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Speed training is a critical aspect to many sports training programs, and athletes looking to gain an edge may turn to ankle weights to increase the effectiveness of their training. While ankle weights will add resistance to your speed drills, they are not designed for most kinds of high-intensity training, and can cause wear and tear on your joints.
Speed training drills are used by sprinters, soccer players and other athletes to increase their running speed. An athlete's speed is determined by their overall level of mobility, their leg and core strength, their muscular endurance and their mastery of technique. The length and frequency of your stride will determine how fast you can sprint; both of these can be improved through speed training drills.
Ankle weights are small bags of sand or water that you wrap around your ankles with velcro straps. They generally range in weight from one to 20 pounds, and are used frequently by walkers and joggers to add an extra element to their routines. Performing speed drills with ankle weights can be an effective way to increase the resistance your leg muscles must overcome, resulting in a more challenging training session and quicker muscle fatigue. The additional weight at the end of your legs will make your hamstrings, quads, calf muscles and glutes work that much harder to perform the same task, and can result in a "floating" or "feathery" feeling when they are taken off.
Because they primarily work out your calves, the most effective use of ankle weights are drills that incorporate leg and knee raises. Be careful with the ankle weights if you are performing these drills while stepping in and out of ladders or tires, as the weights can catch on the edges and throw you off balance. Speed drills that can utilize ankle weights most effectively are those in which you must shift your weight from one leg to the other in rapid succession, such as the string ladder drill, the lateral feet drill, the tango drill and the in-out drill.
Ankle weights are not ideal for all training routines. Even a small amount of additional weight on the ankles can put a greater stress load on your knee, hip and ankle joints. This additional strain can lead to strains or injuries. Ankle weights are best used for drills using simple leg raises, as they can alter the mechanics of the way you walk, jump and run. This might create an unbalanced stride or jumping motion; consult with your trainer to see if ankle weights can negatively affect your technique.