what size weighted vest should I get

Your Guide to Buying a Weighted Vest: Types, Sizes, Uses and More

March 24, 2021

When it comes to weighted vests, there are so many options, both in terms of design and size or weight load capacity, that it can be hard to make a decision on what weighted vest to buy. This is why we’ve decided to make this weighted vest buyer’s guide. In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about weighted vests, which includes the benefits, types of weighted vests, different uses of weighted vests, what size weighted vest (based on your fitness level, the workouts you plan to do and your fitness goals), what to look for in a weighted vest, and where to buy one. We’ve even included a few sample cardio, sprinting, and home workouts to give you an idea of how to incorporate weighted vests into your training plan.

After reading this, you will be able to make an informed decision on what size and what type of weighted vest to buy.

how heavy should a weighted vest be

WHAT IS A WEIGHTED VEST

A weighted vest is a vest that you wear during workouts to add extra weight, and thus, resistance. It is designed to make any activity more difficult, for the purpose of building muscle or burning more calories.

A weighted vest is filled with weights, of which they vary in how they implement the weights within the vest and how heavy the vest, and the vest sits over your shoulders, chest, back, and part of your core.

The general design of a weighted vest is similar to a bulletproof vest, so it feels pretty badass to workout with. 

That said, there are many designs of weighted vests so not all look alike. 

Weighted vests are most commonly worn during bodyweight exercises and while running, however, they can be worn to good effect while doing certain free weight exercises as well. Because the weighted vest forces you to carry more weight, they literally make any activity harder. A couple prime examples would be doing pull ups or push ups with a weighted vest or taking a hike or a run with a weighted vest.

What kind of weighted vest should I get?

Are weighted vests good?

Weighted vests are a great way to build muscle or burn fat. They are a very minimalistic option that can provide serious results. Weighted vests are popular among military, police, and firefighters because it gives them the strength they need for their jobs. They are also popular among athletes and runners because training with a weighted vest is great for improving endurance, speed, and power.

Weighted vests provide real world application for people from all walks of life. If you want to get faster, stronger, build more muscle, and get lean quick, especially without the need of a lot of equipment (i.e. people who workout from home), then a weighted vest is a good purchase.

BENEFITS OF A WEIGHTED VEST

If you are wondering more about what are weighted vest good for, here is a list of all of the benefits of working out with a weighted vest.

  1. Increase Intensity: Any activity you do with a weighted vest, whether that’s cardio, calisthenics, or simple at home workouts, will be significantly harder with a weighted vest. This is only amplified the heavier the vest is. Of course, you need to choose an appropriate weight that is sustainable and safe for you. For some people, even just several pounds can make all the difference. To the question of why you want to increase intensity, well, by increasing the intensity you can progress at the activity you are doing. That may mean more strength, more endurance, more explosiveness, and so on. Increasing intensity is one of the prime methods of progressive overload, which is essential for continuing to improve upon your level of fitness.
  2. Burn More Calories (Lose Weight & Get Lean): Whether it’s a run or a bodyweight workout, by simply wearing the weighted vest, you will be burning a lot more calories than if you did the same workout without a weighted vest. As we all know, burning more calories leads to burning fat. That said, your diet needs to reflect your weight loss plan.
  3. Build Muscle & Strength: If you want to build muscle and strength, and continue to do so, you need to have enough resistance and add more resistance as you go. Adding weight to any exercise will increase the stress placed on your muscles which will allow them to breakdown to grow back bigger and stronger.
  4. Improve VO2Max: V02Max relates to the amount of oxygen that you lungs can absorb. The harder your muscles work, the more oxygen they demand. By wearing a weighted vest, your muscles work harder, which requires them to be supplied with more oxygen. So, by improving VO2 max, you can sustain workouts with more intensity for longer (no more bending over out of breath after running half a mile or doing a vigorous set of squats!).
  5. Increases Stamina & Endurance: V02 plays a big role in this as your muscles will have the oxygen they need to keep going. But, it’s not the only factor in endurance. You also need to improve lactate threshold, endurance strength, and your mindset. A weighted vest will do all of that. If you run everyday with a weighted vest (even a considerably light one), when you take it off, you will notice a huge difference in your stamina and endurance. This is why a lot of endurance sport athletes use weighted vest for training.
  6. Boost Speed & Explosive Power: If you train for a specific goal like to run faster, jump higher and be more explosive, a weighted vest is a great way to achieve that. A lot of NFL players, such as Antonio Brown, use weighted vests in the offseason. The added resistance for plyometric exercises or bodyweight movements will make you more explosive and faster. It’s similar to when sprinters sprint with a parachute trailing behind them or when athletes run with a pulling sled. If you train with a weighted vest like this for a month or two, once that added weight is removed, you will notice a huge difference in your speed and power.
  7. Increase Bone Density: Fitness isn’t all about muscular gains, it’s about bone gains too. Any kind of weightlifting will increase bone strength and density, weighted vests are no different. Do push ups, pull ups, squats, lunges, and so on, and you will not only be working on muscular hypertrophy, but you will improve your bone strength as well.

These are the main benefits but there are more. Off the top of the head, you can improve body awareness (balance and coordination) with weighted vests too as the extra weight alters your center of gravity. On top of that, you should have improved posture from strengthening your scapular stabilizer muscles and spine, and an overlooked aspect of weighted vests is the mental fortitude from making your workouts more challenging.

All in all, depending on how you use a weighted vest, what type of weighted vest you have, and how heavy the vest is, they can be very effective for the two most important goals for most people - building muscle mass or burning fat.

At this point you probably know you want a weighted vest, but you aren’t sure which one to get or what size weighted vest to get, as there are so many options on the market. This is why we wrote this guide to buying a weighted vest. We want to help you choose the weighted vest that suits you and your fitness goals best. So, continue reading on...

Related: Top 9 Benefits of Weighted Vests

adjustable vs fixed weight weighted vest

TYPES OF WEIGHTED VESTS

There are a lot of different designs of weighted vests, so there are a lot of styles to choose from (some better than others for certain body types and men and women). BUT, there are really just two main types of weighted vests - adjustable weighted vests and fixed weighted vests.  Which one you choose will be based on your fitness goals and the kind of workout you plan to do while wearing the weighed vest.

Adjustable Weighted Vest

Adjustable weighted vests allow you to add or remove weight as necessary. They will have many small pockets on the front and back, which can be filled with the sandbags or flat steel weights that come with the vest when you purchase it. The pockets are designed so the weights sit in the slots or pockets perfectly, as to ensure they are secure when working out.

Adjustable weighted vests are great for those who want to build muscle and strength. The ability to add weight means you can employ the progressive overload principle, allowing you to add more weight when your body adapts to the stress of the current weight you are using.

They are also great for those who want a versatile weighted vest for various kinds of workouts. For example, a 20lb weighted vest might be perfect for push ups, but you want 50lbs for squats. With an adjustable weighted vest, you can adjust the weight depending on the exercise. Again, this is ideal for building muscle mass.

Depending on the type of adjustable weighted vest and how heavy it is, you can even use them for running, as a way to build running power and burn calories at a much higher degree. And, they most definitely are effective for walking and hiking. The ability to adjust the weight will allow you to play around with the right weight based on what kind of cardio you are doing.

Weight ranges

Adjustable weighted vest come in various weight ranges. Some can be as light as 4-10 pounds, while others can be as much as 40 to 150 pounds (the latter being a common weight range that military men and firefighters train with).

Examples of sellers:

This adjustable weighted vest by Aduro has 4-10lb, 11-20lb, 20-32lb, and 26-46lb options.

what size weighted vest for workouts

 

This adjustable weighted vest by Cap has options of up to 40lbs, up to 50lbs, up to 60lbs, up to 80lbs, up to 150lbs.

what kind of weighted vest should i buy

Buy a Cap Adjustable Weighted Vest on Amazon

All in all, there are many sellers to choose from for adjustable vests. But don’t worry, buying one can be made simple if you know how you want it to fit and what size vest you want (which we are going to help you decide below).

Fixed Weighted Vest

Your other option is a fixed weight weighted vest. These weighted vest are one size that can’t can’t be changed.

Fixed weighted vests are most commonly used for cardio training, but they can be used for workouts as well, of course. The advantage of them is there are less moving parts so you can just strap it on and go, AND, they are usually sleeker and smaller in design (they cover less of your body - some don't even look like an actual vest, as they don’t cover your chest and core as much).

If you are not worried about progressive overload or adjusting the weight depending on what exercise or muscle group you are targeting, these are great. In terms of cardio, if you buy, say a 10lb vest, you won’t need to increase that weight for your runs for a long time. Trust us. When you start getting use to the weighted vest you have, just start running faster or walking faster. At some point, you can buy the next size up.

All in all, the benefits we’ve discussed earlier apply to both types of weighted vests.

However, we will go over the pros and cons of both shortly.

Weight Range:

Fixed Weighted Vests usually range from 4 or 10lbs to 30 or 40lbs. Most runners start with around 10lbs. 

Examples:

This is a fixed weighted vest from Aduro which comes in 4, 6, 12, 16, 20, 25, and 30lbs. 

what weight weighted vest should i get

Buy an Aduro Fixed Weight Weighted Vest on Amazon

This is a fixed weighted vest from Empower that comes in either 8 or 16 pounds. 

how much weight should a weighted vest be

Buy an Empower Fixed Weight Weighted Vest on Amazon

Which is better, adjustable weighted vest or fixed weight weighted vest?

If you are looking for a compact weighted vest that fits securely when running, jogging or hiking, a fixed weight weighted vest is a good option.

If you want a weighted vest geared more towards building muscle and strength, then an adjustable weighted vest is the best option. They can be a little less comfortable to wear for prolonged periods of time, but they can be used for cardio too.

We personally prefer the adjustable weighted vests as they are more versatile. However, we place more emphasis on our resistance training than we do cardio (of course we do both), so we find a lot more use of the adjustable weighted vests

Note: If you do go for the adjustable weighted vest, buy the shorter ones that don’t cover the full torso. You may get a lower weight range, but you get more freedom of movement. With the full-body torso adjustable weighted vests, you will notice it limits your mobility and bending capacity on certain exercises. The ones that cover the upper back and chest only don’t have this issue really.

what weighted vest for women

HOW TO CHOOSE A WEIGHTED VEST:

Choosing a weighted vest is actually quite simple. Here are three options based on the type of training you will be doing with your weighted vest:

  • If you want a weighted vest for cardio, get a nice compact fixed weight weighted vest. The fixed weighted vests have less movement on the body while running.
  • If you want to use a weighted vest for resistance bodyweight workouts, get yourself an adjustable weighted vest that isn’t full torso. So, it will cover just your chest and back rather than all the way down your core (like an actual vest would). This will allow you to have more mobility.
  • Finally, if you want the heaviest weighted vest option for activities like walking or hiking (military, police, or firefighter training), then a full torso adjustable weighted vest is a good option as they come in heavier sizes that can prepare you very well for real world application - i.e. wearing heavy gear, carry around rucksacks, or even bodies, all of which you’d have limited mobility with anyway.
benefits of weighted vests

Here’s a quick summary of everything above…

Pros and Cons of Adjustable Weighted Vest

Pros:

  • Can adjust the weight to meet the needs of certain exercises and to progressive overload
  • More versatile
  • Heavier weight options

Cons:

  • May have more movement on your body when running
  • May have limited mobility on certain exercises

Pros and Cons of Fixed Weight Weighted Vest

Pros:

  • More compact
  • Can fit snugger to the body for running

Cons:

  • Limited in weight
  • Can't adjust the weight

Now, it’s not all about which type of weighted vest to buy, you also need to think about how heavy you want your weighted vest to be, or what weight range in the case of adjustable weighted vests. 

Do weighted vests build muscle?

WHAT SIZE WEIGHTED VEST SHOULD I GET?

When choosing a weight or weight range, it is important to look at this with a long term perspective. You want a weighted vest that challenges you for a longer time to get the best bang for your buck. So, if you get a weight that is challenging for you now, but not too challenging, you will quickly find that you need a heavier weight. As humans, our bodies adapt quickly.

With that in mind, you also really need to consider your current fitness level and how strong you are.

The following recommendations are a good basis.

For cardio training, as well as conditioning, you want a weighted vest that is about 10% of your bodyweight - (The famous CrossFit MURPH workout is done with a 20lb vest).

For bodyweight workouts (resistance training for building muscle and strength), you will want an adjustable weighted vest that you can grow into, meaning that you aren’t going to max out the weight within a couple months. A weighted vest should last you a long time if you care for it well. So, we recommend that you get one that has a max capacity of around 30-50% of your bodyweight (or more for those who are used to lifting heavy). This will allow you to adjust the weight according to the type of exercise you are doing and you can have something to work towards in terms of progression.

Now, if you feel you want more or less than what’s recommended above, that’s perfectly fine.

The average adjustable weighted vest for men is usually around 30-60lbs, and for women it is about 10-30lbs. That said, everyone is different and has different wants and needs.

The average fixed weight weighted vest is around 10% of the users bodyweight.

The best advice we can give you is to not underestimate yourself, especially when buying an adjustable weighted vest as you can simply start at the lower weight and if even that is challenging, you will quickly get used to it. Remember, to build muscle and strength, you need to employ progressive overload, and one big aspect of progressive overload is increasing weight (you also have increasing intensity, reps, sets, volume, and so on).

Some simple tips on what weight weighted vest to buy:
  1. If your goal is muscular endurance or cardio health, a lighter vest is good.
  2. If your goal is explosive power, a medium weight vest is good.
  3. If your goal is to build muscle, a heavier vest is good.

Remember this is all relative to your strength and fitness level.

Buying a Weighted Vest - Here’s Some Perspective:
  • Police gear usually weighs around 20-30lbs.
  • Firefighter gear can weighs around 75lbs.
  • US ground troops carry around 30lbs of protective equipment, which doesn’t count the weapons, ammunition, batteries or whatever else they are carrying.
  • Rucksacks for military marches are around 45-50lbs.
benefits of weighted vests

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A WEIGHTED VEST

While all the above info is necessary when choosing a weighted vest, you also need to know what to look for in a weighted vest, no matter what type of weight vest it is, as you want it to be comfortable and fit you the right way, and you want the material to be high quality. So, on that note, here are some important things to look for when buying a weighted vest.

Consider your body type:

Weighted vests have different designs. Some are better for people with wider and broader shoulders, while others are made for people who are thinner. As for women, some weighted vests are designed specifically for women’s curves and breasts, with varying sizes. Pay attention to the dimensions and design. This plays into both comfort and range of motion.

For women, you can also get an "X" design weighted vest as they will support the chest nicely and are good for optimal range of motion. 

what size weighted vest for women

Material - Breathability:

If you are worried about sweating too much, both to the point where it’s too hot to wear the weighted vest or it is going to become super stinky quickly, then look for a weighted vest with more breathability and ventilation. A thinner, breathable weighted vest or a weighted vest that covers less of your torso would be ideal. Look at the description and reviews to find out what material it is made of and if its more breathable. Some weighted vests claim to be smell proof as they use special materials. 

Compactness:

Some weighted vests are more compact that others. If you want a weighted vest that allows you to train with complete freedom of movement, get one that is more compact. A thinner weighted vest is great as it allows for the best range of motion and mobility.

This weighted vest from Hyper Wear is a great example, it is breathable and thin! Plus it is made from Cordura fabric (which is a type of waterproof nylon), so it extremely durable and odor resistant!

what size weighted vest for men

The Hyper Wear weighted vest is quite expensive, but according to most people it is well worth the price.

thin compact weighted vest

Buy Hyperwear Weighted Vest on Amazon - $199.99

The only issue with the above weighted vest and many other compact, thin weighted vests are you are limited in weight (Hyperwear only goes up to about 45lbs for the XL size).

So, if a heavy weighted vest is a must based on the training you plan to do, you need to just do your best to find one that will fit nicely. Generally speaking, the heavier they are, the thicker they are. There’s really not much you can do about that. No pain, no gain. Right?

If you are doing military or firefighter training, for example, the bigger, thicker, heavy duty weighted vests are actually ideal as it prepares you better. Sometimes being uncomfortable is what you want. It prepares you mentally and physically.

Heavy Duty Weighted Vest by Run Max (12LBS-140LBS):

weighted vest sizes


Budget:

Just like everyone’s fitness goals are different, people’s budgets vary too. If you have the means, it’s worth spending the money to get a high quality weighted vest. Usually the more expensive ones have a good design for mobility and higher weight capacity. Moreover, they are long lasting with materials that are waterproof or odor resistant, so they won’t get smelly and/or they are easy to keep fresh with simple washings.

Here is a very good high quality weighted vest by Wolf Tactical (it is compact because it uses thin weighted plates):

how should a weighted vest fit

Buy Wolf Tactical Weighted Vest on Amazon - $119

If you are on a tight budget, there are plenty of good options. You just need to read reviews and go with a seller who has a lot of good feedback.

Reviews:

Be sure to check reviews. Go with a seller that has a long history and lots of good feedback. This is why we love shopping on Amazon. Worst case, you should be able to return without any hassle.

WEIGHTED VEST FAQ:

Are weighted vest bad for your back?

While weighted vest are safe for healthy individuals, if you have neck or spine problems, we don’t recommend that you wear a weighted vest as it puts pressure on your spine.

Note: Some light weighted vests are actually great for improving posture. Speak with your doctor or physical therapist if you are not sure if weighted vests will be good for you.

Weighted Vest vs Backpack

Some people opt to make their own weighted vest or simply fill up a backpack and use that to workout or run with. We highly recommend buying a weighted vest rather than using a backpack full of weights or making your own weighted vest. Weighted vests have a better load capacity, they are more comfortable, they fit snugger to the body, they don’t move around, and the weight is evenly distributed. In fact, a weighted vest is significantly safer for your spine and neck than a DIY weighted backpack. On top of that, you can find a good quality weighted vest for a very reasonable price.

How to clean a weighted vest?

Weighted vests are easy to care for and you should do so or else many weighted vests will begin to smell pretty damn bad. To clean a weighted vest, just use warm water and soap then let it air dry by hanging it or hang it in front of a big powerful fan.

If you have a bathtub, wash it in the bathtub. You can submerge it and then scrub.

Note: Be sure to remove the weights before you wash it!

Does a weighted vest build muscle?

Absolutely. You can build muscle with just your bodyweight alone, so a weighted vest will significantly increase your ability to build muscle. With an adjustable weighted vest, you can even employ progressive overload in the form of increasing weight. This is what you want to do to continue building muscle and strength over the long haul.

If you want to build muscle, make sure you are creating optimal tension and time under tension. Moreover, you need to eat the right diet and give your muscles adequate recovery time.

Can you run with weighted vest?

Absolutely, a lot of weighted vests are made specifically for running. Just look for a nice compact, thin weighted vest that is about 10% of your bodyweight.

Will weighted vest make you faster?

Yes, a weighted vest will make you faster and more explosive if you do plyometric and explosive exercises while wearing a weighted vest on a regular basis. A lot of pro athletes employ this kind of weighted vest training for speed and power.

weighted vest for running

HOW TO WORKOUT WITH A WEIGHTED VEST - BEST WAYS TO USE A WEIGHTED VEST

WEIGHTED VEST CARDIO WORKOUT

Weighted vest cardio workouts are simple, you do the same cardio you’d always do but while wearing a weighted vest!

You can do runs, hikes, or the stairmaster all with a weighted vest.

Push yourself to try to do the same distance you would without a weighted vest, but if its too difficult, shorten the distance and work your way back up and past your normal non-weighted vest cardio routine.

WEIGHTED VEST SPRINTING WORKOUT

For weighted vest sprints, we recommend an adjustable weighted vest. Start with the weighted vest with all the weighted removed from it. See how it feels to sprint with the weighted vest and if it shifts around, you may need to tighten it or adjust so it fits snugly around your shirt.

From there, slowly start to add weight. For the first sprint training session, just add 3 pounds. Try to maintain your normal sprinting speed and reps with the additional three pounds.

You can keep this weight for a couple/few weeks, then add another 2-3 pounds. Always go up in small increments, no more than 3 pounds (less is ok).

WEIGHTED VEST HOME WORKOUT

These two workouts are good for strength and conditioning, as well as hypertrophy.

Fixed weight weighted vest sample workout:

Push Ups x 10 reps
Air Squats x 20 reps
Inverted Row x 10 reps
Pike Push Ups x 10 reps
Plank Alt. Shoulder Taps x 20 seconds
- Repeat for 3-4 rounds.

Box jumps x 8 reps x 3 sets

Adjust reps to make it harder or easier.

Adjustable Weighted Vest sample muscle:

Bulgarian Split Squats - 3 sets x 10 reps each side
Decline Push Ups - 3 sets x 15 reps
Good Mornings - 3 sets x 12 reps
Pull Ups - 3 sets x 8 reps
Mountain Climbers - 3 sets x 20 seconds

Adjust weight load for each exercise (i.e. heavier for lower body exercises)

Adjust reps to make it harder or easier.

Finisher - 3 rounds (use a light load - only rest if absolutely needed, try to finish all three rounds without any rest if you can):

  • High Knees x 30 seconds
  • Jumping Jacks x 30 seconds
  • Sprawls x 6 reps

weighted vest for workouts

WHERE TO BUY A WEIGHTED VEST?

Buy weighted vests on Amazon! You can return it for your money back if you are unhappy with the weighted vest. Can’t beat that.

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