Thinking of Adding Ankle Weights to Your Routine? Read This First

Ankle Weight Workouts

Tori Simeone

When you want to up the challenge of your workouts, adding weights is a no-brainer. Dumbbells are a popular option, but you may have seen ankle weights pop up online via your Instagram feed, or in real life, strapped around the ankles of power walkers in your neighborhood. These wearable weights can be useful, but like with all fitness equipment, it’s important to know when and how to use them. Read ahead about the benefits of adding ankle weights to your next workout, a few exercises you can try at home with ankle weights, and types of movements when you should leave them aside.

The Benefits of Ankle Weights

Adding weights to your workout is a great extra challenge, and ankle weights are compact, portable, and versatile. They conveniently strap around your ankles (or wrists) so you can have a wide range of motion without worrying about having to hold, pick up, put down, or chase after loose dumbbells or other weights. 

If used correctly, they can help strengthen your calves, quadriceps, and glutes, says Sydney Benner, a NASM/AFAA-certified @FitOnApp Trainer. They can also create more resistance in your exercises and force you to consider the importance of body alignment when you perform certain movements.

What Kind of Exercises Can Ankle Weights Be Added To?

Ankle weights are great for lower-body strength exercises, says Benner. The goal of adding ankle weights is to increase strength, so she suggests choosing exercises like single leg pelvic tilts or left lifts that focus on the legs or glutes.

Tori Simeone, a Tone It Up trainer, says she likes adding ankle weights to barre, butt, and even yoga sculpt workouts. “Using the ankle weights properly, especially when focusing on legs and hip muscles, will increase your workload without adding pressure to your joints,” she says.

However, both Benner and Simeone say to skip ankle weights when you’re doing high-impact aerobic and cardio movements (e.g., running). Benner says you want to strengthen your body and decrease the risk of injury, so how you use ankle weights is important for your body’s health. And wearing ankle weights during long walks or running may seem tempting, but they can increase the pressure in your joints and increase your risk of injury, says Simeone. 

Who Shouldn’t Use Ankle Weights?

If you’re a beginner, Simeone suggests starting with your own body weight and incorporating ankle weights as you get stronger. And if you’re pregnant, injured, or recovering from an injury, always check with a doctor to make sure you’re exercising safely.

Even if you do choose to use ankle weights, it’s important to be mindful of your body while you’re using them. Ankle weights can increase the risk of injury due to additional stress they add to your ankle joint and leg muscles. Benner stresses the importance of knowing the difference between a movement that is challenging and one that’s painful—your exercises should be the former but never the latter.

What Weight Should You Start With?

The right weight will vary depending on individual differences in fitness and comfort level. SImeone suggests starting with ankle weights around 2.5 pounds each.

The weight may also vary depending on what you’re using them for. For something like adding resistance to a brisk walk, Benner suggests something lighter, such as 5 pounds or under. For strength exercises, choose something that will challenge your body in the right way. Her advice is to start light and work up from there.

Four Ankle Weight Exercises to Try

01 of 04

High Skips

Knee to Elbow

Tori Simeone

This is a cardio move with focus on the core. The lower abs are what initiate the movement while simultaneously strengthening the leg.

  • 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
02 of 04

Knee to Elbow

Knee to Elbow

Tori Simeone

  • This is similar to the first move, but now the focus is on your obliques 
  • 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
03 of 04

Scissors

Scissors

Tori Simeone

Make sure your lower back is flush against the floor (this is super important!). Simeone suggests turning your legs out—heels together, toes apart—for extra inner-thigh work.  

  • Lie on your back with your arms on either side
  • Raise your legs to a 45-degree angle, and raise your head and shoulder blades off the ground
  • Keeping your legs straight, crisscross them over each other, crossing at the inner thighs and engaging your lower abs each time
  • Keep your arms long and strong, almost like you’re slapping water
04 of 04

Squat and Lateral Leg Lift

Squat Lateral Leg Lift

Tori Simeone

  • 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

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