You’ve heard about them, and maybe you’ve even seen one. While fitness trends often come and then quickly fade into oblivion, running and working out with a weighted vest appears to be gaining popularity with serious fitness buffs. If you’re looking to take your fitness regimen to a new level, a weighted vest could be just the tool you need. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to benefit from a weighted vest, but before you commit to buying one, learn precisely what it is and what it can do for you.
What is a Weighted Vest?
Weighted vests look like a heavy waistcoat with armholes and a zip-up or velcro front opening. They’re also similar to the body armor worn by law enforcement or military personnel. When you look more closely, though, you’ll see that the design is slightly different. Some feature two vertical pieces of metal, one on the front and another on the back, connected by shoulder straps, while others have pockets for incremental weight additions. When you put it on, you’ll immediately feel the extra weight.
The idea behind using weighted vests is that the wearer can turn almost any type of fitness routine into a power workout. It’s also central to the fitness concept of resistance. Gravity is a form of resistance, so when you wear the vest, your body is challenged by the additional weight. The advantage of a weighted vest is that the extra weight is appropriately distributed just as it would if the user weighed more. When you wear a weighted vest, you have to work against the additional weight for the duration of your session, but when you take it off, you suddenly feel leaner, fitter, and stronger.
Weighted vests were first used by military organizations to improve the physical fitness of recruits during training. Occupational therapists also began using weighted vests as a therapy tool for children with autism about 20 years ago.
Considerations When Using a Weighted Vest
Before selecting a weighted vest, ask yourself some of the following questions:
- What is your current fitness level?
- Do you struggle with any movements or exercises?
- How many times a week do you workout?
- Do you have any issues such as bad knees, arthritis, or bursitis?
If your fitness level isn’t high, you may not be ready for a weighted vest. Similarly, if you have physical issues, you may not be able to use one. Running with a weighted vest can cause extra strain to your knees. Bear in mind that the first time you use one, you may have to add a smaller amount of weight to the vest as even adding five pounds can make a big difference to your workout. Harvard Health indicates that people with back or neck issues should avoid weighted vests.
When shopping for a weighted vest, find one that is between four percent to 10 percent of your body weight. To get the most value, find one that allows you to start with a lower weight and add weight as you go on. The vest should fit snugly and distribute the weight evenly over your torso. If you use a vest that is too heavy, you could end up injured.
Running With a Weighted Vest
If you have hit a plateau with your running regimen, it makes sense to try to stir things up, especially if you have limited outdoor courses or run almost entirely indoors. Here is how using a weighted vet will up your game.
Increases Workout Intensity
The intensity of our workout, along with your heart rate, will increase, bringing with it multiple benefits that we will detail more in-depth. You’ll enjoy improved leg and core strength and increased stability, while also activating fast-twitch muscles to improve endurance.
More Efficient Than Leg and Ankle Weights
The weight placed directly on your joints increases stress to those areas, while also affecting the way you run. The use of these weights can result in injuries. The extra balanced weight of vests helps you maintain proper posture while also distributing the weight across your torso.
Increases Bone, Cartilage and Tendon Strength
Intense weight-bearing activity stimulates bone growth and improves the strength of ligaments, cartilage, and tendons. Running with a weighted vest can do just that because it makes your exercise substantially more intense than normal activities.
Not only will it help you stand up straighter, but it may also help increase speed. Weighted vests train your body to exert more force during training. Afterward, even when you train without it, your body has gotten used to it, so you continue the good posture habits. Anecdotal evidence suggests that using a weighted vest is a great way to reduce your pace quickly. A study published in 2017 indicates that training in this manner has a lot of potential for runners. Along with improving your posture, you may find that running with a weighted vest may also improve your balance.
To increase speed, start by running sprints without any extra weight in the vest and then slowly add small amounts of weight to your training sessions. Notice how it impacts form and make sure it doesn’t shift. Maintain current spring speeds and reps while wearing the vest.
When you have extra weight, you must expend more effort to move around your body. Your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your body when you’re wearing the vest. A small 2006 study showed participants had significant increases in heart and lung efficiency when running while wearing a vest. Wearing one of these vests makes exercises that require you to overcome gravity more demanding and ultimately more productive. Even if you run at a slower pace, you’ll still increase the cardiovascular demands of your workout.
The extra weight that a vest provides can increase lower body strength and endurance. Wearing a weighted vest will increase the load that your bones must bear, which increases bone mass by stimulated cells called osteoblasts that create new one material. One study of postmenopausal women who regularly exercised with a weighted vest may have prevented bone loss in their hips.
Other Ways to Use a Weighted Vest
Although running while wearing a weighted vest may seem like the most obvious option, users can perform many other workouts and fitness activities while wearing one. Here is how you can benefit by wearing one during different types of fitness training.
Wearing a vest during weight training routines forces you to work against gravity at a higher intensity. Research is still needed to learn just how much more you’ll benefit from adding the vest. You already know how adding free weights to squats makes doing those exercises harder, so using the vest follows the same principle. If you’re a beginner, resistance training on its own is usually enough, but if your workouts have started to get too easy, you can add the weight of a vest to bring that training to an entirely different level. As with running, start with less weight in the vest and add more gradually.
Use common sense when choosing which exercises when using a weighted vest. For example, wearing a vest when doing bicep curls or shoulder exercises will only make you more tired. Weighted vests will benefit you more when performing weight-bearing and core exercises. If you thought doing 100 crunches during a session is difficult, try that same move while wearing a weighted vest.
One significant benefit of using a weighted vest is that you can change the intensity of the workouts as easily as you change the weights. One day, you can do an intense workout with lots of weight, while the next, you can take it easy to give your muscles times to recover.
Another advantage is that with a heavily weighted vest, you can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Wearing your vest when you are pressed for time can give you the same type of workout that you would get with a longer but less intense workout.
Some exercises work well with weighted vests. These include:
- Barbell rows
- Clean and press
Cardio Exercise with a Weighted Vest
What type of cardio workouts do you do? Do you take kickboxing or HIIT classes? Maybe you like to work out on the elliptical or a stair stepper at the gym. Even low-intensity cardio workouts such as power walking or hiking can go to the next level with a weighted vest. For hiking and walking, you can use a heavier vest between 30 lbs. to 50 lbs. Simply put it on over your shirt and wear it under your jacket, if it’s cold enough. Wear it walking around your neighborhood, at the park, or walking up and down stairs in a hotel or at your office for a quick workout.
Another possibility is wearing one during cycling class or a ride on your bicycle outside. When outdoors, you’ll notice how much more intense your cardio workouts will be on uphill-downhills transitions. When working out on your own on a stationary bike, you can transition from sitting to standing multiple times for a great upper body workout.
Wear One While Doing Chores
Let’s say you’re pressed for time on certain days and can’t get in your usual workout. A weighted vest can come to the rescue. Adding the weight from the vest while doing chores such as landing, cleaning the house or gardening will help- you burn calories and help tone your body. It’s one of the easiest ways to get the benefits of using a weighted vest.
Benefits of Using Weight Vests During Workouts
You’ll enjoy many of the same benefits during workouts as runners do. Depending on the type of exercise, you may see more significant gains in certain areas. Nevertheless, you can expect to see improvement in all of the following.
Increased Strength and Endurance
the more you push yourself, the greater your results will be. One of the ways that dedicated athletes improve their strength is by changing up their routines, which confuses muscles and makes them work harder. You want an exercise routine that kicks your rear end. When you keep doing the same thing repeatedly, improvement stops. Weighted vests will help you vary your routines and keep you on the road to positive strength and endurance results.
When your heart works harder to deliver oxygen to your body, it not only improves the cardiovascular system, it also improves your endurance at the same time, leading to more efficient workouts while lifting. You’ll be able to lift heavier weights for a longer time.
Burns Fat and Helps Weight Loss
Weighted vests help create an oxygen deficiency and increases the amount of energy you expend to burn calories. You’ll end up burning more fat in the process. If you’ve encountered a weight loss plateau, wearing a vest could be the element you need to get past that hump because you’ll increase your calorie deficit with a vest each time you exercise, even if you’re not performing cardiovascular workouts. In turn, your metabolic rate will get a boost, which means you’ll jumpstart the number of calories burned. The afterburn, formally known as the exercise post oxygen consumption (EPOC), will also increase.
A strong core is the basis for almost any type of workout. Whenever you add weight to the upper part of your torso, you’ll target the abdominal muscles, no matter what kind of exercises you perform.
Better Balance and Posture
We’ve already told you that you’ll get better balance and posture when running with a weighted vest. When your body has to continually adjust with extra weight no matter what you do, you’ll also rebalance yourself, which will become easier when you are not wearing the best.
If you need a specialized skill in a sport you play, such as agility on the soccer field or want to become quicker while running track, try performing drills while wearing a vest. When you take the vest off, you’ll see an increase in speed and agility because your muscles will be stronger.
When your body feels the extra weight, it will begin to focus on growing muscle to make you stronger. At the same time, it will also focus on processes to develop thicker, stronger bones and connective tissue. The result of this process is you’ll not only become stronger but will also be better able to avoid injury.