Ankle Weights: Benefits, Downsides, and Exercises to Get Started (2022)

Ankle weights are a commonly used training device marketed to the general population as a way to improve fitness during day-to-day activities.

Most ankle weights are designed as mini sandbags you attach around your ankles with a Velcro strap.

The typical weights range from 1–3 pounds (roughly 0.5–1.5 kg) and can be used during everyday activities or incorporated into a workout routine.

While ankle weights have not been studied as extensively as other common methods of fitness training, research suggests they may be beneficial for improving your walking dynamics and helping reduce body fat and cardiovascular disease risk (1, 2).

Furthermore, for older adults, wearing properly weighted ankle weights may improve knee joint repositioning and may be beneficial for improving balance in individuals recovering from stroke events (3, 4).

Overall, ankle weights offer some benefit to general fitness and can be safely used by healthy individuals.

That said, they’re far from a complete fitness solution and are best utilized as part of a program that also incorporates weight training and aerobic exercise.

Ankle Weights: Benefits, Downsides, and Exercises to Get Started (1)Share on Pinterest

Ankle weights are not a new invention. Research on ankle weights dates to 1990 and earlier (5).

(Video) Danger of Walking With Ankle Weights

While there’s less research on ankle weights as a training method compared with other fitness training methods, recent research suggests ankle weights are beneficial for several different applications.

Clinical use of ankle weights

The primary use for ankle weights in a clinical setting is for improving:

  • walking gait in older adults
  • balance rehabilitation in people who have experienced a stroke

For example, a 2016 study found that using a combined ankle weight of 0.5%, 1%, and 1.5% of a subject’s body mass lowered errors in knee joint repositioning in older adults when compared to no resistance (3).

According to the study, the 1% ankle weight group performed the best, though all weighted groups showed improvement.

A different study on stroke rehabilitation patients showed that adding 3–5% of individuals’ body weight in ankle weights on the stroke-affected side leg improved the patients’ ability to balance (4).

As such, ankle weights may be a promising rehabilitation solution for people who’ve experienced a stroke and a tool for gait improvement in older adults.

While these studies are promising, you should always consult your healthcare provider before attempting any intervention for medical issues.

Ankle weights for general fitness improvements

When it comes to general fitness for noninjured individuals, ankle weights may be beneficial as well.

For example, a 2016 Malaysian study found that wearing 0.5-kg (1.1-pound) ankle and wrist weights 3 times per week for 20 minutes lowered participants’ waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, and body fat percentage by the end of the 6-month study period (6).

While more research is required to replicate these results, this study suggests that ankle weights may be a useful tool for improving these health measures.

Finally, a 2017 study on walking mechanics in otherwise healthy adults found that ankle weights using 1–2% of a person’s body weight “can be effective for enhancing the walking factors of adults without symptoms” (7).

Overall, the research suggests that ankle weights may be beneficial for noninjured adults for both fitness and movement improvements, although further study is needed.

(Video) How to Use Ankle Weights Effectively? | Ankle Weights Benefits - Healthmania

Summary

Scientific evidence suggests that ankle weights may be useful in both clinical and general fitness settings.

Always consult your healthcare provider before attempting any rehabilitation program.

With the research in mind, the following are a few suggestions for incorporating ankle weights into your fitness program:

  • Select a combined ankle weight between 1% and 2% of your body weight.
  • Wear the weights around your ankles 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.

Ankle weights should be worn for short periods a few days per week.

There isn’t enough scientific evidence to make further claims, but any fitness tool can lead to overuse injuries if you do too much (8).

The following four exercises target your hips and glutes and utilize ankle weights for resistance.

(Video) Should Soccer Players Use Ankle Weights? - Ankle Weights Myths Debunked!

Single-leg glute bridge

To do this exercise:

  1. Lie on your back and bring your heels in toward your hips.
  2. Extend one leg straight in the air.
  3. With your nonextended leg, press against the floor evenly with your foot to raise your hips off the ground.
  4. Contract your glutes at the top of the position, then gently return your hips to the ground.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Prone hamstring curl

To do this exercise:

  1. Lie on your stomach, with your legs extended behind you and your toes on the floor.
  2. Extend your hands out in front of you for stability.
  3. 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.
  4. Slowly return to the start position. Aim to keep your hips and pelvis on the ground for proper form.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Side-lying hip abduction

To do this exercise:

  1. Lie on your side, with your bottom elbow and upper arm on the ground and your head supported in your hand.
  2. Bend your bottom leg to 90 degrees for stability.
  3. Keep your top leg straight and slowly raise it as high as is comfortable.
  4. Contract your glute at the top and slowly lower your leg back to the floor.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Prone superman holds

To do this exercise:

  1. Lie on your stomach, with your legs straight and arms extended forward.
  2. Point your toes, engage your glutes, and raise your legs and arms slightly off the floor.
  3. Hold the position for around 1 second, then return to the floor.

The research on ankle weights suggests that you can improve general fitness and walking mechanics by incorporating them into your overall daily routine.

Nevertheless, ankle weights are far from a complete fitness solution.

You’re unlikely to be injured by using ankle weights sparingly. But unless you incorporate weight training and aerobic exercise in your routine, you’re not likely to see any dramatic change in your fitness through ankle weights alone.

Furthermore, if used only when walking, the ankle weights will add more resistance to your quads and hip flexors. This could potentially lead to muscular imbalances if done in excess.

If you tend to have pain in your ankles, knees, or hips, you may want to avoid using ankle weights — or at the very least seek guidance from a healthcare professional.

(Video) Ankle & Knee Injuries : How to Train With Ankle Weights

The extra stress of even small amounts of weight shouldn’t be taken lightly when it comes to your joints. However, this doesn’t mean ankle weights are useless or inherently dangerous.

Simply understand that they’re best utilized for targeted muscular strengthening, in moderate amounts. They’re best used in conjunction with traditional, well-studied fitness methods such as:

  • dumbbells
  • barbells
  • cardiovascular exercise

Rather than wearing weights when walking and performing daily tasks, you may be better served by implementing a few of the exercises above into your fitness routine.

Summary

To avoid overuse injuries, ankle weights should be used sparingly as part of a complete fitness program.

Ankle weights show promise as both a rehabilitation method and a tool for general fitness improvements.

Evidence suggests that ankle weights may improve your walking mechanics and fitness. They’re unlikely to cause injury when used sparingly.

If you want to add ankle weights to your routine, keep the weights light and wear them for only short periods of time.

While ankle weights do have scientific evidence as a training tool, they’re best used as a component of your overall workout program as opposed to a stand-alone solution for improving fitness.

FAQs

What are the cons of ankle weights? ›

Ankle weights

"That causes a muscle imbalance," Downey says. Wearable ankle weights also pull on the ankle joint, which poses the risk of tendon or ligament injuries to the knees, hips, and back. But wearable ankle weights are helpful for exercises that target the leg and hip muscles, like leg lifts.

How do I start using ankle weights? ›

Select a combined ankle weight between 1% and 2% of your body weight. Wear the weights around your ankles 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.

What are some of the downsides to adding weights to your walks? ›

Adding weights to your walking routine doesn't come without risk. The same resistance that wearable weights offers to up the ante on your workout can also put strain and stress on your muscles and joints. This can lead to damage or injury. Some studies show that ankle weights can pull at your ankle joint.

What happens when you wear ankle weights everyday? ›

Wearing ankle weights does have its benefits like added cardio, increased endurance, and muscle growth. It's something that can be integrated into workouts to make them more effective. But when wearing ankle weights all day, there is a higher risk of injury especially when you strain yourself.

Is walking with ankle weights good for osteoporosis? ›

Some studies suggest that working out with weights, such as walking with weights, can help people improve bone mass density and reduce the risk of fractures.

Is it OK to wear ankle weights around the house? ›

But wearing it around the house is not recommended, as it will increase the risk of bad walking posture as a body never gets time to reset the strained muscles after the workout. Is it OK to wear ankle weights all day?

Are ankle weights good for seniors? ›

Wearing ankle weights can be recommended for strengthening the muscles of the lower limb and trunk in the elderly.

How heavy should ankle weights be? ›

They maybe lightweight but eventually, you'll notice your strength and endurance improve. Ace Fitness says that 1 to 3 lb ankle weights worn on each ankle is the most favorable for enhancing your exercise. They can already increase the calorie burn rate by 5 to 15 percent.

Do ankle weights strengthen knees? ›

As you get stronger, you can add light ankle weights to increase the resistance. Your kneecaps will love you for this one! Your hamstring muscles will also get an excellent stretch in the process, as you strengthen your quads.

What does walking with ankle weights do? ›

Ankle weights can help increase bone density.

"Resistance exercises are the best types of workouts to help improve bone mass and strength," since working out with resistance (such as ankle weights) improves bone mass density and reduces the risk of fractures.

Should you use weights everyday? ›

While lifting weights every day will help you reach your strength and power goals, it's important to make sure you let your muscles properly recover, so it's best to avoid training the same muscle group every day. If your goal is to build muscular endurance, recover at least 24 hours between workouts.

How long should I wear ankle weights? ›

MayoClinic.com recommends avoiding ankle weights during up-tempo activities such as brisk walking. For moderate activities, such as walking around your home and office, ankle weights can be suitable. Build up to their use slowly. Instead of trying them for an entire day, wear the ankle weights for an hour at a time.

Will wearing ankle weights all day tone my legs? ›

Ankle weights can also increase calorie burning and weight loss. They can improve muscle tone. They can add variety to your workouts. They can even help you lose that stubborn abdominal fat.

Is it safe to walk with ankle weights? ›

"Most trainers and clinicians actually don't recommend using ankle weights during walking," Dr. Malek told POPSUGAR. She explained that it's not advised to walk with ankle weights because the repetitive motion can cause a greater load on the knees, hips, and back, which impacts your natural gait pattern.

Can you wear ankle weights all the time? ›

Thus, you should slowly incorporate ankle weights into your routine. It's also important to include periodic breaks — so it's not wise to wear ankle weights all day. You should also avoid jumping, to prevent muscle and tendon damage.

Does walking with ankle weights build muscle? ›

Weights provide a combination of cardiovascular and strength training, which help build muscle. Making your walking routine harder enables you to spend less time working out. The addition of ankle weights will help tone your calf, thigh and abdominal muscles, buttocks and the back of your legs.

What muscles are strengthened by ankle weights? ›

The Benefits of Ankle Weights

If used correctly, they can help strengthen your calves, quadriceps, and glutes, says Benner. They can also create more resistance in your exercises and force you to consider the importance of body alignment when you perform certain movements.

How can I increase my bone density after 70? ›

Dr. Dreger offers 5 tips for combating that bone loss:
  1. Think calcium. Women up to age 50 and men up to age 70 need 1,000 milligrams daily; women over 50 and men over 70 should get 1,200 milligrams daily.
  2. And vitamin D. ...
  3. Exercise. ...
  4. Don't smoke. ...
  5. Drink alcohol moderately, if at all.
31 Jul 2020

How long does it take to build bone density? ›

The bone-building phase in young adults -- at its speediest -- takes three to four months, and it may take a lot longer if you have osteoporosis or are older. So you won't be seeing big changes on any bone density tests after your first week of working out. Bones change slowly -- but they do change.

What exercises should be avoided with osteoporosis? ›

If you have osteoporosis, don't do the following types of exercises: High-impact exercises. Activities such as jumping, running or jogging can lead to fractures in weakened bones. Avoid jerky, rapid movements in general.

How many calories do you burn wearing ankle weights? ›

According to the American Council on Exercise, wearing ankle weights that weigh between 1 and 3 pounds causes an increase in your oxygen uptake and calorie burn of up to 10 percent. Thus, if you burn about 400 calories on your run, you might burn as many as 440 calories with the addition of ankle weights.

Is it beneficial to carry weights while walking? ›

Carrying extra weight while walking encourages the body to work harder and can therefore burn more calories,” says Ahmed. However, as with any exercise routine, he says it's important to take it slowly and gradually increase the weight you carry and the distance you walk.

Are ankle weights good for losing weight? ›

Weighted vests and ankle weights are great for burning calories and losing weight. By using these simple pieces of exercise equipment, you're able to combine strength training and cardio into one workout.

How can seniors strengthen their ankles? ›

Here are some foot and ankle exercises that will do wonders for your body.
  1. Ankle Circles. One of the keys to maintaining your balance is having strong ankles. ...
  2. Heel Stand. Another key to keeping your ankles strong and flexible is regular stretching. ...
  3. Butt Squeezes. ...
  4. Ankle Pumps. ...
  5. Heel to Toe. ...
  6. Tightrope Walk. ...
  7. Rock the Boat.

How do you strengthen your legs with ankle weights? ›

The best ways to use ankle weights

Select a combined ankle weight between 1% and 2% of your body weight. Wear the weights around your ankles 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.

Are wrist and ankle weights good for seniors? ›

Some of the weight-bearing exercises that might be good for your senior include: Ankle and wrist weights. Normal daily activities can be turned into weight-bearing exercise simply by the addition of ankle or wrist weights.

Do ankle weights help abs? ›

Are ankle weights good for abs? Ankle weights are a good addition to ab exercises to target lower abs and oblique muscles and force your core to work extra hard. They are great for leg lifts, V-ups, and bicycle crunches.

Does cycling strengthen ankles? ›

Cycling: Pedalling strengthens the muscles of the ankle without it taking the weight of the body. Aquabiking is also a good idea, combining the advantages of both practices.

What are ankle weights filled with? ›

How Are Wrist/Ankle Weights Used? Wrist and ankle cuff weights are weights that are strapped around the wrists and ankles, and are generally filled with steel shot or sand, usually weighing between one to ten pounds.

What is the best exercise for arthritic knees? ›

Examples of low-impact aerobic exercises that are easier on your joints include walking, bicycling, swimming and using an elliptical machine. Try to work your way up to 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise per week. You can split that time into 10-minute blocks if that's easier on your joints.

What exercises should I avoid with knee pain? ›

Avoid jarring exercises such as running, jumping, and kickboxing. Also avoid doing exercises such as lunges and deep squats that put a lot of stress on your knees. These can worsen pain and, if not done correctly, cause injury.

Do ankle weights tone your stomach? ›

Toning your abdomen. This is one of the surprising benefits of ankle weights. Not all people know this, but wearing weighted bands on your ankles is actually an excellent way to tone and strengthen your abdominal muscles.

Are 1 pound ankle weights effective? ›

The best weight for ankle weights varies from one person to the next based on strength level, experience and joint health. For most people, a good guideline is to start with 1 to 2 pounds per leg, explains Kristen Gasnick, DPT, a board-certified physical therapist at Holy Name Medical Center in New Jersey.

How do you use ankle weights for glutes? ›

Secure the ankle weight to your right ankle. Get down on all fours with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and knees directly beneath your hips. Keep your back flat and arms fully extended. Keeping your knees bent and hips squared to the floor, lift one knee out to the side like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant.

How should a beginner start working out? ›

Start slowly and build up gradually.

Give yourself plenty of time to warm up and cool down with easy walking or gentle stretching. Then speed up to a pace you can continue for five to 10 minutes without getting overly tired. As your stamina improves, gradually increase the amount of time you exercise.

What happens to your body when you start strength training? ›

Strength training can help you manage or lose weight, and it can increase your metabolism to help you burn more calories. Enhance your quality of life. Strength training may enhance your quality of life and improve your ability to do everyday activities. Strength training can also protect your joints from injury.

How long does it take to see results from weight training? ›

It can take about three to four weeks to see a visible change. You'll see some real results after 12 weeks, but it "all depends on your goals, and what type of strength training you are doing," says Haroldsdottir. Muscles are made up of two different types of individual muscle fibers: type one and type two.

Will 2 pound weights do anything? ›

You don't have to lift 30-pound dumbbells to tone up and see gains at the gym. In fact, lighter weights can be just as effective as heavy ones, according to a 2010 McMaster University study.

Are wrist and ankle weights good for you? ›

Wrist, Ankle Weights May Lead to Injury, Physical Therapists Warn. And it's not just muscle-related injuries. "If someone has poor balance and is at risk of falls it could be bad and potentially increase their risk for falls even more," Briggs says.

Are ankle weights any good? ›

Ankle weights are one of the most essential tools in creating toned, lean legs and a lifted butt. The added weight allows the muscles to activate and work just hard enough to become prominent without breaking down and bulking, allowing you to feel muscles that you normally keep dormant.

Will wearing ankle weights build muscle? ›

Ankle weights add to the weight and resistance your body bears as you move. In doing so, they make your muscles work harder. Making your muscles work harder, in turn, makes your muscles stronger over time. Wearing ankle weights can increase muscle mass in the calves, quads, and glutes.

Is it OK to wear ankle weights around the house? ›

MayoClinic.com recommends avoiding ankle weights during up-tempo activities such as brisk walking. For moderate activities, such as walking around your home and office, ankle weights can be suitable. Build up to their use slowly. Instead of trying them for an entire day, wear the ankle weights for an hour at a time.

Are ankle weights good for losing weight? ›

Weighted vests and ankle weights are great for burning calories and losing weight. By using these simple pieces of exercise equipment, you're able to combine strength training and cardio into one workout.

What happens when you walk with ankle weights? ›

"Most trainers and clinicians actually don't recommend using ankle weights during walking," Dr. Malek told POPSUGAR. She explained that it's not advised to walk with ankle weights because the repetitive motion can cause a greater load on the knees, hips, and back, which impacts your natural gait pattern.

What is the purpose of ankle weights? ›

Benefits. Exercising while wearing 1 pound to 3 pound ankle weights may raise your heart rate by about three to five beats per minute. It may also boost your oxygen consumption by 5% to 10%. Wearing ankle weights while walking may also make your gluteus medius muscle work harder.

Do one pound ankle weights do anything? ›

One of the best ways to boost your endurance and stamina is to wear ankle weights. According to the American Council on Exercise, wearing one-pound to three-pound weights can increase your heart rate by up to 3 to 5 beats per minute. It can also raise your oxygen consumption by up to 10 percent.

How heavy should ankle weights be? ›

They maybe lightweight but eventually, you'll notice your strength and endurance improve. Ace Fitness says that 1 to 3 lb ankle weights worn on each ankle is the most favorable for enhancing your exercise. They can already increase the calorie burn rate by 5 to 15 percent.

What muscles are strengthened by ankle weights? ›

The Benefits of Ankle Weights

If used correctly, they can help strengthen your calves, quadriceps, and glutes, says Benner. 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 muscles are worked with ankle weights? ›

Dr. Anthony Luke, assistant professor of orthopedics and director of primary care sports medicine at UC San Francisco, says that ankle weights make muscles, such as hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes, work harder to do the same motion.

How many calories do you burn wearing ankle weights? ›

According to the American Council on Exercise, wearing ankle weights that weigh between 1 and 3 pounds causes an increase in your oxygen uptake and calorie burn of up to 10 percent. Thus, if you burn about 400 calories on your run, you might burn as many as 440 calories with the addition of ankle weights.

Is it beneficial to carry weights while walking? ›

Carrying extra weight while walking encourages the body to work harder and can therefore burn more calories,” says Ahmed. However, as with any exercise routine, he says it's important to take it slowly and gradually increase the weight you carry and the distance you walk.

Does walking with ankle weights burn more calories? ›

Ankle weights help with faster weight loss by burning 5 to 15 percent more calories than walking without weights. Weights provide a combination of cardiovascular and strength training, which help build muscle. Making your walking routine harder enables you to spend less time working out.

Are ankle weights Good for abs? ›

Are ankle weights good for abs? Ankle weights are a good addition to ab exercises to target lower abs and oblique muscles and force your core to work extra hard. They are great for leg lifts, V-ups, and bicycle crunches.

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