Ankle Weights Workout, Is it Good or Bad?

By Justin M. Carmel PT, DPT

Do Ankle Weights make your Ankles Stronger?

Ankle weights do not directly target the muscles that attach to ankles. They are simply weights that you wrap around your ankles to increase general lower extremity strength and to improve endurance. Another efficient use is to strengthen specific areas of your body that may be harder to target with dumb bells.

Working out and performing exercises with ankle weights on can be an efficient way to get in shape JOI Rehab

Image of person putting on Ankle Weights

Are these Weights Good or Bad?

Ankle weights are a frequently used training tool marketed to the general population as a way to improve general strength and physical fitness. The vast majority of them consist of as mini sandbags that directly attach around your ankles with a Velcro strap. Typically these weights range from 1–10 pounds.

What are Weighted Ankles Good For?

A large amount of research has suggested that they may be beneficial for improving your walking dynamics and helping reduce body fat. In addition to, reducing the chance of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, for older adults, wearing weights around the ankle may improve knee joint repositioning and may be advantageous for improving balance in individuals recovering from strokes. Moreover, it seems evident that these weights offer some advantage to general fitness and can also be safely used by the majority of healthy individuals. That being said, they are far from a comprehensive fitness solution and are best utilized as just a piece of a complete fitness program that also incorporates weight training and aerobic exercise.

How much have they been Studied?

Ankle weights are not a brand new invention and research on them dates to 1990 and even earlier. While there’s less widespread research on these weights as a training method compared with other fitness training methods, recent research has shown that they may be useful for several different applications.

Clinical use of Ankle Weights

The primary use for these weights in a clinical setting is for:

  • Improving walking gait in older adults
  • Balance rehabilitation in people who have experienced a stroke
  • In physical therapy, ankle weights attached to the ankle are a way of strengthening the hip, knee and thigh muscles.  Ankle weights can also be attached to the foot and arms for other strengthening purposes.

Ankle Weights for General Fitness Improvements

When it comes to general fitness for healthy individuals, ankle weights may be beneficial as well. For example, a 2016 Malaysian study found that wearing a 1 pound ankle and wrist weights 3 times weekly for 20 minutes lowered test subjects waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, and body fat percentage by the conclusion of the 6-month study period. While more research is required to replicate these results, this study implies that wearing weights around the ankle may be a useful instrument for improving the above listed health measures.

A great way to optimize your bicycle workout is to wear ankle weights while doing it. JOI Rehab

Person Working out with Ankle Weights

How Heavy Should your Ankle Weights Be?

It was found that healthy adults that wear weights using 1–2% of a person’s total body weight can be an effective tool for amplifying the walking factors of adults without symptoms when worn on the ankle. This information comes from a study performed in 2017 on gait mechanics.

Do Ankle Weights Actually Work?

Research suggests that ankle weights may be beneficial for healthy adults for both fitness and movement improvements.

Written By: Justin Carmel PT, DPT

Watch this YouTube Video from JOI Rehab: Basic Ankle Exercises

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