Easy to use
Can ride down
These days, my living room doubles as a Pilates studio. From exercise sliders, to Pilates sculpt bars, to tone-boosting rings, you name it, I probably have it when it comes to Pilates kit. That's why, when Health Editor Ally Head asked me to write this Bala Bangles review, I jumped at the chance.
While you don't need loads of kit to get an effective Pilates workout in - that's the joy of this type of workout - I now train at home pretty much all of the time and so have loved investing in items that take my sessions up a notch.
And as our round up of celebrities who do Pilates proves, I'm not alone in loving the sweat session. Celebs such as Jennifer Aniston, Hailey Bieber and Margot Robbie are all thought to be fans of the low impact workout, with TikTok going wild for wall Pilates and Instagram promoting more beginner-friendly Pilates challenges.
While I've tried both wall Pilates and challenges in my time, there's one thing I've found that's seriously, seriously effective at taking my Pilates sessions to the next level - ankle weights. And not just any ankle weights - Bala Bangles weights (but more on this later).
The benefits of ankle weights span increased resistance, more time under tension and, in turn, increased muscle tone. According to Catie Miller, certified coach and founder of Barre Series, "Ankle weights are not just a relic of '80s workout videos but serve a crucial purpose in modern fitness." How so? Well, "these weights add resistance to your lower body, intensifying movements and engaging muscles more effectively. The extra load challenges the muscles, making them work harder and promoting strength and endurance."
While there are plenty of ankle weights on the market, there's one clear front runner IMO and that's Bala Bangles, a husband and wife-founded company who have been making ankle weights cool since 2018. I've been testing them for well over a year now and, well, I have some thoughts. Keen to read my honest review? Keep scrolling, and don't miss another MC UK staffer's honest ankle weights review, while you're at it.
My honest Bala Bangles review, after 12 months of testing
What are Bala bangles?
First thing first: what are Bala Bangles? In short, they're sleek ankle weights designed from steel and wrapped in soft silicone. To make sure they fit you snugly and don't fall down during your workout, they have an elastic hook and fasteners on the side. This also offers versatility when it comes to use, allowing you to wear the ankle weights on either your ankles or wrists.
Bala Bangles skyrocketed in popularity during the pandemic. With their chic design and minimalistic branding, these ankle weights have been endorsed by fitness instructors, celebs, and home workout lovers alike. They're still rising in Google Search, too, showing continued interest in the at-home workout tool years down the line.
"Bala Bangles are a popular brand of ankle weight that targets the leg and hip muscles, arms, shoulders and core," comments Louisa Drake, fitness expert and founder of The Louisa Drake Method. Coming in 0.5lb, 1lb and 2lb options, she continues: "The added weight places a greater load on the muscle group being targeted, meaning your muscles have to work harder to move this increased load against gravity, in turn increasing your strength."
That said, she points out that you can wear them to intensify virtually any activity - think walking, hiking, or just tidying the house.
What are the benefits of using Bala bangles?
Using props for exercise is a concept that's been around for years, with resistance bands, ankle weights and yoga blocks just a few of the wide variety of tools designed to help you level up your workout or activate certain muscle groups.
One 2021 study analysing the benefits of using workout props for core muscle activation found that the use of tools equated to a more effective way of activating the participant's core muscles. And while more research on the benefits of ankle weights specifically certainly needs to be done, one 2022 study analysing the effects of ankle weights on the elderly community found that they're a great addition if you're looking to support your limbs and strengthen your muscles (participants simply added them to their daily walks or workouts).
So, what do Pilates experts reckon on their effectiveness? Amanda Baracho, co-founder of X Club studios, they're a great way to elevate your workout intensity, targeting your glutes and legs.
They're also simple to use - you need only strap them on and you're good to go - and far more accessible type of weight for beginners than, say, dumbbells or barbells, which may be intimidating for some.
Miller agrees, adding: "Using props like ankle weights enhances versatility in your workouts, allowing for full-body engagement and contributing to muscle mass development and toning by inducing hypertrophy, the process of muscle fibre repair and growth." Not just that, but props efficiently activate stabiliser muscles, fostering core strength and stability, she adds.
Although Bala Bangles might appear like they won't make your workout much spicier due to their weight, when combined with traditional Pilates moves, they seriously take sweat sessions up a notch (trust me on this one).
What workouts can you use the Bala bangles for?
The versatility of their design leaves the Bala Bangles as a tool for any workout, according to our experts. I've used them for Pilates, yoga, HIIT, walking, and as a compliment to my warm-ups when weight-lifting and running.
After speaking to Eloise Skinner, Pilates, yoga, and group fitness instructor, she outlined some tips to incorporate Bala Bangles into your routine. "Apart from Pilates, barre, and mat-based exercises, you can also use them to anchor your feet during ab or core-focused workouts," she says.
For those looking at incorporating Bala Bangles as part of their pre-workout routine or other fitness disciplines, Skinner recommends adding them to your warm-ups or using them during dance classes or other forms of cardio.
What exercises can you use Bala Bangles with?
Good question. If you're keen to piece together your own workout with moves that you like and feel confident doing, Drake advises using ankle weights to take the following up a gear:
- Weighted lunges
- Donkey kicks
- Squat with leg lift
- Side leg lifts
- Weight arm circles and punches.
I tried the Bala bangles - my honest review
I've been testing Bala Bangles for well over a year now - so, what's my honest take on the bangles, which are a bit pricier than other alternatives on the market?
Rewing twelve months or so, first. I've tried a lot of ankle weights in my time - weights made from sand, velcro, and even lined with terrycloth. While each has its own pros and cons, I'd heard rave reviews about the soft-silicone Bala design and so couldn't wait to get testing.
My first impression was that the Bala Bangles were super luxe and easy to use (I popped them straight on after unwrapping them and voila - good to go). Not just that, but they're surprisingly compact, not to mention easy to take travelling with you or to the gym, thanks to their own individual carry pouch.
Weight-wise, I opted for the one-pound bangles and tested them over the course of twelve months by using them during my Pilates, HIIT, low impact strength training, and Barre sessions. Additionally, I tested them out on walks and during my work-from-home days to add an extra bit of resistance when moving around my flat.
As for my workouts, I definitely felt that the Bala Bangles added to the challenge of my sessions - in a good way, of course. Unlike other competitor models I'd tried, they didn't move around, dig in, or cause discomfort, rather, sitting snuggly and helping my muscles to work that bit harder on each rep. Similarly, they didn't slide down, making them a great zero-distraction workout addition.
By month three, I was a bit of a convert. They make me look forward to working out and add enough resistance without it feeling overwhelming or daunting. Similarly, a really interesting plus that I've noticed in the year or so since I've been using my Bala Bangles weekly is improved balance and stability. I noticed it about six months or so in, but I definitely feel they've helped to improve my balance and core strength, too.
Another way I use my Bala's is during my warm ups. I'm currently training for a half marathon and tend to get some pain in my calves during my long runs, which a physio told me is related to weak leg muscles. At their advice, I've been mixing my warm ups using resistance bands and ankle weights, and feel confident that I'm strengthening my muscles enough to support me over the 13.1 mile distance.
One con to note: during high-intensity workouts like HIIT, they do ride down slightly. To work around this, I started strapping them on extra tight, but they aren't the most comfortable worn this way, so I'd recommend wearing them at a comfortable tightness and using them largely for low-intensity exercise.
You don't just have to use them during workouts, mind - that's half of the appeal of Bala Bangles. I love popping them on for mundane tasks like walks around my neighbourhood or household chores. Adding the ankle weights helped increase the resistance my muscles were feeling just slightly, and believe it or not, I even got a few compliments on how chic and luxe they looked.
During my work-from-home days, they provided a little active challenge while I was on the computer, preparing lunch, or sipping tea - an easy way to incorporate more exercise and movement into my day.
Would I recommend Bala Bangles to a friend?
Short answer - definitely. The unique design, style, and look of Bala get my vote, and I love how easy and appealing they make at-home workouts. I reckon they'd make a great addition to your workout kit and that you'd use them for years to come, too.
They're certainly an investment, but an investment in your health and for life. Plus, mine have proven to be durable and multi-faceted, which is exactly what you want from investment pieces of kit.
Bottom line? Bala Bangles are effective, long-lasting, and my personal favourite. Totally chic.