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A weighted vest is one of the best fitness equipment investments you can make. It’s a versatile device that is simple, affordable, and adds a whole new dimension of intensity to a number of exercises.
We’ll tell you exactly why a weight vest is an important tool in any fitness enthusiast’s garage or home gym, and the benefits you can expect to gain from its use.
What is a Weighted Vest?
A weighted vest (or weight vest) is just that – a vest that allows you to add metal weight bars for additional resistance. It’s a great endurance and strength builder. Pair it with bodyweight exercise (pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups, box jumps, burpees, and more) or use it to add load for common everyday tasks. Weighted vests come in weights starting at about 2.5 lbs and accommodate additional weight through a number of small “weight pockets” on the front and back of the vest. Most can be loaded as heavily as 45 lbs, and some monster weight vests can accommodate up to 100lbs!
What to Look For in the Best Weighted Vest
The weight increments for a vest are usually small, and this is one of the key benefits of the weight vest. 1lb, 2lbs, 3lbs, or 4lbs are common weights. You can add just a little bit of extra weight each time. Taking big jumps in weight is a common beginner mistake. The best progress is made with small increments. This lets your body gradually acclimate to the extra work required. And this is better for your joints, your muscles, your tendons, and your ego!
You can add weight to the vest using small metal bars (or sand bags) that are purpose built for this. Look for a vest that has weight pockets on both the front and back – this will let you avoid uneven weight loading.
The biggest benefit of the weighted vest? You can perform all kinds of functional movements that you can’t normally do when working with conventional weights like dumbbells or barbells.
Why? Because your hands are free, and the weight vest will secure the weights to your body such that there is no danger of them coming loose and causing injury (or making annoying noise). The addition of a weight vest to a bodyweight workout really amps up the intensity.
Ever try to add weight to push-ups? It’s not really practical – unless you have a weighted vest. This is just one example of many.
The extra resistance means more of your musculature is at work – and it’s working harder. This means more calories burned, and it helps to build better endurance. Being able to move the extra weight is also a builder of strength and power, too.
You’ve probably seen ballistic plate carriers in use at the CrossFit games – these items are a trendy piece of fitness gear, but they actually provide a real world benefit too – find out more at Weight Vests vs Plate Carriers.
Weight Vest Benefits
- Increased core stabilization – the weight on your torso challenges your postural muscles in both the front and back of your body.
- Burns calories faster – with more muscle in use, you’ll burn calories faster.
- Fun and challenging to use – The key to results in fitness training is to progress – to add more weight, or carry farther, or faster – every time. The weight vest lets you easily add weight.
- Great for conditioning – Building endurance using small increments of additional load is a time proven technique to ensure your cardiovascular system is continually challenged
- Adds weighted resistance to normal, everyday activities or basic exercise – A weighted vest is a great way to turn a “lower body only” exercise (like walking, or running) into a more complete workout.
What about the risk of injury – and especially the lower back? If you have back issues, there’s always a possibility any additional weight will cause a problem. However, the amount of weight you can add with a weighted vest is modest, compared to a heavily loaded barbell or a large kettlebell.
And just like working out with a heavily loaded barbell, it’s important to ease into heavier weights gradually. Don’t try pull-ups with an extra 50 lbs, if all you have been doing are body weight pull-ups. Start with an extra 2-4 lbs, and add 2-4 lbs per workout from there. This repeatable, incremental progress is one of the key benefits of using a weighted vest.
The other factor that can help is to load the weight evenly – some on the back, some on the front of the vest. This will help avoid asymmetrical stress on your spinal discs.
So, if you are looking for a way to go farther in your training – consider a weight vest. It’s a simple, economical tool that can be used for a variety of purposes.