A little bit of extra (well-placed) weight around your feet can take your workout to the next level.
Selena Gomez walks around Disney with them. And Kayla Itsines never flies without them. Ankle weights are having a serious moment right now. And trainers agree the fitness accessory of the '80s has staying power in both a healthy lifestyle and a workout routine of today.
But how can ankle weights help your fitness—and how exactly do you use them? We touched base with experts to find out.
The Benefits of Ankle Weights
Part of the reason ankle weights are so great is that they're versatile. You can bring them anywhere, strap them to your feet while traveling (if Kayla does it, you can, too), and use them on your ankles or in your hands as weights if you're stuck at a gym-less hotel, says Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S., author of Lift to Get Lean.
When used correctly, ankle weights can *also* target and isolate muscles that grow weak (the glutes, which are inactive all day from sitting, for example). They can be useful in a physical therapy setting, too—say if you're suffering from something like injured or weak hamstrings or knee issues, notes Perkins. (Related: This Boxing-Style HIIT Workout Is Designed for People with Knee Pain)
They allow you to move freely and perform movements you can't with traditional weight equipment. (Have you ever tried doing a donkey kick with a dumbbell? Case in point.) "Ankle weights allow you to move in nearly every direction and rotation imaginable," says Perkins. This is particularly important for hip work. "The hip is a 'ball joint' that moves in all directions. It's important to strengthen the numerous movement patterns and large and small muscles that are at play."
Even simply walking around with them on your feet can make a difference. Wearing ankle weights can add impact forces, which may help with maintaining bone density, says Michele Olson, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and adjunct professor at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, AL. (Related: The Low-Impact Walking Workout for Every Fitness Level)
[[ What is #BBG and #BBGstronger ]] BBG is the name of the program @tobi_pearce and I created in the @sweat app ! It focuses on 28-minute resistance sessions 3-4 x per week, but is specially designed for women who don’t have access to gym machines! (Requires minimal equipment) #BBGstronger (my second program) incorporates gym-based equipment/machines as well as free weights! From week 1 onwards it will take you on a journey, allowing you to take your strength to another level. I want women to walk into the gym with CONFIDENCE. I want to teach women NOT to be afraid of weights, and instead use them to strengthen their bodies from the inside out! Whatever program you choose, know that both Tobi and I put our hearts, blood, sweat and tears into it (literally) !! You got this ladies Visit www.kaylaitsines.com/app (link in bio)
How to Use Ankle Weights
If you're using ankle weights to walk, keep them light—3 to 5 pounds max. Any more weight can alter your stride, placing stress on your low back and pelvis, says Olson.
For specific exercises, you can use 5- to 10-pound weights on each leg (or less weight), but the right weight varies for everyone. "The perfect weight load for any exercise is one where the last two reps of every set are really hard to complete," says Perkins.
Interested in exercising with ankle weights? Pick up a set and secure them around your ankles for these three exercises, demonstrated by Perkins in her Instagram video below.
Years ago I pulled a hamstring muscle and my brilliant physical therapist made me start using ankle weights to rehab. . I still use and LOVE ankle weights because they are so versatile and allow you nearly every range of motion possible. . Being a “ball and socket” (spheroid) joint, the hip needs some very specific ranges of motion to stay stable and injury free. . Women in particular need these three movements to ensure healthy and stable hips and knees. . These are 3 of my favorite ankle weight moves for Glutes, Hams and Glute Medius (as a hip stabilizer). . Start with 3 pound ankle weights to ensure you can perform a FULL range of motion for each move without rotating your pelvis and moving your spine. Observe foot positioning Keep your core braced and contracted so that your pelvis stays super stable. . Try these out and let me know! #fitspo #fitness #strengthtraining #fitnessmotivation @shape
Make sure you can perform a full range of motion for each move without rotating your pelvis or moving your spine. Keeping your core braced will help stabilize your pelvis.
Prone Leg Lifts
Ankle weights can make most of the facedown exercises we do for our glutes more effective. "Nearly every client I have ever worked with has significantly weak glutes," says Perkins. "Ankle weights are brilliant for loading the glutes in a way that isolates them, without requiring much involvement from the hamstrings." (Related: 5 Reasons It's Important to Have a Strong Butt)
Side Leg Lifts
Ankle weights can enhance the intensity of lateral glute work, activating the gluteus medius muscles that tend to be super weak but are key for hip stabilization, says Perkins. "Ankle weights are perfect for correcting this imbalance that often leads to knee problems." Flip over and lie faceup, too, if you want. "Doing leg lifts in this position enhances quad activity, which is a boon for keeping your knees healthy," says Olson.