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Though vaccine rollout efforts are underway and more than 115 million Americans are already fully vaccinated, many people plan to continue working out at home even as it becomes safe to return to the gym. After more than a year of exercising at home, a lot of individuals have already invested in treadmills, stationary bikes and dumbbells, but if you are making your temporary set-up more permanent, you might be looking to invest in some smaller workout essentials to elevate your at-home experience. One easy (and affordable) way to do this is with ankle weights, which can be incorporated into virtually any workout for added resistance. “They are an ideal tool to use when looking to add smaller increments of resistance and strengthen muscle groups,” noted Kristina Jennings, a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) and performance coach with virtual personal training platform Future. Garret Seacat, CSCS, head coach of Absolute Endurance, added that “the goal of the extra weight is to increase strength and tone the legs.”
What are ankle weights?
Ankle weights and dumbbells serve a similar purpose, but they aren’t the same thing. Unlike dumbbells, ankle weights are designed to wrap around your wrist or ankle, like the name suggests. “[They] are form fitting to stay in place while exercising,” Jennings explained. McKay Romney, Utah-based certified personal trainer at Life Time, which offers classes and personal training programs virtually, added that this “makes it easy to increase the load of an exercise while also keeping the hands free.”
According to Romney, ankle weights are very similar to resistance bands in the sense that “they can be used from a standing position or from the ground on all fours to work the legs, hips and glutes.” Though ankle weights don’t usually weigh more than 10 or 20 pounds, he said that they “allow you to put the weight as far away from your center of mass as possible,” which “translates into a little weight feeling like a lot.”
Best ankle weights
There are a lot of ankle weights on the market, so to help narrow down your options, we asked some fitness experts for their top picks, plus added some top rated options from popular retailers like Amazon and Urban Outfitters.
Jennings said that Bala Bangles (one of several similar offerings from Bala) are good “for Pilates-based workouts” since “they are on the lighter side” and fit tightly but comfortably. Seacat also noted that these are “one of the better quality ankle weights available.” These ankle weights — which come in fun colors like Blush Pink and Lavender and weights ranging from 0.5 pounds to 2 pounds — were also a Shopping reader favorite in April.
“If you’re looking for adjustable ankle weights, Perform Better has ankle weights that you can adjust with removable mini weights in the pockets,” Jennings said. These adjustable ankle weights come in two sizes: 5 pounds, or 2.5 pounds per cuff, and 10 pounds, or 5 pounds per cuff.
Romney recommended Sportneer Ankle Weights as another adjustable option. “They are adjustable from 1 to 5 pounds [and] feature an added hook closure that helps keep the weights in place so they don't fall out,” he said. “They are made of neoprene, which ensures they will last a long time.”
Romeny also likes the Synergee Adjustable Ankle Weights for people who are looking for a heavier option, as they can go up to 20 pounds. “I like these because even though they can be heavy, they still allow you to adjust the weight in small increments so you can gradually build your strength without having to make a big jump and sacrifice form,” he said. “They are also made of a durable neoprene, but they are still soft enough to avoid skin irritation. The D-ring design also ensures a snug fit.”
If you prefer to wear your weights on your wrists instead of your ankles, this 4-pound set from FILA is a great option. The thumblock design allows you to hold the weights in place while you move, and the soft neoprene fabric coating the inside ensures comfort. These wrist weights have a 4.5-star rating from more than 1,000 reviews on Amazon.
P.volve’s ankle weights are made of durable and comfortable neoprene and stay situated on your ankle with a Velcro strap. In addition to the 3-pound set, the brand also makes a 1.5-pound set that it says can be used “for toning every part of the legs.” If you buy directly from P.volve’s site, you can add a monthly subscription to P.volve’s streaming service and use your ankle weights to level up in sculpting classes.
At under $20, these 5-pound ankle weights are a relatively affordable option. According to the brand, the Velcro close keeps the cuffs in place, and the inside of each weight is padded for a comfortable fit. The Gaiam ankle weights boast a 4.5-star average rating from more than 2,600 reviews on Amazon.
What are the best exercises to do with ankle weights?
Since ankle weights are typically on the lighter side, Jennings said they are a “beneficial tool to use when it comes to ramping up a workout.” “Ankle weights can also be a great option to add to strength training routines if you are looking to increase weight but want to do it minimally, or if jumping to the next size dumbbell that you have is too much weight,” she said.
According to Jennings, ankle weight can also be used for everything from plyometric-based exercises like box jumps and upper body exercises to hip, glute and quad strengthening exercises for “smaller increments of resistance.” “They strengthen muscle groups and are easy to travel with as they are light and more compact in size,” she said.
As Romney previously mentioned, ankle weights are also great for workouts on all fours like reverse leg extensions, donkey kicks and fire hydrants. “While laying down on the back they can be worn to make exercises like dead bugs, leg raises and reverse crunches more difficult while working your abs and hip flexors,” he added.
Ankle weights are also ideal for injury recovery and rehab, according to Jennings. If you are coming off of an injury, though, make sure you consult your doctor or physical therapist before adding any weight or workouts into your routine.
However you decide to use your ankle weights, Seacat said you should try starting with a lower weight to make sure you’ve perfected your form first. “Always start with a lower weight than you think you can do so you can keep your form perfect for all of the reps,” he advised.
He also noted that one thing you shouldn’t do with ankle weights is go for a walk or run. “The extra weight can cause extreme changes to gait pattern that will lead to knee, hip and ankle pain,” he said. “Continued use can cause long-term damage to joints so leave the ankle weights for when you are doing a workout specifically for them.”