Becoming a faster, stronger, and more efficient runner won't happen overnight, but it is possible. Consistently working on your running mechanics and strength training are two ways to improve your speed and efficiency, and they can also keep you injury-free. If you've thought about doing running workouts with ankle weights for that extra edge to get faster and stronger, think again.
Ankle weights are a great tool when doing strengthening exercises, like standing hamstring curls and leg lifts, but using them when walking or running can put too much of a load on your back, knees, and hips, affecting your natural gait.
Should I Run With Ankle Weights?
Although ankle weights provide resistance, running with ankles weights (and doing other types of cardio and aerobic workouts) is not recommended due to the repetitive movements and the load of the weight favoring some muscles and not others, causing muscular imbalances, Leada Malek, PT, DPT, CSCS, SCS, told POPSUGAR. Additionally, running with ankle weights can lead to injury.
"With the heavier weight at the ankle, running with ankle weights can lead to less knee drive and more of a leg drag," Dr. Malek said. Because of this, your legs are closer to the ground, which increases your risk of injury such as tripping or rolling your ankle, she continued. "Additionally, running with weights may cause you to adapt to the knee dragging or hip flexion lag, which could in turn affect the efficiency of your gait when you take them off and run again," Dr. Malek explained.
How Can I Make My Running Workouts More Intense?
To get faster and stronger and increase the intensity of your workouts, Dr. Malek recommends playing with the tempo (speed) of your run and the volume (distance). You can also do isolated tempo exercises such as performing slower or faster high knees (try this stationary or moving forward if you're more advanced), lunges, or plyometric lunges, she said. "For distance, you can insert short sprints within a distance workout or work on maintaining a higher speed for a longer period of time," Dr. Malek added.
Running with ankle weights won't make you faster or stronger, and it will negatively affect your speed and running form and may even cause injury. If your goal is to get faster or stronger, it's safer and more effective to stick to the basics such as strength training and mixing up the intensity of your running workouts. Working with a certified run coach is another great option to improve your overall running skills. In the meantime, check out a few of our favorite workouts for runners: