- What Are Wrist and Ankle Weights?
- How Should You Use Wrist and Ankle Weights?
- What Should You Avoid With Wrist and Ankle Weights?
- Wrist and Ankle Weights We Love
- Other Ankle Weights to Consider
- Ankle Weights You Can Skip
- How We Got Here
- Our Testing Process
- The Wrist and Ankle Weight Buying Guide
It’s easy to find workout or wellness gear that serves a not-so-secret dual purpose as a status symbol. (Think: Peloton, Lululemon, pretty much every green juice ever sold.) Another thing to add to this list? Wrist and ankle weights, which, depending on the brand you go for, often look like a trendy (albeit heavy) piece of jewelry. But ankle and wrist weights are more than just an accessory. A great set can add intensity to your workout or help you build strength as you rehab from an injury.
No matter how you intend to use your weights, the myriad buying options, from Bala to Theraband to Sportneer, are enough to bring on some good ol’ decision paralysis—which isn’t what you want when you’re trying to start a consistent workout routine. That’s why we did the metaphorical and literal heavy lifting (well, fine, light lifting) for you. This included hours’ worth of research, speaking with industry experts, and, of course, trying out the goods.
CAP’s barbell ankle and wrist weights came out on top, due to their comfortable fit, versatility, and modest pricing. This was also the only pair that fit comfortably on all limbs—despite the fact that many of the products we tested were marketed as both ankle and wrist weights—making us confident that they’d be a fantastic choice for most people.
What Are Wrist and Ankle Weights?
Ankle and wrist weights are weighted devices that loop around the limbs, allowing them to be worn like an anklet or bracelet. Most are made of neoprene or silicone and contain pockets that evenly distribute the poundage around the limbs. Users (and makers of these wrist and ankle weights) claim this allows them to function as an alternative or addition to dumbbells and resistance bands.
Most range from 1 to 3 pounds, though some—presumably intended for the steel-quadded among us—go up to 20 pounds. Usually, though, they’re lighter than traditional weights like dumbbells and kettlebells to avoid putting undue strain on your joints. For reference, we tested weights that range from one to five pounds.
How Should You Use Wrist and Ankle Weights?
Ankle and wrist weights are ideal for building upper body strength without stressing your hands or for when you’re rehabbing from an injury and need to gradually add some light resistance to your home exercise program.
They’re also a great way to make your barre, Pilates, or yoga sculpt classes a little spicier. Slapping a pair onto your wrists or ankles can help you enhance your deep abdominal muscle engagement during core exercises while allowing your hands and feet to move freely, according to Melissa Prestipino, DPT, physical therapist and clinical director of Therapeutics United in Sparta, New Jersey.
One key factor when considering wrist and ankle weights is comfort on all limbs—if they don’t feel good (that is, secure, non-scratchy, and non-slippery), you’re not going to want to wear them. The 1-pound, neoprene covered, sand-filled CAP Barbell ankle/wrist set is the comfiest option I tried. While many of the other products I tested were marketed as both an ankle and a wrist weight, this was one of the only pairs that lived up to the claim because it was able to accomodate my ankles without being too big when I wore it as a wrist weight.
What Should You Avoid With Wrist and Ankle Weights?
If you’re looking to build the long, lean kind of muscle many makers of these weights promise, wrist and ankle weights may not deliver results. Instead, lifting moderately heavy weights will get you there faster, says Holly Roser, a certified personal trainer and fitness studio owner in San Mateo, California. Generally speaking, for women, this means using about 10 pounds for bicep curls, 12 pounds for squats and lunges, 15 pounds in each hand for chest presses. Most men will need to go a little heavier. She suggests roughly 18-25 pounds for bicep curls, 20 pounds for squats and lunges, and 25-35 pounds in each hand for chest presses.
You should also avoid using wrist and ankle weights during walks and runs. Yes, they’re light, and some studies show that the extra mass can The FASEB Journal “Energy Expenditure during Walking with Wearable Weights on the Wrist and Ankle in Overweight/Obese Adults” View Source . But putting extra weight on your limbs—even a small amount—and engaging in the back-and-forth motion of walking or running can cause Harvard Health “Wearable weights: How they can help or hurt” View Source that can result in injury.
In other words, the risks of walking and running with weights strapped to your extremities outweigh the benefits. You’ll be better served by reserving them for mat-based workouts, which are safer on the joints. You can also simply take more brisk walks to up your exercise quotient. These can be sans any weight at all, or, if you’re looking to level up, with a Mayo Clinic “Could ankle weights help me get more out of my usual walking routine?” View Source —this distributes weight more evenly across the body than ankle and wrist weights.
In short: You won’t see major gains from 1-, 2-, or 3-pound ankle and wrist weights. You should also avoid wearing them while walking or running, as this can cause injury. But using wrist and ankle weights for controlled movements could help you increase muscle engagement and get more out of each exercise session. This may not be the sexy, all-encompassing result you’re after, but it is one that can benefit your health—and that’s something we can get behind.
Wrist and Ankle Weights We Love
CAP Ankle and Wrist Weight
- Work well for the ankles and wrists
- Feel comfortable around the limbs
- May not last as long as some other options
- Suitable for use as an ankle weight or a wrist weight
- Comfortable and easily adjustable neoprene shell
- Ergonomic shape doesn’t interfere with ankle dorsiflexion or wrist flexion
- May not be as durable as other options
- Velcro straps can irritate skin
One thing I noticed right away was the CAP weight’s bright blue neoprene shell. The blue is loud without being obnoxious and dark enough to hide those inevitable specks of dirt. The weights use a Velcro strap that helps them stay in place.
By simply looping the strap through a metal buckle and pulling, you can easily make it as loose or tight as you need to. This part was self explanatory, as it was with other products I tested. However, I’m a petite woman with relatively small ankles and wrists; while this weight offered me a comfy fit, it may not fit as well on some larger folks.
I initially experienced some minor irritation on the backs of my ankles where the straps rubbed against my skin, but that was easily remedied by wearing leggings. If you’re committed to working out in shorts or capris, I’d suggest throwing on a pair of crew socks.
This product has a 4.2-star rating on Amazon across 34 reviews—far from the highest of all the weights I tried. However, many of the negative reviews cited an unpleasant odor that took a long time to fade, which I didn’t experience. Upon further exploration, I found many of the reviews that mentioned the smell were at least a couple of years old, so CAP may have reformulated its materials or design to deliver what I thought to be the superior product.
One of my favorite aspects of the CAP Barbell set was that I hardly noticed I was wearing the weights. They were snug without feeling constricting and never flopped around like some of the other products I tried, which helped keep the pounds evenly distributed.
Plus, unlike some of the weights I tried, they didn’t interfere with my wrist flexion (that is, the action of bending forward at the joint) when I did high planks and handstands or limit my ankle dorsiflexion (backward bends) for moves like squats.
That said, I have some doubts about the CAP Barbell’s long-term durability. I could imagine the neoprene pilling or the relatively thin velcro fastener growing less sticky over time. However, the overall comfort and ease of use more than compensated for any potential issues with the product’s lifespan, which is why it emerged the winner.
Other Ankle Weights to Consider
Theraband ComfortFit Ankle & Wrist Weight
- Distribute weight evenly
- Comfortable neoprene material
- Only works as an ankle weight, not a wrist weight
- Comfortable against skin
- Distributes weight evenly
- Too large to use as a wrist weight
Theraband’s 2.5-pound weights excelled in testing—as an ankle device. Featuring a neoprene exterior, an interior terrycloth lining, and a sandbag-type weight, it felt soft against my skin and distributed its weight evenly. Like the CAP ankle/wrist weight, it also features a velcro strap for easy fit adjustments. Weight options range from 1 pound to 2.5 pounds.
But even though it’s a perfectly adequate ankle weight, it’s far too large to function as a wrist weight. To me, it felt more like a loose-fitting bangle bracelet than a piece of fitness equipment, slipping up and down and jerking side to side whenever I moved. All of that said, it could work as a wrist weight for a bigger person. The material also seemed hardy and solidly constructed for long-term use.
With 4.5 stars across 400 ratings on Amazon, most people agree with my assessment. One reviewer suggests buying stretchy wrist wraps and putting them on before strapping the weights to the wrists to make them fit better.
Sportneer Adjustable Ankle and Wrist Weights
- Easy to adjust sizing
- Possible to change weights’ pounds
- Feels loose on the wrists
- Easy to adjust sizing
- Possible to change pounds
- Too loose for the wrists
The 2-pound sand-filled Sportneer ankle and wrist weights check all the boxes as an ankle weight. It’s easy to alter the fit, the neoprene exterior feels good against the skin, and unobtrusive. Plus, unlike most of the products I tried, it’s possible to adjust the weight by removing individual 1-pound sandbags. Weight options range from 2 pounds to 6.5 pounds.
As wrist weights, though, they were even worse than the Theraband. Even when I tightened each weight as much as I could, the fit was way too loose and flopped around on my forearm during my exercise. They were also much bulkier than the other products and covered nearly half of my forearm. This meant that when they slipped down, I had a hard time flexing my wrist. Because of this, I wouldn’t recommend the Sportneer set as wrist weights, even to someone with a bigger frame.
The Sportneer weights boast 4.5 stars out of 2,754 ratings on Amazon. Most people who love them say they use them primarily as ankle weights—so if that’s all you’re looking for, you’ll likely be satisfied with Sportneer.
Ankle Weights You Can Skip
- Sleek, stylish look
- Weights feel shabby for the price
- Distinctive, stylish look
- Poor stitching quality
Going by aesthetics alone, Bala Bangles blow every other contender out of the water. The Balas, which come in a stunning array of fun colors from millennial pink to limited-edition rainbow, scream “sexy,” right down to the sleek black mesh zippered pouch the weights come in—a stark contrast to other, utilitarian-at-best products. They’re made with stainless steel plates encased in silicone pockets and held in place with subtle Velcro straps. This gives Bala a distinctive look that’s closer to a piece of jewelry than workout gear.
However, where Balas deliver on style, they lack on substance. I noticed the stitching on the silicone pockets coming undone within a few uses and a quick look at the reviews confirmed my durability suspicions—some reviewers write that the Velcro is so weak their bangles flew off during their workouts. And with just a 1- and 2-pound weight options to choose from, they get low marks for versatility. I chose the 1-pound weights and found them comfortable as a smaller person, but I could see them being constricting for someone with a larger frame, particularly for use as an ankle weight. For a product that costs about two to three times as much as its competitors, I expected a lot more.
That said, with a 4.6-star rating across 3,071 Amazon reviews, not everyone agrees with me. (And yes, that’s counting the reviews that document mid-workout Bala launches.) Rave reviewers love the smooth material, stylish colors, and snag-proof capability of the silicone shell —and if you’re willing to pay up for design, you may just agree with them.
How We Got Here
Meet Your Guinea Pig
Wondering who I am and why you should believe me? I get it. Allow me to introduce myself.
I’m Pam Moore. Before I became a freelance health and fitness writer, I was an occupational therapist. For more than a decade, I worked in a variety of healthcare settings (mostly hospitals), helping people with chronic and acute medical conditions (think strokes, joint replacements, and head injuries) function as fully as possible. This meant designing treatments that helped my patients grow stronger, more coordinated, and more self-aware. I also educated patients and their families on how to make their homes as safe as possible.
In addition to my healthcare experience, I’m an American Council on Exercise (ACE)-certified personal trainer, weight-neutral health coach, and bona fide fitness geek. Although my first love is endurance sports—I’ve completed six marathons and two Ironmans—I’ve also dabbled in CrossFit and weightlifting. As a group fitness instructor, I teach indoor cycling and barre.
Our Testing Process
How We Tested Ankle Weights
First, I scoured the internet to find out what kind of weights are out there and who uses them. I also spoke with Melissa Prespitino, a physical therapist, and Holly Roser, a certified personal trainer to get their perspectives on the benefits of ankle and wrist weights and what to look for in a quality product. Then, I researched the benefits of using ankle and wrist weights in particular, focusing on peer-reviewed studies.
After poring over the data, I came up with a list of five products to test. Once I had the products in hand, I wore each one for at least two 30-minute workouts, which included barre moves, Pilates exercises, yoga poses, and burpees.
Some studies show that The FASEB Journal “Cardiopulmonary and Metabolic Responses to Additional Weights on Ankle and Wrist during Walking in Healthy College Students” View Source . However, I didn’t test them while walking because of other studies that show their potential for Mayo Clinic “Could ankle weights help me get more out of my usual walking routine?” View Source .
In total, I spent over ten hours researching and testing. You can see exactly how I tested and found the best ankle weights here.
The Wrist and Ankle Weight Buying Guide
Who Should Buy Wrist and Ankle Weights?
Ankle and wrist weights are a solid investment for those who have taken their barre, yoga sculpt, or Pilates classes virtual since the pandemic started. They can add intensity to your workout and keep things interesting even if you don’t have access to all the bells and whistles you’ll find in your studio classes.
In addition to increasing intensity of home workouts like barre and Pilates, wrist and ankle weights are also a good choice for those looking to increase and maintain strength and bone density as they age. This is an issue of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Osteoporosis or Low Bone Mass in Older Adults: United States, 2017–2018” View Source particularly women over 50, according to the CDC.
Wrist and ankle weights are also ideal for anyone who wants to build strength but has other musculoskeletal issues that prevent them from safely doing so using dumbbells, nautilus machines, or resistance bands, according to Prestipino, the physical therapist. If balance is an issue, you can use ankle weights from a seated position. And if limited grip strength or arthritis affects your hands, wrist weights can help you develop upper body strength without putting any pressure on your hands.
There are, however, certain populations who should avoid ankle and wrist weights. They can cause serious bruising for those who take blood thinner medications or who have certain blood disorders, according to Prestipino.
Which features matter most when buying this product?
Ideally, your ankle and wrist weights are easy to adjust and the fit is snug without feeling confining. The fit and feel of your equipment should never distract you from your workout.
If the product claims to function as both an ankle weight and a wrist weight, you should be able to wear it comfortably in both cases.
Will your weights stand up to sweat, jostling, occasional washing, and the rigors of regular use without falling apart?
Can you add or decrease the weight? Being able to increase the difficulty as you get stronger or when you want to wear your weight as an ankle weight instead of a wrist weight is a nice bonus feature.
- Risks associated with wrist and ankle weights: Wearable Weights: How They Can Help or Hurt, Harvard Health Publishing (February 2021)
- Ankle and wrist weights can do more harm than good due to placing undue repetitive stress on the joints: Osteoporosis and Exercise, ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal (November 2019)
- Ankle and wrist weights produce greater cardiopulmonary and metabolic responses than no weights during walking than no weights during walking: Cardiopulmonary and Metabolic Responses to Additional Weights on Ankle and Wrist during Walking in Healthy College Students The FASEB Journal (May 2021)
- Wearing ankle and wrist weights (especially the latter) while burns more calories versus walking with no weights in higher weight people: Energy Expenditure during Walking with Wearable Weights on the Wrist and Ankle in Overweight/Obese Adults The FASEB Journal (April 2020)
- Lifting weights as light as 30 percent of participants’ one-rep max among frail elderly persons promotes improvements in strength and function: Benefits of Resistance Training in Physically Frail Elderly: a Systematic Review Aging Clin Exp Res (November 2017)
- Email Interview with Holly Roser, NASM-certified personal trainer and fitness studio owner, September 28th, 2021
- Phone interview with Melissa Prestipino, DPT, physical therapist and clinical director of Therapeutics United in Sparta, N.J., September 28th, 2021
- Older adults, particularly women over 50 are at risk for bone density issues: “Osteoporosis or Low Bone Mass in Older Adults: United States, 2017–2018,” Center for Disease Control and Prevention (March 2021)