Ankle and Wrist Weights - How to Use them 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 will also help many of you at intermediate or advanced levels to understand the pro's and con's and do's and don'ts of using ankle and wrist weights in your workouts.
How Dangerous can Ankle and Wrist Weights be?
Even those 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.
Which Ankle Weights?
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.
Walking with Ankle Weights?
We are told to wear them for walking, jogging, running, sprinting, step aerobics, cycling, swimming, kick boxing and karate, as a useful short-cut for losing weight and improving strength and endurance. Some wear them in conjunction with other equipment like skipping, on the treadmill... and some overenthusiastic fanatics keep them on all day to walk, climb stairs or just around the house. Some even sleep with them on at night! Now I ask you, are people insane?
Of course all that sells a lot of one of the most affordable pieces of fitness equipment but does it do more harm than good? Doing regular exercise needs enough devotion without making it more difficult with extra weights. An overweight person already carries too much weight for the skeleton. If you have reached a certain level of fitness and are very short of time, however, wearing ankle or wrist weights may speed up your training provided they are used with proper caution and awareness as explained in a moment.
What are they made of?
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. You tie them around the wrists or ankles with Velcro straps. On the outside they use some breathable nylon material.
Why do people use them?
Ankle and wrist weights are used to increase the workload in the following three areas of fitness: (1) Strength and Endurance, (2) Toning, and (3) Stretching. But how should the weights be used most effectively and safely?
1. Strength and Endurance training - only for advanced users
No adult has a perfect posture. No gait is absolutely correctly balanced. Therefore any activity that involves the entire body weight landing with impact on the ground, like walking, running, aerobics etc. 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 so keen on getting fit already carry the extra weight on your bodies anyway. So: No weights for endurance and strength training unless you're a pro.
2. Toning - recommended in certain 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, but again, be sure you don't strain your back in doing so. See this article on Counter Moves to avoid injuries.
3. Stretching - recommended in gravity inverted moves
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 into gravity to help stretch the hamstrings as in the two Scooping Kick moves described below.
Scooping Kicks into Gravity
The desired dynamic quality for the movement you will be working on can be attained with vizualisation. In this case imagine that you are lying on the beach and scooping up sand with one foot to throw it as far away as possible over your head. I recommend you close your eyes during this imaginary experience so you can really concentrate on what you are doing and also, 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.
- Raise one knee up ( bent leg) as far as you can without bending or lifting the other leg.
- Bring the foot back down to the floor.
- Raise the whole (same) leg up as high as you can while leaving the other leg straight on the floor. Keep both knees straight.
- Bring the leg down to the floor again
- Repeat alternating a knee lift with a full leg lift (2) to (5) above eight times.
- Repeat (2) to (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 and from here on stretching your hamstrings will be a piece of cake.
The extra weight tied to your ankle now 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.
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.
Crucial 90 Degree Mark
In the above moves, once your foot passes the 90 degree mark you may wear ankle weights but not before your hamstrings are loose enough to achieve this .
Well, you may, but it won't help you stretch, it will make it harder and take longer to stretch with the ankle weights on, until that crucial 90 degree point when the ankle weight, pulled down by gravity, actually helps your foot go down further and further towards your head. Once past the vertical (90 degrees), the leg your hamstrings can stretch in a painless, almost passive way.
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 leg on the floor bent to create a more stable structure for maintaining the side lying position.
- Raise one knee up towards your shoulder.
- Bring the leg 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 leg down to the floor again.
- Repeat from (2) to (5) eight to sixteen times.
- Turn around onto your other side and repeat (2) to (6) with the other leg.
Arm Swings and Circles
Arm swings and circles are perfectly suited to be practiced with wrist weights on but not until you master them well without the weights first or you might tear a muscle or ligament.
- Swing the arm up as far as it will go without turning the wrist.
- Swing the arm down and back to its limit.
- Repeat 1. & 2. above 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.
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.
© 2016 JULIETTE KANDO - You may link to this article, but you may Not copy it. Copied content will be reported with a DMCA notice and will be removed.