Ankle Weights: Pros and Cons (Unveiling the Hidden Risks and Benefits)

When you’ve been toiling at the gym for years, it’s natural to want to raise the stakes a little higher. One good way to do this is to put in some wearable weights while performing different exercises.

Athletes do this all the time. Runners training for their big day would often slip on a pair of ankle weights to make their regime even more painful and difficult.

The idea is pretty simple – you just slip them on and fasten them around your ankles. The added weight will contribute to improving your overall body strength and calorie burn rate. This is because your muscles will now work harder to compensate for the added weight.

Because of how flexible and effective they are, many people have even started wearing ankle weights around the house. But is doing so good for you? Can it really help you maximize the effectiveness of your workouts?

Let’s find out.

Ankle Weights: Pros and Cons

What Do Ankle Weights Do?

The concept of using ankle weights for running, walking, or exercising is pretty simple. You just slip them onto your ankles before you start performing an exercise.

So, what happens when you do this? Basically, you are increasing the resistance on your legs by increasing the weight at the base of your foot. So, the muscles will have to work harder to perform the same kinds of movement.

The main purpose of wearing ankle weights, therefore, is to increase the overall strength of your body and improve endurance. This happens because the increased weight on the base of your foot compels the body to exert more force than it normally would. If you do this often enough, your stamina and strength will improve significantly.

That is not all. Even the simple act of walking with ankle weights can be leveraged to build overall musculature and mass in your leg muscles, including the glutes, the quadriceps, and the calves.

What you are doing is essentially resistance training, as you are lifting your legs frequently against the pull of the ankle weights. In time, if you do this often enough, your muscles will regenerate to be stronger and bigger.

Do Ankle Weights Work?

Do Ankle Weights Work

There is a huge claim that using ankle weights can allow people to burn fat and build leg muscles quicker. In theory, this will probably work because you’re essentially adding more resistance to your exercise.

It’s like moving from a 20-pound plate to a 40-pound plate while performing chest presses. So, you’re bound to see some positive results after a couple of weeks of the switch.

If you are performing cardiovascular and aerobic exercises like running, jumping jacks, or jogging, using ankle weights can help you take the intensity level up a notch. Doing so will definitely help you realize your goals of burning more calories or building stronger muscles quicker.

However, it’s important to remember that ankle weights cannot act as a magic solution. It definitely won’t be able to replace a well-rounded training routine comprising different exercises and dynamic movements.

Incorporating ankle weights into your exercise routine should only be an accessory move for increasing the intensity of your workouts. At the same time, it’s equally important that you wear them properly and safely. Using ankle weights for longer durations can lead to unnecessary strain on your joints and increase the risk of injury.

Overall, the act of running with ankle weights or performing a particular exercise using extra wearable weights is fine. It will increase the resistance and allow your muscles to work harder to complete the same range of motion.

But overusing these ankle weights and other wearable equipment is never a good idea in the long run.

Benefits of Ankle Weights

Benefits of Ankle Weights

Many people have started purchasing ankle weights for walking, running, and performing exercises at the gym. Looking at their popularity, we can safely assume that wearing ankle weights come with a set of benefits.

Let’s explore a few of them:

Improved Stamina and Endurance

Wearing ankle weights while performing strength or cardiovascular exercises increase the resistance on the base of your body. As such, the activated muscles need to exert larger amounts of force to complete the movement.

Doing so for longer periods can help you increase your stamina, thereby improving your cardiovascular shape and pulmonary health.

Builds Leg Muscles

You can build a solid set of calves by performing weighted calf raises. Now, imagine if you start wearing ankle weights while performing this exercise.

Your range of motion will remain the same, but the resistance will increase. As such, your calves will have to work harder to lift themselves up.

Apply this formula to all leg muscles. If you increase the resistance by incorporating wearable weights, it will definitely help you build more muscle quickly while performing the same exercises.

In the case of legs, experts recommend that the key to building more muscle is to increase resistance, not repetitions. So, something as small as ankle weights can help you realize your fitness goals effectively.

Increased Calorie Burn Rates

Adding ankle weights while running, jogging, or performing any exercise that requires work from your muscle is bound to help you burn a few more calories.

This is because your muscles will need to work harder and use up more energy to accommodate the increased resistance. So, your body will end up burning more calories to fuel this process.

Helps in Athletes’ Workouts

Ankle weights are highly versatile. They can be used by anyone – bodybuilders, weightlifters, and even professional athletes.

A lot of popular runners are known to run with wearable weights to build stamina and make their leg muscles stronger.

Similarly, some swimmers use ankle weights while they are in the pool. Doing so will definitely allow them to work on their speed, coordination, and endurance. A big advantage to using ankle weights in water is that there is hardly any risk of joint injury.

In fact, swimmers often wear ankle weights in the pool to work on the strength of their knee and ankle joints.

Improves Proprioception

Proprioception is your body’s ability to sense where it is located, how it’s moving, and what actions it is performing. This sort of kinesthetic awareness is an integral component of our everyday lives and even determines the efficiency of our athletic performance in various fields.

Our knee joint positioning is what dictates the ability’s body to sense its movements and location. As we age or when we suffer injuries, our knee joint positioning is disrupted. Thus, we tend to lose our proprioception, resulting in poor balance and instability.

Fortunately, many studies indicate that using ankle weights as heavy as 1% of your overall body weight under controlled conditions can improve your knee joint positioning. Therefore, using ankle weights can help your body regain its proprioception abilities and make your movements more stable and balanced.

Increases Bone Density 

Low bone density is a common and grave problem for people of all ages, especially in the case of postmenopausal women. Such a deficiency may even lead to acute conditions like osteoporosis and make you more prone to fractures and bone-related injuries. 

Using ankle weights is an efficient way to improve bone density, as it provides additional weight-bearing stress on bones.

This sort of weight-bearing stress can effectively stimulate bone growth and remodeling, resulting in improved bone density. 

Supports Rehabilitative Progress 

Adding light ankle weights can be a good move if you’re following a rehabilitation program and need some controlled resistance to build gradual strength and flexibility in the injured region. 

Many doctors and physiotherapists use such wearable weights to help their patients recover from injuries or surgeries. 


Lastly, using ankle weights is highly convenient. They are easily accessible, inexpensive, and can be incorporated into various exercises to make them more challenging and effective. 

You can even wear ankle weights while walking or running, even when you’re not performing any heavy-duty exercises at the gym. So, it can act as a 24/7 fitness tool to help you accomplish your goals quicker.

Disadvantages of Ankle Weights

Disadvantages of Ankle Weights

Although there are many benefits to incorporating wearable weights into your workout routine, it’s not always a positive thing for your body.

Here are some key disadvantages of using ankle weights:

Causes Joint Stress

According to many experts in the orthopedics field, ankle weights can cause a lot of stress on your joints if you wear them for long durations.

This can also happen if you try to incorporate ankle weights in exercises where they are simply not compatible. So, it’s always good to get a trainer involved while making these decisions and ensure that you only use wearable weights while performing exercises with a controlled range of motion.

Doesn’t Let Muscles Rest

No matter how motivated you are to perform certain exercises, you need to give your tendons, joints, and muscles sufficient rest every once in a while.

Adding weights frequently can cause significant overload in the joints and cause some amount of pain.

Thus, in such a situation, it’s better to increase repetitions instead of increasing the resistance.

Ineffective Compared to Some Exercises

Some aerobic and cardiovascular exercises like stair-climbing and uphill walking are more effective compared to using ankle weights while performing different movements.

The former is also more effective than running with ankle weights for getting a bigger calorie burn.

Can Potentially Limit Your Range of Motion

If you’re using ankle weights that are too heavy for your joints and muscles to handle, it can severely restrict your range of motion by adding resistance to the movements. 

When muscles are not able to complete their full range of motion for long periods, it can lead to a permanent decrease in your range of motion after a while. 

Furthermore, while using heavy ankle weights, you might not perform the exercises using the proper form and technique, forcing your body to make compensatory movements. Apart from increasing the risk of injury, this might also lead to a limited range of motion in the targeted region. 

For example, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), a condition that causes pain in the front part of the knee, is caused due to an overload on the knee joint. Using heavy ankle weights can cause this sort of injury, as it triggers compensatory movements that might put a lot of stress on the knee joint. 

The side effects of PFPS are chronic pain and discomfort. The injury will severely restrict your range of motion in the long run. As such, you should only use ankle weights if they are light enough to not cause excessive stress or pressure on your joints.

Is It Good To Walk With Ankle Weights On?

If your goal is weight loss and strength, walking with ankle weights can help you to some extent.

However, doing so for longer periods can prove to be dangerous and increase the risk of multiple injuries.

According to experts, adding weight to your ankle as heavy as 5 pounds can help you increase the strength and musculature in your calves, quadriceps, and hip flexors. Doing so will also build your core muscles.

However, there are some significant drawbacks as well. Walking with ankle weights can put increased pressure on your knee, increasing the risk of incurring tendonitis and joint issues.

Thus, while ankle weights can be a good tool for increasing resistance and forcing your muscles to work harder while walking, they might also lead to some functional asymmetries.

As such, it’s recommended that you consult a fitness coach or a medical expert before you start walking around with ankle weights for long durations.

Is It Good To Run With Ankle Weights?

Yes, running with ankle weights is common for athletes who are looking to improve stamina and strengthen their leg muscles.

An increased resistance on the base of their foot means that the muscles are working extra hard to perform the same movement (running), thereby improving the body’s endurance.

Other perceived benefits of running while using wearable weights include improved coordination, speed, and hypertrophy in leg muscles.

However, these benefits come at a risk.

The most significant risk of wearing ankle weights while running is that doing so might force runners to change their gait.

This is because the added weight on the ankles will exert more pressure and stress on joints in the hips, back, and knees. When this happens, it will throw off your gait pattern and might even lead to serious injuries and prominent muscle imbalances.

So, running with ankle weights should be done in a controlled and regulated manner under the supervision of a medical expert. If you do it too often, the complications might be severe and irreversible.

Do Ankle Weights Help You Lose Weight?

Yes, ankle weights can help you lose weight to a certain degree as they can provide greater caloric burns. The increased resistance compels your muscles to consume more energy. As a result, you’ll burn more calories while performing the same exercise.

However, losing weight is not all about burning calories. It’s about being in a caloric deficit state. So, other factors like your dietary habits and overall workout regime will have a huge part to play in whether you are losing any weight or not.

It should be noted that solely relying on using ankle weights to lose weight is not a good idea and will definitely not yield effective results.

Are Ankle Weights Safe?

Ankle weights are generally safe if you use them in regulated and controlled situations. Moreover, you should not use wearable weights too frequently for longer durations as excess pressure and stress on the joints can lead to chronic injuries.

Modern-day ankle weights come with additional support to minimize the damage. But as an athlete with respect for your body, you can never be too careful with how you are structuring your workout regimen.

In nutshell, If you’re using ankle weights as an accessory to your overall training plan, it should be safe. But if you are using it as a central component of your fitness lifestyle, you are probably overusing them and increasing the risk of potential injuries.

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Final Words

Ankle weights are highly useful and versatile tools. Everyone who is leading a fitness-centric lifestyle can use them to make their workouts a bit more effective.

But ankle weights do not come without risks. It’s important to study the right way to use these tools so as to maximize their benefits and minimize the associated risks.