This Old-School Fitness Accessory Is a Low-Key Butt-Toning MVP

Photo: Stocksy/Natalie Jeffcott
When it comes to exercise equipment, I’m fully aware that ankle weights might not be the sexiest option available. There are people hanging upside-down on Pilates Cadillacs, for goodness sake. But in terms of effectiveness? Let's just say there’s a reason why they’ve been a fitness staple since the '80s—and why celebs like Selena Gomez are proudly rocking them on Instagram all these years later.

Now let's get one thing straight: Personally, I wasn’t always an ankle-weight fanatic. A couple years ago, I really only knew them as the semi-dorky-looking things that commonly graced the ankles of mall walkers everywhere. Then something happened: The world’s top trainers started utilizing them again to sculpt long, lean, and toned bodies. Heck, even Kate Hudson and Jenna Dewan use them on a regular basis. And during my first class at New York City’s modelFIT—a company that's known for utilizing them as part of its technique—I quickly learned just how good of a burn they provide.

After an hour of doing seemingly innocent small movements with them strapped tightly around my ankles, my world was totally rocked—and not just because I was so sore I could hardly sit at my desk the next day. The trainers use the Velcro-clad tools to make your body work in ways you didn’t even know were possible, engaging even the tiniest muscles for a more defined look overall. After I got home, it took me approximately .5 seconds to Amazon Prime over a shiny new pair of my own. Then when I eventually started doing the booty-burning classes online, something amazing happened: After only three or so months of 20-minute sessions a day, I caught a very unexpected glimpse of a much-perkier and less-dimpled behind in the mirror and shockingly realized it was mine. All without doing a single squat. You can probably imagine my shock.

Since that day, I've noticed far more than just booty benefits from using ankle weights. And one in particular that still blows my mind? That through all those movements also came some serious core definition in the notoriously hard-to-tone obliques—something I've never seen much change in, no matter how many bicycle crunches I did. According to modelFIT's head trainer Javi Perez (AKA my butt's knight in shining armor!), there's a simple explanation for that—and the multitude of other full-body changes.

Perez says having that added weight (his classes typically use two- or three-pound versions) around the ankles might not seem like it's doing a ton, but it's kind of serving as the missing puzzle piece that allows you to get the most out of every movement. "Ankle weights work because they give you body awareness. Because they're placed at the end of your leg, they immediately make you aware of the entire length of it," he tells me. "For instance, a bent leg extended from the hip at 90 degrees will feel more obvious and deliberate with an ankle weight on as opposed to without it."

Because of that, he says your workouts go from feeling too easy or disconnected without ankle weights to very intentional with them. They help you find that lost connection, making you move "efficiently, through space, with resistance," Perez explains. Plus, because they remind you where the end of your limb is, he says you're better able to engage the right muscles during your movements. It's something I immediately notice every time I put them on. Even with something as basic as fire hydrants, I feel my muscles working just as much in my obliques as in my butt as I'm raising and lowering my leg.

So while the small amount of added weight definitely helps tone your body on its own, the real magic of the ankle weights is how they change your movement for the better. When you're engaging the right muscles, you'll see better results—and that's probably why they've worked so well for me opposed to the billion other things I've tried in the past. Plus, let's be honest: I would take 20 minutes of hard-yet-enjoyable ankle weight work over even a single squat any day.

All in all, it probably goes without saying that I'll be cherishing my pair of ankle weights for the rest of eternity—and yes, that probably means becoming part of the aforementioned mall walking squad in approximately 50 or so years. #NoShame

Here are 9 must-have products to bring the heat to your summer workouts. Or, find out how much protein you need to stay strong after a workout

Loading More Posts...