Wondering if you should slap on those old ankle weights you’ve got lying around? Surely the external load will be beneficial to your vertical jump training, right?
When training with ankle weights, you put virtually no additional load on the muscles involved in the vertical jump (i.e. the triple extensors) and create an unnatural strain on the knee joint which can lead to injury.
This article is going to explain exactly why ankle weights are almost useless for vertical jump training and why you should avoid them for this purpose.
I’ll also touch on the ways in which they can be used to enhance your training.
The Issue With Ankle Weights: Location Of The External Load
The problem with ankle weights is that the load is located on our ankles, which is below our knee and hip joints.
Because of this positioning of the weight on our ankles, our knee and hip extensors don’t have to do any additional work during the concentric movement compared to what they’d be doing if jumping without ankle weights.
During both the eccentric and concentric phases of the vertical jump, our quads and glutes (knee and hip extensors) aren’t having to work much harder at all when we’re wearing ankle weights, because the load is below the knee and hip joints.
Our ankle extensors (calves) will have to work harder, but only slightly.
Ankle Weights Cause Unnatural Loading & Increase Risk Of Injury
If you’ve ever worn ankle weights and tried to do plyometrics, it’s one of the yuckiest feelings you can experience when training…
Everything feels horribly disjointed and goofy. Your coordination is horrible. And there’s this awful sensation of pressure on the knee joint.
That’s never a good sign.
Plyometrics or any explosive movements are extremely taxing on the joints at the best of times.
Most people struggle to handle their own bodyweight efficiently as it is. Using ankle weights for any plyometric activity is just asking for trouble.
Moreover, using ankle weights while jumping will fail to replicate the desired stretch shortening cycle efficiently, as the added load will dramatically increase ground contact time.
Thinking about jogging with ankle weights?
Jogging has a very poor carryover to the vertical jump and using ankle weights is only going to make it even worse.
One of the best ways you can increase your vertical jump is to increase the longevity of your training life and take really exceptional care of your joints.
You should aspire to emulate the limberness of Kadour Ziani who is still throwing down at age 47!
When doing any training exercise you have to weigh up the risk vs reward…
I’m okay with taking risks if the potential reward is very high, but in the case of vertical jump training with ankle weights, we have an extremely high risk with exceptionally low reward.
Smarter Alternative: Swap The Ankle Weights For A Weight Vest
It’s definitely a good idea to train with external loads, but not when that additional load is positioned on our ankles.
If we put the additional load above our hips, suddenly our hip and knee extensors are actually benefiting from the increased load right through the eccentric loading phase and through full triple extension.
Dumbbells Also Work Great
You can accomplish a similar effect just by using a couple light dumbbells when you’re doing all sorts of plyometrics.
Again, because the load is much closer to your torso it’ll be much more effective in developing your knee and hip extensors.
Leverage Gravity & Load With A Box
The whole point of using ankle weights in vertical jump training (at least the idea) is to increase the load which increases the amount of work our muscles have to do.
But there’s a way easier, safer, and cheaper way to do this.
You can effectively create an external load by leveraging gravity.
By jumping off a box, you increase the load during the eccentric portion of the movement.
How Ankle Weights CAN Improve Your Vertical Jump
The only time I don’t mind doing jump-related movements using ankle weights is when jumping rope.
This actually isn’t a terrible idea because the overall movement is quite minimal and it doesn’t put a ton of extra stress on your joints.
You’ll get decent shin and calf activation so there’s definitely some good stimulation going on, but I still think the relative slowness of the movement makes it convert pretty poorly to the vertical jump.
It can definitely be effective for conditioning, however.
A waaaay better vertical jump skipping variant would simply be doing ‘double unders’ which is where the rope moves under your feet twice while in the air.
This forces extreme power output from the ankle extensors and is biomechanically one of the best lower leg exercises for the vertical jump.
Ankle weights can also be used for non-ballistic movements, which is where I think they’re most effective.
Core exercises like hanging leg raises can be made more difficult using ankle weights.
Ankle weights do have a place and can be used to effectively to develop your hip flexors and core strength, but they are pretty useless when it comes to developing your vertical jump.
This is because the position of the load is below the hip and knee extensors, which creates an almost non-existent stimulus for these major jumping muscle groups.
They also overload your joints in a hideously unnatural and awkward manner, which can lead to injury.
By all means, wear your ankle weights while jumping rope, but just realize this is more of a conditioning exercise that will have very little carryover to your vertical jump.