If you are looking to add some extra intensity to your training sessions, weighted clothing and a weighted vest in particular is an excellent addition to your list of fitness equipment. It is a vest that is either made from a thick material or has pockets filled with sand or other weighted objects. You wear it on the upper body, and while there are dozens of different designs, the purpose remains the same; adding resistance to your workouts.
Weighted vests usually have adjustment straps and are intended to fit your body comfortably. The best products allow you to remove individual weights so you can vary the weight. Advances in product design now mean it is possible to purchase a vest that is almost ‘hidden’ when you wear loose clothing. At a glance, it looks as if you suddenly gained ten pounds of muscle!
Comparison: Best Weighted Vests
[table id=10 /]
Why Would I Need A Weighted Vest?
A weighted vest is a ‘must have’ for anyone serious about increasing their existing level of fitness. You use it during bodyweight workouts, running and walking to add an extra standard of difficulty. According to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, wearing a weighted vest when training improves agility-related performance in younger males.
Your muscle fibres believe there is more resistance on the body than there is so it increases your power output. The body responds by building more muscle fibres to help you carry the load.
You don’t need to be an elite athlete to benefit from a weighted vest, however. The addition of extra weight when performing routine tasks will increase the amount of calories the body burns and kick-start your metabolism. The sensible thing to do is to start light. Begin with a ten-pound vest and work your way up to the 40-50 pound versions. If you can jog or perform pull-ups or push-ups while wearing a 50-pound vest, you’re probably in the best shape of your life!
There are three main reasons to purchase a weighted vest.
A weighted vest adds intensity to your training sessions which forces the body to work harder. Although the increase in calories burned is minimal for less strenuous exercises, it adds up over time. Also, the boost in your metabolic rate causes your body to burn fat faster even when you’re at rest.
Regardless of the exercise, adding more weight helps you get stronger as your muscles must adapt to the increased resistance. Once you remove the extra weight, your endurance increases because your body has got used to vigorous exercise and the use of more oxygen. If you can perform 50 push ups in a 30-pound vest, doing 50 push ups with no added weight will seem easy.
Over time, the body’s muscle memory is triggered to adapt to the added weight of the vest. Your body and mind believe extra weight has been added so your muscle memory will act as if the weight is still there. Ultimately, you’ll experience remarkable improvements in your overall speed.
Muscle & Bone Density
The extra weight causes your muscles and bones to adapt too. You’ll find that your muscles grow and your bones gain density and strength to handle the additional load.
Top 3 Weight Vests
1 – Cross 101 Adjustable Weighted Vest
This vest is ideal for practically everyone because it is designed to fit, short and tall individuals and both sexes. It is one of the few genuine ‘one size fits all’ vests on the market, and it comes equipped with weights. The 40-pound version has 10 x 4-pound iron ore weights while the 20-pound vest has 8 x 2.5-pound weights.
Here are some of its features:
- Features a one-piece Velcro belt design that keeps the weights close to the body.
- Offers complete mobility so you can perform virtually any exercise.
- The weights are removable so you can slowly increase resistance.
- Includes a manufacturing warranty.
The 20-pound vest is moderately priced and includes shipping while the 40-pound version costs slightly more. The sturdy and breathable material, coupled with its ease of use and adjustable nature ensures the Cross 101 is one of the best weighted vests you can buy.
2 – ZFOsports Adjustable Weighted Vest
This is unquestionably one of the best ‘beginner’ weighted vests on the market. It ticks all the right boxes; it is durable, comfortable, adjustable and aesthetically pleasing. It is an excellent option for users with long torsos and comes in several different weights. Both the 40 and 60-pound versions have received positive customer reviews, and they allow you to add as much or as little weight as you like up to their respective upper limits.
The ZFOsports Adjustable Weighted Vest:
- Is designed to stay tight to your body no matter how intense the workout.
- Has a moulded custom fit to prevent irritating weight shifting during exercise.
- Allows you to add weight in 2.5-pound increments.
- Is designed for men and women with one size fitting most bodies.
As the weight is included with the vest, it is one of the best value for money products out there. The breathable material means you can exercise in relative comfort and don’t have to worry about foul odours! The main downside is the fact it is a bulky vest, but this is only a small issue in what is an otherwise outstanding item.
3 – Hyperwear Hyper Vest PRO
Regarding material quality, few weighted vests can match the Hyperwear Hyper Vest PRO. It is remarkably flexible, designed for men and women and most importantly, adjustable. Regardless of the size of your torso, this vest will offer a comfortable fit due to its stretch fabric design.
Here are some of its features:
- Includes 10 pounds of high density steel weights with a maximum capacity of 65 pounds for the XXL version.
- Features a revolutionary control system and fabric.
- Ensures weights remain close to the core no matter how active you are.
- It is barely visible beneath a t-shirt as the weights are 0.25 inches thick.
- It is available in sizes Small to XXL.
Each size has a different weight capacity:
- Small: 23 pounds.
- Medium: 26 pounds.
- Large: 34 pounds.
- XL: 46 pounds.
- XXL: 65 pounds.
The Hyperwear Wear Vest PRO almost moulds onto your body such is its level of comfort, and it offers excellent ventilation. About the only downside is the steep price; it is one of the more expensive vests, but serious athletes will probably see it as a worthy investment.
How To Choose A Weighted Vest
- Comfort: Choose a vest that allows you to place your entire hand beneath it with difficulty. It is a training tool, not a corset!
- Weight: You can find monster 100-pound vests if you look hard enough, but beginners should stick to a 10-20 pound version. 10 pounds may seem like nothing, but your body won’t agree!
- Design: Ideally, you will find a vest that allows you to adjust the weight with pockets for lead, sand or another heavy material. It should also strap on relatively quickly. You should be able to change the weight in seconds, and the vest shouldn’t be a struggle to put on or take off.
- Quality of Material: Choose a vest that is resistant to tearing and sweat. Perspiration leads to a bacterial build up, and it transfers back to your skin while you train. The best vests tend to have a metal or neoprene coating to prevent rust.
Weighted Vest Workout Plans & Ideas
The first rule of wearing a weighted vest is: Start Light!!! Make sure your body is well conditioned before adding extra weight. If you try to wear a 40-pound vest while in reasonably poor shape, you will put excessive strain on your joints and suffer an injury.
You can’t beat the versatility of a weighted vest as you will see in these five workout options.
1 – Walks or Hikes
Although power walking is a useful way to exercise, nothing beats a weighted vest for turning a leisurely stroll into a genuine workout. Look for a 30-50 pound vest when walking or hiking and try and have some fun with it. Even wearing your vest for a trip to the shops is a worthy endeavour. The great thing about walking is that you can do it every single day.
One good workout tip is to walk to a pre-determined point and back again. Time the duration of the walk and try to beat it next time. Alternatively, walk as fast as you can for 20-30 minutes and attempt to walk further during your next session.
2 – Bodyweight Exercises
If you love bodyweight work but find it a little too easy, strap on a weighted vest for a real challenge! Here is a tricky circuit to try on for size:
- 3-minute run (it is handy if you have a treadmill at home but if not, simply find a local park or somewhere you can perform bodyweight exercises in peace)
- 20 push-ups
- 20 get-ups (Lie prone on the ground, perform a sit up and get to your feet)
- 20 squats
- 20 lunges (regular or reverse)
Complete this circuit five times. If you are in super shape and find the above to be too easy, increase the number or repetitions, add extra courses or add pull-ups to the sequence. A 10-20 pound vest is an excellent choice for bodyweight exercises to begin with.
3 – Daily Chores
Put on the vest and go about your daily business for a calorie burning benefit. Think about all the times you trek up and down the stairs each day. Add a 30-pound vest to the picture, and you suddenly sneak in a low-intensity workout while still being productive!
4 – Biking/Running
If you love cycling, wearing a weighted vest during a hilly ride will give you something to think about! Alternatively, wear it when pedalling a stationary bike. Here is an outline:
- Warm up for 5 minutes
- Alternate between seated and standing every 30 seconds for 10 minutes.
- Finish with 5 minutes of standing followed by 5 minutes of seated.
- Cool down for 5 minutes.
Running has the potential to be dull, but you can add some spice by adding weight. Consider a 2-minute jog, 1-minute walk plan with six repetitions to begin with if you’re not confident in your fitness. You can also perform High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) in a vest. Sprint for 30 seconds, rest for 60 seconds and perform 8-10 repetitions. Increase reps or decrease rest to progress. A 10-20 pound vest is good for starters.
5 – Weight Training
Add intensity to your weight training by strapping on a 10-20 pound vest. We would recommend keeping repetitions low to medium and using common sense when choosing the weight. A great option is the classic 5 x 5 session where you perform 5 sets of 5 repetitions of the traditional ‘compound exercises.’
- Bench Press
- Barbell Row
- Military Press
Use less weight than normal but keep rest between sets short.
A weighted vest could be just the thing to breathe new life into stale training sessions. It increases endurance, strength, muscle size & bone density. Try a weighted vest for a few months, then go back to your old routine. The difference will astonish you.
It is important to use your common sense when choosing a weighted vest so begin with a lighter version. Take your existing fitness level into account and don’t try to be a hero. If you can’t run 3 miles without cramping up, don’t wear a 30-pound vest and attempt to run 4 miles! If you struggle to perform 5 pull-ups, don’t buy a 50-pound vest and use horrible form to get your chin to the bar.
Safety is your primary concern so do your research and choose a vest that is right for your training goals. If you engage in strenuous exercise, drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and take the vest off if you feel weak, faint or have trouble breathing. When you use it correctly, a weighted vest is a fantastic method of taking your training to the next level.