How Heavy Should Ankle Weights Be for the Best Workout?

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closeup of a woman putting on the right size ankle weight for her
What size ankle weights you should get depends on your strength levels, comfort and ankle circumference.
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Finding the best ankle weights is a bit of a Goldilocks scenario. When your ankle cuffs are the right size, they can help strengthen your muscles and boost stamina. But if your ankle weights are too heavy — or they don't fit properly — you can increase your risk of injury.

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So how do you know when you've found a winner? Here, trainers and physical therapists share exactly how to pick the best weight and size for your ankle weights.

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How Heavy Should Ankle Weights Be?

Ankle cuffs come in weights ranging from less than 1 pound to as much as 20 pounds.

So what is a good weight for ankle weights? The best weight for ankle weights varies from one person to the next based on strength level, experience and joint health.

For most people, a good guideline is to start with 1 to 2 pounds per leg, explains Kristen Gasnick, DPT, a board-certified physical therapist at Holy Name Medical Center in New Jersey. Sticking closer to 1 pound each is best if you are new to exercise or have a history of joint pain, while someone who feels pretty strong heading into their program might want to start with 2 pounds.

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How to Adjust Weights

Start light, give your body time to adapt and then slowly increase weight, adds Joshua Berrier, an athlete and Les Mills trainer. It's best to increase your weights by no more than 0.5 to 1 pound at a time.

Does that seem super light? Because ankle cuffs fasten at the end of your leg, they tend to feel a lot heavier on your leg muscles and knees than they actually are.

"If we increase [the weight] too much, we place a lot of extra tension and strain on muscles and joints that may not be used to it," Berrier says. Not only will you fatigue quickly, but you also run the risk of injury, he adds.

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Thankfully, many ankle straps are adjustable, designed with pockets to fit individual weights. This way, you can easily increase or decrease the resistance to find the best weight for your ankle weights. Keep in mind that different exercises — like leg curls and leg extensions — may call for different weights.

What Size Ankle Weights Should I Get?

Most ankle cuffs are available in just one overall size, or length. But, fortunately, most also have adjustable straps (coupled with buckles or Velcro straps) so you can fit the weight to your ankle size.

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Adjustability in ankle weight size is key. Before exercise, you always want to cinch the weights snug so they don't slide up and down your legs during exercise. "If they're too loose, the movement can be abrasive and irritate the skin by applying friction," Dr. Gasnick says. That said, you don't want them too tight and restricting blood flow. You should put on ankle weights so they securely in place, but never uncomfortable.

Measure Your Ankle Size for a Better Fit

If you're concerned ankle weights will be too small, it can also be helpful to look for ones with long straps. For example, the Sportneer Adjustable Weights (Amazon.com, $16.14 - $39.99) extend to 12.4 inches, making them a great option for ankles of all sizes.

Take out a tape measure, get an idea of your ankle size and then read the product description to make sure the weight you buy is even longer. (You want a few extra inches for fastening.)

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