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Do Ankle Weights Work?

    women wearing ankle weight

    You’ve seen many people jogging around with ankle weights on their feet or gym guys doing their warm-up extension activities with them. Looking for a bit of variation for your training, you’re also enticed to try them out, but you doubt if these little neoprene straps can really raise the bars for your training regimen.

    Ankle weights work if you use them correctly. Ideally, wear them alternately between your workouts and gradually increase their poundage. Also, forgo ankle weights in aerobic workouts because they can jar your form and balance. And only use them for flexion activities and muscle-building purposes.

    The rest of the article delves into how effective these straps are, what benefits they provide you, and how to mitigate their potential risks. You’ll also learn how often and how long to use them, plus three sample workouts to do with ankle weights.

    Sportneer Adjustable Ankle Weights Set 1 Pair 2 4 6 8 10 13Lbs Arm Wrist Leg Weight Straps for Women Men Kids, Weighted Ankle Weights Set for Gym, Fitness, Workout (Black, 5 lbs Each (10 lbs Pair))
    • COMES IN A PAIR: Comes in 2 ankle weights, EACH ankle weight weighs up to 5 lbs, 2 PACK of ankle weights up to 10 lbs
    • ADJUSTABLE LEG WEIGHTS: 5 removable sand pockets for each ankle weight, each pocket weighs 0.97 lbs, total weights (each ankle weight) can be adjusted from 1-5 lbs by adding or taking out the inserts

    The Effectiveness of Ankle Weights

    Studies have proven ankle weights can help your overall fitness by boosting your workout dynamics, body composition, burning more fat, and enhancing your cardiovascular ability.

    They emulate what dumbbells do for your arms. They exert additional weight on your muscles, so they must try harder for certain motions. This stimulates your legs and core better than usual, taking your workouts to the next level. Wearable ankle weights are ideal for different exercises that target the leg and hip muscles.

    However, the effectiveness of ankle weights comes down to your utilization and physical characteristics.

    All those benefits won’t happen unless you know when to use these wearable weights, for what exercises, and for how long. You also want to learn how to slip them on and what weights to choose.

    If you have joint injuries or use ankle weights inaccurately, they become ineffective and can prove harmful to your health and training regimen.

    Fortunately, we’re here to tell you about all the positives and negatives of ankle weights, plus how you can take advantage of them.

    Ankle Weight Benefits

    Exercising with ankle weights

    Fat Burn

    According to a 2016 study, jogging with weights at your feet can boost your calorie burn, lower your belly fat, and decrease your waist-to-hip ratio. An intervention study on the effects of aerobic exercise also concludes it’s especially effective at burning leg fat.

    Dr. Cedric X. Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council of Exercise, also backs this up by saying that one-kilogram ankle weights can heighten your oxygen consumption by about 10 percent, so they can encourage weight loss.


    Building Bulk

    As stated, wearing extra weights can put more tension on your muscles. And everybody knows that tension can increase your muscle breakdown, leading to extensive hypertrophy gains.

    So, working out with ankle weights on your weight can mold bigger muscles in your calves, quadriceps, and glutes than working out as usual—provided that you do the right leg exercises.

    The above research has also included that using wearable weights in aerobic workouts could produce more lean muscle in participants.

    Strength and Endurance

    Working with an ankle weight is a sort of resistant training because your muscles have to contract against an oppositional force—the ankle weights—to complete the movements. This added challenge increases your endurance and power over time, which heightens your muscles’ ability to do more intensive weightlifting.

    The increased stamina can boost the performance of your lungs, preparing you for more cardio workouts in terms of pace and agility. It can also enhance your balance because most activities done with ankle weights demand a deep focus on body alignment, stability, and flexibility.

    How to Use Ankle Weights

    Here are a few DOs and DON’Ts when wearing ankle weights that help you rip the benefits and skip the dangers.

    Avoid Using them When Running

    Ankle weights are a serious no-no for aerobic exercises like walking or running.

    Of course, they make your cardio workouts more vigorous and effective. However, they do so at the expense of your muscular balance. 

    Ankle weights put an extra challenge to your quads while ignoring your hamstrings. And once done in a recurring manner, this can overtax your frontal thighs and weaken the posterior thighs, affecting your form and gait pattern. It may also lead to joint strain and chronic pain.


    Avoid ankle weights when jogging in the first instance. And if you insist on wearing them for their weight loss benefits, don’t go over 2 kilograms. You can even replace vest weights with ankle weights.’

    But whatever you do, run at least a few weeks as usual before switching to a weighted jogging style. It ensures you have a firm baseline for bearing the poundage and that you won’t overburden your body.

    Applying a HIIT running style can also provide the same results with no potential harm.

    Use them for strength training

    Ankle weights work best for leg muscle isolation activities. So you can wear them in any strength training exercise that requires lifting and moving your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and shins.

    These include squats, leg lifts, donkey and flutter kicks, leg curls, calf raises, lunges, glute bridges, sit-ups, crunches, etc. 

    Ankle weights

    Pick the Right Weight

    Ankle weights start from 200 grams to as high as 9 kilograms, but it doesn’t mean they’re all suitable for you. So, it’s important to control your ego and not go overboard when buying one.

    Start with 0.5 to 1 kilogram per foot and only amp it up if it feels too easy. Gradually, you can increase the load as you build more strength and muscle in your lower body area.

    Listen to your body and drop the weights if you feel sore knees, ankles, or excessive fatigue. The weight you choose also depends on the workout, fitness level, and body weight. As a rule of thumb, your wearable weights should remain lighter than 10 percent of your body weight.

    Don’t Use them Everyday

    Overusing one muscle group on consecutive days can overtax your joints, lessen muscle strength, and destroy your bulk-building efforts. And ankle weights do the exact thing to your legs.

    The ideal schedule starts light and moves on slowly and steadily, targeting each muscle group. It also should include recovery periods of at least one day between each session.

    In a perfect world, workout with ankle weights for about five minutes on the very first day. Do the next session without ankle weights, and then expand the duration to 10 minutes on the third day. You would also want to add rest days.

    Consult a Doctor If You Have Injuries

    According to physical therapist Terry Downey, ankle weights can stretch or even tear the ligament in your ankle, back, and knees due to the place you wrap them around. While it’s not risky for moderation use or healthy people, it can worsen the situation for those who already have injuries in this area.

    If you’re in a recovery phase of an accident, pregnant, or have any special physical condition, check with a physician before using ankle weights. 

    Effective Workouts with Ankle Weights

    Ankle weights

    Glute Kickbacks

    Performing glute kickbacks with weight can build a firm baseline for exercises such as deadlifts. It also prepares you for jogging, skiing, and other aerobic workouts.

    Here’s how to do it:

    1. Kneel on all fours with your arms straight and directly under your shoulder.
    2. Keep your abdominals tight and your back parallel to the ground.
    3. Lift one of your legs until your hamstring gets in the same line as your spine. At this moment, you should also contract the glute.
    4. Stay in this position for two seconds, and then return your leg to the starting position before you do the same movement with your other leg.
    5. Do three to four sets of 10-12 reps.


    Jump Squats

    Great for developing your calves and quads, jump squats are another exercise that can be done with ankle weights.

    Here’s how:

    1. Stand upright with your legs a bit wider than shoulder-width apart.
    2. Perform a normal squat by shifting your weight into the heels, lowering the tailbone down, and holding your spine in a neutral stance.
    3. Move your arms from the front to back position to create momentum and power and jump upwards.
    4. Land as smoothly as you can and bend your knees simultaneously to return to the squat position–getting ready for the next explosive bounce.
    5. Do it for two to three sets of 10 reps.


    Bent-Leg Raise

    This workout is especially helpful for those who want to strengthen their core and inner thighs. But remember not to exceed 0.5 kilograms per each while executing it.

    1. Lie faceup on an exercise mat, put your palms under your lumbar, and your feet flat on the ground.
    2. Keep your head about three inches off the floor.
    3. Lift your feet, so your knees and hips form a 90-degree angle.
    4. Squeeze your belly inward to contract your abs muscles in this movement and let your lumbar raise a bit off the mat.
    5. Now, straighten the legs out while hovering above the floor, and don’t change your overall stance.
    6. Hold this posture until you cannot bear the pressure anymore—ideally one minute—and then return to the knees flexed position.
    7. Wait about half a minute and repeat.


    What About Wrist Weights and Weighted Vests?

    Wrist weights, like ankle weights, are made with wide, weighted straps that you can wrap around your wrist using Velcro. Many people choose to wear wrist weights during a cardio workout or on a walk. However, wrist weights can also lead to muscle imbalance because you are swinging your arms back and forth as you walk.

    A wrist weight is good if you want a more targeted workout, and you can’t grip a dumbbell. A wearable wrist weight is also good for those with a weak grip. They can be used for more standard exercises, including bicep curls and shoulder exercises.

    Weighted vests hang from your shoulders and also have wide straps. These straps wrap around your torso to keep the weighted vest in place. The weights go in the vest’s pockets, so you can adjust the amount of weight you want each time.

    Unlike weighted wrist and ankle weights, a weighted vest will prove beneficial on a walk. It can help stimulate the growth of new bone cells to fight bone loss and are good for leg strength. When adding weight to the weighted vest, you should never have more than 10% of your body weight, which, again, is the typical rule of thumb when using any kind of wearable weight.

    If you have back or neck problems, avoid using a weighted vest. The additional weight puts pressure on the spine, so if you already have issues, it can worsen them.

    Ankle Weights for General Fitness

    While more research and studies are needed to really prove the effectiveness of ankle weights and other wearable weights for a workout routine, they can be effective when used to enhance the walking factors of those who don’t have previous problems or symptoms.

    Wearable weights can allow you to achieve certain fitness and movement improvements and have been used in clinical, sports medicine, and general fitness environments. Before using any weights for your workout routine, it is best to consult with your healthcare provider beforehand.

    When using your ankle weights, you will feel the most progress in your calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. However, wearing them during abdominal exercises can also work out your core muscles.

    Wrapping Up: Do Wearable Weights Work?

    Ankle weights are a surefire way to increase the intensity of your workout routine. However, when it comes to a cardio workout, the damages outweigh the fat loss benefits. So, you should only wear them for strength training. Wearable weights can prove to be a good alternative to dumbbells but can be risky for some exercises.

    If you use ankle weights or other wearable weights during a workout, avoid wearing them for back-to-back sessions as their use can overtax your body and adversely affect your endurance, muscle mass, and strength.

    It’s vital to begin with lighter ankle weights and escalate the poundage only when your body adapts to it.

    Last update on 2023-11-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


    James Wright

    James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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