Wearable Weights: Do They Help or Hurt Your Workout?

Strength training is one of the most beneficial types of exercise you can perform. It can help you lose weight, improve mobility and balance, strengthen your muscles and bones, and improve cardiovascular function. Also known as resistance training, it aims to improve muscle strength and fitness levels by targeting a specific muscle group. You work out the muscle against an external resistance that could include weight machines, your body weight, or free weights. Strength training works by loading or overloading a muscle to make it adapt and grow stronger with time. Incorporating wearable weights into your routine can be a good way of adding variation to your workout. The question is: Are they effective, or do they cause more harm than good?

What Are Wearable Weights?

Weighted body weights, or wearable weights, are weighted components worn during an exercise routine for cardio conditioning and to increase resistance. They include ankle, wrist, and body weights. The weight levels will vary from one product to another. The more the weight, the more resistance it will create.

A girl in sports shoes attaches dumbbells to her ankles for exercise in the fresh air.
Wearable Weights, Are Weighted Weighted Components Worn During an Exercise Routine. (Image Source: Shutterstock)

You mainly use these types of weights for cardiovascular training, bodyweight training, and plyometrics. Athletes use weighted vests during training for specific sports like tennis and basketball. If you are doing resistance training at the gym, you can substitute dumbbells for wearable body weights.

How Effective Are Weighted Vests in Building Muscle?

The whole point of wearable weights like body, wrist, and ankle weights is to increase the intensity of any workout by making your body work even harder. According to one study, runners who strapped on weighted vests improved their sprint performance by up to ten percent.

Most people who do strength training are looking to gain muscle while toning the body. With more muscle, you burn more calories, even when you are not exercising. A weighted vest has weights attached with pockets to add weights, and straps to hold the vest in place. 

Weighted Vest Training Benefits – Does It Work? – Criticalbench

If you’re considering investing in a weighted vest, ensure that the vest is no heavier than ten percent of your body weight. Adding a weighted vest has the same benefits as weightlifting without the strain on your ankles and hands. This is vital when it comes to body recomposition, whereby you not only lose fat but build muscle in the right places.

Wrist and Ankle Weights Benefits

Wrist weights are weighted strap bands that are wide and wrap around your wrist. Wrist weights are not heavy; most of them weigh less than three pounds to minimize the stress on the joints, arm, and shoulder muscles. Incorporating wrist weights into your workout helps boost your workout intensity, raising your heartbeat. Remember, it’s important to raise your heart rate during any weight training for fat loss.

The wearable wrist weights are also a great alternative for those with a weak grip from conditions like arthritis. So, when should you wear wrist weights? The last thing you want is to pick up an injury, so only wear them during standard arm workouts.

Ankle weights work the same way as wrist weights, except they go around your ankles. They are great to wear during your routine morning exercise when you’re jogging or walking. Contrary to popular belief, ankle weights work the gluteus medius muscle rather than your lower leg muscles. This is the muscle that attaches to the hip to help stabilize the pelvic area.

Close up of a man closing velcro strap of an ankle weight during a home workout.
Working Out When Wearing One to Three Pounds of Ankle Weights Can Raise The Heart Rate to Ten Beats Per Minute. (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Working out when wearing one to three pounds of ankle weights can raise the heart rate by five to ten beats per minute, boosting oxygen consumption by up to ten percent.

Possible Risks of Using Wearable Weights

If you are thinking about adding strength training to your routine, wearable weights may seem like the best idea. But you need to have all the facts regarding the benefits and potential risks of wearable weights.

There is no denying that wearable weights create more resistance to help you reach your fitness goals. They have so many benefits that you could definitely justify using them when working out. But behind all that hype, there are some potential risks. So, before you strap on any additional weight, here are some risks that you need to know about:

Muscular man doing push-ups with a full of weight vest
Weighted Vest Puts Pressure on The Spine (Image Source: Shutterstock)
  • Running or even walking with ankle weights can lead to muscle imbalance. Rather than using the muscles at the back of the thighs when walking, ankle weights force you to use the front of the legs.
  • Walking or running with ankle weights can also strain the ankle joints, increasing your risk of injury to the back, knees, and hips.
  • Using a weighted vest puts pressure on the spine, leading to gradual back and neck problems.
  • Overusing weighted vests may deliver faster results, but doing this by either adding too much weight or using them more than you should could lead to overuse injuries.
  • Wearing wrist weights during cardio workouts forces you to swing your arms back and forth, resulting in a muscle imbalance.
  • Swinging your arms with wearable weights may result in tendon and joint injuries in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, and neck.

Wearable Weights: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?

There is no arguing that wearable weights are a necessary investment in some cases. Weighted vests help to boost the intensity of standard exercise routines. Wrist and ankle weights offer good resistance training if you have a small training space or can’t grip a dumbbell. However, the same wearable weights pose risks such as overuse injuries, muscle imbalance, and neck and back problems.

Wearable body weights can be effective, but it also depends on the muscles you’re targeting. Before you add any wearable weights to your exercise routine, talk to your doctor. If you have joint, neck, or back problems, take it easy. After you get the go-ahead, start light. The goal is to play it smart and to exercise safely to achieve your fitness goals.