I am interested in your opinion about running with weights (dumbbells) in your hand or ankle weights on your feet. Is it good or bad? What are the benefits if it is good?
Training with hand and ankle weights can be beneficial; it can also be detrimental. The benefit is the overload provided to the limbs. This stimulus creates muscle, tendon and bone growth. The limb weights allow a person to move through whatever pattern of motion that is a kin to their sport. This applies the specificity training principle.
Depending on the amount of weight will dictate how fast the motion will imitate the sport movement. Heavy Hands were a commercial hand weight set sold in the mid- 70’s. I am sure there have been many others before 1970 that have used this theory of training. Boxers have used heavy gloves for many years, maybe even back to the Pantheon of ancient Greece. So, training with weighted limbs has been in use for a while.
The detrimental side of this “coin” is the joint stress. Having the weight sitting at the end of the limb creates a lot of joint fatigue and compression on impact. With a weighted limb you have an un-natural level of momentum, so the impact placed on the ground or heavy bag is greater. During running, you have a swing phase, the heavy ankle can increase the level of joint fatigue and cause some distraction or joint separation in the knee, hip and maybe into the lower back. This may not be a desirable thing.
Is this form of training worth doing? I don’t know. It probably comes down to the goals of the person you are training. Does the person need real specific training? Are they ready for this type of training? If you are using this as an “entertainment” tool, then it could be fun for the person if it is used in small doses. Remember, new movements usually causes muscle soreness.
Another aspect to carrying weighted objects while working is blood pressure. Blood pressure rises significantly during rest and work. I helped out on a study that examined blood pressure changes and carrying a backpack in your hand. We used well- trained athletes for the study. The results showed a significant rise in systolic & diastolic blood pressures while carrying the pack in the hand vs. on their backs. You have probably heard of “airport angina”. This is when businessmen walk or run through the airport with their brief case in hand and end up with crushing chest pain. Now, it wasn’t only the brief case that made the chest pain come about, but it was a stimulus for the de- conditioned, cholesterol ridden, and hypertensive executive to have a abnormal outcome to work stress. This may be something to consider if you have someone like this as a client.
I am sure you keep an active dialog with your clients to let you know when something does not “feel” good. That would then be the key to eliminating any problems that might be brewing. Good Luck with your training, Steve.
Steve Rhyan MA, CSCS-D, EMT
Clinical Exercise Physiologist