Next up in our series of favorite training tools that we use in lessons that you can use on your own: ankle weights! You’re probably picturing Jane Fonda doing calisthentics on your TV while you jump around your living room right now (don’t be ashamed, I grew up doing those workouts…still do some when I visit my parents), but I promise you it’s nothing like that.
We use these weights with our clients in our lessons in numerous ways to help with technique, posture, skill work, and strength. I wouldn’t recommend working on some of these things on your own, so we’re only going to go over two ways to use them that take very little instruction and don’t need one of our instructors present to make sure you’re not going to hurt yourself by falling into bad technique. So, that being said, I’m going to go over how to use these ankle weights to work on strengthening your upkick and focusing on proper posture during your freestyle.
When talking about upkick, we use these weights to bring awareness to the upkick movement in general, as well as strengthen your glutes and hamstrings. You’ll take the weights and place one around each ankle, then start swimming your freestyle as you normally would at an easy to moderate pace. Start slowly and take it one 25 at a time in order to make sure you’re focusing on proper kick and letting yourself become used to the feeling of swimming with the weights. You want to remember to kick upwards towards the surface and not let the weights drag your legs downward. We recommend using the two pound option, as anything more than that can cause unnecessary strain. It might not seem like much, but you’re definitely going to feel it! When you start adding in more distance be aware of any discomfort you feel in your lower back. This means that your lower back is doing the work, not your glutes and hamstrings. This is NOT what we want! If this happens take a break from the weights and come back to them later when you can re-focus and work on proper technique.
Using the weights to work on correct posture takes a bit of maneuvering, but once you get the hang of setting it up it’s a piece of cake. You’re going to take both ankle weights and connect them together to make a belt. Once you’ve setup the belt, you’re going to connect the belt sitting around your natural waist. This should place the belt above your hip bones and below your ribs.
Once the belt is in place, you want to make sure you’re pushing the area of your torso that the weights are sitting on towards the surface of the water. You may or may not be able to feel a difference with the weights on, so we’re really looking for the change to happen when you take the weights off. This is when you should feel better alignment of your spine and a more streamlined body position during your freestyle. Try this out at an easy pace doing your normal freestyle. If you’re having trouble focusing on the exact body position try it with a snorkel to take your breath out of the equation.