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Ankle Weights: Do They Work?

Ankle weights can give muscles a better workout, but they have the tendency to put more strain on the joints. So, is it useful or harmful to wear them? Let's find out!
Scholasticus K Aug 25, 2020
Ankle weights are a type of weighted clothing, generally used for resistance and endurance training and have been used since a long time. It seems like a miracle that how by simply adding a few extra pounds to your ankles with these weights, your body tends to burn fat faster. But do they really work?
Ankle weights definitely work. They are effective, but only if used in the correct manner. These weights are worn around the lower shin. The surface area of the ankle is very small, giving limited room for additional weights. But, as the ankle is located far from the core, a small addition to the body weight can have a huge impact on the fitness.
It is very useful for those who have a busy schedule and cannot give enough time for a complete exercise regime. However, before using ankle weights or any other kind of weighted clothing, seek advice from a professional trainer.

How Do Ankle Weights Work?

Adding weights to the body for a more intensified workout is an age-old practice. Many resistance and cardiovascular workouts are done with extra weights. The ankle weights put extra pressure on the hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteal muscles. The exertion of these muscles contributes to enhanced respiration and blood circulation.
As we know, heavier the object, the more effort you make to pick it up against gravity. The same phenomena applies to ankle weights. By using the same weights on both legs, you are making your body heavier. In return, your body muscles need more energy to accommodate extra weights.
So, your blood pumps faster to give you the necessary energy. This added effort is a very good exercise as it increases the rate of blood circulation, and the body has to burn a lot more calories to contribute energy (in the form of carbohydrates, sugars, and fats). 
According to research, ankle weights increase oxygen intake by 5 - 10 percent & heartbeats by 3 - 5 beats per minute. More exertion on a daily basis eventually burns fat and complex proteins. This eventually makes the muscles healthier. Working out with the help of ankle weights increases the strength of the muscles of the limbs and abdomen.

Training with Ankle Weights

Athletes generally use ankle weights while training to strengthen their legs and build up stamina, before an upcoming event. Use of ankle weights has also proven to increase the speed of an athlete. It is a type of cheat training.
An athlete cheats his/her body muscles into carrying and enduring extra weights during training, while in the main event, without the weights, his/her body feels lighter and, thus, becomes faster. However, most athletes prefer to run more distance than usual, or uphill, rather than using ankle weights.
Ankle weights are very popular amongst walkers. However, most professional trainers and orthopedics advise against its use for walking as it exerts undue pressure on all body joints and can gradually change the gait.
Ankle weights are best for increasing core strength. The exercises that go well with these weights are leg lifts, bicycle crunches, glute kickbacks, side leg raises, leg curling, and leg extensions. Hip adductions and abductions can also be performed with ankle weights.


Ankle weights come in padded straps with either Velcro or belts to attach to your ankles. The padded area is filled with water or sand. They are available in various weights from 1lb to 20lbs, for each leg.

Ankle weights with water in the padding are generally used for Aqua aerobics and by swimmers for speed training.


  • These weights increase the effectiveness of abdominal exercises. Thus, you can strengthen your core with the same workout, but at a faster pace.
  • Ankle weights increase cardiovascular activity, thereby, improving endurance abilities by burning calories faster.
  • Added weights on the leg during targeted muscle exercises, like leg lifts, improve the motion and flexibility. It gradually tones up the leg muscles giving them a slender look.

Risks Involved

  • Exercising with weights attached to the ankles is definitely helpful; however, many physicians suggest that individuals with orthopedic problems should not use these weights. 
Otherwise, ankle weights can be used to do any kind of stressful exercise that includes, sit-ups, pull-ups, leg extensions, military press, bench press, and virtually any exercise that puts pressure on the muscles.
  • Some medical practitioners staunchly discourage the use of such weights if the person has any kind of joint pain, or problems related to bones or muscles. The strain and pressure that is exerted tends to deteriorate the health, and accelerate the condition drastically.
  • If you are using ankle weights for sports training, then a thorough warm-up is an absolute necessity before putting on the weights. If you put on the weights and rush into the training schedule, then you run the risk of a sprain or muscle pull. A gradual warm-up wakes the muscles and prepares them for further endurance training. 
If you feel that any of your muscles are aching, or if you feel that the muscles are becoming sore, then remove the weights and cool down the body by doing some simple running and jogging, or brisk walking.

Best Use

Ankle weights will work effectively if used properly and under proper guidance. Using weights for leg exercises earlier mentioned can be beneficial to build up bone density.
However, if you are using, or planning to use ankle weights for cardiovascular training, then resort to applying these weights to a few of the exercises in your routine, rather than wearing it throughout the regime. This will minimize the risk of any injury and maximize the result of an overall workout.
Ankle weights and other weighted clothing have been designed to increase the effectiveness of your workout routine. Always ask your trainer or physician before you incorporate any new equipment in your exercise schedule.
Disclaimer: This story is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by a fitness expert on the subject.