Incorporating ankle weights into your workout routine can bring variety and offer many benefits. By adding ankle weights you can increase your muscle mass and strength, increase your endurance, and increase your calorie burn.
Ankle weights are best utilised as a part of a program that includes various exercises like weight training and cardio.
What Are Ankle Weights?
Ankle weights are small wearable weights that are designed like mini sandbags and wrap and attach around your ankle. These weights typically range from 0.5-1.5kg and can be added to your everyday activities like running errands or doing household chores, or can be incorporated into a workout routine.
Ankle weights add a manageable weight and resistance to your body as it moves, encouraging your muscles to work harder and making them stronger. Wearing ankle weights can increase muscle mass in the calves, quads, and glutes.
There are many reasons to incorporate ankle weights into your daily routine. They are a common component of many physical therapy exercises, specifically those that target ankle injuries like a sprain. Because ankle weights come in various sizes and weights, this gives therapists the ability to incorporate them into tailored rehabilitation programs depending on a patient's needs or abilities.
Ankle weights work to build muscle is actually a question of how any weight-bearing exercise works to build muscle. Your body builds muscle through the process of muscle hypertrophy - when the muscles are challenged with greater weight or resistance. The muscle fibres incur minor damage due to these challenges. After a rigorous workout, your body begins to repair this minor damage by fusing muscles fibres together. This process results in greater muscle mass and stronger muscles.
While many strength training exercises focus on lifting heavy weights, studies show that lifting lighter weights several times is just as effective as lifting heavier weights fewer times.
Incorporating aerobic exercise into your routine will increase your endurance. If increasing your endurance is one of your goals, adding ankle weights to your workouts can help.
Aerobic exercises condition the heart and lungs by challenging them to provide the muscles with a greater supply of oxygen-rich blood.
During vigorous exercise, the heart beats faster and begins to pump more blood throughout your body. At first, keeping up with an intense aerobic exercise may feel tough but as the body learns to handle the increased demand, you will notice a greater lung capacity and your heart will work more efficiently. Over time, your resting heart rate and blood pressure decrease.
Ankle weights help to increase the intensity of your workouts and other activities - increasing your body’s demand for oxygen and helping to condition the heart and lungs.
In addition to the many benefits a non-injured person may get by using ankle weights, they are also commonly used for physical therapy in a clinical setting.
Ankle weights are most commonly used to improve:
- Walking gait in older adults
- Balance rehabilitation
For patients seeking to improve their walking gait, a study found that using a combined ankle weight of 0.5%, 1%, and 1.5% of a patient’s body mass lowered errors in knee joint repositioning in older adults when compared to no resistance.
Furthermore, another study on stroke rehabilitation patients showed that adding 3–5% of an individual’s body weight in ankle weights on the stroke-affected side leg, improved the patient’s ability to balance.
Ankle weights are shown to be a promising rehabilitation tool for many patients.
The Best Way to Use Ankle Weights
The following are a few suggestions for incorporating ankle weights into your exercises.
- Choose an ankle weight that is between 1-2% of your body weight.
- Wear the weights at least 3 times per week for a minimum of 20 minutes per session.
- Consider adding ankle weights when doing slower walks for enhanced movement quality.
- Only wear ankle weights for limited periods to avoid overuse injuries and imbalances.
- Don’t exceed 3% of your body weight in ankle weights.
- Incrementally increase the weight to avoid overuse injuries.
6 Ankle Weight Exercises
Just adding an ankle weight to your daily walks can help improve many aspects of your physical fitness, but here are 6 exercises to help add variety to your workouts.
1. Single-leg glute bridge
- Lie on your back and bring your heels in toward your hips.
- Extend one leg straight in the air.
- With your non-extended leg, press against the floor evenly with your foot to raise your hips off the ground.
- Contract your glutes at the top of the position, then gently return your hips to the ground.
- Repeat on the other side.
2. Prone hamstring curl
- Lie on your stomach, with your legs extended behind you and your toes on the floor.
- Extend your hands out in front of you for stability.
- Slowly curl one leg up by bending it at the knee and raising your foot until your shin forms a 90-degree angle with the floor.
- Slowly return to the start position. Aim to keep your hips and pelvis on the ground for proper form.
- Repeat on the other side.
3. Side hip abduction
- Lie on your side, with your bottom elbow and upper arm on the ground and your head supported in your hand.
- Bend your bottom leg to 90 degrees for stability.
- Keep your top leg straight and slowly raise it as high as is comfortable.
- Contract your glute at the top and slowly lower your leg back to the floor.
- Repeat on the other side.
4. High Knees
- Stand with your legs about hip-width apart
- Hop on one leg and drive the other knee to the chest using your lower abs. Swing the arms (your opposite arm and knee should be going up at the same time).
- Switch legs
5. Knee to elbow
- Stand with your legs about hip-width apart.
- Shift your weight to the left leg, and lift your left arm above your head.
- Drive the right knee up toward the left side of the body, and at the same time, lower your elbow to meet your knee.
- Repeat on the other leg.
- Pull your elbow past your thigh to get the full benefit of this move.
6. Squat and lateral leg lift
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width
- Shift your weight back into a squat. Make sure you can see your toes at the bottom of the squat.
- As you stand, press through your supporting leg and lift the opposite leg, keeping it straight and flexed, shooting energy out of your heel
- Put the leg down, and bend back into a squat
- Switch legs
Are there risks to using ankle weights?
Ankle weights are a generally safe and effective exercise tool when used appropriately. Make sure to incorporate them gradually to your workout routine and start off by using a lower weight.
If used improperly, ankle weights can contribute to a risk of sprains and strains. Remember to start off light and always listen to your body.
Evidence shows that adding ankle weights can be beneficial to both general fitness and rehabilitation efforts.
If you are interested in adding ankle weights to your exercises, keep the weights light and wear them for short periods of time - especially when you’re first getting used to them.
Ankle weights are an effective training tool but are best used as a component to your overall workout program and are a great way to add variety to your regimen.
If you’re looking for an ankle weight or any other fitness tool, take a look at our extensive variety of workout accessories.