When I first think of arm and ankle weights, I'm instantly transported to my childhood in the '90s, when I would witness my mom doing a series of leg lifts and arm exercises in her bedroom while watching her lineup of soaps (General Hospital was her favorite). Each move was small and controlled. Her energy was calm yet focused. Her repetition, quite monotonous. She seemed never to overexert herself, though a few gusty exhalations would reveal slight fatigue.
When I asked her about said regimen, she told me that these sculpting movements were all she could stand in the world of workouts (she's never been a gym or class fan) and that with consistency, she always saw results. My mother explained how these slow, controlled, and weighted movements helped her tone her arms and legs in a way that didn't create bulk, all while building strength.
When I started to develop my fitness regime in middle school, I began giving these moves a go, though I quickly grew bored of the slow-burn pace. After a good cardio sweat session, I revisited them every so often, but my efforts were feeble at best. Recently, however, I've become a weighted workout enthusiast and incorporated the aesthetically pleasing, minimally chic weights known as Bala Bangles into my at-home regimen. Like most of my discoveries, I spotted them on Instagram and swiftly clicked through to the brand's profile to learn more.
Despite my mom's substantiated claims about low-impact, weighted strength training, I've always been one of those people that believed I needed to exert to my absolute max capacity for a workout to be worth it. I focused my energy on cardio via running on the treadmill or gliding on the elliptical for lower impact. If the sweat wasn't dripping and my limbs hadn't reached a Gumbi-like state of fatigue, a workout's appeal was lost on me. Not exactly a healthy or reasonable assessment, but I know I'm not alone in that feeling.
Right before COVID-19 hit, I'd recently adapted a low-impact workout routine of yoga (a heated vinyasa flow is my favorite) and strength training (via the boutique workout studio, SLT). I did so not only for the sake of change, but because I've developed knee sensitivity that required me to do so. With this, my body has changed drastically. I've developed muscle definition in areas I'd more or less assumed would be eternally soft. I've built strength in my upper body and core, which have always been my weak points. I don't experience extreme soreness or tightness in my legs, knees, and back, which I often used to after a high-intensity routine or a few days off. And while I've always been flexible, I'm able to stretch deeper and feel relief with certain movements that help to center me and lead to a more relaxed and clear state of mind. Understandably, I've wanted to maintain this feeling while sheltering in place.
To do so, I've adapted a new at-home routine — this includes yoga and yoga sculpt classes from CorePower's on-demand service, various sculpting series from Melissa Wood, and an at-home version of my favorite dynamic Pilates workout, SLT. Ever the diehard, I reached out to Amanda Freeman, founder, and CEO of SLT and Stretch*d, for her take on adding Bala bangles to the mix to kick things up a notch. "I love the Bala one-pound bangles as an enhancement for many workouts," she told me via email. "They are great props to amplify the benefits of most toning and dance-cardio workouts. Wearing them on your wrists or ankles makes every movement performed just a little bit harder and adds a strength training aspect to every workout."
While there's nothing quite like doing an SLT workout on the studio's Megaformer machines, Freeman told me that similar, off-machine movements could be equally killer, especially with weights. "Add in Bala bangles on your ankles and wrists, and you've added an extra burn that will make each movement feel extra hard and fatigue you quicker," she says. For those who feel like a one-pound weight isn't enough resistance, Freeman told me that you could double up on weights to amp up the burn and increase strength once you're comfortable with a move or workout. "I love wearing the weights on my wrists during lower-body moves like lunges and standing inner thigh. It makes a lower body-focused move more full body and multi-tasking." (Come July, Bala's two-pound bangles will become available.)
After my Instagram deep-dive, I slid into the Bala's DMs and inquired about a press sample. I was met with a quick response, emailed with a team member, and received two pairs to try first-hand. After a couple of workouts, I quickly became a fan of the bangles. At one pound each, they provide extra resistance without affecting my form or reps. I fatigue a little quicker with the bangles on, but in a burns-so-good type of way.
The weights themselves are slim, smooth, and sleek and designed around an adjustable wide elastic that comfortably fastens with velcro. Even better, they come in a range of colors from pastel shades to Earthy tones and neutral favorites like black, white, and grey — ideal for workout set-enthusiasts like myself who are extra motivated by a cute and coordinated outfit.
Though I very much miss my socially unconstrained workout routine, I've adapted to my at-home regimen and enjoying it more than ever, especially with my newfound appreciation for concise, targeted, strength-building workouts. Thanks to my Bala bangles and the modern, functional design, I feel I can continue to build strength without the worry of overworking or straining my muscles and feeling cute. What can I say? Mother was right.
Keep scrolling for a six-move SLT off-the-machine full-body workout circuit by Amanda Freeman, incorporating Bala bangles for an intense burn.
Bear (targets core): Starting in a straight arm plank position with a towel or gliders under your feet and Bala weights around your ankles. Maintaining a flat back, use your abdominal muscles to bring your knees into your chest. Slowly push your legs back out into the original starting position (straight arm plank). Use a slow four-count and repeat for one minute.
Arm Assisted Crunch (targets arms and core): Lying on your back with Bala weights around your wrists, start with arms straight overhead and legs in a 90-degree bent tabletop position. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders up off the floor while at the same time bringing your arms down by your side and your legs down to a straight leg hover, engaging your abs all the while. Return to starting position and repeat for 90 seconds.
French Twist (targets obliques): With your feet facing the left side of the room, and the weights around your ankles, place your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart and your right foot in front of the left foot (heel to toe) with a towel or gliders under your feet. Using your side waist to pull, slide your feet and legs a few inches closer to your hands, then slide your feet and legs away from your hands. Repeat slowly for one minute. Focus on using your side waist (aka your obliques) to do the work. Avoid bending your knees. Switch feet and the direction your feet are facing and repeat to work the left side.
Hydrant Kicks (targets glutes) - With the Bala bangles on your ankles, start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Then, drop onto your left forearm and lift your left leg up, bend the knee and turn it out to the side (like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant). Slowly lift it up a few inches, and then slowly drop it down a few inches. Repeat for one minute. Switch legs so that your left forearm is down and your left leg is working. Repeat for another minute on the left side.
Curtsy Lunge With Biceps Curls (targets legs and arms) - Wearing the Bala bangles around your wrists and with your weight loaded in the heel of your right foot, start by standing with feet a little wider than hip-width apart, left toes pointed and on a towel. Extend your arms out in front of you at shoulder height. Slowly, slide the left foot back and to the right of the right foot, by bending your right knee. Hold for one second in the lunge position, then pulse in place by bending both knees. As you move, bicep curl your forearms up and back toward your face. After straightening your legs, slowly return the left foot to the original position and your arms to straight. Continue for two minutes to fatigue the right leg. To work the left leg, switch the foot that is on the towel and the front standing leg.
Standing Inner Thighs (targets arms and inner thighs) - Start standing with a towel or glider under your right foot and your feet next to each other. Your Bala bangles should be around your wrists. Slowly slide the right foot away from the left for a four-count, keeping your weight evenly loaded in both feet and, at the same time, do small forward arm circles. Then, slowly slide the right foot back in toward your left leg. Continue arm circles and inner thigh movement for one minute. Switch the towel to below your left foot and switch the direction of your arm circles for another minute.