Using ankle weights for better calisthenics and bodyweight workouts

Ankle Weights for Better Workouts

Ankle Weights.

You may be picturing bad 80’s DVDs with an hour-long aerobics workout and while this is a valid image, this really is a bad rap for this excellent tool that can get you stronger and help you build balance.

They should be a tool in your arsenal for creating a toned lean set of legs and butt.

On top of that though, ankle weights can be one of the keenest tools to use when you hit bodyweight workout plateaus and need to be able to push to the next level.

There are of course some bad parts to ankle weights and we will cover that below along with highlighting all of the benefits you can get for your overall fitness and health. As noted in many studies, ankle weights can be used across age groups and skill levels to produce phenomenal fitness results.

Are ankle weights good or bad?

Let’s compare the pros and cons:

On The Benefits


Stability and Balance

They build strength, tone your muscles and add stability and balance.

Are they the same as doing a full-body workout?

No, but they can play a key role in this. If you use them correctly you can see direct benefits on your lower legs, glutes, thighs abs and even your shoulders when incorporated properly!

Progression and Versatility

With weighting your ankles, you can easily get a large span of weight variations at a low cost.

This allows for greater versatility and faster progression.

It also allows you to build muscle at the level you need to start at, beginner or expert.


The balance improvements from ankle weights can be high.

It is noted to improve proprioceptive sense and balance ability which in turn can improve your output across different facets of your life.

Muscle Activation

Targeted weight creates muscle activation. We would all love to be able to do 100 pull ups, right? Well without careful muscle targetting using weights, a feat like that is tough to achieve. And, yes, believe it or not, this is an excellent tool in helping you to achieve your chin up and pull up goals!

Caloric Burn

Need we say more if toning and weight loss are your goals, an aerobic-based ankle weight routine can significantly impact your caloric burn. By just adding ankle weights to some of your basic workouts, you can easily burn hundreds of calories more.

Injury Rehab

Ankle Weights allow you to focus your muscle engagement through a full range of motion and exercises. This creates an excellent tool for injury rehab by allowing you to focus on the specific resistance and keeping just the right amount of weight only focused around the lower leg.

On The Downsides

Increased joint strain

By adding weight to your lower extremities you increase the force on the joints. Because they are generally strapped to your ankle/lower leg, you have to be careful or you may strain your ankles or leg muscles.

Gait alteration

You should really never use these when you are doing cardio-based workouts. There may be some exceptions, but generally, when running or performing dynamic movements you should not wear these.


When you place weight low on your body, it alters your natural stride and you can end up with small mistiming which over time can lead to injury.

Ankle Weight Basics

On How Much Weight

We use a range of weights, but you may find that you only need one set to achieve your goals. That said, it is useful to have a lower, middle and upper range set so that you can maximize your workout.

We find that something in the 1-2 pound range is good for the lower end, 3-6 pound for the middle and up to 10 pounds for the upper range end.

You need to be aware of your limitation and what your usage is for. If you plan to really tone and strengthen the lower body, a wide range of weights is beneficial. If you are trying to use them as a plateau tool, often times having one set in the upper range and one in the lower will suffice.

On How To Wear

Yellow ankle weights
  1. Don’t wear your ankle weights to loose. This could cause injury by sliding around or by setting you off-kilter.
  2. Ensure the weight is placed directly above your ankle bone, see the above image.
  3. Wear protective clothing (socks etc.) if you will be wearing them for an extended period of time. Sweat and other debris can cause chaffing and blisters.

On Usage And Exercises

Below are some of our favorite exercises to do with ankle weights:


This exercise when weighted becomes all that much more difficult. You will have to play with your normal variations to enjoy the benefits, but this one will make you work!


This can be used in conjunction with wrist weights for a further workout as well. You will have to play with your weight level and time of hold to get it right.


This will work your abs!


This will work you across your whole body and leave you breathless. Go slow and ensure you have your weights on properly.


Let’s get one thing straight, you can break through major pull up plateaus (using caution) with ankle weights. If you have read about the navy seals and their pull up routines, you have to wonder how they do it? Well one way is through progressions, doing as many as possible, tacking a short rest and then doing as many as possible again…repeat until your hands are blistered. Another options is to use weights on your ankles!

Can ankle weights be used to up your calisthenics and bodyweight workout game?

I hope we showed you in this article that the answer is a resounding:


For many of you hard-cores you may still be suspicious. Don’t be, at the very least get yourself a weight set that is right for you and watch your pull up sets grow and grow. At the very least, they are an easy low-cost tool in your workout arsenal in which you can find many variations and enjoy many benefits. If you need help finding the right pair for you, check out our ankle weight buyers guide here.

Take it slow and ensure you don’t get injured, the final word is that these are an excellent tool to greatly improve your calisthenics and bodyweight workout routines.

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