Of all the numerous pieces of workout equipment I have used over the years, a weighted vest is by far one of the best. I have used weighted vests many times with clients over the years with great success. There are some unique benefits to using a weight vest, as well as some things to look for when deciding which weight vest to buy. A good weight vest can greatly increase both the intensity and results you get from a workout. In this article I will cover aspects related to choosing and buying a weighted vest, exercises you can do using a weighted vest, and other factors to consider before purchasing one.
Benefits Of Using A Weighted Vest
There are many benefits to using a weighted vest. For athletes it can improve speed, strength, and performance. When an athlete trains with a weight vest, the body must increase strength and power output to accommodate the extra mass being moved. The result is that when the athlete is performing in his or her given sport, he or she is typically able to move even faster and with greater power because the body is no longer required to move the extra mass, even though it is accustomed to doing so. For this reason, many athletes choose to workout with a weighted vest as part of their performance training.
Another benefit of using a weight vest as it pertains to the average lifter in a gym, is that it allows for additional weight to be moved. While there are other means of adding extra weight to exercises that involve bodyweight, the great thing about a weight vest is that you don’t have to hold onto it and it stays out of the way. Compare this to holding a dumbbell, barbell, or having weight hanging from you. Walkers, joggers, and runners can add a little bit of extra weight and not have to worry about holding onto dumbbells to do so. Finally, changing weights in a good weight vest is usually pretty quick and easy. Most vests have Velcro tabs or buttons that can quickly be lifted up to get at the weights. This is great for changing exercises quickly, or increasing and decreasing weight in between sets.
Choosing A Weighted Vest For Your Workouts
Like many products on the market, as soon as you start looking into buying a weighted vest, you are going to realize that there are many on the market to choose from. One of the first things you will notice as soon as you start searching for a weight vest is the difference in the amount of weight that the vest can hold. This single factor serves to affect the price greatly. Upon searching for weighted vests, you will see models that hold only ten pounds or so all the way up to vests holding well over one hundred pounds. As of the time of this writing, I have seen various vests ranging in price from twenty dollars or so, well up to over two hundred dollars.
Before you choose a weighted vest to go with, you want to take a moment and assess what your intended purpose for using it will be. For example, some people may want to wear a weighted vest when they run or walk. The extra weight creates a tougher workout, allows one to burn more calories, and particularly when going up hills will work the leg muscles more. Others however may be looking to use a weight vest for walking lunges, body squats, or chin-ups. Your intended purpose for using a weight vest should factor into your purchasing decision. If you intend to run many miles with a weight vest on, it is unlikely you are going to need to purchase a weighted vest weighing over a hundred pounds. Conversely, if you do intend to use the weight vest to add to your resistance training workouts, a weight vest weighing only ten pounds or so is not going to provide a huge challenge for many lifters. It’s better to get a vest that weighs too much and be able to reduce the weight, then spend the money on a lighter vest and one day wish you could add more weight.
Buying A Weighted Vest: What To Consider Before You Buy
The basic design of weighted vests is pretty similar. They typically go on over the shoulders. This is something to consider if you have back pain; particularly lower back pain. If you are thinking about buying a heavy weighted vest and have chronic or reoccurring back pain, you should consider that all the weight will be weighing down on your spine. Wearing a weighted vest is not like wearing a backpack where there is a belt that goes around your waist. When wearing a backpack, the waist strap makes it so that your hips bear a great deal of the weight rather than your shoulders and back. This is not the case with a weight vest. Because of this, if you are going to purchase a weighted vest that holds a great deal of weight, you may want to take note of the kind of padding that is underneath the shoulders. While this may not seem like a big deal, if you are out training and are hoping to improve your aerobic conditioning or increase strength in the muscles, you do not want to have to end your session early because the vest is too much of a strain on your shoulders. You may be able to find some insights on weighted vest reviews by customers online who have already purchased a vest.
If you are going to use a weight vest for walking, jogging, or running, you should make sure that the vest has visible reflective strips. Many vests today have this feature. Additionally, if your intended purpose is for walking, jogging, or running, you may want to ensure that the vest you buy has colors other than black for those times you head out after dark.
Weight Vest Quality And Design
When it comes to weight vests, one factor to consider before you purchase one is what the weights that are in the vest are made out of. Many weighted vests have sand type bags that can be inserted or removed to adjust the total amount of weight. Others have iron inserts that slip in and out. I personally prefer the iron inserts. Sand filled bags can break or get punctured. When they do, you may be out of luck. Hopefully the manufacturer sells extras. Additionally, in my experience the iron inserts slip in and out quicker and easier than the sand filled inserts. The only issue I have had with the iron weight inserts is keeping them in a good dry area. They can be prone to getting rust on them if you do not.
In addition to the types of weight in the vest, you may want to inspect the vest for its stitching and material. The average weight vest is going to hold anywhere from a few pounds to over one hundred pounds. You will likely be moving and perhaps even jumping up and down in the vest if you do plyometrics. That means that those weights are going to be moving back and forth against the material. Because of this, you want to make sure you purchase a high quality vest. This may entail spending a little bit more money up front, but if you plan on really using your vest for the long term, it should be well worth it. So before you buy a weight vest and have to break out the duct tape to seal up where the weights are breaking through the material, check the vest’s quality.
Exercises That Are Ideal For Weighted Vests
In addition to walking, jogging, and running with a weight vest, there are many great resistance training exercises as well. Below are some great strength training exercises that can be done using weighted vests.
1: Body Squats: Unlike the back squat or front squat, there is nothing to hold here. Users can focus on the movement and posture rather than gripping a bar or dumbbells.
2. Walking/Stationary Lunges: No need to hold dumbbells out to the side or a barbell on your back for these lunges. The weighted vest here keeps your hands and arms free, thus allowing for greater balance and less likelihood of falling.
3. Push-ups: Want an extra challenge for doing push-ups? Try adding twenty or forty extra pounds. In the old days guys would place a plate on a persons back while doing push-ups. Not only was this not that effective but the plate would often slip off of the back. With the weighted vest you get great resistance that stays in place.
4. Chin-ups/Pull-ups: You may be used to having weight hang from a weight belt, but if you ever have you know that you must always be mindful of your hips swinging and the weight belt slipping off. A good weight vest will add the extra resistance you want and keep the weight out of the way.
5. Planks: One of the best overall core exercises around, planks offer a great means of strengthening muscles throughout the torso. Throw on a good weight vest and you can push yourself that much harder.
There are many other great exercises that can be done using a good weight vest. The five above however are some of the best, and most avid weightlifters are already familiar with them.
Using A Weighted Vest For Plyometrics
In addition to the above mentioned exercises, one of the single greatest benefits of having weighted vests are for use in plyometrics. While not appropriate for everyone, plyometrics are ideal for improving sport performance through greater speed, acceleration, and power output. Whether the activity is vollyball, football, basketball, or any other number of sports, there are great plyometric drills that can be done which can greatly improve total performance. The use of weighted vests for sport training can be used with great efficiency to improve one’s vertical jump, which is important for many sports. As the body is forced to overcome the additional weight from a weight vest, the body’s adaptations will ultimately make it easier to perform jumps when there is no extra weight added. Jump training and plyometrics carry an increased risk of injury, and having a weight vest on can increase the risk due to balance factors and the potential for falls. Fractures and other injuries are possible with plyometric training, so make sure you work with a professional with solid credentials who knows what he or she is doing.
Final Thoughts On Using A Weighted Vest
A good weight vest will last you many years and provide you with the opportunity to do exercises in a way otherwise not possible. A good weight vest that holds a decent amount of weight is not going to be cheap, but the benefits you will realize from using one should be worth it. Working out with a weight vest by its nature places more compressive load on the spine and other parts of the anatomy. Because of this, you will want to talk with your doctor before purchasing one and make sure he or she clears you for using one or gives you any restrictions to follow. If you see a chiropractor regularly, you should review the idea with him or her before you purchase and use one and make sure to listen to any restrictions or limitations he or she has for you. Finally, if you have had other injuries, ailments, or conditions in the legs, hips, or feet, you again will want to double check with your doctor before using a weight vest. It’s always appropriate to check with your doctor before you engage in any exercise program. Good luck in your decision regarding the use of weight vests and make sure to check back for more great articles.