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The best ankle weights workout to sculpt your entire body

a photo of a woman putting ankle weigts on
(Image credit: Getty/Astarot)

Sure, you’d love to have the space and budget for a Peloton bike or a set of adjustable dumbbells, but if you’re still working out from home and looking for a cheap piece of kit that’ll transform your workouts, ankle weights are a go-to. We’ve hand-picked the best ankle weights on the market here, but if you’re not sure where to start, we’ve found some of the best ankle weight exercises to add to your workout routine below. 

What are the benefits of ankle weights?

Ankle weights have a whole bunch of benefits, including being affordable, easy to chuck in your gym bag, and great for beginners, those more advanced in the world of strength training, and even those rehabbing from injury.

Adding ankle weights to your workout will increase the workload, forcing your muscles to work harder during the move. While they definitely won’t give you the same gains as say, using heavy dumbbells, if you don’t have the room or space for a dumbbell rack in your living room, ankle weights can help up the intensity of your bodyweight workouts. 

How heavy should ankle weights be? 

This one completely depends on your fitness level. It’s a good idea to start with lighter ankle weights of say, 1-2 pounds each, then work up to heavier weights as you get stronger.

Who shouldn’t be using ankle weights? 

Before we get started, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t be wearing ankle weights for walking or running, as it can put a strain on your joints and leg muscles, leading to injury. If you have struggled with a knee or hip injury in the past, it’s also worth checking with your doctor or personal trainer before using ankle weights. It’s also worth skipping ankle weights if you’re a complete beginner, and instead, start by focusing on getting your form right using just your body weight.

a photo of a woman putting some ankle weights on

(Image credit: Getty/Mariakray)

13 ankle weight exercises for a serious burn:

Here are some of the best ankle weight exercises to add to your workout routine. Alternatively, try all of them together as an ankle weight workout that’ll hit your entire body.

1. Squat with side leg raise

an illo of a woman doing a squat side leg raise

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Note: In the illo above, the woman is using a resistance band, swap this for ankle weights. 

 Aim for 10-15 reps on each side 

To do a squat with a side leg raise, start with your feet hip-width apart. Shift your weight back into a squat, bending at the knees. Pause at the bottom of the squat, before raising back up to your starting position. Once you get there, raise one leg out to the side of your body, keeping your foot flexed and your standing leg pressed to the floor. As your raised foot touches the ground, drop back down into a squat. Keep alternating sides for the leg raise until you have completed an equal number of reps on each side. 

2. Donkey kicks 

How to do donkey kicks

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Aim for 10-15 reps on each side 

To do a donkey kick, start on your hands and knees, with your core braced (think about sucking your belly button into your spine). Engage your glutes and kick your leg back and up as far as it can go while keeping your hips in line. Keep your foot flexed. Squeeze at the top, then lower your knee back to the ground before repeating. Remember to do the same number of repetitions on each side. 

3. Single-leg crossover 

an illo of a woman doing a leg extension

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Aim for 10-15 reps on each side

Start on your hands and knees on your mat, with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Squeeze your core, and extend your left leg out behind you, with a pointed toe. Keeping your hips square to the floor, tap the side of your right leg, then raise it and lower it on the left side, that’s one rep. Do all your reps before swapping onto the other leg. 

4.  Mountain climbers  

Mountain climber

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Aim for 8-10 reps on each side

Start in a plank position, with your hands shoulder-width apart, your back flat, and your core engaged (think about sucking your belly button into your spine). From here, bend your left knee and bring it into your chest, as far as you can. Pause, then straighten your leg back to its starting position and bring your right knee in underneath your body. Keep repeating this movement, alternating sides. Here’s more on how to do mountain climbers, and the variations to try. 

5.  Weighted lunges 

How to do a reverse lunge

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Aim for 10-15 reps on each side 

To do a lunge, start with your feet shoulder-width apart. Engage your glutes (squeeze them together) and brace your core as you step forward with your right or left foot, making sure your legs stay shoulder-width apart and your hips stay facing forward. 

Keeping your spine perpendicular to the floor, lower your body to the ground until both legs are at a 90-degree angle. The front knee should be over the front ankle, and your back knee should be underneath your hip. Press back from the front foot into your starting position and repeat the move on the other side. Here’s more on how to do a lunge with the correct form, and the variations to try. 

6.  Toe taps 

a woman doing top taps

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Aim for 10-12 reps on each side

Start with your legs in a tabletop position. Engaging your core and keeping your knee bent, lower your right and tap your toe on the floor. Your left leg should stay in a tabletop position. Reverse the move and repeat on the opposite side. Aim for 15 repetitions on each side, keeping the movement slow and controlled. To make the exercise harder, tap closer to the body, or place a Pilates ball under your pelvis as well as the ankle weights. 

7. Leg lifts

an illustration of a woman doing a side leg lift

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Aim for 10-15 reps on each side

To do a leg lift, start by lying on your side, with your head supported on your underarm. Engage your core and your glutes, and raise the top leg up towards the ceiling, foot flexed. Pause at the top, before lowering the leg back to your starting position. Complete all of the repetitions on one side before swapping legs.

8.  Fire hydrants  

fire hydrant exercise

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Aim for 10-12 reps on each side 

Start on your hands and knees for this exercise, with your core engaged. Squeeze your glutes and raise your bent knee out to the side, as far as it will go while keeping your hips in line and towards the floor. Pause at the top, before lowering your leg back to the starting position. Complete all of the reps on one side before switching to the other leg. To make this exercise more challenging, add a resistance band above the knee. (We’ve hand-picked the best resistance bands on the market here).  

9. Dead bugs 

Dead bugs

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Aim for 10-15 reps on each side 

Start by lying on your back, keeping your lower back pressed into the mat — think about sucking your belly button into your spine. Raise your arms straight above you, and your knees into tabletop position. Slowly lower your right arm to a couple of inches off the floor behind your head, as you do so, stretch your left leg away from your body and lower that to just above the floor. Pause, then return to your starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Keep alternating sides. To make the exercise even harder, hold light dumbbells in your hands.

10.  Scissors 

a photo of a woamn doing scissor exercise

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Aim for 30-60 seconds 

For this exercise, it’s important that you keep your lower back pressed into the floor throughout, even if that only means extending your legs to a 45-degree angle, rather than a 90-degree angle. Raise your legs as high as you can without peeling your lower back off the floor, and at the same time, raise your head and neck off the ground into a crunch position (if this puts too much strain on your neck, leave your head on the ground). Crisscross your legs over, keeping your core engaged for the entire exercise. 

11.  Standing rear leg lift 

a photo of a woman doing kickbacks

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Note: In the illustration above, the woman is using a resistance band, but swap this for ankle weights during this workout.

Aim for 10-15 reps on each side

Start by standing with your legs hip-width apart. Shifting your weight slightly into your right leg and hinging your torso slightly forwards, raise your left leg out behind your body, keeping the foot flexed and the leg engaged. Raise it as far as you can while still keeping good form — your back should be straight, and your pelvis shouldn’t be tucked, then tap it back down to the floor and raise it again.  

12.  Supermans  

an illustration of a woman doing the superman exercise

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Aim for 10-12 reps 

To do a superman, lie on your belly on your exercise mat, stretching both arms and legs out from your body. Engage your glutes and raise both arms and legs off the floor, aiming for about six inches. You should feel a stretch in your lower back. Hold the pose for a couple of seconds before lowering back to your starting position. Repeat 10 times.

13. Bicycles 

bicycle crunch

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Aim for 10-15 reps on each side.

To do a bicycle crunch, lie on the floor with your back flat against the ground. Place your hands next to your head and raise your shoulders up and away from the mat. Bend your knees and draw your legs up off the ground into a tabletop position. Bring the right knee towards your chest as you straighten your left leg, as your right knee comes up, twist your body so your left elbow touches your right knee. Repeat on the other side and make sure your legs and shoulders remain off the ground for the entire exercise.

Looking for more workout inspiration? Read what happened when I did 100 dead bugs a day for a week, as well as when I added 30 sit-ups a day to my routine for 30-days. We’ve also found the best bicep exercises and the best ab workouts here. 

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past four years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.