I have a love-hate relationship with my weighted vest. It can feel great when I’m trying to make a casual walk slightly more difficult or it can feel…not so great when I’m sliding it on ahead of Murph.
Something tells me that I’m definitely not the only one who feels this way!
Regardless of where you’re at on the love-hate spectrum, the fact that there are numerous weighted vest benefits that accrue while wearing that heavy, stylish piece of fitness “attire” is indisputable.
Today, we’re going to explore all 16 of these weighted vest benefits!
Table of Contents
The Top 16 Weighted Vest Benefits
A weighted vest benefits your training by making it more demanding by adding additional weight to your existing body weight. While you’re not going to experience weighted vest benefits when using one on any old exercise, when used appropriately, you can expect to experience any combination of the following benefits:
General Strength Gains
As you probably know, a weighted load puts more demand on muscles during exercise. This increases the amount of force needed to perform the selected movement.
A study that compares kinematics and muscle activation between push-ups and bench press shows that you can make push-ups harder by wearing a heavy vest, similar to lifting heavier weights in a bench press. This can help you get stronger.
Challenging your muscles to deal with a weight creates hypertrophy, which is a process that happens when muscles sustain damage or injury. Your body then regenerates and repairs the muscles, increasing their strength and size.
Forcing your muscles to work harder not only builds strength but also increases endurance.
However, that doesn’t mean you need to deadlift 500 pounds to build stamina. Adding a lower-weight load, such as a weighted vest, to your training regimen can improve your endurance in a much more effective manner.
In fact, endurance is usually built by using light weights or body weights and high reps. A study showed that a high-repetition scheme with light loads optimizes local muscular endurance improvements. Training with a weighted vest adds just enough load to be more demanding than bodyweight exercise while still allowing for the trainee to “rep out” their sets.
A recent study showed that weighted vest training improved blood lactate thresholds for runners. If the lactate threshold is higher, endurance activity can be sustained without lactate accumulating. In other words, a higher lactate threshold means higher endurance.
Great For Cardiovascular Health
Adding load to your exercises can be beneficial to your cardiovascular health. A study that researched associations of resistance exercise with cardiovascular disease (CVD) morbidity and mortality concluded that resistance training does reduce risks of CVD and all-cause mortality.
Moreover, endurance training, such as training with a weighted vest, helps prevent heart disease and improves the symptoms in individuals with previous coronary heart disease.
Also, endurance exercises can help people with high blood pressure by making it easier for their blood vessels to let blood flow through. It reduces the resistance in the blood vessels and makes the muscles in the vessel walls more flexible.
Aids Weight Loss
Training with a weighted vest benefits your body by enabling it to metabolize fat more efficiently.
A randomized controlled trial showed that increased weight loading can help obese people lose body weight and fat. The trial compared the results of carrying a heavy and a light weighted vest (the heavy vest was 11% of the trainee’s body weight, while the light vest was 1% of the trainee’s body weight). The conclusion was that the heavier weighted vests showed better results for relative body weight loss.
If we compare weighted training to cardio, studies show that weighted training increases resting metabolism, which is how many calories you burn at rest. This means that the weighted training burns more calories after the training session.
The best way to improve your posture is to build a strong core. This means doing exercises that engage your trunk and hip muscles that surround the spine, abdominal viscera, and hip.
Training with a weighted vest benefits your core. By increasing the weight on your upper body, you activate your core to keep your body straight, which builds the core muscles. In fact, you can choose some exercises that are core-focused and boost them with a weighted vest, such as planks or squats.
Adds Variety to Your Workouts
Training with a weighted vest is an easy way to…”spice up” your regular bodyweight exercises. By spicing up I (of course!) mean adding resistance and therefore making the exercise more demanding.
Weighted vests make progressive overload easy because they’re fully adjustable. You can simply add more plates to your vest (to the extent that they are able to accommodate extra weight) as you progress and increase the intensity of your workouts. This is important since you want to avoid a plateau in your training, and you can only get so far with bodyweight exercises (as awesome as bodyweight workouts can be). Progressive overload is crucial for your muscle growth, as studies show, and helps to avoid training plateaus.
Better Bone Health
Adding resistance to your training can increase bone density and make your bones stronger. Bone density is measured by the amount of calcium and other minerals there is in your bones. As we age, our bones lose their density and become more prone to conditions such as osteoporosis which makes your bones weak and brittle. This increases the risk of fractures and bone damage.
A study showed that a program of exercises with a weighted vest shows results in maintaining hip bone mineral density by preventing significant bone loss in older postmenopausal women.
Balance is extremely important, both in exercise as well as in relation to general health and well-being. Any imbalance, whether temporary or prolonged, during training can lead to injuries, so maintaining the body’s center of gravity is of crucial importance. The best strategy for lifters is to adopt a training program that improves muscular balance alongside strength training.
Since training with a weighted vest benefits the development of the core muscles, it also can help with improving balance. You need good core stability to have safe and effective movement patterns and to maintain balance.
A study showed that lower body exercise, using a weighted vest for resistance, reduces the risk of falls and shows significant improvements in lateral stability.
Due to the collective effects of all of the weighted vest benefits discussed so far, training with a vest can improve your performance in various sports. The improvement in your muscle strength, endurance, and stability has beneficial effects in the long run for various kinds of sports.
For example, a comprehensive study showed that exercising with a weighted vest significantly increased jump height in male participants by increasing hip, knee, and ankle joint power.
Easy To Use
One of the advantages of weighted vests is their ease of use. There is no learning curve, as with some gym equipment, as you can simply add it to your already established training routine.
Also, weighted vests are pretty compact and convenient, compared to heavy gym equipment, and you can take them anywhere with you. So even if you don’t have access to the gym at the moment, you can still make your training more demanding with a weighted vest (no excuses not to!)
Improves Mental Wellness
Exercising has been documented to reduce anxiety, depression, and negative mood. Training with a weighted vest may not have a special power regarding these areas, but, since a weighted vest allows progressive overload, it offers you a way to help you stick with your fitness and health goals. This is beneficial not only for your body but for your mind too.
When you slowly increase the intensity of your workouts over time, it helps you to avoid this plateau and to have a goal to work towards. There is something genuinely pleasing in hitting that PR that motivates you to push your limits further.
As we mentioned earlier, training with a weighted vest can improve your performance in various sports. It’s especially effective for running.
A study showed that training with a weighted vest “resulted in a very large enhancement of peak running speed (2.9%; 90% confidence limits ±0.8%), a moderate increase in leg stiffness (20.4%; ±4.2%) and a large improvement in running economy (6.0%; ±1.6%); there were also small-moderate clear reductions in cardiorespiratory measures.” This means that conditioning with a weighted vest can make you run faster.
Weighted vests are (sorta) designed with comfort in mind. They are constructed in a way that wearing them doesn’t get in the way of the flow of your exercise but rather just adds more weight. A weighted vest is usually adjustable so you can fine-tune it to your shape and forget about it when exercising.
Even compared to a weighted ruck, a vest just fits…better and more natural. It also much more easily allows for dynamic movements to be practiced. Read our entire review comparing the two (ruck vs weighted vest)!
Suitable For Different Kinds of Workouts
You can add a weighted vest to almost any bodyweight exercise. The most popular are walking and running with a weighted vest. Weighted vest WODs are really common in a lot of different weight training (non-bodyweight) exercises.
Great (Necessary?) For CrossFit
Weighted vests are very popular in CrossFit. If you get serious with CrossFit, you will need one sooner or later. Many Hero WODs, such as Murph, can be (should be?) done with a weighted vest.
Makes You Look Cool (at least in your own head!)
Finally, maybe not the most important benefit, but the one many of us had in mind when putting on the weighted vest. A weighted vest makes you look like someone from the military or police force who is ready for action. And that looks pretty cool.
Possible Drawbacks Of Weighted Vests
To keep things objective, we must mention a few possible drawbacks of weighted vests to contrast with the weighted vest benefits:
Can be bad for your posture, spine, and lower back
Ok, I know we said that a weighted vest can improve posture. However, if you have a very weak core and challenge yourself with a weighted vest before you’re actually ready for one, it might have the opposite effect. It can put too much stress on your spine and lower back putting you at risk of injury.
Can make you sweat more
Naturally, if you increase the intensity of your workout with a weighted vest, it will make you sweat more. And while sweating has its benefits, such as detoxing your body from heavy metals and other harmful elements, we understand it might be unpleasant for you. It can even get smelly if you don’t wash it at some point after use. Still, no sweat, no gain.
Can lead to excessive soreness or injury
If you are using a weighted vest that’s too heavy for you, it might cause excessive soreness or even more serious injuries. Ultimately, you need to start with what you can handle without risking injuries and slowly progress and challenge your body step by step. Another precautionary factor is using the weighted vest properly. That means choosing the right fit and balancing the weight evenly (if you are adjusting the weight plates by yourself).
Best Exercises With Weighted Vests
Although there is a vast variety of exercises that can be done with a weighted vest, here are the top picks that will put your vest to the best use:
- Muscle-ups (heh)
Our Weighted Vest Recommendations
If you don’t know where to begin, here are our top picks of the best starter weighted vests you should check out:
Frequently Asked Questions
Still have some questions about weighted vest benefits? Here are the answers to the most common ones:
Since exercising with a weighted vest benefits your body's ability to metabolize fat more efficiently, it can help you lose belly fat.
Technically you can. However, wearing a weighted vest all day can cause soreness, tiredness, and muscle burn. You’d probably also look like a weirdo if you did.
It is recommended that the weight of your weighted vest should not exceed 10 percent of your body weight. However, workouts like Murph (as well as most vested CrossFit WODs call for a 20-pound vest for men or a 14-pound vest for women) so…you may have to go slightly against these recommendations if you happen to weigh below 200/140 pounds.
I probably don’t use my weighted vest as much as I could/should, but I definitely appreciate the challenge it provides when I do. Even a “simple” circuit of pull-ups, push-ups, and squats (like Cindy), takes on a whole new degree of challenge when you’re vested.
Adding a cardio element (even if it’s a brisk walk) takes the challenge (and weighted vest benefits!) to a whole new level!
As we saw from our quick survey of best starter weight vests, a good one can be had for pretty cheap. The ability to exponentially increase the challenge of a workout with such a small financial investment? Seems like a no-brainer to me!
A weighted vest version of the Chad Crossfit workout certainly exists. Don’t know what the workout is? Read our review of Chad 1000x here and start practicing for it, whether you decide to go with a ruck, weighted vest, or unweighted!