Wearable weights are a great way to change up your current exercises. Ankle weights, wrist weights, and weighted vests can all be used to add resistance, without actually holding onto anything. Wearable weights have many awesome benefits and uses, but should only be used in specific ways.
These are 9 of the best uses for wearable weights and a few suggestions to avoid injury.
1. Use during daily life
One of the easiest ways to use wearable weights is during your normal daily activities, especially walking. You don’t have to plan any specific workout, just put on the weights whenever you are walking around. This could be a trip to the grocery store, walking to work, taking your kids to the park, or even cleaning your house.
These daily activities where you are already on your feet can be turned into muscle-building exercises by simply strapping on some ankle weights. Each step you take will take just a little bit more effort. It usually isn’t enough to notice a strain in the short term, but you will notice results long term.
1-pound weights are usually a good place to start, especially if you have not been working out previously. You can increase the weights as you get stronger in .5-pound or 1-pound increments. You do not want the weights to be too heavy, because you still need to get your task completed before you get tired and when your legs are fatigued, you are more likely to injure yourself.
When you are wearing ankle weights, your leg muscles work a little differently to accommodate. Your quads will have to work a lot harder than usual, while unweighted walking relies on your hamstrings. To prevent a muscle imbalance, you do not want to walk with ankle weights for long periods of time or very frequently.
Try using the weights for about 20 minutes at a time, and only every other day. Consult with a doctor if you have a history of muscle injuries or imbalance.
Wearing weights during a task that you have to do anyway is the perfect method for bus people. You can build your muscles and challenge your body without stressing over another item on your to-do list.
2. Add to your established workout routine
Wearable weights can be used to bump up the intensity of whatever workout routine you have already established. each type of weight can be beneficial to different kinds of exercises. When you are doing leg exercises, add ankle weights. When you are doing arm exercises, add wrist weights. If you are doing a cardio activity or full-body training, try a weighted vest.
You should not use ankle or wrist weights during cardio exercises like running because it increases your risk of injury. The extra weight far away from the core of your body can put you off balance.
Low-impact, anaerobic, strength training exercises can really benefit from wearable weights. Yoga and pilates are great candidates for wearable weights, as long as you have good balance. You should definitely remove weights when attempting new or unstable positions like a headstand for example.
Putting on wrist and ankle weights during your yoga flow can really take the intensity up a notch. You will strengthen all of the muscles you are targeting much faster.
Additional weight strengthens muscles, but not all activities leave you hands-free. Wearable weights allow you to enjoy Zumba, yoga, pilates, and Tae Bo without trapping your hands.
3. Improve leg strength
Ankle weights are ideal for strengthening your leg muscles. There are a ton of different exercises you can do to target various muscles, but they are most effective when you have to work against the resistance of some added weight. A pound or two might not seem like a lot, but it is a significant portion when you are looking at the isolated weight of one leg.
Here are some leg exercises to use with ankle weights:
- Leg raises: Lie flat on your back and raise your legs, and ankles together until your body forms a 90-degree angle. Slowly lower your legs back to the ground, keeping your legs straight the whole time. You can also perform the same motion with one leg at a time, switching sides.
- Donkey kicks: Position yourself in a tabletop form with hands under your shoulders, knees under your hips, and a flat back. Raise one leg at a time off the floor, bringing your thigh in line with your back and maintaining the bend in your knee. Pulse upwards toward the ceiling 5 times before lowering your first leg back down and switching sides.
- High knees: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms straight out in front of you, palms facing down. Raise one leg at a time with a bent knee. Your goal is to touch your kneecap to the underside of your arm and hand. repeat on the other side.
- Abductors: Abductors can be performed standing up, or lying on your side. When standing, alternate sides as you lift your straight leg up and away from the center line of your body to the side. It is a good idea to do this exercise on a cushioned floor or with a spotter because ankle weights can challenge your balance. If laying on your side, raise the upper leg up into the air as far as is comfortable before lowering it back down. DO 5 or 10 reps before rotating to lay on the other side and raise your other leg.
- Hamstring curl: Lay flat on your stomach with your legs extended and hands planted by the sides of your head for stability. alternate legs as you bend at the knee to raise your pointed foot into the air. when the angle of your knee reaches about 90 degrees, lower your foot back down and repeat.
- Single-leg glute bridge: Lie on your back with your heels planted a few inches from your hips. choose one leg to extend upwards, following the angle of your thing on the planted leg. With one leg down and one leg up, raise your hips off the ground using your glute muscles to form a bridge. Lower your hips back down and then repeat. Remember to alternate which leg is raised.
4. Improve arm strength
Wrist weights will increase the intensity of many arm-strengthening exercises. These are some examples of exercises that would benefit from an extra pound or two.
- Arm circles: Extend both arms out to the side in line with your shoulders. move your hands in a circular motion, rotating at the shoulder. You can experiment with moving clockwise or counter-clockwise, small circles or big circles.
- Over-unders: With your arms in the same position as the arm circles, alternate flipping your palms toward the ground, and then toward the ceiling. Try to keep your arms straight and level while flipping. This rotating over and under motion is surprisingly challenging.
- Jabs: You don’t need a punching bag when you have wrist weights. Hold your arms close to your body with elbows bent and your fists balled near your chest. Punch straight out and then bring your arm quickly back to your body before punching with the other arm. You can try wrist weights with multiple different punching styles like an uppercut or roundhouse.
5. Increase endurance
Adding a few extra pounds to your body will force it to work harder. When those pounds are later removed, you will have much better endurance because your body will be used to handling a larger weight. Endurance athletes may benefit from weighted vests, especially during training.
It is not recommended to run with ankle weights, but you can run with a weighted vest. the vest keeps the extra weight close to your natural center of gravity, lowering the risk of imbalance and injury.
You can also wear a weighted vest while biking to increase your body’s endurance.
Beginners should start with a vest that is 5% of their body weight before increasing it to 10%, or even more. Some professional athletes will use weighted vests that weigh more than 20 pounds after years of training. Consider using a vest that has adjustable weight so you can increase the resistance and your endurance increases.
Marathon runners and triathletes may benefit from using a weighted vest during training. When you are accustomed to pulling an extra 10 or 20 pounds through your training, the actual race without the weighted vest will feel much easier in comparison.
6. Intensify body weight exercises
Many common exercises use the weight of your own body as resistance. Once you have done these exercises for years, you may feel like you want an additional challenge. Wearable weights allow you to increase the weight of your body, without actually gaining weight.
If an exercise requires you to lift the entirety of your body weight in some way, try adding a weighted vest for a new level of difficulty. Simple exercises like squats, pushups, lunges, and pull-ups are perfect candidates.
Some exercises require you to lift the weight of your legs specifically. That is when ankle weights would be most useful. Add a few extra pounds to exercises like bicycle crunches, mountain climbers, or scissor kicks.
7. Improve gait
Previously injured or older adults may find that they develop issues with their walking. One common example is knee repositioning from arthritis or injured joints. Shifting in the knee can make it very difficult to walk.
In some cases, doctors may recommend very light ankle weights to give the knees additional resistance. This resistance can help the knee stay in place and improve gait.
This is not the case with every patient, and no one with gait issues should begin using ankle weights without consulting their doctor first.
8. Restore balance
Another clinical use of ankle weights is with stroke patients. After recovering from a stroke, many patients find it difficult to balance. The affected side can be difficult to sense and control.
Doctors have performed trials where an ankle weight is placed only on the affected side of the patient. The additional weight makes it easier to sense and control movement. The additional weight improved balance and the ability to walk in many patients.
If you have difficulty balancing, be very cautious about using ankle weights, since they can just as easily throw you off balance. If you are seeking help restoring balance, do not use ankle weights unless you are under the direct supervision of a medical professional.
9. Target new muscle groups
Many exercises require a lot from your legs or your core but tend to neglect your arms. Aside from weightlifting, many athletes struggle to strengthen their forgotten arm muscles. Wrist weights make the most out of small movements that take place during other exercises.
One example is walking. Walking obviously uses your leg muscles, but your arms are just gently seining. Make the most out of the small movement by adding wrist weights. You will naturally still want to swing your arms in time with your steps, but now will have to work harder. You can strengthen your arms, even during a leg exercise.
The same technique works well in dance fitness or Zumba classes where your arms do some movement, but the main focus is on your legs. Target additional muscles by making them work harder!
Things to avoid
Wearable weights do come with some risks, especially ankle and wrist weights. Additional weight away from the core of your body can cause damaging muscle strain if the exercise is too intense or the weights are too heavy.
Avoid rushing into weight training. Take it slow. Add weight to your vest or ankle bands gradually and slowly increase the amount of time you are wearing them.
Avoid any activities that require good balance. Additional weight will throw off your normal balance, and you will likely find it more difficult to avoid falls.
Avoid using ankle or wrist weights for explosive cardio exercises. The fast and intense movement puts you at a higher risk of injury when you are wearing additional weight.
It is always best to consult with a professional before beginning any weight exercises, including wearable weights.