Exercise Basics

Is It Worth Investing in Ankle (or Wrist) Weights?

Speaking as a trainer, of course my answer is YES!

But, what are they good for, and what are they NOT good for?

Some people invest in ankle or wrist weights thinking that they are going to help them lose weight. That is, by wearing them around the house or when out for a walk, the idea is that it will help burn more calories. Or, the thinking is that adding weight to walking can help to tone muscles more quickly, and get you stronger more quickly.

Does this work, and is it a good idea? If not, what is the best way to take advantage of the investment?

Ok, I’ll admit it. I am going to use the answer to these questions as a teaching moment that speaks to some general principles you can use in your workouts. Hang in there with me. First a few items about wearing ankle or wrist weights around the house or out and about.

  1. If you are wearing weights light enough (1/2 to 3 pounds) to still be able to walk and use your arms comfortably, the extra calorie burn you are getting is minimal.
  2. If you wear light or heavy weights (3 – 10 lb.), it will interfere with your coordination in ways that are unpredictable.
  3. The interference in coordination will also impact many of the benefits you may be getting from being active by slowing you down.
  4. For some folks, the lack of coordination can result in tripping and falling.
  5. Walking with ankle weights involves using momentum to get the job done. Momentum can take your muscles, ligaments, and tendons to a place beyond a safe range of motion, causing injury.
  6. If you are not accustomed to the extra weight, using them in this way can also cause injury to your joints.

The take-home message here is that lifting added weight can be a good thing, but it needs to be done using proper form and kept separate from aerobic endeavors such as walking, running, or riding a bike.

Using extra weight to help burn calories or get stronger (or more toned, if you want to think of it that way) needs to be slower and more controlled than would be the case with aerobic activities. This helps you in the following ways:

  • With slower and more deliberate weight lifting, you recruit muscles and other tissues that help you to stabilize the motion. In this case you are not only working the larger muscles that move you, but you are also training your body to lift safely. Using momentum when lifting weights bypasses that process.
  • Once you have a base of strength, you can start training explosive movements. This, however, is a different process than using momentum (I will talk about this in another blog).
  • Ankle weights in particular can be very useful for strengthening your legs if you apply the slow and controlled principle. They are particularly useful for straight leg raises with you on your back or side. Strengthening in this way helps to protect your knees. You can also work your butt and hamstrings (the back of your legs) by getting on your all 4’s and lifting a straight leg to the horizontal position. And you can work the front of your thighs by straightening your leg while in a seated position (See images below).
  • Another useful thing: You can do these exercises in MINUTES A DAY. You can stick them into your life here and there without having to get your self to the gym or even necessarily change your clothes. You can end up doing something very good for you without having to make a giant commitment to a big workout routine.
Lift for Hamstring and Butt
Lift for Hamstring and Butt
Seated Leg Extension
Seated Leg Extension

One more thing, and this comes from the true confessions department. Some days I just have very little mojo or motivation to work out. On those days, often I can talk myself into doing my leg lifts BECAUSE I CAN DO MOST OF THEM LYING DOWN! Truly. And, I always feel better afterwards.

Stay tuned to my blogs for more ideas of how to tweak your workouts, make them more efficient, and more effective. I would love to hear from you about how you do (or do not) fit exercise into your schedule. Please leave a comment below. Thanks!

© 2016-2020 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.


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