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How to Get a Better Workout Walking (or Running!) with a Weighted Vest

Photo: Hyperwear

You’re probably used to walking and running-they are two of are the quickest ways to blast up to 25 percent more calories, boost your energy instantly, and get a workout in ASAP. And you’re probably equally as familiar with wearing a vest while endurance running or as an added layer of warmth during the chillier months. But a weighted vest? Not so much. Yet walking, running, and working out with a weighted vest can boost your calorie burn and add a strength element to your routine-sans gym. Here’s how.

What Exactly Is a Weighted Vest for Workouts?

Weighted vests are exactly what they sound like: Workout vests with small weights in them. “Most vests sit over the shoulders, chest, back, and core, like a vest you would wear under a suit or a life vest for swimming,” says Astrid Swan, a celebrity trainer in Los Angeles. (Astrid knows a thing or two about weight training, BTW. She shared these six weighted abs exercises for a strong, sculpted core.)

The Benefits of Exercising with a Weighted Vest

Because weighted vests literally force you to carry extra weight on your body, they make any activity-from walking to running to pull-ups-a lot harder. Since you’re moving more weight, you’ll need to exert more effort to perform any exercise or activity compared to using just your body, says Swan. This can help improve your cardio capacity, muscular endurance, and overall strength, she says. (BTW, here’s the difference between muscular endurance and strength.) Using a weighted vest is like exercising while holding dumbbells, but those dumbbells are dispersed across your torso in a piece of clothing.

Also, if you’re deconditioned or out of shape, simply wearing a weighted vest while walking can be a way to increase calorie burn without cranking up the intensity too much. Researchers at the University of New Mexico asked untrained adult women to walk on a flat treadmill at 2.5 while wearing a vest weighing about 15 percent of their body weight. Women wearing the weighted vest burned about 12 percent more calories compared with the women who were not wearing a vest, according to the study, which was conducted for the American Council on Exercise.

“You’ll also improve your cardiovascular endurance from carrying the extra weight while working out,” says Swan. Wearing a vest will make cardio feel more challenging-and when you train without the vest, you’ll be faster and more conditioned, she explains. In fact, runners who warmed up by doing strides (in this case, 10-second sprints) while wearing a weighted vest showed improvements in speed and performance during a treadmill test immediately after, according to a study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

And you can use a weighted vest to increase the load on bodyweight moves such as squats, lunges, push-ups, and pull-ups to increase the demand on your muscles and induce strength- and endurance-related muscle gains, too. (Plus, all the usual benefits of strength training.) Of course, while no exercises are really off limits with a weighted vest, tossing one on doesn’t automatically equal a better workout. (Example: wearing a weighted vest during yoga or spin class likely isn’t worth it.) Reserve it for exercise where you’re responsible for moving your bodyweight, like climbing stairs, biking, running, and total bodyweight workouts, says Swan.

Make Sure Your Weighted Vest Is the Right Weight

When choosing your weight, start small. “This is all based on the individual, but I recommend starting off light and adding from there,” says Swan. “The amount of weight varies from five pounds all the way up to 20, 50, 80 pounds and more. A vest of five to 10 pounds would be my recommendation for both HIIT training and running.”

Like with any weight lifting, progression is always more beneficial than regression or risk of injury: “Think of using a weighted vest like you would pick out dumbbells. If you no longer feel challenged, up the weight. Start with an additional five pounds and continue from there,” she says.

One older study from the University of Iowa in Iowa City also found that people who wore a vest that was about 20 percent of their body weight burned 14 percent more calories. Translation: a 140-pound woman might burn about 30 more calories on a 45-minute walk. But beginning by wearing three to five percent of your weight (for a 140-pound woman, that’s four to seven pounds) and increasing by two to five percent every few weeks until you reach 20 percent (28 pounds) is your best bet for avoiding injury, experts say.

How to Train with a Weighted Vest

You want to challenge yourself. “You should experience some huffing and puffing, even if you’re walking,” says Vicki Harber, Ph.D., a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. Out with a friend? “You should be a bit breathless as you talk,” says Harber.

Then, lean into each stride to increase momentum-it makes everything feel easier, even as you go faster. How far you lean depends on your pace. “Keep this forward-leaning position throughout your run or walk,” says Zika Palmer, an exercise physiologist, and co-founder of ZAP Fitness in Blowing Rock, NC. “It should almost feel like you have to take a step to catch yourself from falling.”

Also? Use your core. “All movement starts from your core, so it makes sense to keep it strong and engaged while you walk or run,” says Ellie Herman, owner of Ellie Herman Pilates Studios and creator of the Walk-ilates system, which combines walking and Pilates. To actively engage your abs, imagine zipping up a pair of jeans from your pubic bone to your navel and keeping them tight during the walk or run.

Pulling your toes up as you step can also help you recruit more leg muscles and propel yourself forward to go faster, explains Dixie Stanforth, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist in the department of kinesiology at the University of Texas in Austin. Another way to pick up speed: Bend your elbows 90 degrees and keep them close to you, swinging from your shoulders. “This speeds up your arms so the legs will follow,” says Stanforth.

How to Pick a Weighted Vest

While some brands only offer unisex, one-size-fits-all vests, others offer different sizes or adjustable straps to ensure minimal movement while you’re working out. (They should fit snugly and not bounce around.) Many allow you to insert or remove the weights (usually small sandbags or steel bars) to change the overall load. Not sure where to start? Some great options include vests from Hyperwear, Zeyu Sports, Everlast, and Tone Fitness, says Swan. (Check out The Best Weighted Running Vests for more expert picks.)

Try a Walking and Running Upper Body Treadmill Routine Instead

Don’t want to use a weighted vest while walking? No problem. Jeanette Soloma Hale, a personal trainer based in Saint Paul, MN suggests walking or running for 15 minutes at a moderate intensity then decreasing your speed to 3.0 to 3.6 mph, picking up some dumbbells, raising the incline to 6 percent, and doing the following moves for one minute each, without taking any rest. Even a two percent higher setting on the incline bumps up your calorie burn by 20 percent per minute, explains Mitchell Whaley, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. You’ll not only burn more calories than you would on a flat surface, but you’ll also strengthen your legs and glutes. (Related: This 15-Minute Treadmill Speed Workout Will Have You In and Out of the Gym In a Flash.)

  • Alternate Punch: Keep hands at shoulder height, elbows bent at sides, and alternate forward punches with each arm.
  • Hammer Curl: Straighten arms to sides, palms facing in. Curl weights toward shoulders, keeping elbows close to sides.
  • Triceps Kickback: Bend elbows 90 degrees and keep arms tucked into ribs, then slowly straighten arms behind you.
  • Lateral Raise: Keeping elbows slightly bent, raise arms out to sides until elbows are shoulder height.
  • Triceps Rear Press: Bring arms back to sides, palms facing behind you. Keeping elbows straight, pulse arms back.
  • By By Isadora Baum and Holly St. Lifer

Does Walking With a Weighted Vest Help You Lose Weight?

Read More >>

The first time I saw it, I wrote it off as an anomaly.

But then I saw it again. And again. And again.

Totally normal people walking around in public in totally normal clothes, save for one accessory—a large weighted vest strapped to their torso.

I witnessed such a scene countless times over the summer, and perhaps you’ve seen it in your own neighborhood.

After digging into this phenomenon, I found the common motivation for walking with a weighted vest is an improvement in body composition. By walking around with extra weight strapped to your body, you can theoretically burn more calories and decrease body fat faster than you would by walking without one.

But is it really worth the effort? Does walking with a weighed vest actually help you lose weight?

A 2013 study from the American Council on Exercise examined how the use of weighted vests impacted calorie expenditure while walking. Participants walked at a set pace of 2.5 miles per hour on a treadmill at four different gradients: 0% incline, 5% incline, 10% incline and 15% incline. They did so under three conditions: wearing no vest, wearing a vest equal to 10% of their body weight, and wearing a vest equal to 15% of their own body weight.

Here were the mean effects of the different loads:

Ultimately, the extra calorie-burning impact of a weighted vest wasn’t all that impressive.

Did it make a difference? Absolutely. But by itself, adding a weighted vest to your daily or semi-daily walk probably won’t be enough to have a significant impact on your body composition.

For example, on average, participants burned 5.7 calories a minute while walking without any weighted vest. When wearing a weighted vest equal to 15% their own body weight (which would mean a 30-pound vest for a 200-pound person), they burned an average of 6.3 calories per minute.

For a 45-minute walk, that’d equal an extra 26.9 calories burned. For a weighted vest equal to 10% of the walker’s body weight, it’d be an extra 17.9 calories. Not exactly earth-shattering numbers.

“I think people way overestimate how much of a difference it’s going to make in their energy expenditure. If they’re just wearing it while they’re going out for a walk, it’s not going to make that much of a difference,” says James Krieger, M.S. in Nutrition and Exercise Science and owner of Weightology.

“You will burn more calories, but it’s not an amount that’s going to make any meaningful impact on how much fat you’re losing.”

It’s important to note the aforementioned study was also performed with a treadmill set at a consistent pace. It’s fairly reasonable to assume that wearing a weighted vest while walking outdoors would cause most people to adopt a naturally slower pace than they would sans vest, meaning the potential difference in calorie burning could be even slimmer in practice.

The growing popularity of this method as a weight loss “hack” hits on a common misconception Krieger sees among those attempting to lose weight—overestimating the impact that exercise has on fat loss while underestimating the importance of nutrition.

Physical activity only accounts for 10-30 percent of the calories we burn each day. Yet food/beverage intake accounts for 100 percent of the calories we consume. While exercise has undeniable physical, mental and emotional benefits, it’s not the silver bullet for weight loss.

“Most people tend to focus too much on exercise, but it’s much more efficient to establish an energy deficit through diet and maybe use exercise as a tool for a little additional help,” says Krieger.

“Unless you’re engaging in really high volumes of exercise, the amount of energy you expend during exercise isn’t really a big factor in whether you lose fat anyway…Dietary adherence is the number one predictor of fat loss.”

Translation: those calories you worked so hard to burn during your 45-minute gym workout can easily be eclipsed by one bad meal or snack.

Krieger says the only way a weighted vest could possibly have a significant impact on fat loss efforts is if you wear it for most of your waking hours and spend a lot of time walking or up on your feet throughout the day. But again, there are probably much more convenient ways to create a consistent caloric deficit.

There doesn’t seem to be a real downside to walking with a weighted vest, so feel free to continue doing so or give it a try if you’d like. But if you’re really looking to lose weight, what you eat is going to be the most important factor of all.

Photo Credit: VTT Studio/iStock

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Changing up your fitness routine can be a good habit to get into. By modifying your workout, you’ll place different strains on your body which can help improve your strength and conditioning. For these reasons, weighted vests and body weights can be great additions to help you achieve your fitness goals.

WHAT ARE WEIGHTED VESTS OR BODY WEIGHTS?

Weighted vests and body weights are simply that: wearable weights worn during exercises for increased resistance and cardio conditioning. The weight levels can vary by product. Most weighted vests can also accommodate extra bars or plates for added weight. The more weight you use, the more resistance you’ll encounter.

These tools are useful for bodyweight exercises, plyometrics and cardiovascular training. Some athletes even use weighted vests in sport-specific training for activities like basketball and tennis. Before strapping on the extra pounds, however, it’s important to understand the benefits.

BENEFITS

There are multiple benefits to adding weighted vests or body weights to your fitness routine. For one, weighted vests can help in developing strength, endurance and cardio by increasing your body weight.

Adding mass can influence the ways your muscles stress and strain during workouts. By adding it, more force is exerted which, in turn leads to faster energy depletion. Both experiences can also affect your breathing pattern and how much oxygen you take in as you train.

Stressed muscles, increased breathing and depleted energy may sound negative for progress. But they are, actually, quite the opposite. As your body learns and adjusts to these factors, your strength, endurance and cardio can see positive results.

Additionally, wearing weighted vests and body weights can add variety to your workouts. With weighted vests, you can mix up the stresses placed on your muscles throughout your session. Plus, the added bodyweight can be useful in multiple exercise sectors. From plyometric movements to bodyweight exercises to even simply walking, using weighted vests can spice up most training programs.

CONSIDERATIONS

As with any fitness tool, there should be some precautions prior to use. Consult your physician prior to training to ensure your health is in good standing and you are physically capable of performing these exercises. Also, be sure to take into consideration your personal fitness level before using any weighted vest or body weight. Performing movements with added bodyweight isn’t helpful if you haven’t mastered proper form.

Also, it should not take much weight to notice the increased resistance at first. Err on the lighter side when using weighted vests for the first time, especially in cardio training.

Another consideration to make when using weighted vests or body weights is if they are necessary for your planned workout. For example, a weighted vest won’t help with training for upper body isolation exercises, like bicep curls and bench presses.

Additionally, a focus on technique, bar placement and other factors when exercising should come first. Remember, weighted vests and body weights are training aids, not hindrances.

Weighted vests and body weights can be an invigorating, effective and fun addition to your training regimen. Use these tips to weigh in on your fitness needs and see if weighted vests or body weights are right for your workout style.

A weighted vest is one of the best fitness equipment investments you can make. It’s a versatile device that is simple, affordable, and adds a whole new dimension of intensity to a number of exercises.

We’ll tell you exactly why a weight vest is an important tool in any fitness enthusiast’s garage or home gym, and the benefits you can expect to gain from its use.

What is a Weighted Vest?

Weighted vest for a workout

A weighted vest (or weight vest) is just that – a vest that allows you to add metal weight bars for additional resistance. It’s a great endurance and strength builder. Pair it with bodyweight exercise (pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups, box jumps, burpees, and more) or use it to add load for common everyday tasks. Weighted vests come in weights starting at about 2.5 lbs and accommodate additional weight through a number of small “weight pockets” on the front and back of the vest. Most can be loaded as heavily as 45 lbs, and some monster weight vests can accommodate up to 100lbs!

What to Look For in the Best Weighted Vest

The weight increments for a vest are usually small, and this is one of the key benefits of the weight vest. 1lb, 2lbs, 3lbs, or 4lbs are common weights. You can add just a little bit of extra weight each time. Taking big jumps in weight is a common beginner mistake. The best progress is made with small increments. This lets your body gradually acclimate to the extra work required. And this is better for your joints, your muscles, your tendons, and your ego!

You can add weight to the vest using small metal bars (or sand bags) that are purpose built for this. Look for a vest that has weight pockets on both the front and back – this will let you avoid uneven weight loading.

The biggest benefit of the weighted vest? You can perform all kinds of functional movements that you can’t normally do when working with conventional weights like dumbbells or barbells.

Why? Because your hands are free, and the weight vest will secure the weights to your body such that there is no danger of them coming loose and causing injury (or making annoying noise). The addition of a weight vest to a bodyweight workout really amps up the intensity.

Ever try to add weight to push-ups? It’s not really practical – unless you have a weighted vest. This is just one example of many.

The extra resistance means more of your musculature is at work – and it’s working harder. This means more calories burned, and it helps to build better endurance. Being able to move the extra weight is also a builder of strength and power, too.

Weight Vest Vs Plate Carrier?

You’ve probably seen ballistic plate carriers in use at the CrossFit games – these items are a trendy piece of fitness gear, but they actually provide a real world benefit too – find out more at Weight Vests vs Plate Carriers.

Weight Vest Benefits

  • Increased core stabilization – the weight on your torso challenges your postural muscles in both the front and back of your body.
  • Burns calories faster – with more muscle in use, you’ll burn calories faster.
  • Fun and challenging to use – The key to results in fitness training is to progress – to add more weight, or carry farther, or faster – every time. The weight vest lets you easily add weight.
  • Great for conditioning – Building endurance using small increments of additional load is a time proven technique to ensure your cardiovascular system is continually challenged
  • Adds weighted resistance to normal, everyday activities or basic exercise – A weighted vest is a great way to turn a “lower body only” exercise (like walking, or running) into a more complete workout.

What about the risk of injury – and especially the lower back? If you have back issues, there’s always a possibility any additional weight will cause a problem. However, the amount of weight you can add with a weighted vest is modest, compared to a heavily loaded barbell or a large kettlebell.

And just like working out with a heavily loaded barbell, it’s important to ease into heavier weights gradually. Don’t try pull-ups with an extra 50 lbs, if all you have been doing are body weight pull-ups. Start with an extra 2-4 lbs, and add 2-4 lbs per workout from there. This repeatable, incremental progress is one of the key benefits of using a weighted vest.

The other factor that can help is to load the weight evenly – some on the back, some on the front of the vest. This will help avoid asymmetrical stress on your spinal discs.

So, if you are looking for a way to go farther in your training – consider a weight vest. It’s a simple, economical tool that can be used for a variety of purposes.

Weighted Clothing

From shouen action series like Dragon Ball and Naruto to sports anime like Hajime no Ippo, weighted clothing have been a classic anime trope to help characters gain speed, strength, and agility. Now by training weights I do not mean pumping iron in the gym, but wearable weights that you could use all day long.

These types of weights can be found in the real world at almost any fitness store, and come in a variety of weights. I have a set of 10 lbs ankle weights and 2.5 lbs wrist weights. While wrist and ankle weights are the most common type of weighted clothing, I have also seen weighted gloves, vests, shirts, and shorts. The amount of weight that each type can hold varies, with the vests being the heaviest, going up to 150 lbs. I’ve only used a 40 lbs one in the past.

And, yes, I know that real world weighted clothing pales in comparison to what you might see in anime.

In this scene we see Goku remove 100-120 kilos (220 lbs to 265 lbs) of weighted clothing (shirt, wrist bands, and boots). The amount of weight is more than a bit much, but if you really wanted to, you could replicate something close to that amount of wearable weights. FYI– it won’t come cheap, even with Amazon available items include:

Weighted vest- 150 lbs

Weights shorts- 45 lbs

Ankle weights 2x- 40 lbs

Wrist weights 2x- 20 lbs

Weighted gloves 2x- 4 lbs

Weighted shoes 2x- 6 lbs

Total- 265 lbs

But will wearing training weights make you stronger?

The simple answer is yes, but the reality is a bit more complex. First off, it depends on how you use the weights. If you use body weights like you would any other type of weight training, the results would be similar, but this is the boring stuff that most of you already know, not to mention that type of training is not seen as often in anime. The more interesting and more often used method of using body weights is to wear them all the time, only removing the weights during hard fights as seen in the Dragon Ball clip above.

Not unsurprisingly there is a lack of good scientific research into the topic, or at least research that is readily accessible. I say this because I only found 2 sources that weren’t directly connected to a company selling weighted clothing. However, given the number of weighted clothing items on sale online, I suspect that the academic research will catch up. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some conclusions that can be made. First, since this training method is most often used in fighting anime, we need to consider that there are other things beyond physical strength that are important to a martial artist. This includes strength, jumping ability, range of motion, speed, and endurance.

Strength

When it comes to basic strength training, training with weighted clothing will increase your strength, but it’s not any more or less effective than using traditional weights. The benefit of the weighted clothing occurs when you can’t hold the increased weight you are trying to lift. For example, let’s say that you were doing dumbbell squats, but have trouble holding more than 100lbs.

You could where a weighted vest to increase the amount of weight used during the exercise with having to hold more weight.

Vertical Jump

Using a weighted vest in conjunction with plyometric exercise (jump training) does result in an increased vertical leap when the vest is removed. This is due to the weight providing extra resistance, strengthening the muscles that are engaged when jumping vertically. While I did not find any studies looking into whether using weighted vests can improve horizontal jumping, I would imagine that they would have some degree of positive effect.

Bone Density

Studies have also shown that using weighted vests increases bone density as it does with standard weight training. This occurs due to the stress the extra weight places on the body. Our body doesn’t like stress and creates strengthens bone to better handle the extra stress.

Range of Motion

Using weight training of any kind will not improve the range of motion of your joints or your flexibility. However, certain types of weighted clothing could make your range of motion worse. It has more to do with the design of the clothing than the weight.

In this particular design you can see how large and bulky the vest is and it could reduce your ability to move your arms in certain directions. This is something that I can attest to as I have used one of the older heavier weighted vests for a time. Some of the newer weighted shirts are less bulky and do not restrict your movement as much.

What about the negatives?

If you only use the weighted vests during your workouts, there aren’t any negatives beyond what you would see with regular weight training. It might not be as effective as other training methods, but it won’t negatively impact you when used properly. The real negatives come in when you start wearing them all the time as seen in anime, which is a really bad idea.

Joint Damage

Yes, constantly wearing weighted clothing 24/7 can damage your joints. The amount of damage depends on the amount of weight a person is wearing, and how long the person wears it. The easiest way to explain this is to go back to what I’ve said in several other posts about how the human body has a certain size that it is best adapted for, and that includes both height and weight. When you wear weighted vests, you are effectively increasing how much your body weighs, which is fine for a short period of time like a workout, but over a long period of time it can be detrimental. For example, if a 6ft 180lbs man who has a BMI of 24.4, which is considered healthy, decided to try and be Goku wearing 220lbs of weighted clothing, he would have a BMI of 54.3, which is considered morbidly obese.

Yes, the individual would not have the metabolic and cardiovascular problems of a truly obese person, but their musculoskeletal system would be under the same stress as a morbidly obese person. This includes joint damage due to the extreme stress the extra weight places on the body.

Decrease in Speed

Yes, you read it right, wearing weighted clothing all the time will not make you faster, even after you take off the weight. Now I know this sounds counter intuitive, but it goes back to your brain. When you start wearing weighted clothing all the time, your brain recognizes the weight and how your movement has changed. Over time it begins to think that you are actually heavier than you really are. This means that even after you take off the weight, your brain still thinks it’s 220 pounds heavier than you really are. This will throw off your speed and coordination for an extended period of time until the brain adapts back to the body’s normal weight.

FYI- I like to think this is why Lee misses some of his punches during his fight with Gaara.

Changes to Endurance

This one is a bit of a wash as I have seen some reports stating that training with body weights increases endurance, while others say that it decreases endurance.

Conclusion

Sadly, I have to call the use of weighted clothing (wearing it all the time, unless you are in a fight) in anime busted.

If you want to use weighted clothing, only use it for your workouts, and do not wear it all the time.

Sources

Wearable weights: How they can help or hurt

They’re great as a substitute for a dumbbell, but a risky choice for some exercises.

Published: May, 2018

When you want to add strength training to your routine, wearable weights seem like a handy shortcut. Just slip them on and do your regular workout. But it’s not that simple. “They’re great for specific exercises, but they have some risks,” says Terry Downey, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Network.

Ankle weights

You may see people walking around with weights around their ankles. The weights are typically built into a wide neoprene strap that wraps around the ankle and attaches with Velcro.

But Downey warns that it’s not a good idea to use wearable ankle weights while you’re walking or during an aerobics workout, because they force you to use your quadriceps (the muscles in the fronts of the thighs) and not your hamstrings (in the backs of the thighs). “That causes a muscle imbalance,” Downey says. Wearable ankle weights also pull on the ankle joint, which poses the risk of tendon or ligament injuries to the knees, hips, and back.

But wearable ankle weights are helpful for exercises that target the leg and hip muscles, like leg lifts. “The weight places a greater load on the muscle group being targeted. The muscles have to work harder to move this increased load against gravity, and in turn this will increase strength,” Downey explains.

Wrist weights

Like ankle weights, wearable wrist weights are wide, weighted straps that wrap around the wrist and attach with Velcro. Sometimes people wear these during a cardio workout or on a walk. But this can lead to muscle imbalance as you swing your arms back and forth. The same action with wearable wrist weights can also cause joint and tendon injuries in the wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck.

But wrist weights do have a place in a workout. “They’re great for targeted exercise if you can’t grip a dumbbell,” Downey says. For example, you might have a weak grip from arthritis or a stroke. In that case, Downey recommends using wearable wrist weights for standard arm exercises, such as biceps curls, or shoulder exercises, such as rows. “Lean over a ball or table with your arms free to the sides. Bring your arms back, like you’re rowing a boat, and squeeze the shoulder blades together,” she says.

Weighted vests

Weighted vests are typically put on over your head. They hang from the shoulders, with a wide strap that wraps around your middle to keep the vest in place. There are pockets for weights around the vest, which help you adjust the amount of weight you’re wearing.

Unlike wrist or ankle weights, the weighted vest can be beneficial on a walk, putting pressure on your bones to stimulate the growth of new bone cells, which helps fight bone loss. Downey says weighted vests should not exceed 10% of your body weight. For example, the weight should not exceed 15 pounds for a 150-pound person.

But weighted vests aren’t right for people with back or neck problems. “It puts pressure on your spine, and if you have spinal stenosis or significant disc degeneration, it can cause problems all the way to the neck,” Downey warns.

Move of the month: Side-lying leg lift (with or without weights)


Photo by Michael Carroll

  • Lie on your right side with both legs extended.

  • Raise your left leg toward the ceiling, keeping your hips stacked and facing forward. Hold. Return to the starting position.

  • Repeat 10 times, then do the exercise while lying on your left side and raising your right leg.

What you should do

Talk to your doctor first before you buy wearable weights, especially if you have back, joint, or balance problems. Once you get the go-ahead, Downey suggests working with a physical therapist to develop a strength-training plan. You’ll likely start with the smallest amount of wearable weight (as little as a pound or two) and gradually increase the load.

You can find wearable weights online and in big-box stores. For more information, check out the Harvard Special Health Report Strength and Power Training for Older Adults (www.health.harvard.edu/spt).

Image: © kicsiicsi/Getty Images

Disclaimer:
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

If you love to exercise often but want some extra help with your stability and strength, then weighted training clothes may be an excellent option for you. Certain workout gloves, ankle-bands, belts, vests, shirts, and shorts are made to carry weighted inserts during your workout, providing you with extra resistance and an opportunity to build more muscle during cardio and strength training. With so many quality options on the market today, we have made choosing easy by compiling a list of the ten best weighted training clothes you can buy.

1. The Cross 101 Vest

Weighted training vests are great because of their versatility, and the Cross 101 Vest is the best you can get. Altogether, the vest weighs 61 lbs. and its weight can be adjusted depending on your specific needs and training level. Unlike many vests that come with one large brick weight, the Cross 101 comes with 20 separate 3 lbs. weights made of iron ore that fit snugly into the vest’s pockets. It even has additional pockets for the more experienced trainers who would like to buy and use extra weights other than the included 60 lbs. This vest is easy-to-use and features a simple one-piece design that is conveniently one-size-fits-all. This vest is ideal for almost any exercise. Use it while you run, hike, or do some strength training.

Check out these weighted vests for women

2. The Titin Force Weighted Shirt System

Weighted shirts are similar to vests in function, but they are lighter weight and are also more form-fitting and comfortable for workouts that require your flexibility. The Titin Force Weighted Shirt System comes with two layers: an inner shirt with pockets for gel-weights and an outer compression shirt. The inner shirt holds 8 lbs. of form-fitting gel weights, which can be frozen or heated while still maintaining their flexibility. Use heat or cold during your training, or to help you recover post-workout. The outer compression shirt is antimicrobial and wicks away moisture, so even as you break a sweat the shirt isn’t holding onto odor or leaving you uncomfortable. The form-fitting characteristic of this shirt means that is won’t restrict your movement during any exercise, and the compression keeps the gel-weights in place.

3. The Titin Force Weighted Short System

If you’re wanting a little extra weight with your Titin shirt system then you’re in luck. The company makes shorts as well. They are compression style, like the shirts, are can be worn as your outer layer shorts if you want. The shorts are similar in function, using 4.5 lbs. of flexible gel-weights. It has all of the same compression, moisture wicking, and antimicrobial features of the shirt system, making it another high-quality product. The shorts are especially good for helping you with better posture during your workouts. Although weighted, these shorts feature a built-in and comfortable belt to ensure that they will not slip and you can be as mobile as possible.

4. The V-Force Short Weight Vest

The V-Force Short Weight Vest is different from the Cross 101 because it uses a brick weight rather than smaller pocket weights. Still, it is an excellent option if you’re looking to get a heavier-weight training session in. The two-piece vest weighs 75 lbs. altogether, with a 50 lbs. base and 25 lbs. attachment weight. Because of this, you cannot gradually up the weight in small intervals and should buy this option if you are already comfortable with strength training. The weight-pocket is reinforced with a second layer, ensuring that the weight won’t slip or cause tears in the vest during workouts that require a lot of motion, such as running. It is built to last with rugged materials and can hold up to any kind of training you enjoy. For some, the short style of this vest may be more comfortable, allowing mobility and flexibility during abdomen or back exercises.

5. The GoFit Weighted Aerobic Gloves

You may have a pair of weight-lifting gloves at home, but do you have gloves that are weighted themselves? The weights are small, only 1 lbs. for each glove, but this creates some pretty serious resistance when used during cardio workouts. They are made specifically for activities such as jogging, Zumba, kickboxing, and just about any other cardio workout you might enjoy. The weights in each glove are made of iron sand, so they are comfortable against the back of your hand and form-fitting. The gloves are made from an extremely breathable neoprene-polyester blend that wicks away moisture, so they should stay smelling fresh through several tough uses. The weights are removable, though, making the gloves themselves easier to just throw in your washer after a few training sessions.

6. The Brute Force Sandbags Weight Lifting Belt

If you are an avid CrossFit athlete, body-builder, or just someone who loves lifting, you may be interested in weighted belts. The Brute Force Sandbags Weight Lifting Belt was made to be durable for just this purpose. The chain link buckle is unbreakable, and the loops were made strong for attaching extra weight during your training sessions. This company’s belt is much more flexible and adjustable than others on the market, meaning that you can find the perfect custom fit and not worry about discomfort during your workouts. Instead of using iron weight-packs, this belt is instead weighted using sandbags sewn into the belt itself. Because of this, it is not adjustable other than clipping new weights to the loops provided.

7. The All Pro Weight Adjustable Ankle Weight

Ankle weights are wonderful for jogging, walking, leg lifts and other leg exercises. The All Pro Weight Adjustable Ankle Weight is the best if this is what you’re looking for. It comes with 20 iron 1 lbs. weights, allowing you to customize your workouts to be as easy or as difficult as you want. This company is known for making their weighted products comfortable, and this ankle weight is no exception. The product is padded to protect your ankle and your Achilles’ tendon so you don’t suffer any discomfort or even injury during workouts. It features velcro straps that allow you to create a snug and custom fit to your leg, and even these straps are padded.

8. The MIR Adjustable Weighted Shorts

If you are in need of weighted shorts made specifically for cardio purposes, look no further than The MIR Adjustable Weighted Shorts. They differ from the Titin shorts in the fact that they are not full coverage compression style. They are meant to be work outside of your clothes. Also, instead of gel-weights these shorts use iron ore and can be adjusted much heavier than the other brand. This pair comes with 3 lbs. weights and reaches a maximum weight of 45 lbs. Because of this, the shorts and especially the belt are made to be heavy-duty, featuring a padded and double elastic belt for secure fit even at the heaviest adjustment. Use these shorts for incline training and running exercises.

9. The MIR Champion Adjustable Weighted Belt

Also by MIR is The Champion Adjustable Weighted Belt. It differs from the first belt on the list because it uses pockets for iron weights rather than loops or sandbags. The belt comes with 3 lbs. weight that can total 36 lbs. altogether, ensuring you get the most stamina and strength training for your workout. This belt features a heavy-duty dual strap, meaning that even if you run the belt isn’t going to move on you. It was also made specifically to protect your lower back, abdomen, and spine during weight-lifting. Unlike other brands on the market, the MIR belt gives this protection comfortably with no excessive pressure.

10. The Valeo Adjustable Ankle and Wrist Weights

Our final product is this Valeo Adjustable Ankle and Wrist Weight. Because it has a smaller height than the All Pro Ankle weight, this brand can also be used for your arms. Each of these weights comes with 5 weight packets of 2 lbs. They are padded for your comfort, meaning that they are ideal for long walks, jobs, hikes, or other forms of cardio and you won’t have to worry about them slipping off during more extreme training sessions. The double D-ring closing system allows you to find the perfect custom fit and switch between ankles or wrists whenever you like.

Check out these weighted arm sleeves

We don’t blame you for not wanting to take workout inspiration from Mark Zuckerberg, but you may want to stick around for this one. That’s because Zuck posted a series of videos on his Facebook (where else?) showing the multibillionaire working out with his 16-month-old daughter strapped to his back.

By strapping-in to an added load during your bodyweight workout, you’ll be putting extra stress on your body, forcing your muscles to work harder with the added strain. However, we don’t advocate picking up the nearest toddler to achieve this.

Instead, just zip-in to a weight vest and watch your sweat pour.

Bulgarian split squat

10 reps each leg
Start with a genuine challenge. One foot on a box, put your other one 2ft in front of it. Lower then push up. Done 10? Swap legs. It’s harder than it looks, trust us.

Overhand pull-up

12 reps
Grab a bar with an overhand grip and hang at arm’s length. Pull yourself up until your chin crosses the bar. No cheating, please. Pause then lower down.

Plank press-up

6 reps on each arm
Next, lean on your forearms and toes. In turn, put your hands where your elbows were and straighten your arms. Lower then swap sides. Yes, we know it hurts.

Pistol squat

4 reps on each leg
Squats too easy? Try pistols. Lift one foot up and out. Squat down as low as you can, then rise up. Do all 4 reps then switch sides. Try not to topple over.

Abs walkout

3 reps
You don’t need machines for new abs. On all fours, walk your hands forward until your stomach is just a few inches above the ground then reverse the motion.

Box jump

4 reps
This move improves any sport. Set up a mid thigh-high box, squat and swing your arms back. Jump up and land on the box. Step down and repeat.

Sprawl

5 reps
Think of this as an MMA burpee. Stand up then jump to the ground landing in a press-up. Lead the movement with your upper body. Stand up straight again.

Plyometric skater jump

3 jumps in each direction
Now to work some smaller ab muscles. Cross your left leg behind your right and do a half squat. Jump to the left and swap arms and legs. Keep hopping.

Prisoner squat hold

3 reps
A final frisking for your lower body. Stand tall and place your fingers on the top of your head. Sink into a squat. Stop at the bottom and hold for 5sec. Return.

Mountain climber

20 reps
This last move is blackmail for your abs. In a press-up position, bring your left knee toward your left elbow, then swap sides. It’s time to unzip and unwind.

By: David Morton; Photography: Glen Burrows

Head here to buy the Men’s Health weighted vest David Morton David Morton is Deputy Editor at Men’s Health, where he has written, worked, edited and sweated for 12 years.

Fear of missing out?

When working with clients, I like to go with fitness equipment that’s simple to use, portable, and allows for a wide range of exercises.

The freedom of not having to go to a gym, while maintaining the capability to achieve and/or keep a fitness level appropriate for your age and goals — and doing it inexpensively — is what it’s all about.

The weight vest adjusts to your fitness level and comes in numbers styles. We use weight vests every day in our programs, and we don’t practice age discrimination — a 77-year-old woman will put on a 12-pound vest and execute modified horizontal pullups with the TRX straps alongside an active-duty man who’s knocking out step-ups on a 20-inch box with a 50-pound vest.

I also use body armor vests.

Vests are sold in different sizes as well as adjustable one-size-fits-all models. You can buy one that comes with pockets and save money by inserting your own small plates. Some vests already come that way.

My favorite company is WeightVest.com in Rexford, Idaho, maker of the V-Series vests. They’re a bit more expensive, but the materials are great and stand up to the toughest training.

Military Muscle: 5 weight vest workouts. These workouts should not be done together.

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Photo Credit: Rachel Barth/Staff

Note: These workouts should not be done together.

1. Run and step-ups

  • Six to eight rounds of 1/4-mile runs at sub-PT test pace without vest.
  • 25 step-ups on each leg with a 40-pound vest. Those who are more fit can wear a vest for the runs as well, but adjust the weight down if you need to.

2. Pullups

Eight rounds of three to five pullups, starting with a minimal weight and adding a weight block on each new round.

3. Pushups, bench dips and dive bombers*

Execute four sets of each of the following, resting five seconds between each set, before moving to the next exercise:

  • 10 pushups with vest
  • 10 bench dips with vest
  • 10 dive bombers* with vest

*Coming from an inverted V pose, move forward into plank, continuing to draw your chest through your arms.

4. Pullups, pushups, squats and crunches

The “four horsemen”: Do as many rounds as possible of the exercises below in 20 minutes, with vest. You can vary that time, depending on your fitness level.

  • 5 horizontal pullups
  • 10 pushups
  • 15 body squats
  • 20 crunches

5. Long walk

Go on long walks with a vest and increase your metabolic rate.

Bob Thomas is director of the Navy Wellness Center in Pensacola, Fla.

Build Strength and Speed With Weight Vest Workouts

Read More >>

Weight vests are an underrated training tool for strength and speed. Wearing a vest automatically makes an exercise or drill more difficult by increasing the weight of your body. But the beauty of it is that a vest allows you to move freely without having to hold onto a barbell, dumbbells or other types of weight.

This opens up a number of new ways to challenge your body that simply aren’t possible with traditional training tools.

In the article below, we’ll cover everything you need to know to build strength and speed with a weight vest workout.

Weight Vest Strength Workouts

Evan Longoria performing Bulgarian Split-Squats with a weighted vest.

Bodyweight exercises are fantastic. You can train your entire body and get a great workout with no equipment. However, they are limited in the amount of strength they can build.

At a certain point, you will get too strong to make further strength gains with bodyweight exercises. For example, if you can do a set of 40 Push-Ups, you’ll build muscular endurance more than strength. This is why when we lift weights, we always try to lift more—to challenge our muscles and promote strength gains.

Wearing a weight vest increases the difficulty of bodyweight exercises, like adding more plates to a barbell or using heavier dumbbells. You’re now lifting your weight plus the weight vest.

The vest allows you to perform bodyweight exercises that might normally be easy for you in ways that will build strength by focusing on fewer, but heavier, reps.

You can add a weight vest to virtually any bodyweight exercise. However, we asked four strength and conditioning experts their favorite ways to incorporate weight vests into a training program. Here’s what they recommended. Check out the video player above for a demonstration of each exercise.

1. Bulgarian Split-Squat

“I really like weight vests for Bulgarian Split-Squats, because it makes the setup much simpler,” says Tony Bonvechio, strength coach and co-owner of the Strength House (Worcester, Massachusetts). “It’s tough to get into position with your back leg, especially if you have a barbell on your back or in the front rack position You don’t have to load the exercise very heavy to get a training effect either, so a weight vest works well.”

2. Lateral Crawl

Crawling exercises are tough. They improve your conditioning and cause your muscles to burn.

“Adding the weight vest puts more tension on the torso and shoulders when crawling,” says Ben Boudro, owner of Xceleration Sports Performance. “This is huge for any throwing athlete, as it allows for the development of both strength and conditioning for the shoulder joint and core.”

3. Depth Drops

Brandon McGill, strength coach and chief operating officer at Gloveworx USA, recommends using weight vests for Depth Drops, which trains eccentric strength when you step off a box and land softly on the ground.

“One of the components of speed that often gets ignored is the eccentric action, or the ability to put on the brakes,” he says. “That’s where a lot of injuries happen, and being stronger eccentrically will help you avoid these injuries.”

4. Ali Shuffle Lowering

Ali Shuffle Lowering works on footwork and deceleration. McGill says that like Depth Drops, it is perfect for using a weight vest, because your body has to slow down more weight as you lower into the Lunge, building eccentric strength.

5. Weighted Suspension Exercises

Boudro frequently adds weight vests to suspension exercises. Since suspension exercises use body weight, wearing a weight vest works the same as it does with other bodyweight moves—adding a higher load. Here are his go-to moves:

  • Suspended Weight Vest Push-Ups – “Adding the weight up top puts a lot more tension on the shoulders and chest,” says Boudro. “Plus, the instability found in suspension exercises makes you engage your core at a high rate.”
  • Suspended Weight Vest Single-Leg Rollouts – Rollouts are one of the best ways to build a strong core. This exercise is a more advanced variation. “Using a single leg takes away stability and forces your core to recruit muscles from all over your body to keep you standing upright,” says Boudro. “The more weight your core can handle, the better.”
  • Suspended Weight Vest Dips – “I like this one because I love doing dips. It simply adds more weight to the dip, which really nails the triceps and chest,” says Boudro.

6. Barbell Squats and Deadlifts

Granted, you’re already loading up with weight for Squats and Deadlifts. But according to Rick Scarpulla, owner of Ultimate Advantage Training, adding a weight vest changes the center of gravity. He says, “It transfers differently than the traditional lift because of the position of the weight. You’ll be surprised at how much more difficult it is.”

7. Burpees

Whoever invented the Burpee clearly enjoyed torturing people. They’re brutal, even with just your body weight. Heck, doing only 10 full Burpees leaves all but the most conditioned athletes totally fatigued. Imagine doing them with extra weight. Now that’s a challenge. Just make sure you use proper Burpee form.

Weight Vest Workouts for Running and Speed

A weighted vest can be the missing piece for enhancing explosive speed, but be advised: using it incorrectly can slow you down, ruin your technique and lead to injuries.

Follow these five rules to help you prevent a vest speed training faux pas.

Use the 10 Percent Rule
One size does not fit all: the general rule of thumb for selecting the appropriate amount of weight is not to exceed 10 percent of your body weight. For example, a 150-pound athlete should use no more than 15 pounds of external load in the weighted vest.

Work for Speed, Not Endurance
Unlike some speed training tools, a weight vest allows you to sprint without compromising form. Nevertheless, your speed muscles will fatigue faster when you’re vested up, which can lead to flaws in your mechanics.

To get the best from your vest, Louisiana Tech director of sports performance Kurt Hester recommends performing 20-Yard Weighted Sprints for three to five reps. Distances beyond 20 yards tend to become more of a conditioning workout, says Hester, and “you don’t want to do anything that may hamper your stride length or stride frequency.”

Vest-to-Rest Ratio
“Typically with free sprints, the rest time is one minute for every 10 yards sprinted,” Hester says. When speed training with the weighted vest, he recommends 80 seconds per 10 yards.

Lose the Vest
Generating explosive movements requires more ground force production when you’re wearing a weighted vest. Once you’ve trained your speed muscles to fire in an explosive manner, transfer that ability by performing free sprints following a series of weighted sprints.

“We like to end speed sessions with the vests off so the athletes get a feeling of being quick at the end of the workout,” says retired San Antonio Spurs strength coach Mike Brungardt.

Exercise Caution
When speed training, athletes are at greatest risk for injury when decelerating. The external load of the weight vest increases the risk, which is why you must pay special attention to bending your knees, lowering your body and slowly decelerating, says Danny Arnold, owner of the Texas-based Plex training facilities.

  • How to Master the Power Clean
  • Build Explosive Power With Squat Jumps
  • The Reason You’re Not Getting Any Better at Pull-Ups

Weighted vest with weights

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