Some dancers use ankle weights to make their legs stronger.
Ballet dancers need strong, supple legs to execute the lengthy balances, soaring jumps and high kicks of classical dance. Dancers who struggle with weak leg muscles may use small ankle weights to build strength and make their dancing more powerful. Before you strap on a pair of weights, learn about the possible benefits and risks associated with using ankle weights when you dance or exercise.
You can perform special leg-strengthening exercises like lunges or leg lifts using ankle weights, or use them to add resistance to steps in a regular ballet class. Ariel Cisneros, an instructor at The Joffrey Ballet's Academy of Dance, recommends that dancers use ankle weights when performing small warm-up exercises like tendus and dГ©gagГ©s. Some dancers use ankle weights when performing larger movements like jumps. Homer Bryant, who directs the preprofessional program at the Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center, often has male students wear ankle weights for the entire duration of class.
Ankle weights can make your hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes stronger by requiring your muscles to resist against added weight. Wearing ankle weights at the barre or while jumping can also help increase the cardiovascular benefit of your exercise as you use more exertion to lift your legs. Dancers who use weights report that the height of their leaps and leg extensions increase after using weights, then removing them.
Precautions and Risks
Dancers with joint problems should take caution when using ankle weights or avoid them all together. Kent Adams, who directs the exercise physiology lab at Cal State Monterey Bay, reports that athletes who use ankle weights cause unnecessary stress to the joints in their knees, hips and back as well as their ankles. Excessive use of ankle weights can also cause your muscles to become fatigued, making you more susceptible to injury. Take caution by using ankle weights only after receiving approval from a physician or athletic trainer. Remove ankle weights immediately if you feel any strain or pain in your joints.
Other forms of strength training and conditioning can help you increase your leg strength without the possible risks associated with ankle weights. Regularly attending ballet class and performing repetitions of barre exercises like fondus, developpГ©s and grand battements will gradually strengthen your legs even without the use of weights. Outside of dance class, Pilates exercises, such as the Side Kick Series, and traditional weight machines can strengthen the leg muscles you use for ballet while also helping you develop stability in your core.