Want strong calves? Ankle weights can add resistance to your workout to help you build great-looking legs. You can build your calves with body-weight training, free weights or a weight machine, and also wear ankle weights to add resistance to these exercise methods. Your muscles grow stronger with each workout and adapt to an increase in weight. Strapping on ankle weights could “shock” your calf muscles into working harder, but using ankle weights incorrectly can lead to injury, so use precaution.
Wearing ankle weights not only adds intensity your workout, but it also improves your cardiovascular health due to an increased exertion during your exercise, according to Dr. Anthony Luke, director of primary care sports medicine at UC San Francisco. Ankle weights are generally comfortable to wear and they allow you to work your calves without the need for expensive workout equipment.
Wearing Ankle Weights
To ensure comfort and avoid injury you have to wear your ankle weights properly. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends you use ankle weights that are between 1 to 3 pounds. If your ankle weights are too light you won’t benefit much during exercise, and if they're too heavy it may alter your motion while you walk or run, which may lead to injury. Wear tall, moisture-wicking socks to prevent skin chafing or other forms of skin irritation. Adjust the fit of the ankle weights to prevent them from slipping up and down your legs as you move.
Standing Calf Raises
For standing calf raises, move your ankle weights above your calf. With this exercise, you extend your heels upward to stretch your calves; therefore, you should strap the ankle weights above your calves to increase resistance. Position your toes and the balls of your feet on a box with your arches and heels hanging off the end. Place one hand on a beam for balance support and the other at your hip. To execute this exercise, raise your heels upward by flexing your ankles. Bend your ankles to lower your heels and repeat. For other calf-building workouts such as calf jumps and the leg press calf raise, you can strap the weights around your ankles.
Ankle weights do have their drawbacks. The additional weights from the ankle straps can put strain on your joints and muscles. However, if you’re not overweight and have no history of joint pain or a bone disease, it's OK to use ankle weights on occasion. Try not to use them every time you work out or if they get in the way of your calf exercises. Remove the ankle weights if you experience pain in your joints during your workout routine.
Frank Yemi has been a professional writer since 2007, and has contributed to several health and fitness magazines. He has worked as a medical fact checker and sports nutritionist in the United Kingdom. Yemi holds a Bachelor of Science in medical physiology, as well as a Master of Science in applied sports nutrition.