- Wearing ankle weights while walking or working out can have a significant impact on your fitness routine.
- Benefits include improved balance, increased calorie burning, and the ability to build muscle faster.
- They can also help revamp any existing workout routine by adding more variety and complexity.
If you’re looking to amp up your pre-morning walk or weekly Pilates class, consider incorporating ankle weights into your routine.
Ankle weights provide an easy way to increase the intensity of your workouts and can have an impact in terms of building muscle, burning calories, and improving overall balance.
A 2017 study published via the National Library of Medicine analyzed the walking behaviors of 27 uninjured people (11 men, 16 women) who wore ankle weights of various sizes. The study found that “varied amounts of weight-bearing can be effective in improving” the way people walk, including distance, cadence, and speed.
A similar study conducted in Japan in 2022 showed that wearing ankle weights allowed older adults to strengthen their lower limb muscles, which may help reduce the risk of falls. Another study found that ankle weight training positively affects body composition while reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
These are just a few of the benefits of using ankle weights in your weekly fitness routine.
It’s also incredibly cost-effective, running anywhere from $20 to $50, depending on the brand. Compared to wearing something like a weighted vest, which can cost upwards of $100 without any weights involved, it’s a much cheaper investment.
To get the lowdown on all things ankle weights, I spoke to three fitness professionals who shared everything from the benefits you can expect to exactly how to use them during your workout.
1. You’ll build muscle mass faster
Let’s start with the obvious: putting more weight on your body can help you build muscle faster.
But don’t just take it from us, Certified Personal Trainer and Founder and Owner of Expert Fitness, Nathan Lloyd, says that “One of the most important benefits of wearing ankle weights is that they can help you build muscle mass and strength.
“The more you lift and hold, the stronger your muscles get, so wearing ankle weights while you perform the exercise is a great way to do it [do this]”,” Says. “When you wear ankle weights, it’s like doing additional exercises from your regular workout. You’re using more muscle groups to complete the same movement, so your muscles have to work harder.”
Lloyd added that because you’re working harder, it increases the amount of energy your body uses to complete the activity, so you “burn more calories and build more muscle mass in less time.”
2. You’ll burn more calories
Calorie intake is an important part of anyone’s fitness routine, regardless of whether they want to lose, maintain, or gain weight.
“While you may think ankle weights are only for building muscle or burning fat, the truth is that they can also help you burn calories,” says Lloyd. “When you wear ankle weights, you increase your center of gravity and increase your weight bearing on the floor, which increases your body’s metabolic rate.”
And Lloyd adds that the added weight also forces your body to work harder to keep up with the increased stress.
“As a result, more calories are burned while exercising than without ankle weights.”
According to Dr. Tom Seaborn, professor of exercise science at Northeast Texas Community College, wearing 5-pound ankle weights may increase calorie burn by up to 25%. For example, a person who weighs about 150 pounds and goes for a brisk 45-minute walk will typically burn about 193 calories. By using ankle weights, that same person can burn up to 48 more calories during the same walk.
3. You can improve your balance
Llyod says adding some weight to your legs can actually help those who do sports that require a lot of coordination. It can also be beneficial for those who do yogis and need help maintaining difficult postures.
The more you wear them, the better your balance and coordination will become as your body gets used to the extra weight.
“Ankle weights can improve your balance and posture by forcing you to use more muscle groups in order to keep your posture upright and balanced,” says Lloyd. “This can lead to increased muscular endurance throughout the day and reduced injuries associated with poor posture.”
4. It will add versatility to your workouts
If you’re new to exercise or just starting to learn the basics, ankle weights can help you add complexity and challenge to your emerging routine.
“It may seem obvious, but resistance equipment like dumbbells or kettlebells requires you to physically hold the weight to complete the exercise,” says Ashley Iwanik, yoga instructor and owner of Collective Studios. “Because ankle weights stick to your body, they expand the types of exercises, planes, and range of motion that you can add resistance to and move through.”
This is especially helpful with a range of leg exercises like lateral leg raises, rainbow leg raises, or even just walking, says Iwanyk.
“Because your legs are extending in these exercises, it can be difficult to add any additional load because there is nowhere to hold the weight securely,” she says. Ankle weights allow you to move freely [with nothing in your hands] And in many different directions.
5. It will target specific muscle groups in your legs.
We all have difficult areas that can be difficult to target with traditional weights. Whether you’re trying to bulk up your glutes or tone your calves, Iwanyk says ankle weights make it easy to add resistance and work out those stubborn muscles.
“The added resistance of leg exercises breaks down and targets smaller muscle fibers that are not easily reached by exercises that are completed with a heavier weight, such as a squat or deadlift, or that may become dormant or weak from inactivity,” he says.
By placing a physical weight on your ankle, she adds, you also deepen your mind-body connection, “drawing your mind into the actual muscle groups that are working.”
“This can help you tone and strengthen not only your legs and glutes, but also secondary muscles like your core,” she says.
6. It will boost your cardio.
Getting your heart rate up is an essential part of anyone’s fitness regimen, no matter what your goals are. To amp up your cardio workouts, personal trainer and Cross Trainer Home owner Christian Mitchell suggests adding ankle weights.
Whether you’re walking, jogging, or hitting an exercise machine, the extra weight forces you to work harder and helps build cardiovascular endurance. By working out harder, Mitchell says, you can also burn more calories and increase your aerobic capacity.
He adds that there is a secondary benefit of attaching ankle weights as well. “It will increase your speed, agility and endurance.”
“The added weight challenges your body, requiring it to engage more muscles and increase your body’s stability,” he says. “This can help you become more efficient in your movements while also preventing injuries.”
An informed takeaway
Whether you’re trying to reach a weight loss goal, gain weight, or just add variety to your workout routine, ankle weights can help change the way you move and have a huge impact on your fitness.
Not only do they allow for a greater range of motion and are able to engage specific muscles, but they can also increase your endurance, build muscle faster, and help burn more calories.