Adding an element of resistance is the idea behind using weights to enhance your workout. Under that line of reasoning, you might think that by strapping some padded, weighted bands around your ankles you'll get more out of your typical fitness routine, whether it is jogging, aerobics or Pilates. It's true that ankle weights allow you to effectively add weight to your workout without having to manage a set of dumbbells, but ankle weights are better for some activities than others.
Sure, wearing ankle weights while you jog or perform plyometric exercises can up the ante when it comes to burning calories and fat, but they aren't the safest way to go about powering up. Ankle weights present an increased risk of straining your ankle joints and the muscles in your legs, not a worthwhile tradeoff when you consider that an injury could keep you from working out for an extended period of time. Plyometric exercises are explosive and intense enough on their own and don't need the added resistance and strain of ankle weights. And when walking or jogging, instead of securing weight to your ankles, try increasing your speed, alternating between walking and jogging or jogging and running for added intensity and fat burning.
Useful for Rehab
Physical therapists have found ankle weight training to be useful when helping a patient to rehab a leg injury. They're small enough to provide the injured joint or muscle with a challenge to rebuild strength and flexibility without the threat of further injury. Ankle weights are effective for nearly any physical therapy exercise on the legs from the hip flexors down to the knees, and even the feet and ankles themselves.
Kickboxing, Taekwondo and Kung Fu
If you practice martial arts for skill, enjoyment or a stimulating aerobic workout, ankle weights can help you with your kicking speed and muscular endurance in your legs. It's important to not overload your legs with weights that are too heavy, though, and to use ankle weights correctly to avoid injury. Start out with 2-pound weights and build up from there. Don't push yourself, either. Keep your focus on proper form and technique instead of speed, keeping your kicking at about three-quarters of the speed you normally kick.
Ankle Weight Exercises
Being a weightlifting accessory that you attach to your ankles, obviously the exercises that benefit from their use are leg movements. Knee extensions, hip adductions and abductions and straight leg hamstring extensions are all effective leg exercises that safely benefit from the addition of some extra resistance when you use ankle weights.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.