How to Use Ankle and Wrist Weights Safely
Ankle and Wrist weights can speed up training and help you lose weight faster, but they can also be harmful, even dangerous, if used indiscriminately. While doing some in depth research for this article I read with dismay that wearing ankle and wrist weights is often recommended for the wrong kind of activities.
This article is particularly important for beginners, but it will also help many of you at intermediate or advanced levels to understand the pros and cons of using ankle and wrist weights in your workouts.
How Dangerous Can Ankle and Wrist Weights Be?
Even people at more advanced and professional levels, who should know their bodies well enough to use ankle and wrist weights responsibly, can learn something new here to prevent the risk of injury and permanent damage to the body.
Ankle and Wrist Weights Dos and Don'ts
Use weights that are filled with water or sand and are made of breathable material.
Don't keep ankle or wrist weights on all day or sleep with them on.
Wait until you can raise your legs 90 degrees while lying down before adding ankle weights.
Don't use them if you are already carrying a lot of extra weight on your body.
Use weights with gravity while stretching.
If you are overweight, don't use weights for strength or endurance.
What Are the Best Ankle and Wrist Weights?
Ankle and wrist weights are usually filled with fine lead or iron powder, not very environmentally friendly when disposed of. Try to find some that use water or sand as filling. Tie them around the wrists or ankles with Velcro straps. On the outside, they should be made of some breathable nylon material.
I found the best ankle and wrist weights at Amazon.
They last a lot longer than previous ones I had bought in the shop. The ankle weights are particularly useful for doing high kicks lying supine on the floor. Once you pass the 90 degree mark the extra weight really helps to stretch the hamstrings much further.
When to Wear Weights
Ankle and wrist weights are used to increase the workload in the following three areas of fitness:
- Strength and Endurance
Doing regular exercise needs enough devotion without making it more difficult with extra weights, right? An overweight person already carries too much weight for their skeleton. But if you have reached a certain level of fitness and are very short of time, wearing ankle or wrist weights may speed up your training provided they are used with proper caution and awareness.
Wear weights while walking, jogging, running, sprinting, step aerobics, cycling, swimming, kick boxing, karate, and even treadmill exercise to accelerate weight loss, strength, and endurance.
Avoid keeping weights on too long. It is hard on the body to carry extra weight all day (or all night) so don't keep them on for the entire day or sleep with them on.
Strength and Endurance for Advanced Users Only
No adult has a perfect posture. No gait is absolutely correctly balanced. Therefore any activity that requires the entire body's weight to land with impact on the ground—like walking, running, or aerobics—will aggravate the faults and imbalances in the ankle, knee, hip, spine, and neck without adding any extra weight. And let's face it: Most of you guys and gals who are so keen on getting fit already carry the extra weight on your bodies anyway. So, don't use ankle or wrist weights for endurance and strength training unless you're a pro.
Weights With Certain Toning Moves
If you are trying to firm up your triceps (backward arm lifts) or buttocks (lying prone, lifting a leg up) and don't have a lot of time before the holidays, by all means, wear the weights. Be sure you don't strain your back in doing so. See this article on counter moves to avoid injuries.
Using Weights With Gravity Inversion Stretching
The main requirement for flexibility is that the area to be stretched should be relaxed. It is impossible to stretch a muscle or tendons when the muscle is contracted. That is a paradox, a contradiction in terms. We can use weights with the assistance of gravity to help stretch the hamstrings, as in the two Scooping Kick moves described below.
Scooping Kicks With Gravity and Weights
The way to get the most out of this exercise is with visualization. Imagine that you are lying on the beach. Scoop up some sand with one foot and throw it as far as you can over your head. I recommend you close your eyes during this imaginary experience so you can really concentrate on what you are doing. That way, you won't get any sand in your eyes (ha-ha).
- Lie on the floor on your back, on a mat or or your bed.
- Bend one leg and raise the knee as far as you can without bending or lifting the other leg.
- Bring the foot back down to the floor.
- Straighten that leg and raise it up as high as you can while leaving the other leg on the floor. Keep both knees straight.
- Bring the first leg down to the floor again
- Repeat alternating a knee lift with a full leg lift eight times.
- Repeat steps 2-5 with the other leg.
How high does your foot reach with the leg raised? If it does not reach 90 degrees, don't use weights. Once your foot passes the 90 degree mark, you may wear ankle weights. With extra weight tied to your ankle, your legs wants to go downwards with gravity. To stretch your hamstrings fully, all you need to do now is to keep one straight leg up there, past the 90 degree mark, while relaxing the hip joint.
Why the 90 Degree Stretch is Crucial
In the above moves, once your foot passes the 90 degree mark you may wear ankle weights, but not before.
Wearing weights before you can achieve this stretch will make it harder and take longer to stretch. When you can reach the 90 degree point, the ankle weight and gravity actually help your foot go down further and further towards your head. Once you are past the vertical (90 degrees), your hamstrings can stretch in a painless, almost passive way.
Isolation and Coordination
With more practice you will be able to isolate the coordination of the only two necessary actions of kicking up and bringing the leg down. Concentrate on:
- Keeping the knees straight requires a certain amount of tension in the thigh.
- Controlling the action in the hip joint so it stays as relaxed as possible to allow for maximum movement range.
- Keeping the hamstring muscles (behind the knee) relaxed.
Hopefully not to the point of being chair-bound or chair-shaped as shown by Juliette Kando in the next video.
Scooping High Kicks in a Side Lying Position
- Lie on your side on the floor (on a mat) or or your bed. Keep the knee of the lower leg bent to create a more stable structure for maintaining this position.
- Raise your upper knee up towards your shoulder.
- Bring it down to the floor.
- Now raise the whole leg up as high as you can while keeping the knee straight and leaving the other bent leg on the floor.
- Bring the upper leg down to the floor again.
- Repeat eight to sixteen times.
- Turn around onto your other side and repeat steps 2-6 with the other leg.
Arm Swings and Circles
Using Wrist Weights With Arm Swings and Circles
Master this exercise without wrist weights first. Arm swings and circles are perfectly suited to be practiced with wrist weights on, but you might tear a muscle or ligament if you have not mastered it on its own first.
- Swing one arm up as far as it will go without turning the wrist.
- Swing the same arm down and back to its limit.
- Repeat eight times or more.
- Now do a full backward arm circle and repeat that eight or more times until all the stiffness and crunchy noises have vanished from your shoulder joint.
- Repeat with other arm.
Once familiar with these moves you can go much faster to allow momentum and gravity to fully loosen your shoulder joint.
CAUTION: Start slowly and remember my motto: "No Pain, Just Gain!"
I hope that this article on ankle and wrist weights has clarified some of the myths and taught you how to use them properly and safely on your arm or leg.
Please contribute to the questions/answers below to learn more!
© 2009 Juliette Kando