7 Weighted Vest Benefits You Need to Know

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: March 12, 2024
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As a seasoned fitness trainer, I've seen clients incorporate weighted vests into their training regimen without knowing how to correctly use them or what they're good for.

I went through extensive research and reviews of the weighted vest and used it for a couple of months to learn the proper usage and the benefits that come with it.

In this article, I will provide my expertise and findings on the benefits of a weighted vest, how to use it, considerations before buying it, and the best weighted vest exercises.

Quick Summary

  • The benefits of weighted vests include helping with strength and endurance training, improving cardiovascular capacity, and increasing core strength and posture.
  • Adding weight to your body is an excellent way to improve your fitness regimen, whether you want to grow stronger, run faster, or push yourself to the gym.
  • According to the National Institute of Health, the use of weighted vests proved to be effective in enhancing agility-related performance among young men.
  • In my experience, adding extra weight to workouts motivates my clients to exert maximum effort and accelerates their energy burn, leading to faster achievement of fitness goals.

The Benefits of Weighted Vest

Person exercising with a weighted vest

Using a weighted vest in your workouts can offer several benefits:

1. Strength Training

A good weighted vest is an excellent option for enhancing strength in athletics or daily activities. Carrying ten to twenty pounds of additional weight can significantly improve overall strength.

2. Endurance Training

Over the years of working with clients, I've observed that incorporating weighted vests into exercises increases their workout difficulty, leading to improved muscle endurance and stamina, even with a small vest.

3. Cardiovascular Capacity

Person exercising with a weighted vest

Wearing a weight vest challenges your body, enhancing cardiovascular capacity over time. A study from PubMed show it boosts runners' blood lactate thresholds, allowing for more extended periods of faster speeds [1].

"Moving the body with an extra pound is more difficult than moving the torso at its normal weight. You're essentially forcing your system to work out as though you were heavier."

- Seamus Sullivan, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist

4. Bone Density and Health

Just like weight lifting, wearing a weighted vest stimulates osteoblasts, leading to increased bone density and strength over time, according to the National Institute of Health [2].

5. Versatile for Workouts

Person exercising with a weighted vest

A quality weight vest easily fits into daily routines, offering resistance for various exercises like walking, running, jumping rope, squats, deadlifts, push-ups, and sit-ups.

6. Weight Loss

Working out with a weighted vest increases calorie burn, aiding weight loss. According to the National Institute of Health, the added challenge leads to enhanced Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), boosting post-workout calorie burning [3].

7. Core Strength and Posture

Person exercising with a weighted vest

Adding weight to the upper body engages the core, improving posture and abdominal muscle strength when maintaining a straight back and shoulders.

As a fitness trainer, I always remind clients to maintain proper form and enhance workout effectiveness by keeping their back straight and shoulders pulled back when wearing a weighted vest.

What Is a Weighted Vest?

Weighted vests are vests with shoulder holsters that are weighted for exercises. They allow you to add or subtract weight, often in the shape of sandbags, bespoke steel bars, or other weighted things.

In my training experience with clients, we often refer to weighted vests as "tactical vests" due to their popularity in military-style fitness training.

How To Use the Weighted Vest

Person exercising with a weighted vest

When using a weighted vest, remember to align its training concept with the principles of progressive overload, gradually increasing tension on the body for muscle growth.

Here are additional tips:

1. Choose the Right Weight

If using an adjustable vest, match the weight to your activity. Start lighter if you're new to weighted vests, as fatigue may occur with lower aerobic intensities or fewer strength repetitions.

2. Choose the Best Workout for You

Person exercising with a weighted vest

Opt for exercises that challenge movement across space while working against the vest's load for maximum benefits. For instance, jogging with a 12-pound (5.4-kg) vest surpasses the advantages of riding a stationary bicycle. Compared to sitting exercises like leg press or lat pulldowns, the vest offers superior resistance in squats and pull-ups.

3. Consider Strain on Lower Back

To reduce the risk of injury, avoid activities causing higher strain on the lower back, such as bent-over rows or stiff-leg deadlifts.

4. Know Your Exercise History

Your exercise background determines how often you use a weighted vest. If you're new, 1-2 times weekly helps your torso adjust. If you're a frequent jogger or lifter, 2-3 times weekly may be suitable. Adjust frequency based on your exercise history.

What To Consider Before Purchasing a Weighted Vest

Person exercising with a weighted vest

Weighted vests come in various sizes, weight capacities, and styles, so finding one that is comfortable is crucial for effectiveness and injury prevention.

When selecting a weighted vest, consider your fitness level, objectives, and interests to determine the best style, weight capacity, and size.

1. Weighted Vest Comfort

Fit is crucial, especially for aerobic and endurance training. Consider features like snug compression, chest mobility, shoulder padding, breathable fabric, and ventilation based on your activities.

2. Weighted Vest Cost

Weighted vest next to money

Prices range from $40 to $400, depending on weight capacity and quality. If unsure, experiment with other weight-bearing exercises before committing to a weighted vest.

As a fitness coach, I advise holding a medicine ball or using weights to help you figure out if a weighted vest is the right fit for you.

3. Weighted Vest Type

Explore three types—tactical, shoulder holster, and torso-covering. Each has unique benefits and drawbacks. Tactical vests allow weight distribution, shoulder holsters offer movement and comfort, and torso-covering vests distribute weight for resistance.

4. Weighted Vest Safety

Person exercising with a weighted vest

Beginners often start too heavy, leading to overexertion and potential health issues. According to research from PubMed, consider the risk of overtraining syndrome, and start with manageable weights to avoid performance issues or injuries [4].

"Whatever you want to practice while wearing a vest, be sure you can do it well without the weighted vest, and then start gently."

- Aaron Guyett, Education Director at Living Fit

Best Weighted Vest Exercises

Weighted vests work to help level up your activities and expedite your development, whether you're working out for speed, strength, endurance, or gains.

Learn More: Best Weighted Vests For CrossFit: 2024 Updated

Walking or Running

Weighted vests improve stamina, strength, and endurance. You don't have to wear the vest throughout the entire activity to see results. Research from PubMed found that wearing a weighted vest during running warmups significantly increased peak sprint speeds and decreased leg stiffness [5].

Body Weight Exercises

Person exercising with a weighted vest

When doing body weight workouts, it's easy to hit a plateau. Weighted vests intensify these exercises, providing the extra push needed for muscle growth without dealing with cumbersome free weights and barbells.

Some of these exercises include:

Agility Exercises

Weighted vests are excellent for improving balance, coordination, and explosive force needed for agility workouts. The added weight increases strain on the entire body, making activities without the vest considerably easier after training with it.

Effective agility workouts with a weighted vest include:

  • Lateral jumps
  • Lateral shuffles
  • Shuttle runs
  • Plank jacks
  • Dot drills

FAQs

Do Weighted Vests Help Build Muscle?

Yes, weighted vests help build muscle. The additional weight makes your muscles work harder, which may improve strength and muscular growth.

Are Weighted Vests Healthy?

Yes, weighted vests are healthy. Unlike ankle or wrist weights, a weighted vest can be useful on a walk by applying pressure to your bones to encourage the formation of new bone cells, which aids in preventing bone loss.

Does a Weighted Vest Help Lose Belly Fat?

Yes, weighted vests help lose belly fat. The increased resistance will cause you to burn more calories, resulting in weight reduction over time. Furthermore, the vest can improve your posture and activate your core muscles, reducing belly fat.

References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31070108/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK45504/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8439678/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22266642/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24462560/
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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