Try these 16 exercises using wrist and ankle weights to develop strength, shape, and definition in your thighs and abdominals.
Ankle weights can be a highly effective and fun weapon in your fitness arsenal.
Use ankle weights to fight – and win – the war on weak, shapeless thigh and abdominal muscles.
Your physique will look better for it!
Time to unearth those ankle weights from the back of your closet, blow the dust off them, and strap them on.
Here is a calorie-burning, thigh and abdominal workout – featuring 11 exercises that use ankle weights.
After you move through all 16 exercises consecutively, repeat the entire circuit two more times (for a total of 3 circuits).
Be mindful of the safety and care of your wrist and ankle joints, particularly on jumping exercises. Be certain the straps are secure so the cuffs don’t move around too much, yet not so tight that they cut off circulation. It’s better to start off with lighter weights – you can always make them heavier later.
Be sure to take a 3-minute break in between each circuit.
1. Crunch Variation: Alternating Toe Touches
Strap one weighted cuff on your wrist and the other on the opposite ankle:
- Lower your straight leg, then lift it up using the power of your abdominal muscles.
- Your opposite hand will touch your toe, engaging your oblique muscle along the side of your waist.
- Exhale at the top of the rep.
- Resist the temptation to swing your limbs or to use momentum — initiate the movement from the contraction of your core muscles instead.
- 20 reps each side.
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2. Pelvic Scoops, Using Ankle Weights
On your back, extend both legs in the air and keep them together:
- Start with your feet directly over your hips, legs straight.
- Extend your legs away from your torso. Stop before you lower back arches up off the mat.
- Then, use the contraction of your lower abdominal muscles to return the legs to starting position.
- The moment your legs have returned to starting position, tuck your tailbone up a fraction of an inch as you exhale, so that your pelvis scoops forward and up off the mat just a bit.
- As you do the scoop, resist the temptation to allow the lower abdomen to pop out like a punching bag. Hollow out the lower abdomen, so that everything below the navel is flat and taut, like a metal plate.
- 10 reps.
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You might find it helpful to place your hands – palms down – under your lower glutes, to give your lower back that extra bit of protection (to prevent over-arching).
Refer to the video included with this article to see how all 16 exercises appear during actual movement.
3. Ab Walking (Scissors)
Keeping your hands under your hips:
- Scissor your legs in a walking motion as you seek to press your lower back firmly into the mat.
- Breathe, keep your jaw relaxed, and draw your navel in tightly as you compress your top rib in.
- 20 reps.
Hands under your hips, open your legs in a wide-V, then scissor over-and-under 20 times as you breathe and keep your abdominal wall firm.
Beginners might feel more comfortable with a towel rolled-up and placed under their head or neck. More advanced athletes can try raising the head so that the shoulder-blades barely come off the mat – while looking at the belly button.
5. 2-minute Light Run with Ankle Weights
Go for a light run with the weight cuffs attached securely to your ankles (make sure the straps are just tight enough so that the weighted cuffs don’t bounce around as you jog). Basically, you want to run a distance for 1-minute (about half a block), then turn around and run back.
6. Step-Up with a Side Leg Lift
There are certain foundational compound-movements – such as squats and deadlifts – that are among the most effective exercises for training and transforming the leg muscles.
However, for polishing-up the shape and texture of the thighs – particularly the buttock muscles – there are other calisthenics that can be helpful, too.
When you throw some new exercises into your standard leg day routine, it can make the workout more interesting and keep you coming back for future workouts.
Wrap the ankle weights around your lower calves and secure with the velcro straps:
- Step up softly onto a secure box;
- At the top of the rep, lift a leg out to the side – engaging your outer thigh, glute, and core muscles.
- Resist the temptation to lockout the knee joint of that supporting leg (prevent hyperextension by keeping the knee slightly soft);
- Try to keep your spine tall the entire time;
- 10 reps on the same leg, then switch.
7. Leaning Single Leg Press with Ankle Weights
Lean against a box or wall, and press your bent leg away from you until it straightens fully. Squeeze your glute at the end of each rep. 10 times each side.
8. Prone Leg Kicks
Still leaning against the box or wall, lower your straight leg up and down 20 times, contracting your glute muscle at the top of each rep.
9. Box Jumps with Ankle Weights
Always use caution when doing box jumps. Be certain your box is secure, and that the height of the box is no higher than what you can jump repeatedly.
Box jumps are an excellent plyometric exercise that develop strength and shape in your leg muscles, and with ankle weights they become even more effective.
Jump up 10 times. Advanced athletes can jump down as well, while beginning athletes can jump up but step down to the return position.
10. Single-Leg Bridge Wearing Ankle Weights
One foot on the ground, bent leg; the other leg is straighter and extended up – foot to the sky:
- As you lift your hips high, push the entire sole of your foot into the ground.
- Exhale, as you contract the muscle fibers of your glute intensely at the top of the rep.
- Be mindful of the positioning of your neck. Neck should be relaxed and securely flat against the mat.
- Press your shoulders and palms securely into the mat.
- Draw your navel in flat and tight at the top of the rep.
11. Bridge Knee-Openers
Lift your hips up – and keep them up – as you open one bent-leg out and in 10 times. Then switch legs.
12. High Knees
Run in place for 30 seconds, lifting your knees as high as you can.
13. Butt Kicks Wearing Ankle Weights
Run in place for 30 seconds, kicking your buttocks. Go fast, and get those feet as close to your bottom as you can.
14. Side Oblique Double-Leg Lift
On your side, squeeze both legs tightly together and lift them up high as one unit, using your oblique muscles. Draw the navel in very tightly! 10 reps each side.
15. Single-Leg Inner Thigh Lift
On your side, fold the top leg over your bottom leg with a bent knee and hang on to your ankle with your top arm. Now that you’re stabilized, lift your bottom leg as high as you can 20 times, with a short pause at the top of each rep.
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16. Single-Leg Outer Thigh Lift with Ankle Weights
Good old-fashioned leg lifts target the outer thigh and help add shape to the glute. 20 reps.
What Are Ankle Weights?
Ankle weights are heavy cuffs that you strap around your ankles and use for leg lifts, drills, or jumps. You can also put the weights on your wrists – or hold them in your hands for arm, shoulder, or abdominal exercises.
My favorite ankle weights are the ones that go to (at least) 10 pounds each.
The weights have external, canvas pockets which makes it easy to adjust the weight to suit your unique needs. The removable weights are usually included in your purchase.
Most also have an adjustable hook and loop closure with velcro that ensures a secure fit – no matter what your weight or size.
Give this workout a try.