Ankle weights can help or hurt, depending on how you use them. For example, they make lower-body exercises more challenging, but if your movements are too fast, they also increase the risk of injury -- a significant drawback. If your doctor approves incorporating ankle weights into your fitness program, work with a certified fitness instructor to design appropriate exercises that maximize the benefits of ankle weights and minimize the potential for serious injuries.
Increased Energy Expenditure
High-impact exercise is unsuitable for some people. For example, if you have joint problems, you might opt to walk because it results in about 30 percent of the leg shock you experience while running, according to the book, “Essentials of Exercise Physiology.” The downside of walking is it requires less energy, so its fitness benefits are less impressive. Walking burns fewer calories than running. One solution is to wear ankle weights while walking. This increases your energy expenditure without increasing the impact force on the lower-body joints.
On the other hand, brisk walking with ankle weights can cause injuries. The increased strain might strain connective tissue or muscles in your lower body, making injuries more likely, according to MayoClinic.com. For that reason, don’t wear ankle weights without first discussing your situation with your doctor. She might recommend, for example, walking for longer periods or at a brisker pace, rather than wearing ankle weights.
Ankle weights can make lower-body exercises more challenging, strengthening your muscles. For instance, doing hamstring curls while wearing ankle weights can develop your hamstring muscles, according to physical therapist Scott Jurek, as quoted in a March 2007 article in “Runner’s World” magazine. A hamstring curl involves holding the back of a chair for balance while alternating lifting your heels behind you. The advantage of ankle weights is that they allow you to do weight-lifting exercises with a full range of leg motion rather than limiting your movements to a single plane, as resistance machines do, according to Jurek.
Martial artists sometimes use ankle weights to develop kicking strength. While wearing the weights, it’s vital to kick at three-quarter speed or less, focusing on form rather than power. Otherwise, the weights will inhibit your training and possibly cause joint or connective tissue injuries, according to the book, “Achieving Kicking Excellence: Hook Kick,” by Shawn Kovacich.
Stan Mack is a business writer specializing in finance, business ethics and human resources. His work has appeared in the online editions of the "Houston Chronicle" and "USA Today," among other outlets. Mack studied philosophy and economics at the University of Memphis.