There comes a time when dedicated fitness enthusiasts ponder the benefits of cardio exercises using ankle weights. While there's a small possibility that adding weights to your aerobic routines might help you burn more calories, the risks often outweigh the rewards.
Risks of Performing Cardio Exercises Using Ankle Weights
If you are performing a high-impact aerobic activity such as jogging or high-impact aerobic classes, your joints are already being subjected to a considerable amount of stress. Adding weights can alter your stride patterns, which will eventually cause damage to your hips, knees, shins and ankles. Even if performing cardio exercises using ankle weights does not cause acute injuries, you are in danger of developing chronic overuse injuries such as tendinitis. For athletes, using ankle weights during cardio has its own unique risks. The law of specificity of training states that the outcomes of your training are directly related to your training stimulus. For example, if you are training for a race, running with ankle weights, which will make you run more slowly, will do little to improve your speed.
Potential Injuries Resulting from Using Ankle Weights during Aerobic Activities
- Sprained Ankles: Since women tend to have slimmer and more flexible ankles, adding ankle weights to aerobic exercise increases the risk of sprained ankles or worse, torn ligaments.
- ACL Tears or Strains: Aerobic dance classes use open chain movements. This means that your foot is in a "free" position, and thus subject to shearing forces. The ACL or anterior cruciate ligament is very sensitive to these shearing forces. As such, adding weight may likely cause a tear.
- Back Problems: The disks in your back act as shock absorbers. By adding more weight to your workout, you are increasing the amount of shock. This may make you susceptible to herniated disks.
Ankle Weights for Aqua-Aerobics Classes
Because of the potential for injury, performing cardio exercises using ankle weights is often contraindicated. However, in some cases, it is acceptable for aqua aerobics. Since water fitness classes are a low-impact activity, there is less of a chance of injury. Once again, if you suffer from arthritis or fibromyalgia, you probably want to avoid using weights while performing any sort of aerobic activity. However, for those who are blessed with relatively healthy joints, adding ankle weights can add intensity to your aqua aerobics workout. Examples of ankle weights for aqua-aerobic classes include:
- The Aqua Cuff: This adjustable cuff is filled with foam. It is designed to add buoyancy and resistance, without adding weight. The Aqua Cuff is available in medium or heavy resistance. An exercise sheet is included.
- Water Walkers: These are designed to burn more calories while walking or jogging in the water.
- Aqua Bells: While Aqua Bells are famous for their water-filled dumbbell, the company also makes ankle weights. These weights have a distinct benefit. They can be used on land and in the water.
Alternatives to Aerobics with Ankle Weights
If you would still like a workout that simultaneously combines aerobics with muscle toning, here are some alternatives.
- Circuit Classes: Start with a 20-minute warm-up on a piece of aerobic equipment. Then, perform a weight training exercise for two minutes. When you're finished, choose a different type of aerobic machine for five minutes, and then choose a different weight training exercise.
- Dynamic Strength Training: Strength training need not be performed while sitting on a machine. Nor do you need to isolate one muscle group at a time. In fact, by using more than one muscle group, you can actually burn more calories. For examples, attach ankle weight to each ankle. Hold a set of hand weights in each hand. Start in a "squat position. When you come out of the squat, perform a hamstring curl with your left leg, and a bicep curl with your right arm. Avoid muscle burnout by alternating arms and legs. You will definitely be aware of an elevated heart rate.
Adding intensity to your cardio workout can be a good thing, provided you proceed with caution.