Ankle weights have been part of training for centuries. These weights make the body work harder, so you can see more strength and cardiovascular gains in less time. However, ankle weights also have a dark side. That extra weight can result in everything from strains to actual injuries.
What are Ankle Weights?
Ankle weights come in a variety of materials. Traditionally, the loads are tucked into a stretchy band. This band then fits around your calf, though not so snugly it cuts off circulation. The amount of weight is usually but not always adjustable, so you can work with different intensities.
Ankle weights amp up how much exertion you do during your cardiovascular workouts, which translates into more calorie burn. The extra weight means you must work harder. In turn, this results in better cardiovascular fitness. However, you should not use ankle weights for every workout or when they interfere with your movement.
The extra weight placed on your ankles is not natural. Therefore, your body needs to compensate. This puts extra strain on your joints all the way up to your hips. Ankle weights also strain muscles, which can result in fatigue. Experiencing these symptoms means you need to reevaluate the weight.
Pro: Muscle Strength
Just like when you add more weights to a barbell, ankle weights affect the training outcomes. Generally, the resistance added by ankle weights is light. However, this is ideal for you if you’re pushing for just a little more muscle in your legs. In fact, some senior groups use ankle weights in place of more heavy-duty machines. The light resistance helps many build muscle strength.
Ankle weights are not without risks. Beyond strain, there is a real possibility of injury. Since leg muscles are not improved evenly while using ankle weights, the imbalance can cause problems. Additionally, repetitive strain can result in muscle tears and joint damage. While this is unlikely in a healthy person, if you have a previous joint injury in your ankles, knees, or hips, you’re at increased risk. Ankle weights can even exacerbate injuries you didn’t realize you have.
The best method of avoiding injury with ankle weights is observation. Using ankle weights while exercising should not cause an increase in your pain level. Additionally, you should not have to alter your stride while using ankle weights. Changing your stride means you will use different muscles not suited to carrying weight, which may result in pain. If you experience pain with ankle weights, please seek medical advice.