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October 10, 2022
Who said you can’t look cool while working out? If used properly, weighted vest workouts won’t only have you looking like a badass, but they will help you become that badass too.
In this article we will cover what a weighted vest is, the benefits of weighted vests, and lastly some weighted vest exercises to take your workouts to the next level. Don't be surprised if you immediately want to start using a weight vest after reading the benefits below!
The name explains exactly what they are - shoulder holster style vests that are weighted for workouts.
A weighted vest is made of strong material that allows you to add/subtract weight usually in the form of sandbags, custom steel bars or other weighted objects.
Weighted vest training follows the same essential principle of weight training, progressive overload referring to the method of gradually increasing the stress placed on your body to stimulate muscle growth.
By the way, they are sometimes referred to as tactical vests, as it is a common form of fitness training in the military.
Since you are reading this post, you are likely wondering "what is a weighted vest good for?" Put simply, weighted vests are good for adding resistance/weight to exercises in order to increase the difficulty and thus build muscle and get stronger. Weighted vests can make the simplest activities more challenging and rewarding.
And while we could leave it at that, the benefits of wearing weighted vests while working out are worth discussing in more depth. So, let's do that now...
By increasing the weight you’re supporting during cardio exercises your muscles are required to work harder to provide those muscles with oxygen rich blood. The increased strain on your body forces your lungs and heart to work harder which results in better lung and heart health. This mechanism is referred to as VO2Max.
Improvements in your VO2Max will aid you in sustaining longer and more intense workouts. Apart from these benefits improved VO2Max has been shown in multiple studies to reduce stress and fatigue while also staving off illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Last but not least, improved VO2Max has been linked to reduction in all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease in healthy adults. If you don’t know where to begin you can simply throw on a weighted vest for your running or walking sessions.
Wearing a weight vest is similar to weight lifting in the fact you are performing movements with an external load. Carrying this extra load causes your body to stimulate cells called osteoblasts that synthesize new bone mineral called hydroxylapatite.
Over time your bones become denser and stronger to support the extra weight. The musculoskeletal system is all connected so as your muscles get stronger, so do your bones and connective tissue.
Having better bone density is always beneficial, but especially as we get older. You might be able to mitigate potential breakages after a fall or help to slow down degenerative bone diseases such as osteoporosis. The science is out on milk for aiding in building stronger bones so should we switch up the saying now to “Weight vests do a body good”? (That's a play on a Milk advert, if you didn't know).
Running with a weighted vest or simply working out with one on will help to improve your posture. By adding weight to your upper body your body will have to engage stabilizing muscles to keep you balanced. When leaning in any direction with a weighted vest on your body will be forced to counter balance the extra weight using proprioceptors.
Proprioceptors are defined as sensory receptors that receive stimuli from within the body, especially related to position and movement. Therefore, the proprioceptors in your body have to work overtime while you’re wearing a weighted vest to keep you from falling in any one direction. After removing the weighted vest, your body will have improved its ability to balance. This improved balance helps in everyday life tasks but becomes invaluable as you get older.
Workouts with a weighted vest will enable you to get stronger, build muscle and increase your power and muscular endurance much faster compared to working out without one. Strapping on a weighted vest then doing any number of exercises like push-ups, squats, pull ups, sprints or sit ups adds stress on your body which forces all your muscles to work harder.
Just try to do 10 pushups with a 20lb weighted vest on then try to do those same 10 pushups a few minutes later without the weighted vest. You will be amazed by the difference in difficulty. Do this a few times a week and you’re guaranteed to see great improvements in the number of push-ups you can do without becoming fatigued.
This weighted vest buyer's guide goes in-depth about fixed vs adjustable weighted vests, but in a nutshell, the clear winner is the adjustable weighted vest. With an adjustable weight vest, you can easily switch up the intensity of your workout by adding or subtracting the weight (it's comparable to having a barbell and weight plates).
For example, you can try to increase the weight in your vest a few pounds after every 10 air squats you complete. Try to complete 10 sets of 10 for a total of 100 reps with each set increasing in intensity. With weighted vests you can reduce your workout routine time while increasing your productivity, the best of both worlds!
Running or walking with a weighted vest is a simple implementation into your daily regimen. There are also weighted vests for dogs and children so you don’t have to exercise alone anymore!
Resistance training with a weighted vest allows you to workout in the same amount of space that your body naturally takes up which makes it a convenient option if you live in close quarters. Any exercise you can think of, be it jumping rope, squats, push-ups, sit-ups, deadlifts, squats and more can be enhanced with a weighted vest.
It might seem counterintuitive that we are adding weight to lose weight but working out with a weighted vest on drastically increases the number of calories you burn while exercising. It’s a basic fact that the heavier weight will force your muscles to work harder which requires more energy to be spent in the form of burned calories. More burned calories in the same or less time results in more weight lost.
Due to the fact weight vests make your workout more difficult there are also some after effects such as increased EPOC (Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption). This increased EPOC kick starts your metabolism making your body more efficient in burning calories even after you’ve taken the weighted vest off. Lastly, as your muscles get bigger and stronger because of your weighted vest training your body will burn calories at a higher degree to power those bigger muscles. This is why weighted vests are a great option to help with weight loss!
The military has been using rucksacks for ages to help improve performance. Now athletes are using these same techniques with weighted vests. Whether doing cone agility drills for sport specific enhancement or adding a weighted vest to your run, the bottom line is that your muscles will become stronger. Although the jury is out on how to apply the added weight, the exact amount of weight and what exercises are the most beneficial; stronger muscles generally lead to better performance.
The last benefit of weighted vests is that by increasing the weight only to your upper body is that your body is forced to engage your core to keep you upright. The increased workload on your core muscles can help to improve your posture by straightening out your back. When wearing the weighted vest, you should focus on keeping your back straight and shoulders back.
Now, let's answer the most common questions about weighted vest training...
We recommend using an adjustable weighted vest so that you have the capability of increasing/decreasing the amount of weight you use. Although it largely depends on the individual, we recommend starting with a weight that’s 5-10% of your body weight until you are comfortable and ready to increase the weight without injuring yourself or negatively impacting your technique. Check out our post that covers the Best Weighted Vests on the market.
Like anything else in life weight vests can be bad for you if not used properly. Make sure to buy a weighted vest that fits you and start with a weight that is challenging yet allows you to do the given exercise with good form and technique. The best weighted vests are based on a few factors that should be determined on a case-by-case basis including fitness level, size of the person and activities where you will be wearing it. It is advised that people with back or neck problems consult with their doctor before using a weighted vest as the extra pressure on the spine could exacerbate the problem. Also, people with osteoporosis should consult their doctor about the pros and cons of using a weighted vest before attempting to workout with one.
Simply put, YES! Weighted vests are the perfect tool for losing weight. They make it more difficult to complete the exercise you’re doing which results in your body expending more calories to produce enough energy to get the job done. Harder workouts require more oxygen rich blood to be pumped into your muscles which makes your heart beat faster resulting in more burned calories.
Moreover, one study in Sweden had 69 participants in the lowest obese body mass index category (30-35) wear a weighted vest from 2kgs-11kgs for 8 hours a day for 3 weeks. The results showed the people wearing the heavier weighted vest lost fat mass while retaining muscle mass.
Even wearing a weighted vest while doing daily chores or walking can help you lose weight! For those looking to boost their cardio workouts, you can even wear one while on a stair stepper for added stair climber benefits.
Weighted vests are good for building muscle through the process of progressive overload. Adding weight to your body will force your muscles to get stronger in order to adapt to the added weight. Most importantly, you need to go hard to fatigue your muscles enough for them to take notice that they need to get stronger.
Because weighted vests are worn on your upper body and apply pressure to your shoulders, back and respiratory muscles; your heart-rate will rise quite quickly which makes it harder to breathe. Just stay calm, take deep breaths and this will help to improve your autonomic nervous function. Staying cool under pressure/stress in this way stimulates your parasympathetic system enabling you to better handle the fight or flight response.
Weighted vests target and work the muscles that are resisting the added load. For example, running with a weighted vest will work your legs, doing pull ups with a weighted vest will hit your back and arms while doing pushups will work your chest and arms.
Generally speaking, bodyweight exercises are the best exercises to do when wearing a weighted vest. That, and cardio training, like running, walking or even sprinting. Essentially, weight vests can be used how ever you see fit (they are quite versatile), but if it doesn’t add to your workout then there's obviously no need to wear it (i.e. bench pressing with a weighted vest would be pointless).
Here are some of the best bodyweight exercises to do with a weighted vest:
~5 Minute Dynamic Warmup
Perform each exercise for 30 seconds or max reps with breaks as needed between each exercise. Take a 60 second rest after the end of the circuit and repeat the circuit 3 times.
*Start with a weight that you’re comfortable with in order to do these exercises safely and properly.
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September 21, 2023
September 21, 2023
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