Do Ankle Weights Work? See the Benefits & Downsides
Ankle weights are wearable weights you strap around your ankles. Do ankle weights work? Of course. They allow you to add just a little weight to everything you do and make your movements a bit more taxing. That said, it may be tempting to put them on and just do your entire workout with them, but caution is in order. There are some exercises in which ankle weights are a great addition and can ramp up your intensity. Then there are other exercises where you could strain muscles or joints and hurt yourself.
Yes, ankle weights can help you tone muscle and build endurance over time. The trick is knowing when, where, and how to use them to intensify your workouts without injuring yourself.
How to Use Ankle Weights
Ankle weights are handy little weights you can attach around your ankles just above your shoes. They wrap around and are typically attached with a Velcro strap, or they may be circular and elasticized so you can easily slip your foot through them to put them on.
Once attached, they should stay in place relatively easily and allow you to move your foot and leg unencumbered. This also leaves your hands free to help with balance.
Since these can weigh anywhere from 1 pound all the way up to 20 pounds, you can use them to gradually increase the difficulty of your movements as you get stronger over time. Be advised, however, a little weight on the ankle goes a long way. And you should always start with a lighter weight until you get acclimated to the movements and the additional weight.
Benefits of Ankle Weights
Ankle weights have a number of benefits and are a great and relatively inexpensive way to add some resistance to your workouts or throughout your daily activities.
Great for beginners—ankle weights can help you break into the world of resistance training in a gentle way. Since it’s such a small amount of added weight, it will make your exercises more difficult, but without the muscle teardown that comes with regular weightlifting.
Convenient—it doesn’t get much easier than putting on a pair of ankle weights. Whether you opt to throw them in your gym bag for use during your workout or you decide to get in some great exercise at home, ankle weights are a quick and easy way to get in some resistance training.
Change the weight—many ankle weights come equipped with options to add or remove weight. This allows you to tax the muscles differently during various exercises but also allows you to work your way up to heavier weights to help prevent injury along the way.
Extra work for your muscles—make things a little more intense for your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and even your core by doing your normal workouts with the addition of ankle weights.
Downsides of Ankle Weights
While ankle weights certainly have a host of benefits, there are some downsides to be aware of.
Extra pressure on your ankle joints—you may have strong ankles but that doesn’t mean they can handle the extra weight that comes from wearing ankle weights all the time. The weights can pull on the ankle joint and cause stress or even misalignment.
Can cause imbalances over time—wearing your ankles weights all the time can mean using your muscles differently than they were intended to be used or building up certain muscles to the point that they overpower other areas. So, instead of adding them to every workout, use them now and then as a supplement to a regular workout program.
Disrupt your normal movement patterns—wearing ankle weights can make you move slightly differently because your balance is off. It’s not a big deal if you’re only using ankle weights here and there, but if you use them a lot, pay attention to any new pains or strains. This could be a sign that an injury is developing.
Types of Ankle Weights
There are several different kinds of ankle weights as well. You can choose from set weights (like 1, 3, 5 pounds, etc.) or you can opt for an adjustable set. If you go with the adjustable variety, you will probably get more bang for your buck because you can start out with light weights and work your way up. You can also switch out the amount of weight used based on the exercise you are doing.
Bala Bangles—these are the most popular of the bunch as they’re adjustable weights and wrapped in silicone for comfort. They can be used on the wrists or ankles.
Sportneer Adjustable Ankle Weights—these ankle weights go from 1 pound all the way up to 13 pounds and allow you to adjust the weight to fit your needs. Constructed from a breathable neoprene fabric, they allow you to start with very light weight and then work your way up to heavier weights as you get stronger.
P.volve Ankle Weights—these budget-friendly ankle weights are 1.5 to 3 pounds and provide access to a class that includes range of motion exercises, various leg lifts, and stepping patterns designed to strengthen and tone.
Whichever brand you decide to go with, just remember to give your body time to recover and move both with and without the ankle weights. They are a great way to add extra resistance to many movements, from slower walks to bicycling to at home workouts with exercises like single-leg glute bridges, hamstring curls, leg raises, hip abductions, and more. They aren’t, however, recommended for high-impact exercises like jogging, running, or jumping as they can put too much strain on the joints and increase the risk of injury.