.5 with a fair amount of space in the previous models but now a 9.5 fits me snug, yet comfortable enough to workout in, depending on what socks I wear; I actually think I could probably get away with wearing a 10. The shape of the toe is more pointy like a running shoe, so it does accommodate Morton’s toe pretty well.

My sizes for reference:

  • JJ1 – 9.5
  • Nano – 10
  • Metcon – 10
  • Speed TR – 9.5
  • NoBull – 10
  • Converse 9.5
  • Oly Shoes – 9.5

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Performance

There are a lot of things that you wouldn’t think the JJ 2 would do well, but actually does. Everything, actually. 

Making a return is the Liquidfoam midsole, but only in name, because it feels a bit different than the original model’s did. Don’t let the name fool you, it’s anything but liquid-y or foamy (Who comes up with these names anyways?). Previously, the JJ’s had a pretty solid and responsive ride with decent amount of support, they just lacked any kind of energy return or bounce. The shoe was also really tall for a training shoe. The new retooled midsole “gives” a little bit more, but is every bit as stable and responsive not to mention, lower to the ground (still tall though). That extra bit of “give” translates into a shoe that has better energy return and just overall feels less clunky. I set my PR mile in the previous JJ’s and I thought they were excellent for running, but I think the JJ 2’s are even nicer to run despite them weighing in at 11.54 oz.

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Given the fact that there’s still a ton of midsole, you wouldn’t think that power delivery would be all that great. I didn’t, until I actually put myself under some weight and moved it just as well as I did my comparison Metcon 3’s, which are my preferred squatting everything shoe. The support pillars inside of the midsole actually do their job in keeping it from compressing too much and the heel counter keeps you from shifting around providing great lateral stability.  Slow lifts are fine, but these would not be my go-to Oly lifting shoe because of the 7mm drop, which happens pretty aggressively around the ball of your feet. The JJ 2’s are still a generally flat shoe and for most weight you’ll find in a WOD, they should be okay.  I sometimes found myself on my toes with Oly lifts, but it’s not too hard to adjust to – and like I said, I wouldn’t be shooting for any one rep maxes.

Traction was one of the best features of the original JJ’s and still is with the updated model. I’m not entirely sure why the pattern was changed from the star pattern to the oval pattern, but either way, it works just as well. The style is more like a turf shoe, but grips pavement and rubber flooring just fine; I’ve never found myself at a loss of footing in any situation.

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Value/Conclusion

After all the inflation that’s going on, I still can’t believe these shoes only cost $100. The JJ 2’s are a well built, high performing, excellent quality shoe that can hang with most shoes that cost about half more than Reebok is asking. It easily trounces most shoes in it’s price range, save for the Speed 2.0’s. To say that the JJ 2’s are the bargain of the year would be an understatement. On top of that, these are the shoes that JJ Watt actually wears to work out, not just to make money.

Are the JJ 2’s the perfect training shoe? No, I would love to see them a little bit lower to the ground with a slightly lower cut around the ankle. Still, the JJ 2’s are one of the best training shoes for people that need a little bit more support while retaining stability and don’t want to break the bank. They’re comfortable to spend the day in, look good enough to wear with jeans, and perform well enough to be your one shot training shoe. As an overall shoe, you’d be hard pressed finding anything that outperforms the JJ 2’s for the price.

The Good

  • Flexible, easy to run or jump in.
  • Stable enough to go heavy in.
  • Cheap for a high quality training shoe.

The Bad

  • Could be a little bit lower to the ground still.
  • Still a bit bulky.
  • Oly lifting isn’t great in them.

The Ugly

  • Boring colorway.
  • Sizing will confuse people.
  • 7mm drop

Get your JJ 2’s here!

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Reebok Lifter PR Review

Back when I purchased my first pair of weightlifting shoes, I had done a ton of research  before landing on the original Adidas Powerlift Trainers. Honestly, what drove my decision back then was price. Weightlifting shoes don’t come cheap, but they should last you quite some time before you’ll have to replace them. Back then I didn’t see that value and I was still shocked at the $120 price tag of Nano’s (look at me now). Four years later and there is still a lack of affordable weightlifting shoes. Reebok is looking to change that with the Lifter PR’s, coming in at a solid $90 price tag, but are they a solid weightlifting shoe?

The Adidas Powerlift hasn’t changed much aside from the way it looks. It’s still got a .6″ effective heel height, EVA outsole, $90 and for some reason it’s still called the Powerlift. That being said, it’s still a great weightlifting shoe and even top level weightlifters in the Olympics were rocking them in Rio. The Reebok Lifter PR’s share pretty much everything that make the Powerlift’s so popular, but have a few thoughtful changes. Since Adidas is the parent company, it’s not surprising to see a variant of the Powerlift’s branded Reebok’s way. What is actually surprising is that it took them so long to do it.

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Construction & Looks:

Though the price tag is significantly lower that most oly shoes, the Lifter PR’s are an exceptionally well built shoe. The quarter/back of the shoe is made from a synthetic leather while the vamp/toebox is made with real full grain leather. This is a huge step up from the Powerlift’s because leather tends to conform with your feet better and is also usually more flexible. Not even the Lifter 2.0’s have a leather toe box, so this is a step in the right direction. Good thing, because I found this area a little stiff to break in and also a bit narrow.

Cuts must be made to keep the cost down, so the heel’s construction is mainly EVA and rubber. There is a TPU plate connecting the upper to the outsole for a bit more stability, but I don’t think it does anything to help keep the outsole from depressing. Like the Lifter 2.0’s and the Powerlift’s, there is only a single “Thermo TPU” strap that covers the whole midfoot. It does a great job of locking your foot down, though it’s a little flimsy compared to the Lifter 2.0’s. The insole is a bit softer and thicker than on the Lifter 2.0, as U-Form also makes a welcome return. The weight of the shoe is 14.4 oz, so they’re featherweights compared to other oly shoes.

These are great looking shoes and I’m a fan of the minimalist design of the upper. They are not CrossFit branded shoes so there’s no crazy print all over them; the only logo is at the rear of the shoe and it’s not an eyesore either.At the moment, there’s only the white colorway available to buy, though Rogue has a couple more on their site that are pending release.

Reebok’s shoe fitment is all over the place and I think the Lifter PR’s are the weirdest of them all. I typically wear a size 9 in all of my oly shoes and the PR’s are still about a half inch too big in this size, whereas the Lifter Plus 2.0’s in this size fit perfectly. These shoes run abnormally long, so you might want to go a full size down. Fitment of oly shoes should be fairly snug.  A few of my shoe sizes for reference:

  • Nano 6.0’s – 10 (9.5 fits, but is snug)
  • Metcon 2’s – 9.5
  • Chucks – 9
  • Speed TR – 9
  • Oly’s – 9

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Performance:

Back when the original Powerlift’s came out, there was a bunch of talk about how an EVA outsole wouldn’t perform well for power delivery due to it being compressible. While that’s true compared to wood or TPU, it doesn’t make the outsole of the PR’s soft at all. You can depress the outside ridges of the outsole with your fingers, but the center is packed incredibly densely and does not give. Unlike wood or TPU, if land on the outside ridges of the shoe, it can depress; but unless you’re squatting over 500lbs the outsole should be plenty hard enough for you. If you were squatting over 500lb’s, you wouldn’t even be looking at an entry level shoe anyways. At the weight I’m pushing, the PR’s perform as well as any other oly shoe and I’m never at a loss of power.

Another thing that didn’t exactly wow people with the Powerlift’s was the heel height being .6″, with the majority of popular oly shoes being .75″. Those with mobility issues would benefit with a higher heel, but it’s a subjective thing, as I prefer a slightly lower heel. Comparing the two shoes side by side using stock pictures, it looks like the angle of the drop of the PR’s could be a little bit more aggressive than on the Powerlift’s. On the bottom of the left shoe, it says 22mm, which would be roughly .85″. UPDATE: The total heel height is 22mm and the drop is 15.5mm, making the effective heel height the “same thing” as the Powerlift’s at .60″. When I measured the Powerlifts, I came up with only an 11mm differential! Making them only .43″.

Compared to other model of oly’s I have on hand, it feels like:

  • Lifter Plus 2.0 .75″ – PR’s feel taller, differential feels more steep.
  • Romaeloes .75″ – Feels shorter.
  • Position 2.0 .85″ – Feels very close, but slightly shorter.
  • Inov-8 370 .65″ – Feels taller
  • Adidas Leistung 1″ – Feels shorter


 Sounds crazy, but with the exception of the Romaleos, all signs point towards it being actually being around .85″. That would be a huge departure from the Powerlift’s and even the Lifter 2.0’s. There’s also variances in overall shoe heights to keep in mind as well.  This is not concrete information and I’m not going to give up the search to find out what it actually is, but lifting with the heel of the PR’s felt just about the same to me as it does in other shoes, excluding the Leistung.

The PR’s have a heavily emphasis towards the midfoot, so jumping feels natural and they should be okay to WOD in since they’re a lot less clunky feeling. Toe off feels comfortable, but when you shift your heels the whole front of the shoe lifts off the ground. Due to the compressible nature of the heel, you won’t feel as planted to the ground as you would with TPU or wood heels; a trade-off for a bit of mobility. You should be fine if all you’re going to do is just squat in these shoes, but they’re less stable compared (a little forward) to my current oly shoe of choice, the Position’s.  I’ve had mainly positive lifting sessions in the PR’s, so I’m not that worried; it’s just something to get used to.

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Value:

Let’s get something straight, I don’t think these are the best oly shoes I’ve ever worn, but for $90, they’re great. Obviously  they’re not going to perform better than than shoes that cost double the price, but that doesn’t mean they don’t serve a purpose. Would I take them over my Position’s? Depends on what I’m doing I guess. If I have to WOD in oly’s, I’d take these any day. If I’m just lifting, I’d go with something a little more stable like the Positions or Romaleos. If you’re looking into your first pair of oly’s, don’t want to break the bank, or lifters you can WOD in, the PR’s should suffice, though I would probably do a little bit of shopping around for some discounted Lifter 2.0’s (or even Plus’).

Click here to get your Reebok Lifter PR’s!

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Review: Rogue Fitness Ohio Lifting Belt / Weightlifting Belt Guide

[Scroll down for Ohio Lifting Belt Review]

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A good weightlifting belt should be a staple piece of equipment in anyone’s gym bag.  Most you’ll find currently are made of nylon and cost anywhere from $20-40 on average. While they suffice for most lifting, there’s nothing like a high quality leather belt.  Why would you want a leather belt over a nylon one? Well, they tend to not give as much as nylon belts do, most won’t pop off because they use roller buckles instead of velcro, and most importantly, they look awesome.  The downsides to leather belts is that they don’t give as much as nylon belts do, they’re harder to adjust because they have a roller buckle, there is a break in time, and they cost a lot more for a nice belt.

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The first question here is: “Should you be wearing a belt?”

The answer is a resounding, yes.  For the most part, people seem to not really get what a belt is there for.  The common use for people that wear a belt is to brace their back, but a lot of the time people don’t really get how to do this with a belt. Really, a belt is like a second set of abdominal muscles for your “core” to press against. Flexing (filling your belly with air and pressing it out) your core equals bracing your lower back.

But wouldn’t this make my abdominals weaker?

Not really.

Truth is, a belt is also a great tool for feedback so that you know you’re activating your core. If you didn’t know what this feels like, you’re probably not activating your core, thus leading to a weaker core.  I still don’t advocate throwing a belt on until you’re at around 80% of your maxes or doing crazy volume. But if an athlete isn’t bracing correctly, I’ll put them on a belt to see what it should feel like.

The next question is: “What are you using the belt for?”

Most CrossFitters gravitate towards thin, contoured nylon belts because they’re much easier to WOD in. Powerlifters don’t really need to move around all that much and are generally putting up more weight, so they need something thicker that flexes less. Weightlifters fall somewhere in the middle; since they still need to be mobile the belts aren’t as thick, but they’re still contoured and are made of leather.  That’s not to say that you couldn’t use a powerlifting belt for weightlifting, or a weightlifting belt for CrossFit. At the end of the day, it really just comes down to preference.

The last question is: “Why the hell would I spend $100 on a belt?”

Sure, you could spend a lot less on a belt.  Chances are said belt won’t be as well made, flex as little, and look as sexy as the Rogue Ohio lifting belt does.  If you’re into powerlifting, general gym going, or just have disposable income, it’s really a no brainer.  Having the Rogue name stamped on the back of your belt gives you 10lbs to every lift. Fact.  There’s a reason Rogue gives special edition Ohio lifting belts to the top CrossFit athletes from each region; because they’re the best, duh.

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But seriously, the Ohio lifting belt is one serious piece of leather.  I’ve used it from powerlifting to weightlifting and the amount of support it provides is unmatched compared to any belt I’ve used yet, granted a lot of the belts I use are of the nylon kind.  My old Rogue 8mm economy belt was great, but pales in comparison to the Ohio belt in both quality and performance.  The vegetable tanned sole leather is one of the nicest leathers I’ve put my hands on and the break in took only a few sessions.  It’s milk chocolate brown color goes with everything and gives the belt a refined aesthetic.  It looks a lot softer in Rogue’s stock pictures but i assure you that it’s nowhere near as soft as some of the suede lined options.  The leather is firm, doesn’t give much, but doesn’t ever feel too rock solid that you wouldn’t want to wear it.  In fact, you’ll probably want to wear it for just about everything.

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You can find powerlifting belts that are 13mm thick, but for me (5’9″ 180lb), and my squat topping out at 400lbs, 10mm is just fine.  The height of the belt is a pretty standard 4″, which to me is totally fine once again.  Even at this height, squatting with the belt at the wrong position and you’re going to pinch your belly fat, if you have any (I do).   Note, when sizing your belt, make sure you’re NOT using your pants size, but actually measuring around the area the belt is going.  My size Ohio belt is large, with 4-5 holes to spare depending on how tight I want to wear it.

Rogue also makes the Ohio weightlifting belt, if you’re looking for something that has a shorter front and expands to a wider back if you have issues with pinching or you’re worried about the bar making contact with your belt during lifts.  I had a chance to put it on at the games and it’s the exact same leather and construction that tapers to a 2″ front side.

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The Rogue Fitness Ohio lifting belt is a prime example of a top shelf belt.  It smells as good as it looks, looks as good as it performs and the performs as high as it costs.  Most people aren’t willing to spend over $108 on a weightlifting belt, but if you’re serious about your gym time and take pride in wearing well crafted, American made products, it’s a small price to pay.  You probably won’t have to buy another one, ever. Over time, every little scratch or dirty fingerprint you put on it is just going to end up making it look cooler and cooler.   It’s something you can really take pride in wearing.  I’ll still keep my nylon belts and my weightlifting belts around for what they’re best used for, but more often than not, I’ll go straight for my Ohio lifting belt.

As always, please make your purchase using my links to help support me!
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Review: Harbinger HumanX Classic Oiled Leather Weightlifting Belt (4″)

Visit any gym and you’ll probably find a few things there that bear the brand Harbinger.  They’ve been in the fitness industry for years, and recently with the introduction of HumanX, targeting the functional fitness and weightlifting communities.  Belts are one of the many things HumanX supplies and the CoreFlex belt is one of my favorite minimalistic weight belts.  Belts throughout the years have been traditionally made with leather, since the material strong and pliable.  However as of late, belts have transcended leather to the cheaper to produce, nylon.  The Classic Oiled Leather Weightlifting belt is an ode to what our fathers and our fathers fathers were lifting in.

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Everyone should have a good belt to lift with, it’s a good way to brace your core for those heavy lifts where you need a bit of feedback for your abs.  The COLWB comes in only a natural saddle tan leather, sports the “Harbinger” logo on the back and some pretty sweet details like logo stamped rivets and a classic roller buckle clasp.  The leather on my size medium belt was initially pretty stiff.  My “fit”, without it being too loose, was initially pretty tight, but over time it’s broken in and fits very comfortably, 3 holes in.  Since the COLWB uses an old school roller buckle, it’s not going to be as adjustable as the velcro on a nylon belt, but it definitely won’t pop off mid-lift either.  I didn’t need a whole lot of support for my back, since I’m not the biggest athlete out there, so I opted for the 4″ version.  I also dig that the belt is contoured in the front so that it doesn’t pinch my muffin top when I squat.  The thickness of the belt is 5mm, which provides ample support for all unless you’re the most elite level weightlifter.

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For pretty much all applications of weightlifting and powerlifting, I would recommend the COLWB.  It’s sturdy enough for just about anything you can throw at it.  For metcon’s, I would stick to using nylon belts mainly for the easier adjustments and that when you’re moving around that much, the edges could get uncomfortable digging into you.  Wearing the COLWB shirtless is a little weird, but that’s to be expected since it’s a raw leather inside, although it should wear down and get softer over time. The look of the Classic Oiled Leather belt is awesome and you just feel cooler wearing something like this; sure you could probably get away with wearing a normal nylon belt, but you wouldn’t quite get the same style bonuses.

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The Classic Oiled Leather Belt retails for $50 from HumanXGear.com, which isn’t much more than a nylon belt, and costs a whole lot less than other offerings of leather belts.  If you’re looking to lift in what your daddy was lifting in, check out the COLWB from HumanX!

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Workt 7mm Knee Sleeves

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Knee sleeves – a must for any gym bag and one of my favorite accessories.

Also, one of my most popular topics and one that I get the most questions about.

I still get a lot of questions regarding the tried and true, Rehband 7051.  They’re the OG’s of the game after all.  However, as of late, many great alternatives have been coming through to challenge the kind of knee sleeves.  They all offer their pro’s and con’s, but for the most part, they fail to do anything extraordinarily better (or worse) than the 7051’s.  Last year, I stumbled upon a growing company that made knee sleeves right here in the United States:  Workt.  I praised their knee sleeves for being a competent and cost effective solution to what was out at the time.  Workt today, has grown to be one of the most worn sleeves by top functional fitness competitors.  Their 5mm sleeve still seems to be the more popular choice, but since then they’ve released a new 7mm sleeve; probably to contend with the 7051’s and RockTape’s 7mm offering.  The new 7mm sleeve carries on the tradition of being a fine alternative to what’s out there.

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If you’re familiar with the look of the original 5mm sleeves, the 7mm variants will be a far cry from what you’re used to.  Gone are the grey gusset areas on the sides of the sleeve.  It seems like Workt opted for a more solid, three piece construction.  A welcome sight that offers more of the same look of the 7051. You’re probably wondering why I said welcome; the original 5mm sleeves had issues with the stitching coming off where the grey met the black areas.  This was corrected, but the least amount of pieces, probably the better for compression purposes.  Height wise they’re about the same as the 7051’s, but taller than the original 5mm sleeves, and much taller than the 7751’s or Exosleeve’s.

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Colors for the 7mm sleeves vary from pink to all black; the Chris Spealler versions. Granted the color only applies to the stitching and the piping on the tops and bottoms; all the variants give off a no nonsense look, even pink.  The other 7051’s still only come in blue and the RockTape knee caps have cool designs, but I just can’t recommend based off their previous construction woes. The neoprene material takes wear a lot better than the fabric outer of the 7051.  Anyone that’s owned the latter knows that after a few washes, the covers start pilling up and look pretty bad.  Another thing about that outer is that if you don’t leave your sleeves out to dry, they get stinky real quick.  I haven’t had an issue with this on the Workt knee sleeves, though they don’t advertise anti-microbial properties, I wouldn’t doubt that they’re there.  Oh, and they’re made in the U.S.A, another big reason to buy them.

As far as sizing the sleeves go, I’ll do my best to try to help you with what I wear comfortably.

  • Workt 5mm & 7mm – Medium (My 5mm’s were size small. I could get them on but they were really tight. 7mm’s are medium and are perfect for heavy squats but a little tight to WOD in.)
  • Rehband 7051 – Small (A little tight, but perfect for heavy squats.)
  • Rehband 7751 – Medium (Comfortable, perfect for WOD’s but not the best for heavy squats.)
  • ExoSleeve – Medium (A little tight, but okay to WOD in.)
  • RockTape Knee Caps – Small (Tight)

My Workt sleeves in 7mm fit well, if anything, a little bit on the tight side.  I’ve WOD’ed in them just fine, but I prefer to WOD in 5mm sleeves just so I retain circulation to my feet.  They stay put, great, a bit better than even my 7051’s; despite not being contoured.  I know most people aren’t going to buy a bunch of knee sleeves, so just go with whatever you’re buying the sleeves for.  7mm if you need a lot of support and you go heavy often, or 5mm if you’re just looking for a bit of support and you want something you can WOD in more comfortably.  Once again, this doesn’t mean you can’t WOD or go heavy in either of the knee sleeves, there’s just two sizes for preferential reasons.  Also, don’t get two different thicknesses for your knees, it’s as bad as just wearing a single knee sleeve; you could develop muscular imbalances that way.

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The Workt sleeves are a great alternative, but once again they don’t do anything better or worse than the 7051’s.  Support and fit wise, they’re both equals with the nod to the Workt sleeves for not bunching up.  Price wise, they run for $38 per sleeve (sold individually), which is a buck less than what 7051’s go for.  Customer service is second to none with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.  I’ve talked to the owner, Jason, on many occasions and the way he stands behind his product is confidence inspiring. For that reason alone, I could justify the purchase of the 7mm Workt sleeves.  Add in the fact that they’re made in the U.S.A, they come in different colors, they don’t stink, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Get Workt, here!