Once considered a better-off-forgotten ‘80s workout fad, ankle weights have re-cemented themselves as a solid part of our fitness routines – after being seen on the wrists of Kayla Itsines, Selena Gomez and tennis star Maria Sharapova.
The need-to-know cult brand? Bala Bangles – velcro hand weights and ankle weights reinvented for the Instagram age. Looking more like a velcro strap bracelet than a weight, these minimalist, candy-coloured bands are low-impact, available in different weights and easy to integrate into your upper and lower body workout routines – no matter how little space you have.
So, what are the benefits of using ankle weights? And what are weighted ankles good for?
As the name suggests, ankle weights are circular weights that you slip on your ankles to add resistance to your workout – most commonly pilates and barre. Ankle weights cab also be used in cardio and HIIT-focused training like cycling, boxing, hiking and bootcamp. As with any weightlifting aids like dumbbells and kettlebells, they’re designed to increase your overall strength, help build lean muscle mass, and improve your endurance.
Do make sure you’re not just whacking them on for any old move. Harvard Health experts recommend using them for leg moves that target your hamstrings, glutes, and core. Leg lifts, crunches, toe taps, and donkey kicks are a good place to start.
Can ankle weights actually help to tone my legs?
As long as you use them correctly, yes! Especially if you add the ankle weights to strength-training exercises that target specific muscle groups — for example, leg raises.
If in-person training sessions aren’t an option right now, check out online streaming classes that specifically use ankle weights in exercises that target the glutes, hamstrings and quads.
How heavy should ankle weights be?
If you’re a walker, you can add three to five-pound (1-2kg) ankle weights to each ankle for your afternoon strolls to encourage engagement of your quad, hamstring, and glute muscles. Just don’t go higher than this, as it’ll likely add too much strain to your stride and make you overcompensate using other muscles.
For your workouts, you can add anything from three to ten-pound (1-4kg) weights to pretty much any routine you like. They work best for pilates, barre, and core and leg specific strength workouts. As explained in our guide to the best kettlebells, the perfect weight differs from person to person, so start low and build your strength gradually to reduce risk of injury.