For the most part, ankle weights are not bad for you. They force your muscles to work harder and help you burn more calories. However, they can cause injury if used incorrectly.
If you’re looking for a way to make your cardio a little more challenging or add some extra resistance to core or leg training, ankle weights might seem like a great option. And for most people, they are—ankle weights make your muscles work harder to perform the same motion. This means a better strength workout for your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and more.
The added physical exertion also helps you burn more calories. In fact, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) reports that wearing light weights during exercise was shown to burn up to 15 percent more calories than individuals who do not wear weights.
So how can ankle weights possibly be bad for you?
Well, for starters, ankle weights are like any fitness regimen or piece of workout equipment: they are not for everyone. In particular, those with joint pain should avoid using ankle weights. Because in addition to putting more force on the muscles, they also place significantly greater strain on your joints. This can lead to severe discomfort and even serious injury.
If you don’t have any joint pain or pre-existing conditions, it’s probably safe to start incorporating ankle weights into your workout. But proceed with caution: there are a few precautions you can take in order to optimize your ankle weight workouts and reduce your overall risk of injury.
First, be mindful of what you’re using the ankle weights for. In particular, they are great for walking or swimming! However, strength training requires a little more caution, especially for workouts that involve intense, repetitive motions such as leg lifts or kicks. These motions risk serious damage to the ligaments surrounding the knee when the weights are used improperly.
Next, make sure you aren’t using too heavy of weights. Ankle weights come in all different sizes... some up to 20 lbs. per leg! The ACE specifically recommends that you limit the weight amounts to three lbs. or less when you are using them for walking.
Finally, you shouldn’t be using ankle weights all the time. They are a great workout... but it’s important to give your body a break from the added strain with adequate time to recover.
Even if you feel you are physically able to use ankle weights and can abide by all of the above, it’s still important to speak with your physician before incorporating them into your workouts. Your physician will be able to properly screen you for any pre-existing joint or ligament conditions. They can also make specific recommendations regarding the intensity-level and frequency of your ankle weight workouts.
Possible short-term side effects
- ankle stress
- hip stress
- knee stress
- overextending tendon
- more exertion
- increased cardio
- better leg workout
- training legs in the gym
- running uphill or on rugged terrain