Does Training with Ankle Weights on Really Help?

Inside the training center at the school I work at we have several sets of ankle weights. We utilize them for doing various hip strengthening exercises. Commonly however the athletes ask about why we do not train in them more frequently for things like running or agility drills. The basketball team even tells me that their coach for one of their club teams has them wear them when they play, yikes.

Using ankle weights can be a tremendous advantage to your current training system when used properly. When worn to do exercises like leg lifts, lateral leg lifts, fonda Lifts, Prone leg lifts, or even hand leg opposites, the added demand the ankle weights provide can make a tremendous difference. Beyond these types of supported moves however, you start to enter the realm of negative returns on your exercises.

We have discussed the importance of posture and skeletal alignment in regards to your training programs. Many athletes have various imbalances in their bodies that create variations in their gait pattern and their efficiency of movement laterally as well. If we think of one of our athletes who has a gait pattern that is not overly efficient such as poor muscular engagement in the hips causing them to generate linear motion by whipping the lower leg in a circular fashion for example, adding resistance to this will create more harm than good in our opinion.

The ankle weights obviously apply more resistance to everything you do when you are wearing them but unless you have an athlete with a perfect gait pattern and no inefficiency in their movement in any direction you do not want to have them train in them. Lack of efficiency in your movement comes from poor muscular development or muscular imbalances. These imbalances can put your joints into a compromised position where they are beginning to suffer some wear and tear.

Problems like tendonitis, shin splints, chronic ankle sprains, and the plethora of other lower body ailments are all from improper muscular function. Adding the ankle weights will only enhance these imbalances and make the potential for these injuries even greater. The additional weight added down by the ankles will create higher levels of stress around the knee and ankle joint. Many trainers think this will make them stronger but like always we look for the potential negative side effects. Imbalances that you may have in the legs will only become more prevalent if you do movement training with them on.

Use Ankle weights as a tool to help build some strength in supported positions. I know of many great abdominal moves and hip strengthening moves that are perfect for the ankle weights. Playing basketball or running in them are not two of them. This is dangerous and foolish in our opinions. Goal number one in all training you do should be to improve the efficiency of your athletes, not enhance their imbalances.

6 Comments on this post

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  1. Loren said:

    I totally agree, and I would think the same goes for running while holding dumbbells. While people may think this is getting more of a workout for their arms, or maybe burning calories, what about the negative effects this can have on the shoulders and upper back?

    October 22nd, 2009 at 11:53 am
  2. eric said:

    I have seen people play basketball with ankle weights on and it seems like it would be very dangerous. Ankle sprains already happen a lot during basketball and the added weight on those joints will lead to more problems.

    October 22nd, 2009 at 3:46 pm
  3. Scott said:

    Both good points. Holding the dumbbell while running is very hard on the neck and shoulders. And I also think that wearing them to play basketball is just asking for an injury.

    October 23rd, 2009 at 3:07 pm
  4. JC said:

    I know and understand that running with with weights on your legs and hands is not wise but what about walking lunges. Is it beneficial to wear leg weights and carry dumbells or do the negative effects out way the good.

    October 23rd, 2009 at 5:07 pm
  5. Scott said:

    JC, a few sets of walking lunges is going to have significantly less negative side effects than running in them. I think this is a good example of how to use them since the move is much more controlled and the amount of time you will have them on is minimal. It would be important however to neutralize following the exercise with moves that promote proper alignment of the lower body.

    October 26th, 2009 at 6:42 am
  6. Coach Cory said:

    I saw a 40 year old lady jogging with a limp today and it caught my attention immediately. I tried to figure out what was causing to her run with such difficulty (it looked extremely painful). Then I noticed at the last minute that she was wearing an ankle weight – on only one leg.

    I started cracking up realizing that she was joggin with only 1 ankle weight on – I can only imagine the amount of pain that she was going to be in the next day.

    Ankle weights……. like any kind of weight training – you better know what you’re doing when you use them!

    November 18th, 2009 at 2:36 pm

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