If you’ve seen people out running or at the CrossFit gym in a weighted vest, you might have wondered what the point of it was or whether it’s something you should be using in your own training. Or, if you’ve been wanting to try training with a weighted vest, you might be wondering whether it’s something you’re ready for.

Training with a weighted vest has a number of advantages, especially if you’re limited to bodyweight exercises due to a lack of gym access. The concept is pretty simple: adding more weight (or ‘load’) means you have to work harder and working harder means burning more calories and increasing your strength.

But while the theory behind it is simple, a lot of people use weighted vests incorrectly in their training. It’s pointless to wear a weighted vest in a studio cycling class, but wearing one during a run or a round of pull-ups can push your workouts to the next level. If you use it right, a weighted vest can be a great addition to your arsenal of strength-training and conditioning tools. 

Why you should train with a weighted vest

Other than the obvious benefit of making your workouts more challenging by adding weight, there are some specific advantages to training with a weighted vest:

1. Increases your strength and endurance

A weighted vest can benefit both strength-training and aerobic exercises. The added weight requires your body to use more oxygen and energy. Your muscles are forced to increase strength and endurance in order to adapt to the increased load. 

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2. Improves your cardiovascular fitness

Wearing a weighted vest during cardio workouts such as running increases the challenge to the cardiovascular system with strengthens the lungs and the body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently. 

3. Benefits your musculoskeletal health

Increasing the load that your body has to hold, especially during activities like running, stimulates your bones to increase their mass by producing new bone in order to support the amount of weight they are carrying. This means stronger and denser bones. 

4. Adds variety to your routine

Because your body is designed to adapt to physical activities, it needs to be challenged in order to make progress in physical fitness, such as increasing your strength or endurance. Adding variation to your routine is an easy way to provide that challenge and a weighted vest can be a great tool for throwing your system off when needed.

Is weighted vest training right for you?

Before you decide to add a weighted vest to your workout routine, there are a few things that you should consider:

Your current fitness level

Before you add a significant challenge to your current exercises, you need to be honest with yourself about your current fitness level. Do you only work out once or twice a week (or less)? Do you have a hard time completing exercises within a given time limit?

Do you have deficiencies in your technique performing certain exercises? Do you experience fatigue or find that you need to take a day off after working out? Adding more resistance may not be the right goal for you right now if you have other areas of your fitness that should be addressed first.

How much weight you are adding

For a lot of exercises, adding just five pounds can make a huge difference in your workout and the amount of strain that your body experiences. While the weight added by a weighted vest is variable, consider whether adding weight to your current exercises might put too much strain on your joints.

The exercises in your routine

Not every exercise benefits with a weighted vest. While it might be pointless for some activities (like bicep curls), it can make other already challenging activities more challenging than the need to be (like high intensity or every minute on the minute training).

For exercises where you are focusing on perfecting your technique, adding weight can be an obstacle toward meeting that goal. 

Bodyweight exercises with a weighted vest

A weighted vest is a great way to improve the effectiveness of a lot of bodyweight exercises. One great advantage of performing these types of exercises with a piece of equipment that you wear is that you can challenge multiple muscle groups from home or anywhere else without the need of a gym or machines. Some bodyweight exercises that are perfect for training with a weighted vest are:

  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Planks
  • Mountain climbers
  • Spider-mans

Before you go out and buy a weighted vest…

You’ll want to consider which weighted vest is right for you. Typically, weighted vests are covered in small pockets and come with brick-shaped weights that can be added or removed. Every vest will have a weight range based on the number of pockets and heaviness of the weights. Vests are designated by the maximum weight they carry and typically range from 40 to 80 pounds. You’ll want to consider your own bodyweight and the types of exercises you want to perform with the weighted vest, as too much weight can increase strain on your joints and make you susceptible to injury. A great way to start is by adding 5% of your body weight or less and increasing the weight as your become used to the added load. 

A weighted vest is a great tool to amp up your training at home or during a run, but it can also be incorporated into barbell squats, bench presses, and other exercises at the gym. If you feel like you need to add some challenge or variety to your current workout routine, wearing your weights might be just the thing to push you to the next level.