13 Ankle Weight Exercises for a Serious Glute Burn

Ankle Weight Workouts

Tori Simeone

When you want to increase the intensity of your workouts, adding weights is a no-brainer. Dumbbells are a popular option, but you may have also seen ankle weights pop up in your Instagram feed (or IRL) strapped around the ankles of your favorite fitness instructors. These wearable weights can be useful to level up your workouts and tone your muscles—but as with all fitness equipment, it’s important to know when and how to use them.

Curious about adding ankle weight exercises to your fitness routine? Ahead personal trainers Sydney Benner and Lia Bartha share the 13 best ankle weight exercises to try—plus a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when it comes to form.

Meet the Expert

  • Sydney Benner is a NASM/AFAA-certified @FitOnApp Trainer.
  • Lia Bartha is the creator of B The Method, a low-impact, full-body workout.

The Benefits of Ankle Weights

Adding weights to your workout is a great extra challenge, and ankle weights are compact, portable, and versatile. They conveniently strap around your ankles (or wrists) so you can have a wide range of motion without worrying about having to hold, pick up, put down, or chase after loose dumbbells or other weights. 

If used correctly, they can help strengthen your calves, quadriceps, and glutes, says Benner. They can also create more resistance in your exercises and force you to consider the importance of body alignment when you perform certain movements.

What Kind of Exercises Can Ankle Weights Be Added To?

Ankle weights are great for lower-body strength exercises, says Benner. The goal of adding ankle weights is to increase strength, so she suggests choosing exercises like single leg pelvic tilts or left lifts that focus on the legs or glutes.

Simeone says she likes adding ankle weights to barre, glute, and even yoga sculpt workouts. “Using the ankle weights properly, especially when focusing on legs and hip muscles, will increase your workload without adding pressure to your joints,” she says.

However, both Benner and Simeone say to skip ankle weights when you’re doing high-impact aerobic and cardio movements (e.g., running or dance cardio). Benner says you want to strengthen your body and decrease the risk of injury, so how you use ankle weights is important for your body’s health. And wearing ankle weights during long walks or running may seem tempting, but they can increase the pressure in your joints and increase your risk of injury, says Simeone. 

Who Shouldn’t Use Ankle Weights?

If you’re a beginner, Simeone suggests starting with your own body weight and incorporating ankle weights as you get stronger. And if you’re pregnant, injured, or recovering from an injury, always check with a doctor to make sure you’re exercising safely.

Even if you do choose to use ankle weights, it’s important to be mindful of your body while you’re using them. Ankle weights can increase the risk of injury due to additional stress they add to your ankle joint and leg muscles. Benner stresses the importance of knowing the difference between a movement that is challenging and one that’s painful—your exercises should be the former but never the latter.

What Weight Should You Start With?

The right weight will vary depending on individual differences in fitness and comfort level. SImeone suggests starting with ankle weights around 1-2 pounds each depending. on your fitness level. Start as high as you think you can go, and. if you can't complete a set, level down. a half pound or so (then work your way up to that extra weight).

The weight may also vary depending on what you’re using them for. For something like adding resistance to a brisk walk, Benner suggests something lighter, such as .5 pounds or under. For strength exercises, choose something that will challenge your body in the right way. Her advice is to start light and work up from there.

01 of 13

High Skips

woman doing ankle weight exercises

Tori Simeone

This is a cardio move with focus on the core. The lower abs are what initiate the movement while simultaneously strengthening the leg.

  • Stand with your legs about hip-width apart
  • Hop on one leg and drive the other knee to the chest using your lower abs. Swing the arms (your opposite arm and knee should be going up at the same time).
  • Switch legs
02 of 13

Forearm Bent Knee Hip Opener

woman doing ankle weight exercise

Courtesy of Bala

"This exercise will work your glutes, outer thighs, lower abdominals, obliques, lats, and pelvic floor. Benefits of performing this movement include core strengthening, hip opening, and a spine twist to release any tension," says Bartha. Bartha is wearing a 1LB Bala Bangle on each ankle.

  • Place your hands and elbows on the floor in a goal post position. Your shoulders should be directly above your elbows, with your supporting knee directly underneath your hip.
  • Lift your left leg and externally rotate the hip toward the ceiling with a bent knee. Your spine should be neutral, with no tucking and no arching.
  • Your upper body should be square to the floor, while you should slightly twist your hips toward the left and to the ceiling.
  • Without shifting your body weight, pull your left bent knee toward your chest and then take it slightly behind you.
  • Repeat five to eight times, then switch sides.
03 of 13

Knee to Elbow

Knee to Elbow

Tori Simeone

  • This is similar to the first move, but now the focus is on your obliques.
  • Stand with your legs about hip-width apart.
  • Shift your weight to the left leg, and lift your left arm above your head.
  • Drive the right knee up toward the left side of the body, and at the same time, lower your elbow to meet your knee.
  • Repeat on the other leg.
  • Pull your elbow past your thigh to get the full benefit of this move.
04 of 13

Forearm Single-Leg Bicycle

woman doing ankle weight exercise

Courtesy of Bala

"The forearm single-leg bicycle will target your glutes, outer thighs, lower abdominals, obliques, hamstrings, triceps, and pelvic floor. Benefits of this exercise include hip opening, spinal decompression, and core strengthening," says Bartha.

  • Prop yourself up on your right elbow and left hand. Your right arm should be facing toward your body, with your right arm stacked directly on top of your right shoulder.
  • Your left arm should be on the floor with a slightly bent elbow. Your shoulders are pulled away from your ears, and your spine is slightly twisting toward the left.
  • Extend your left leg, focusing on keeping a neutral spine throughout the entire exercise.
  • Swoop your left leg forward, bend the knee, swoop back slightly behind your body to the right, and extend your leg back to the center.
  • The movement should be a single-leg bicycle.
  • Repeat five to eight times, then repeat on the other side.
05 of 13

Single Leg Crossover

woman doing ankle weight exercise

Courtesy of Bala

This exercise is excellent for targeting almost your entire body. "It will hit your lats, triceps, obliques, transverse abdominis, inner thigh, outer thigh, glutes, and pelvic floor," says Bartha. "The benefits include finding stability in the core, hip opening, spinal support, and strengthening."

  • Start on all fours with your hands underneath your shoulders, your knees underneath your hips, and a neutral pelvis.
  • Extend your left leg behind you with a softly pointed toe.
  • Keeping your hips squared to the floor, tap your left foot to the left side of your body and then over to the right side of your body, crossing over to an internal rotation.
  • Repeat five to eight times, then repeat on the other side.
06 of 13

Scissors

Scissors

Tori Simeone

Make sure your lower back is flush against the floor (this is super important!). Simeone suggests turning your legs out—heels together, toes apart—for extra inner-thigh work.  

  • Lie on your back with your arms on either side.
  • Raise your legs to a 45-degree angle, and raise your head and shoulder blades off the ground.
  • Keeping your legs straight, crisscross them over each other, crossing at the inner thighs and engaging your lower abs each time.
  • Keep your arms long and strong, almost like you’re slapping water.
07 of 13

Knee To Chest Plank

woman doing ankle weight exercises

Courtesy of Bala

Another multi-muscle exercise with a cardio kick, the knee to chest plank with ankle weights will work your glutes, hamstrings, obliques, transverse abdominis, pelvic floor, and shoulder girdle (lats, deltoids, rhomboids). "Benefits include cardio, core, and back strengthening, and learning to lengthen in opposite directions," says Bartha.

  • Your feet should be hip-distance apart.
  • Pull your left knee into your chest, extend it behind you, then drop the left foot back down to the floor.
  • Repeat five to eight times, take to the child's pose, then repeat on the other side.
08 of 13

Planking Twisted Chest Opener

woman doing ankle weight exercise

Courtesy of Bala

This opening and relaxing movement will target your inner thigh, outer thigh, glutes, lats, lower abdominals, and shoulder girdle. "This is a very full-body exercise," says Bartha. "The benefits include cardio, chest and hip opening, spinal twisting to release tension and pressure, and a full-body release."

  • Start in a full plank position, lifted through the back and with a neutral pelvis. Your hips and feet should be in parallel.
  • Bend your left knee into your chest and cross it underneath the right side of your body, and drop it to the floor with a flexed foot.
  • Place your weight onto your left arm, open the right arm up to the ceiling, and drop your right foot to the floor, flexed.
  • Rotate your upper body back towards the floor and place your weight onto both arms before taking the left knee back into the chest and extending out into a plank position to begin again.
  • Repeat five to eight times, take to the child's pose in between, then repeat on the other side.
09 of 13

Side-Lying Leg Lift

woman doing ankle weight exercises

Courtesy of Bala

This classic leg exercise is made more challenging by adding ankle weights to work the outer thigh, glutes, obliques, lower abdominals, transverse abdominis, triceps, and biceps. "Benefits include learning to use the core to support the movement. You can modify by lying down on the floor with an extended right arm," says Bartha.

  • Prop yourself onto your right shoulder, making sure you are lifted through the core and not lifting your shoulder towards your ear.
  • Place your head into your right hand for support. Your left hand is on the floor for extra support, too, but don’t place too much weight onto that hand. Your spine should be neutral and lifted. Your right hip should be on the floor, and the bent knee is slightly in front of your body.
  • Extend your left leg to align with your spine. Draw your knee into your chest, extend it back out, and then do a little lift up to the ceiling.
  • Repeat five to eight times, then repeat on the other side.
10 of 13

Squat and Lateral Leg Lift

Squat Lateral Leg Lift

Tori Simeone

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width
  • Shift your weight back into a squat. Make sure you can see your toes at the bottom of the squat.
  • As you stand, press through your supporting leg and lift the opposite leg, keeping it straight and flexed, shooting energy out of your heel
  • Put the leg down, and bend back into a squat
  • Switch legs
11 of 13

Side Plank Leg Lift

woman doing ankle weight exercises

Courtesy of Bala

"This is a full-body exercise focusing on the outer thigh, inner thigh, glutes, transverse abdominis, shoulder girdle, and pelvic floor," says Bartha. Benefits include learning to use the core to support the movement. To modify, drop your right hip to the floor.

  • Prop yourself up on your right elbow, making sure your shoulder is stacked on top of the elbow.
  • Your arm should be facing the left. You will be in a side plank position with a lifted hip, and the right knee is slightly in front of your body.
  • Lift your left leg without collapsing the spine or the shoulder, and then tap to the floor.
  • Repeat five to eight times, then repeat on the other side.
12 of 13

Standing Single Leg Glute Press

glute press

Courtesy of Bala

This move will light up your glutes, hamstrings, obliques, lower abdominals, transverse abdominis, pecs, quads, and pelvic floor. It also provides cardio and balance-training benefits. "You can choose an alternate arm position with your hands behind your back or extended out in front of you," says Bartha.

  • Start by clasping your hands in a prayer position and placing your weight onto your right heel. Your body should be slightly hinged forward but shifting your weight back to engage the right glute.
  • Extend your left leg behind you in parallel with a flexed foot.
  • Bend the knee and draw the right knee into your chest, focusing on keeping the spine in neutral and not tucking the pelvis. Then push back behind you with your heel.
  • Repeat five to eight times, then repeat on the other side.
13 of 13

Standing Single Leg Circle

woman doing ankle weight exercise

Courtesy of Bala

Challenge your balance and stability while working your glutes, outer thigh, inner thigh, lower abdominals, transverse abdominis, pecs, quads, and pelvic floor with this exercise. "You can try an alternate arm position with your hands behind your back or extended out to the side for stability," says Bartha.

  • Start by clasping your hands in a prayer position and placing your weight onto your right heel. Your body should be slightly hinged forward but shifting your weight back to engage the right glute.
  • Extend your right leg out to the side with a soft pointed foot. You are going to circle the leg in a clockwise direction without shifting the body weight.
  • Repeat five to eight times, then switch directions before switching to the other leg.

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