Elbow pads are often underutilised in combat sports. If you’re practicing MMA or Muay Thai, you likely already know that elbow pads should be a key component of your protective gear. However, BJJ and Judo fighters might also find that they require elbow pads to protect arms in the event that they hit the mat during a throw or takedown. Further, kickboxing, Taekwondo, and Karate may all require elbow pads in case of falling during sparring or because of a previous injury.
Injuries to elbows, knees, and ankles are among the most common in MMA. For that reason, it’s important to find the right elbow guards that will protect against falls and particularly hard throwdowns.
Knee and elbow pads should be tight enough to stay in place while fighting, but not too tight so as to cut off the circulation. Further, many elbow pads, particularly gel elbow pads, tend to be one-size-fits-all. If you have abnormally large or small arms, you may need to opt for one of the few brands that carry size ranges.
It’s rare to see top fighters wearing knee pads unless they’re recovering from an injury, however, they’re a great piece of equipment to train with and can do your body a lot of good.
When you’re grappling or against the cage, your knees can take a heavy beating. Chances are you regularly end up with scratches, mat burns, and bruises. This kind of wear-and-tear-- to a joint as sensitive as the knee-- can actually cause long-term damage. Training in knee pads can greatly reduce the risk of such injuries.
When shopping for elbow and knee pads, it’s important that you keep comfort, fit, and protection in mind.
Comfort: In all likelihood, no pair or knee or elbow pads will be completely comfortable, which is why many fighters (foolishly) forgo wearing them. However, there’s discomfort and then there’s unbearable. Make sure your pads don’t restrict your movement or cut into your skin when training. Also, make sure the fabric is comfortable and not distracting. Pads tend to come in a few different fabric options, the key is finding which is best for you.
Fit: If your knee/elbow pads don’t fit properly they won’t do their job. If you have to constantly pull them up because they’re too loose, you might as well not wear them at all. Before purchasing, make sure your gear is the right size.
Protection: No one knows how much protection you will need better than yourself, so be sure you select gear that offers the optimal amount of padding. If you have previous injuries, it might be necessary to choose pads that have additional foam or gel padding.