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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
This adjustable weighted vest by Cap has options of up to 40lbs, up to 50lbs, up to 60lbs, up to 80lbs, up to 150lbs.
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).
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.
Fixed Weighted Vests usually range from 4 or 10lbs to 30 or 40lbs. Most runners start with around 10lbs.
This is a fixed weighted vest from Aduro which comes in 4, 6, 12, 16, 20, 25, and 30lbs.
This is a fixed weighted vest from Empower that comes in either 8 or 16 pounds.
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.
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:
Here’s a quick summary of everything above…
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.
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).
Remember this is all relative to your strength and fitness level.
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.
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.
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!
The Hyper Wear weighted vest is quite expensive, but according to most people it is well worth the price.
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):
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):
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.
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.
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 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):
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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