Do Ankle Weights Help Tone Your Thighs?


Using ankle weights for strengthening exercises, such as leg lifts, curls or extensions, can help to tone your thighs. This simple fitness tool can range between 2 and 20 pounds and is usually strapped around your ankles with Velcro. Many have pockets for individual weights, which allows you to progressively add weight as you grow stronger. Because the use of ankle weights for swinging leg movements, walking or jogging may pose risks to your joints and ligaments, proper form is key when using ankle weights for thigh toning.

Inner and Outer

  • When doing floor exercises, such as leg lifts for the inner and outer thighs, ankle weights safely add resistance. Choose a weight that provides some resistance, but not so much that you struggle to perform the movements or keep good form. Begin a side leg lift for your abductors by lying on your right side with your back against a wall and an ankle weight on your left leg. Use the wall to help you maintain correct spinal alignment. Extend your right arm, placing it under your head with palm up. Bend your right leg about 45 degrees and extend your left leg 6 inches in front of you. Keeping your left foot flexed, raise it to hip level. Exhale and lift the left leg up another 6 inches to 1 foot. Inhale and return the leg to hip height. Perform 10 to 20 reps and then repeat the exercise with the right leg. Avoid resting the working leg on the ground during the exercise.

Front and Back

  • Ankle weights can be used for leg extensions to firm the front thigh muscles, or quads, as well as reverse leg extensions, kickbacks and curls for the back thigh muscles, or hamstrings. For example, begin a reverse leg extension by attaching the ankle weights and lying face-down on a bench. Position your hips at the edge of the bench, holding the sides of the bench just above your head. Extend your legs behind you with knees soft and toes touching the ground. Your legs should be angled down at about a 45-degree angle. Exhale and slowly lift your legs until your thighs are parallel to your trunk. Hold the peak position for a second, inhale and then lower your legs down until your toes are almost touching the ground. Keep your legs together and toes pointed throughout the exercise. Perform six to 10 reps.

Walk with Weight

  • Walking at a brisk pace with ankle weights can provide an intense and low-impact cardiovascular as well as a leg-toning workout. The calorie burn can equal that of running, according to “Essentials of Exercise Psychology” by William D. McArdle. To combine an aerobic race walking workout with resistance training for the legs and hips, Olympic race walker Ron Laird uses ankle and hand weights once a week. Race walking employs a particular technique in which the advancing leg is straight when it hits the ground and your legs never seem to break contact with the ground. Ankle weights help you to build the thigh strength to pull your rear leg off the ground and thrust it forward, says Laird in his book, “Fast Walking.”

Safety Concerns

  • Ankle weights boost the impact of the load on your joints and connective tissue. The heavier the weight, the more risk it poses of causing ligament tears, dislocations and sprains. If you’re running, walking or swinging your legs, ankle weights can alter the way you move, compromise your form and reduce the flexibility of your ankles.

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