Running With Ankle Weights – Does it Build Muscle or Help the Runner?
Whether a beginner or seasoned veteran, every runner is looking for ways to improve their running speed. Some runners like to use different training methods, while others focus on using tools to increase speed and power. However, one of these tools runners swear by is running with ankle weights.
But what are the benefits of running with ankle weights? And should you run with them?
In this article, we look at the benefits of using weights around the ankle while running and whether they are beneficial to the runner.
What Are Ankle Weights?
As the name suggests, these are weights athletes strap around the lower leg just above the ankle. The reason behind exercising with weights around the ankle is to increase strength and speed by adding some resistance in the form of weight.
These often weigh between 1kg up to 5kg, and with some models, you can freely change the amount of weight in the sleeves.
One of the advantages of using ankle weights over other forms of weighted clothing is that the position isn’t affected by muscle or areas that are prone to chafing. This means you can also use them during most activities without any disruption or discomfort.
Since they are comfortable during most forms of exercise, people use them walking, jogging, and sometimes running.
However, as a runner, are these beneficial to us? Can they help increase our 5km time or marathon results? Let’s dive in a little more and see whether ankle weights can improve your running.
Running With Ankle Weights – A Complete Guide
Running is generally a great way to get in cardio exercise. But can adding weights to your run help you increase strength or improve endurance?
Unfortunately, the answer is varied. Some studies show that using ankle weights while running can help increase:
– Calorie expenditure
– Top Speed
– Bone health
– Aerobic fitness
But other studies show that using ankle weights is not an effective way to build strength for the runner.
One of these studies found that using weights around the ankles increased blood lactate concentration, but not significantly more than the control group. They also noted that while training intensity increased with energy expenditure, there was no noticeable difference in strength. However, one thing that did improve was the increase in cardiovascular fitness and weight loss.
Guidelines released by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) state that running with 500g – 1.5kg of weight on your legs can help improve aerobic fitness. But it won’t have a significant impact on muscle mass or strength.
When you attach weights to your ankle, your leg becomes a lever, generating more resistance than running without weights. So wearing ankle weights during the day (not while running) can help to strengthen your calf, hip, and quadricep muscles. This is especially beneficial to a runner that has come back from an injury where they need to rebuild strength in either the hip, calves, or quadriceps.
Another factor to take into account when wearing ankle weights is that it will cause an increase in heart rate (3-5 beats per minute). Increasing the amount of oxygen the muscles and body needs.
So Should You Run With Ankle Weights?
If you are looking to improve your aerobic fitness and it doesn’t impact your running technique, it can be beneficial. However, using weights around the ankle can pose a serious injury risk to the experienced or even beginner runner if it does affect your running gait.
Adding excess weight to the ankles can change your foot strike position and often cause imbalances to show. If you are training for an event longer than 5k it is highly recommended to stay away from using weights around the ankles. This is especially important during intense workouts or long runs, although using them during stride-outs or running drills can give the runner an advantage.
Alternatively, if you are jogging for fun and looking to lose weight or increase lean muscle mass, it can be beneficial.
But remember, wearing ankle weights during a run increases your risk of injury. That means the hips, knees, and ankles will all be placed under greater load when you exercise.
But like any other form of weighted activity, if you decide to run with weights, it is wise to start with the lowest amount of weight first. Doing so will allow the muscles, tendons, and running gait to adapt to the increased weight.
Does Running With Ankle Weights Build Muscle?
When excess weight is added to the body it will make the muscles work harder. In turn, the muscles become stronger and more efficient.
However, many studies have shown that running with ankle weights does not affect mean muscle mass. Although lean muscle mass is has been proven to increase through the use of leg weights.
Unfortunately, if you are looking to increase your overall mass around the legs, this won’t do much good.
While this may put some people off, one thing it will help increase is weight loss. So if you are looking to get a more defined look around the lower body, adding weights around the ankles can be beneficial.
How Heavy Should Ankle Weights Be?
If you have decided to start running with ankle weights, it is vital to start with the lowest weight. This will allow your running technique to make adjustments along the way.
Since the added weight will change your running gait, it is important not to overload smaller muscles that stabilize the body when you run.
Start with small runs first, and add small weight. Then start increasing the length of the run, making sure no muscles are subject to issues. Once you have safely increased your running distance, you can then look to increase the weight.
We highly recommend keeping these runs short and use no more than 1kg of weight. If you increase this any more, you will start to place excess stress on the hip flexors, bones, and joints.
And finally, if you struggle with shin splints, compartment syndrome, or joint issues, it is highly recommended to stay away from running with ankle weights. This will only further increase the symptoms of the injury you are suffering from.