Wearable weights are a type of fitness accessory that has gained popularity in recent years. It refers to any weight that can be worn on the body while exercising or engaging in other physical activities. They come in different shapes and sizes, such as wrist and ankle weights, weighted vests, and even weighted clothing. The idea behind wearable weights is to increase the intensity of workouts and challenge the muscles to work harder, leading to greater strength and endurance gains. Here’s what you need to know about them to extract the most benefit and minimize the risk of getting injured.
How wearable weights work
Wearable weights add extra weight to your body which pushes your muscles and cardiovascular system to work harder to move your body. Raising your body weight places a load on your heart and muscles which boosts the intensity of your workout, strengthening your muscles.
These are weights attached to a wide strap around your ankle with Velcro or a buckle. The weight is often made of sand or lead filings so that it moulds to the shape of the body without getting in the way of your movement. Ankle weights usually weigh between 1-5 pounds with beginners encouraged to start with lighter options before advancing to heavier options.
Benefits: Ideal for strengthening muscles in the lower body, including, calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes. Using them can raise your heart rate by about 3-5 beats per minute as well as boost your oxygen consumption.
Risks: It may not be a good idea to use them while walking, running or during aerobic workouts. This is because they force you to use the muscles in the front of your thighs instead of the back which can cause a muscle imbalance. These wearable weights also pull on the ankle which increases your risk of tendon or ligament injuries to the knees, hips and back. The best time to use them is when doing leg exercises like leg lifts.
They are flexible cuffs that wrap around your wrist like a bracelet, such as with Bala bangles. They are lighter than ankle weights, coming in at an average of 3 pounds. Anything heavier can put too much strain on your joints, shoulders and arm muscles.
Benefits: Using them can boost the intensity of your workout, boost your oxygen consumption and raise your heart rate by about 5-10 beats per minute. Using wrist weights with targeted upper-body resistance exercises can help build your strength.
Risks: People often wear them during cardio workouts or on walks and when they swing their arms back and forth, it can cause joint and tendon injuries in the elbows, shoulders, and neck. The best way to use them is during standard exercises such as bicep curls, and shoulder exercises and to improve your grip when lifting dumbbells. They are really beneficial for people with trouble holding free weights.
A weighted vest is a vest with weights attached to it usually with straps holding it in place and pockets that let you add weights. To be safe, pick one that is not more than 10% of your body weight. Beginners should start with a light vest of about 4 pounds then add weights as they get stronger.
Benefits: Can add intensity to your workouts without straining your hands and ankles. They can also be good for long-term bone density. One 5-year study found that women who wore weighted vests while doing jumping exercises kept their bone density stable. Those who didn’t lose 3-4% of the bone density in their hips. Wearing a weighted vest can also help with balance.
Risks: They are not right for people with back or neck problems. This is because they put pressure on the spine and if you have pre-existing problems, it can cause issues all the way to the neck. Adding too much weight or overdoing it with them can lead to overuse injuries like bursitis, tendonitis and strains or sprains.
For all the different wearable weights it’s important to talk to a doctor before you start using them, especially if you have back, joint or balance problems. You should also work with a professional like a physical therapist or trainer to make sure you’re using the weights correctly.
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