What are Leg Weights

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Using leg weights can help to increase the benefits of exercise, but may also increase the risk for certain types of injury. Read in detail below about leg weights!

What are Leg Weights?

A leg weight is any type of weight that can be strapped to one’s leg. By far the most common version is the ankle weight, which attaches around the lower leg just above the foot as per research published by Professor Bryant Stamford, Ph.D. from the Univesity of Louisville, Kentucky. There are many types on the market, but they generally weigh from 1 to 10 pounds each. Leg weights consist of the weight itself, often a filler, such as sand and the strap. They are available in a wide variety of designs and colors and are relatively inexpensive. [1]

A pair of feet wearing leg weights

Leg weights can help build your calf muscles. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Uses of Leg Weights

These simple exercise devices are used in two types of ways.

  • One use is during a walking or running exercise routine. The weights are worn on the legs to increase resistance during these types of general workouts. Some people will also wear ankle weights during their daily or work activities to add a stronger component of unconscious exercise to their daily routine as per a study by Kent B. Pandolf., U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Natick, Massachusetts. [2]
  • The other use is for strength training of the legs. Specific leg exercises, such as leg lifts or lunges, can be supplemented by wearing these weights.

What Size Leg Weights Do I Need?

Depending on what you want to use them for, you may need weights of varying mass.

  • For running or walking, use a lighter weight of one to three pounds when you first begin.
  • If you are strength-training your legs, weights of at least five pounds each will provide more of a direct benefit.

Some leg weights are sold in packs of varying sizes for those interested in doing both types of exercises. When in doubt, it’s a good idea to start with a lower weight and gradually increase, as this will reduce your risk of injury.

Benefits of Using Leg Weights

Leg weights are simple exercise devices that confer many benefits, depending on their intended use.

Toning Leg Muscles

Especially during leg lifts and other similar exercises, wearing leg weights will increase resistance, which helps to tone and shape legs more quickly.

Building Endurance

Wearing these weights during walks and runs increases the amount of effort needed to perform the exercise as per a study published by Kristine M. Fallon, MA, University of South Florida. This results in more endurance over time when the weights are removed; this is particularly popular for long-distance runners or those training for marathons.  [3]

Burning More Calories

Because of the extra effort needed with the added weight, a given workout will burn more calories when these specialized weights are used.

Multiple Uses

These types of weights are very versatile – they can also be used on the arms to work biceps and triceps. You can also use them to add resistance during other types of exercises, such as pull-ups or sit-ups. They can also be used during water workouts, increasing resistance without added strain.

Low Cost

Given their versatility, leg weights are an excellent value. Good pairs of leg weights are easily available for under $20, mainly because they have such a simple design and utilize basic materials. 

Word of Caution

Unfortunately, improper use of these weights can increase your risk of injury. The added weight causes more strain on muscles and joints while walking or running with leg weights makes one more susceptible to sprains or falls. Especially if you have joint pain, or are overweight, ask a medical professional before adding leg weights to your exercise routine. [4]

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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