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How to Use Ankle Weights to Sculpt Your Physique

Ankle weights can be a highly effective and fun weapon in your fitness arsenal. Try these 16 exercises using wrist and ankle weights to develop strength, shape, and definition in your thighs and abdominals. See the video lower within this article to see each movement in action.

The Genius of Ankle Weights

You can use ankle weights to fight – and win – the war on weak, shapeless muscles. They are especially beneficial to the leg, hip, and core muscles.

The added resistance from ankle weights allows your leg, hip, and abdominal muscles to activate further during a calisthenic. The ankle weights give your exercises some added oomph, so you work hard enough for muscles to become stronger and more distinguishable without getting bulky or leaving you sore.

Ankle weights are a convenient way to add load to exercises whenever you elevate your leg. Minor, stabilizing muscles that might usually stay fallow are engaged!

Your physique will look better, and you will feel better, too.

This Circuit Workout Using Ankle Weights is Fun, Challenging, and Effective

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 exercises that use ankle weights.

After you move through all 16 exercises consecutively, repeat the entire circuit twice (for a total of 3 circuits).

Mature athlete doing exercises with ankle weights, outdoors.

Be mindful of the safety and care of your wrist and ankle joints, particularly in jumping exercises. Be certain the straps are secure so the weighted cuffs don’t move around too much, yet not so tight that they cut off circulation. It’s better to start 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.

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 your lower back arches up off the mat.
  • Then, use the contraction of your lower abdominal muscles to return the legs to starting position.
Mature athlete does abdominal conditioning exercises using ankle weights.
  • When your legs return 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.

You might find it helpful to place your hands – palms down, under your lower glutes – to give your lower back extra protection (to prevent over-arching).

Older athlete doing ab workout with ankle weights.

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.
  • 20 reps.

4. Over-and-Unders

Hands under your hips, open your legs in a wide V, scissor over and under 20 times as you breathe, and keep your abdominal wall firm.

Silver-haired, bearded older man with muscles uses ankle weights to exercise.

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

Dane Findley, age 53, does exercises with ankle weights outdoors.

Go for a light run with the weighted cuffs attached securely to your ankles. Ensure the straps are tight enough so the weighted cuffs don’t bounce around as you jog. 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

Certain foundational compound movements – such as squats and deadlifts – 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 – other calisthenics can be helpful, too.

Remember, the human body adapts to movement patterns quickly, so it’s beneficial to add variety to your workouts to see results again.

Throwing some new exercises into your standard leg day routine can make the workout more exciting and keep you coming back for future workouts.

Wrap the ankle weights around your lower calves and secure them 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.
Mature athlete demonstrates step up with leg lift exercise wearing ankle weights.
  • 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.

Fit, older man using ankle weights to train his leg and core muscles outdoors.

8. Prone Leg Kicks

Man doing leg calisthenics outdoors.

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

Athlete, age 53, does box jumps exercise with ankle weights.

Always use caution when doing box jumps. Be sure your box is secure and that the height of the box is no higher than what you can jump repeatedly.

Dane Findley age 54 helps others achieve stellar wellness and a healthier physique.
Dane has a master’s in Depth Counseling and has spent decades as a professional fitness and Pilates trainer. Today, Dane is a Healthy Lifestyle Advocate who curates the popular Quality of Life Newsletter – a free weekly update for those who want to UP their joy levels.

Box jumps are an excellent plyometric exercise that develops 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

Man in his fifties does ankle-weight exercises.

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

Man in his fifties does glute and abdominal exercises.

Lift your hips – and keep them up – as you open one bent leg out and in 10 times. Then switch legs.

12. High Knees

53 year-old athlete does high-knees exercise in park wearing ankle weights.

Run in place for 30 seconds, lifting your knees as high as possible.

13. Butt Kicks Wearing Ankle Weights

Man in park doing exercise drills in park.

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

Older, fit man exercising in park using ankle weights.

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

Older, fit man exercising in park.

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.

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, making 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 your weight or size.

Mature athlete, age 53, does plyometric jumping exercise outdoors while wearing ankle weights.

Give this workout a try.

As always, I encourage you to consult your medical doctor before undertaking any new exercise programs or lifestyle changes.

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