You're probably used to walking and running — they're two of the simplest ways to get a workout in. And you might be 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 add a strength element to your routine — sans gym. Here's how, plus two tough weighted vest workout options that'll seriously challenge you.
Weighted Workout Vests, Explained
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 NASM-certified celebrity trainer in Los Angeles.
Benefits of Weighted Vest Workouts
Because weighted vests literally force you to carry extra weight on your body, they make any activity — from walking to running to doing 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, explains Swan. This can help improve your cardio capacity, muscular endurance, and overall strength, she says. Using a weighted vest is like exercising while holding dumbbells, but those dumbbells are dispersed across your torso in a piece of clothing. (BTW, here's the difference between muscular endurance and strength.)
"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. (For 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 body weight, such as climbing stairs, biking, running, and total bodyweight workouts, says Swan.
How to Train with a Weighted Vest
Simply put, 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. (And even if you're exercising solo, the talk test is a great way to gauge the intensity of your workout.)
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. It should almost feel like you have to take a step to catch yourself from falling," says Zika Rea, an exercise physiologist and co-founder of ZAP Endurance in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
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, a Pilates master teacher and owner of Ellie Herman 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 at 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. JSYK, your weighted workout vest 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.
When choosing your weight, start small. "This is all based on the individual, but I recommend starting off light and adding from there. The amount of weight varies from 5 pounds all the way up to 20, 50, 80 pounds and more. A vest of 5–10 pounds would be my recommendation for both HIIT training and running," advises Swan.
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 5 pounds and continue from there," she says.
Not sure where to start? Begin by wearing 3 to 5 percent of your weight and increase by 2 to 5 percent every few weeks until you reach 20 percent to avoid injury, experts say.
Weighted Vest Workouts to Try
When it comes to exercising with a weighted vest, you can't go wrong with walking, running, or simple bodyweight strength workouts. Try these two from Claire P. Thomas, a certified personal trainer and founder of CPT FIT Co. "I love wearing [a weight vest] to add a little more challenge to my walks, hikes, and bodyweight workouts," she says. If you need form tips, follow Thomas' guidance.
Lower-Body Weighted Vest Workout
How it works: Do the buy-in (aka what you need to complete before starting the main section of the workout), a 1-mile run — in the weighted vest, if possible. Then, do three rounds of the bodyweight circuit. Finally, do the buy-out (aka what you need to complete before finishing the workout), another 1-mile run, to finish.
Buy-in: Run 1 mile
Circuit (3 rounds):
- Single-Leg Explosive Deadlift + Lunge (5 reps per side)
- Lateral Lunge + Lateral Kick (10 reps per side)
- Jump Squat (15 reps)
- Pop Jacks (10 reps)
- Jump Lunges (10 reps per side)
Buy-out: Run 1 mile
Total-Body EMOM Weighted Vest Workout
How it works: Set a 24-minute timer. Switch exercises every minute on the minute (EMOM). Do as many reps as you can in 50 seconds, then give yourself 10 seconds to rotate to the next exercise and begin at the start of the following minute. You'll do 4 total rounds of the workout; do Circuit 1 on your first and third rounds, and Circuit 2 on your second and fourth rounds. Rest for 1 minute at the end of each circuit.
- Triceps Dip
- Jump Squat
- Dumbbell Shoulders (presses, side, and front raise) or commandos (aka plank marches)
- Sit-up (or any core exercise of choice)
- Hill Sprint
- Forward Lunge
- Dumbbell Shoulders (press, side, and front raise) or commandos
- Sit-up (or any core exercise of choice)
- Hill Sprint
Resistance exercises that are well suited for weighted vests include weighted pushups and pullups for your upper body, weighted squats and lunges for your lower body, and weighted planks for your core.What happens if you constantly wear a weighted vest? ›
Can I wear a weight vest all day? It is not advisable to wear a weighted vest for the whole day as it is likely to make you very tired and could cause soreness and muscle burn in various parts of your body. If while exercising, any of your muscles start to hurt, take off the vest immediately.How long should you wear weighted vest in a day? ›
It's not a good idea to wear a weighted vest all day. The general rule is roughly between 20mins and an hour. After that, the training benefit may start to become detrimental.Can you get big with weighted vest? ›
Think of it like weight lifting. If you go for a heavier weight to lift, you will be increasing the straining on your muscles which will then increase your muscle strength and size over time. A weighted vest employs this exact same logic and can do wonders for your muscle gain.Can a weighted vest build abs? ›
Not only will you burn more calories with a weighted vest on, but you will also actually strengthen your abdominal muscles as well. Your core has to work harder to stabilize when resistance is added, making a weighted vest the perfect tool for strengthening your core.Should you do cardio with a weighted vest? ›
Wearing a light weighted vest during your cardio routine has been proven to increase stamina, strength, and endurance. But you don't need to wear the vest for the full duration of the workout to see results.How tight should a weighted vest be? ›
A weighted vest should fit snugly — too tight and it can reduce exercise performance by restricting your breath; too loose and you will be uncomfortable with it moving around. Make sure the one you buy has a Velcro strap to adjust it to your proportions. Some vests are contoured for women.What happens if I walk around with a weighted vest? ›
Adding a weighted vest to your walk is a natural way to strength train. Wearing a weighted vest increases exercise intensity, and loads your spine and hips. This is proven to help slow or even halt bone density loss in many people.How heavy should weighted vest be? ›
How Much Weight Should I Use? Start with no extra weight in the vest, and slowly add more as you gest stronger and more confident with your form while doing exercises. A good general rule for safety is to use no more than 10% of your body weight. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, don't exceed 15 pounds on the vest.Is a 20 lb weight vest enough? ›
A 20lbs weight vest is usually too light for many exercises. This will depend on your fitness level, but for the average individual a 20lbs weight vest will not be enough weight to unlock you full potential for exercises like the push-up or squat.
Wearing a weighted vest
Adding extra weight to a workout will burn more calories. Heavier people burn more calories because their bodies require more energy to perform the same task than someone who is not as heavy; wearing a weighted vest while walking encourages a person's body to work harder during a walk.
I would recommend for someone who is new to weight vests to start out with 10 or 15 lbs and build from there. 40lbs is too jarring to your body initially. High quality product. The V-Force vest is excellent.Should I do pushups with a weighted vest? ›
A weighted push-up is a push-up with an increased level of intensity. Adding weight to the traditional bodyweight exercise by wearing a weighted vest or placing a weight plate on your lower back helps build muscle in your shoulders, chest, and core.Do weighted vests help build bone? ›
Some studies have shown that performing activities such as walking, jumping, and resistance exercises while wearing vests loaded with weights equivalent to 4% to 10% of body weight (5–13 pounds in a 130 pound woman) might help stabilize bone density and would likely also improve balance.How many pushups should I do with a weighted vest? ›
This will help you get used to the feeling of having extra weight on your body. Once you are happy with how it feels to do a weighted vest push up, build up to sets of 8, 10, or 12 – just as you would with regular push ups.Is walking with a weighted vest worth it? ›
“A weighted vest is a nice option because it places weight near the body's center of gravity, which leads to less strain on the joints, unlike hand or ankle weights,” says Ahmed. Tawase likes weighted vests because they add a more uniform and controlled resistance throughout the body.How many times a week should I run with a weighted vest? ›
Overall, you can't go wrong with running with a weighted vest a couple of times a week, but of course, it's down to you if you want to increase or decrease this. This will mainly depend upon what you're training for.How long should you walk with a weighted vest? ›
In most cases, you should begin using your vest in short increments of time (such as 10 minutes) and gradually add time so that you can wear it for the full duration of your walk.Can a weighted vest fix posture? ›
Benefit 9: Increased Core Strength and Posture
The last benefit of weighted vests is that by increasing the weight only to your upper body is that your body is forced to engage your core to keep you upright. The increased workload on your core muscles can help to improve your posture by straightening out your back.
The added weight of the vest makes you work harder, which in turn, increases your heart rate and may burn more calories. And lastly, weighted vest walking provides you with extra resistance that may also help to build muscles. The more muscle you carry, the more energy you will use at rest.
Wearing a weight vest that is 10 percent of your body weight can help you burn up to 8 percent more calories than doing the same activity without a weight vest. The more weight you add, the more calories you will burn.How many calories does 10000 steps burn? ›
Good for you! It takes 20 steps to burn 1 calorie, therefore walking 10,000 steps burns off about 500 calories, which can then be added to your total calorie budget for the day. The recommended daily calorie requirement is 1,800 for an average female and 2,200 for an average male.How heavy is the heaviest weighted vest? ›
In his latest video, William takes on perhaps his biggest challenge yet: trying to last 24 hours wearing the "world's heaviest weighted vest," which clocks in at 150 pounds, bringing his total bodyweight up to around 300 pounds.Are squats with weighted vest good? ›
Even loaded up to 60 or 70 pounds, a weight-vest squat isn't going to pack on the muscle the way a 240-pound squat will. But using it with the right exercises can put some muscle on your frame and tone your body, and using it regularly can help stave off muscle loss as you wait to get back in the gym.Can weighted vest be harmful? ›
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.How long can I wear a weighted vest for? ›
Wear time should be 20 to 50 minutes based on convenience. For example, if the student is going to a class where he could benefit from vest wear, I would recommend leaving it on for the duration of that class/subject. Leave the vest off for at least that long before next planned wear time.Can you walk with a weighted vest everyday? ›
That's why weighted vest walking is one of the best exercises for fat loss – because you can do it every day. Second, when you walk with a weighted vest, you are actually working against gravity. The added weight of the vest makes you work harder, which in turn, increases your heart rate and may burn more calories.Does a weighted vest strengthen your back? ›
Any activity you do with a weighted vest will be significantly harder than without. Even just a few added pounds can dramatically increase the intensity of your workout. This resistance forces your muscles to work harder, so they break down and grow back stronger.Is walking with a weighted vest better than running? ›
A small 2013 study found a slight increase in calorie expenditure when wearing a weighted vest while walking on a treadmill compared with not wearing a weighted vest.