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How to Select and Use Ankle and Wrist Weights

Female leg with ankle weight, closeup
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Using weights during any workout is a great way to achieve fast results. Wrist and ankle weights are an excellent choice because you can secure them in place, allowing you to focus on your workout without over-gripping or dropping anything.

It’s important to know how to use ankle and wrist weights correctly to maximize success and to reduce the risk of injury.


The American Council of Exercise (ACE) has found that adding 1-3 pound wrist weights to your workout can increase your heart rate by 5-10 beat per minute, and oxygen consumption by about 5-15%. This is in comparison to the same activity done without the addition of weights. It’s obvious that adding mass to your workout is bound to get you some noticeable results.

Ankle weights are great for increasing strength, endurance, toning, and pushing your stretching to the next level. Used with caution and under the supervision of a physician or physical therapist, they can even help you recover from injury.

Purchasing Weights

There are so many products out there, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. We’re here to guide you through it.


Many wrist weights and ankle weights are filled with fine lead or iron powder, which is not so good for the environment. Consider purchasing weights filled with water or sand. Make sure the weights are covered in a breathable, non-irritating material. Check out reviews before purchasing, and avoid cheap knock-offs that have low-quality material.

How Many Pounds?

You may think the heavier the weight, the quicker the progress, but this isn’t true.

If you slap a 10-pound weight onto each wrist, you’re putting a lot of unexpected strain on your muscles, and that can lead to injury. It’s better to start light, working your way up. Check out these ankle and wrist bands, which come with adjustable weights, making it easy to add or subtract poundage depending on your current fitness level.

You should feel slight fatigue in the muscles after working out with your weights, but not complete exhaustion. ACE recommends not going above three pounds for each wrist. For ankle weights, some fitness experts recommend five pounds per leg. If this seems like too much, start lower and work your way up.

Remember, it’s not a race; it’s okay to take time building your strength.

Proceed with Caution

woman adjusting ankle weight

Just like anything fitness-related, make sure to check in with your body at every stage of the workout. Avoid any exercises that cause extreme pain or discomfort.

Here are some tips to keep you safe with your ankle and wrist weights:

  • Add weights when you’re feeling fit: Including ankle and wrist weights in your workout routine isn’t recommended for complete beginners. You want to use the weights to take your workout to the next level. If a run around the block leaves you winded, then wait before adding more challenge.
  • Don’t wear the weights 24/7: Some people wear their weights all day in hopes that they’ll tone their muscles while doing ordinary tasks, like doing the laundry. While it’s okay to wear the weights around the house or while doing some gentle activity, you don’t want to exhaust your muscles by having them engaged all day long. This also goes for sleeping with them on—give your body a break.
  • Not recommended for overweight individuals: If you’re already carrying extra body weight, don’t add more pressure with ankle and wrist weights. Wait to get those muscles, joints, and abs a bit stronger.
  • Avoid ankle weights during certain cardiovascular activity: ACE states that ankle weights may influence walking stride, potentially making you more susceptible to injury. Other activities, such as swimming and cycling, seem to be okay.
  • Be mindful of back problems: Adding in ankle weights for core or strength training can put some strain on the lower back. Don’t use them if you struggle with back problems, or consult a fitness expert for advice.

Exercise Ideas

Young woman exercising with legs weights
Lucky Business/Shutterstock

Now that you’ve got your weights, you’re wondering what to do with them. Here’s a list of ideas for using ankle and wrist weights to kick your fitness into gear:

  • Walking/Jogging/Running: Use wrist weights and swing those arms to maximize your workout. Remember, it’s not advised to use ankle weights while walking or running as it can affect your stride.
  • Cycling: Strengthen those lower-body muscles by using ankle weights.
  • Swimming: Use either wrist or ankle weights (or both!) depending on which muscles you want to target.
  • Karate: Take those kicks and punches to the next level!
  • Stretching hamstrings: Lie on your back and lift one leg to a 90° angle, letting the ankle weight and gravity pull that leg to your head. Check out this video for more details.
  • Arm circles and swings: Wake up those muscles with some simple movements.
  • Standing leg abduction: Using ankle weights, stand up straight, resting one hand on a chair. Lift the outside leg slowly until you feel the buttocks engage. Hold for 1-2 seconds, then lower the leg down. Repeat 10-20 times before switching to the other side. This exercise will work your outer hips, thighs, and quads.

Ankle and wrist weights are also great for strengthening your core. Try these exercises with ankle weights to improve your core strength:

  • Leg Raises: Lie on your back, arms to the side, and raise your legs straight up in the air, to a 90° angle. Lower them slowly, hovering about six inches above the ground. Do 10-20 reps, making sure to keep your legs straight, and not letting them touch the ground. If you feel a strain in your lower back, then place your hands under your butt.
  • Bicycle crunches: Lie on your back, bending one knee and straightening the other leg, in a cycling fashion. The opposite elbow should touch each knee as it comes in. Repeat 10-20 times.
  • Reverse crunches: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet off the floor, and hands on the ground. Bring your knees to your chest, tilting your pelvis off the ground, hold and breath, then lower down. Repeat 10-20 times.

There are plenty of exercises out there targeted specifically for ankle and wrist weights. Keep experimenting, seeing what works for you and your fitness level. The sky’s the limit; just remember to take it easy at first, don’t overdo it, and have fun. And always consult a fitness expert if you have any concerns.


Jill A. Chafin Jill A. Chafin
Jill A. Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »
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