Ankle weights will give your Pilates workout a serious upgrade – here are the best

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Ankle weights will give your Pilates workout a serious upgrade – here are the best


Once considered a better-off-forgotten ‘80s workout fad, ankle weights have re-cemented themselves as a solid part of our fitness routines. And for good reason: as a fitness editor, I can definitely feel the difference in my previously gentle Pilates practise when pulsing with and without ankle weights on, despite them only weighing a few kilos.

Look, I’m always an advocate for lifting heavy weights. To improve health and fitness, we need to be working to failure and continuously adding more weight to challenge the muscles and encourage them to grow bigger and stronger.

However, ankle weights – which tend to be weighted strips of material that can be strapped to your ankles or wrists for extra resistance when moving your limbs – are a nice addition to my lower-intensity workout days. Like when I’m doing Pilates from home. By adding load, it ensures that the otherwise-body weight moves are taking me to failure with fewer reps, making my workouts more efficient.

And ankle weights are great for those smaller, harder-to-target muscles that don’t need tonnes of load to get stronger. While I wouldn’t advocate light, wearable weights for, say, an overhead press, I would recommend them for lat raises (which target the smaller muscles in the side of the shoulder) or fire hydrants (which work the glute med, a small muscle in the side of your hip).

“Ankle weights are an amazing, accommodating way to implement more strength training work into your programme,” says Pilates instructor and PT, Rachel Lopez.

“Adding weight to any exercise requires more energy and for the body to work harder. They can be especially good for runners who need to improve their muscular endurance as you can perform high reps with the lighter ankle weight.”


Meet the expert:


How we test ankle weights (and how to choose the best for you):

To test ankle weights, we put them through their paces in home workouts. We also rate the price, materials and accessibility of the ankle weights, take buyer reviews into consideration and chat with our friends in the fitness industry about their recommendations too. When it comes to ankle weights, we look at:

  • Weight: Ankle weights should be heavy enough to make an impact, but not so heavy that you can’t perform ankle-weight-specific exercises. A
  • Style and function: Do they look and act like a piece of kit you want to use? That’s a huge question when it comes to any gym gear. While looks might not matter so much for something you strap to your ankle for a workout in the privacy of your own home, it’s no surprise that one of best-known ankle weights are Bala Bangles, which are famous for their design. But what does matter no matter where you’re using your kit is how well it works – we don’t want ankle weights that slip, rattle, pinch or are, simply, irritating.

Chloe Gray in ankle weights


How heavy should ankle weights be?

This depends what you’re using them for and how strong you already are. “I find 1kg is a brilliant place to start. They amplify the work you do in barre and Pilates classes to the point of a challenge but not complete failure. For abdominal workouts, I would opt for something lighter – like a 0.5kg,” says Lopez.

As you get stronger, you can increase the weight. This is called progressive overload and it’s the best way to effectively build muscle.


Are 2-pound ankle weights effective?

2lbs – roughly 0.9kg – would be a good starting point for those using ankle weights. With 2lb weights you could perform great, weighted lower-body moves such as kickbacks, hip circles and single leg glute bridges.


Is it good to run or walk wearing ankle weights?

You can walk or run in ankle weights, although it’s a good idea to think about how that will impact your form. When you walk or run, your hip flexors pull your leg forward – walking or running in ankle weights means extra weight moving through those muscles. That’s ok for a while – but these small muscles shouldn’t really be overloaded in the same way larger muscles – like your quads and hamstrings – can be. “I wouldn’t walk or run in ankle weights all the time, especially prior to a leg day session at the gym, but it can be strategically added to your programme,” agrees Lopez.


Ready to shop the best ankle weights? You’re in luck…





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