Curious about the benefits of wearing a weighted vest? Wondering how training with a weighted vest will impact your physical (and mental) performance? This article on weighted vest benefits—which includes what they are, why you should wear them, and how they affect your workouts—has got you covered.
In my personal health journey, I’ve seen tremendous results by wearing a weighted vest. I’ve worn them while working out and at rest, which has helped me improve my physique and performance in all aspects of my life. The idea behind them is simple: by adding more weight to your body, you make activities and exercises more challenging. The more you exert yourself, the more benefits you’ll reap. You get out what you put in!
Not only does the extra effort from wearing a weighted vest make workouts more difficult, but it also makes them more efficient. You can do a fraction of the pushups or pullups that you normally do; and gain the same benefits as you would in a longer workout. You’ll get stronger, faster, which makes weighted vests a must-have in the biohacking space.
Ready to improve your cardio, strength, endurance, and mental health? Adding a weighted vest into your fitness regimen and daily life is the answer. Here’s everything you need to know about weight vest benefits and how they will affect your health. Let’s get to it!
For more tools to enhance your physical and mental health, read also:
What are weight vests?
Before jumping into all the benefits of wearing a weighted vest, let’s first cover what they are.
As its name implies, these are vests packed with extra weight that evenly distribute the resistance around your torso and shoulders. It’s a type of wearable resistance (WR) equipment that has been used to improve athletic performance. Weighted vests are considered a safer and more effective alternative to wearing a backpack or attaching gym weights and plates to the body.
The amount of weight in the vest can vary, but it’s usually between 12-140 lbs (5-63 kg). It’s recommended that you start by using 5-10% of your body weight and increase the weight over time. Weighted vests often come with adjustable straps, where you can add or subtract the weight in the form of sandbags or steel bars.
What are weighted vests good for?
Weighted vests are used as a low-impact option for resistance training, allowing you to build more muscle, burn more calories, and increase the intensity of the workout. They can make even the easiest activities more challenging, which has several physical health benefits alone. Here are some of the most common weighted vest uses:
– Increases muscle strength
– Boosts running endurance and speed
– Improves balance and posture
Increasing the difficulty of a workout with weighted vests also leads to mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits. As David Goggins — a retired Navy Seal and extreme athlete — says, “pain unlocks a secret doorway in the mind, one that leads to both peak performance and beautiful silence.” Pushing through the physical pain helps us to overcome ourselves and our inner chatter, helping us to find our strong, limitless spirit.
Weighted vest training follows the same fundamental principle of weight training: by adding progressive weight to the workout, muscles must adapt to the increased weight. So, by adding resistance to the workout through a weigh vest, the body has to work harder, and more energy is exerted—thus leading to more muscle growth. Just be sure to use a weight that is challenging, but still allows you to maintain good form and posture while working out.
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Who benefits by wearing a weighted vest?
You don’t have to be a professional athlete, military member, or gym junkie to wear a weighted vest. Just about everyone has a lot to gain by wearing one. This includes weightlifters, sprinters, endurance runners, climbers, swimmers, bikers, gymnasts, hikers, and weekend warriors, to name a few.
In addition to using a weight vest while training at the gym, you can also wear one while walking or doing chores at home. Even at rest, you have a lot to gain by wearing a weighted vest on your body.
Whether you’re looking to increase your strength and endurance or want to lose weight, you’ll have a lot to gain by wearing a weighted vest.
Best weighted vest to maximize your benefits
Looking to experience all the benefits of wearing a weighted vest? Here are some of the top products on the market right now, ranked in terms of price. Note that the more expensive the weight vest, the more comfortable and generally better fit it is.
|RunMax Adjustable Weighted Vest ($33)
|Cross101 Weighted Vest ($52)
|Aduro Sports Weighted Vest ($119)
Now, without further ado, here are the top benefits of exercising with a weighted vest.
Top 9 benefits of training with a weighted vest
Ready to discover how training with weighted vests can benefit you in your life? Keep reading to learn more!
Leads to weight loss
Exercising with a weighted vest leads to weight loss by burning more calories and fat. This increased tension creates the need for more energy, resulting in more calories burned.
As evidenced in this PubMed study, participants wearing a weighted vest of 10% of their body weight were able to burn substantially more calories than the following two control groups: (1) those not wearing a weighted vest and (2) those with a weighted vest carrying 5% of their body weight. As such, it was noted that the more weight added to the body, the more calories burned.
Another study performed in Sweden analyzed participants that are considered obese (BMI between 30-35). Each participant wore a weighted vest from 2-11 kilograms (4-24 lbs) for 8 hours per day over the course of 3 weeks. The results evidenced that people wearing the heavier vests lost more fat mass than the others.
Weighted vests help you build muscle
As mentioned above, weighted vests force your muscles to get stronger. In this randomized controlled trial, it was noted that weighted vests were able to activate muscles and improve performance in various exercises, including the power clean.
Weighted vests follow the same methodology as other forms of resistance training: that by exposing the body to additional stress, the body will adapt. As a result, this leads to more muscle strength, endurance, and size – especially in the upper body. This includes the shoulders, back, torso, and respiratory muscles (diaphragm and deep intercostals).
If you’re using the weighted vest while running, you will gain more muscles in your legs as well. Using the vest while doing pushups? This will lead to more muscle growth in the chest, arms, and core.
With its incredible benefits on muscle strength and size, weighted vests can work wonders for muscle gain.
Increases bone density
Training with a weighted vest is also great for bone health. Similar to the way exercise increases muscle mass, putting more weight on your bones leads to bone growth. This allows the body to produce more “new bone” called osteoid. Even walking short distances with a weighted vest can help you strengthen your bones and prevent the loss of bone density.
According to various studies by the National Institutes of Health, weight-bearing and resistance exercises help the bones become stronger. Moreover, it’s been proven that young women and men who perform resistance exercise regularly (i.e. while wearing a weighted vest) achieve greater peak bone mass than those who do not.
Additionally, in this study on adults with low bone mass, they found that resistance exercise influenced their serum markers of bone metabolism. This leads to an increase in bone density.
By having strong bones, you’ll not only be able to have more mobility, but you’ll also be better equipped to protect your organs. Strong bones also prevent bone-related diseases like osteoporosis and osteopenia. Is this one of the top weight vest benefits? It sure is!
Improves cardio performance (and endurance)
In addition to all the other benefits of weight vests, it’s important to mention all the advantages for the cardiovascular system. By adding resistance onto the body, it helps to strengthen the lungs—specifically, Vo2 Max, which measures how much oxygen your body can consume.
This Sports Biomech study reviewed people doing sprints and long runs on a treadmill while using a weighted vest. The results showed that they were able to increase their velocity and decrease their runtimes by up to 9.4%. In addition, it was also evidenced that weight vest training enhanced blood lactate thresholds for runners. This allowed participants to tolerate higher rates of speed before the onset of fatigue.
As such, there are many benefits to weighted vests with regard to cardio and endurance training.
By increasing the weight on your upper body, the force of gravity is greater. This means that your body will have to work harder to maintain a sense of balance while wearing a weight vest.
If you wear a weighted vest during training, your body will eventually acclimate to the force of gravity pulling down your body. As such, you’ll notice that when you aren’t working out with the vest, it’s easier to maintain proper balance.
Adds variety to workouts
By training with a weighted vest, you are adding much-needed variety to your workout. Many people at the gym fall into habit of doing the same exercises over and over again at a similar level of intensity.
By wearing a weight vest, you’ll be adding on extra weight during your workouts. This will cause your muscles to work harder – allowing you to build more muscle, stamina, and endurance.
Weighted vests look badass
Okay, so this isn’t exactly a scientific benefit of wearing a weighted vest, but it’s a nice side effect. Go hiking wearing one of these and people will know your legit. Wear one at the gym or while running? Even better. Weighted vest exercises will get you to the top of your game, and you’ll surely look the part. Looking good is feeling good!
Enhances function of autonomic nervous system
Wearing a weighted vest puts significant tension on the respiratory muscles. This not only raises the heart rate, but also makes it more difficult to breath. By wearing a weighted vest while exercising, you’ll learn how to better cope with this tension and remain calm despite the increased stress on the body.
Like other forms of exercise, the aim is to stay centered and relaxed amid this tension, thus activating the parasympathetic nervous system rather than the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response). Therefore, training with a weighted vest helps you to manage stress better, which improves the autonomic nervous system function.
Increases anaerobic metabolism
One of the best weight vest workout benefits is that it enhances anaerobic metabolism. Note that anaerobic exercise is a quick and immediate form of activity such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), circuit training, Pilates, yoga, and weightlifting. By adding more weight and resistance to your workout, you are increasing your anaerobic metabolism, which is ATP (energy) production without oxygen. This leads to greater muscle gains and higher rates of metabolism.
This study by the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology showed that athletes wearing weighted vests at 9-10% of their bodyweight were able to build tolerance to lactic acid. As such, this helped the athletes reduce fatigue and improve muscle endurance.
By creating more energy in the absence of oxygen, training with a weight vest can be very beneficial to a workout routine.
Best weighted vest exercises
Looking to do some exercising with weighted vests? To help push you to your physical limits, here are some of the top weight vest exercises you should know about. And the best part? These are bodyweight movements. So, you don’t need any further equipment…you can do them from just about anywhere!
– Plank Extensions
– Pushups with shoulder taps
– Lateral Lunges
– Split Squats
– Jump Squats
– Box Jumps
– Jumping Jacks
– Abs Walkout
– Plyometric Skater Jump
– Mountain Climbers
Safety tips while working out with a weighted vest
Just like any other exercise, you don’t want to overdo it with the weighted vest. If you’re accustomed to training just with bodyweight, it’s recommended that you start low and slow. Perhaps use a vest at 5-10% of your body weight and dial back the distance, intensity, and frequency of the workouts for a bit until your body adapts.
Over time, you can gradually increase the load of the weight vest. However, at the beginning, it’s important to be cautious. Your body mechanics will likely change when you introduce the weighted vest to your workouts, so you may need to make postural adjustments in the interim. Don’t add on too much weight too quickly!
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about weighted vests
Here are some common questions about training with a weighted vest.
Are weighted vests bad for you?
Just like anything else in life, the answer to this question comes down to the dose. Doctors will say that carrots are good for you, but if you have 3 lbs. of carrots in a sitting, you probably won’t feel too good. The same logic applies to weighted vests. If you’re wearing it 24 hours per day, or you’re using a weight that’s too heavy, you could risk injury and other adverse effects.
It’s advisable that people starting to train with weighted vests should keep it to 5-10% of their body weight. In addition, it’s important that when exercising with a weight vest, you should maintain proper form and technique.
People with back and neck issues should consult a doctor or personal trainer before using one during a workout. In addition, people with poor posture should build up sufficient strength and learn the proper form of exercises before training with weighted vests.
Remember that a weight vest is a tool to increase physical performance. Like weightlifting, you want to make sure you’re careful and to not overdo it. If you’re physically fit and healthy, weighted vests are absolutely good for you.
Does walking with a weighted vest build muscle?
Yes, walking with a weighted vest is a low-impact exercise that will help you build muscle and burn fat. However, given its low intensity, walking with a weighted vest doesn’t build as much muscle as other forms of exercise.
Is a 20 lb weight vest enough?
A 20-lb weighted vest will help you gain many of the health benefits identified in this article. However, you may want to use more (or less) weight depending on your fitness level and bodyweight. Just like any other forms of exercise, weighted vests should always be tailored to the individual.
What happens if a weighted vest is too heavy?
If your body can’t handle the resistance from the weighted vest, it’s a good idea to try a lower weight. Otherwise, you could strain your muscles, spine, or bones—which can lead to an injury.
How long should you wear weighted vest in a day?
The answer to this will depend on the individual, though generally between 30 mins and an hour is solid. There are some benefits to wearing a weight vest while at rest for longer than that. However, it’s important to not use too much weight and ensure that your posture isn’t compromised.
Should weighted vests be tight?
Weighted vests should have a snug and comfortable fit in a way that it doesn’t move around much while exercising. If the vest is too loose, it could cause you to lose balance or even aggravate your skin. The idea is that while working out with a weighted vest, you’ll want to make sure it’s evenly distributed around the torso as to not lead to a muscle imbalance.
What do you wear under a weighted vest?
I typically wear a t-shirt under my weighted vest. I once tried to go shirtless underneath, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend that.
What happens if you wear a weight vest every day?
While it’s important to give your body ample rest and recovery time, you can certainly wear a weighted vest every day. Though to give your body a break, it’s recommended to lower the weight and time if you’re training with it daily.
What muscles do weighted vests work?
With a variety of different workouts, a weighted vest can hit all the major muscle groups. This includes muscles in the arms, legs, core, and back.
Why you should wear weighted vests while working out in 2023
Weighted vests are like the cherry on top of your workout sundae. They add an extra layer of resistance that helps you build strength and see results faster. And the best part is, they can be worn during any type of workout – running, lifting, or even just going for a leisurely stroll.
But here’s the thing – weighted vests aren’t just for muscleheads. They can also improve your balance and coordination, as well as strengthen your core and improve your posture. So whether you’re a seasoned gym rat or just starting out on your fitness journey, a weighted vest is a game-changer.
So go ahead and treat yourself to a weighted vest. Your muscles (and your Instagram followers) will thank you.
Here’s my #1 recommended weighted vest: SHOP ON AMAZON