What Can a Weight Vest Workout Do for Me?

Page content

When Putting on Extra Weight is a Good Thing

Most weight vests look a bit like sturdy fishing vests. But instead of lures, the pockets hold weight bars or bags. If this is your first weight vest workout, start with a very light weight. Just remove a few of the weight bars or bags from the vest pockets. You can add them back in as your body adapts to the extra load you’re putting on it.

Before you start working out in your weight vest, make sure it fits you well. It should fit snugly enough that it doesn’t swing or bounce against you as you move, but not so tightly that it cuts into your skin. Different brands of weight vests place the weight plates or bars in different locations, so if the first vest you tried on doesn’t fit comfortably, try a different brand.

Weight Vests for Weak Bones

As noted in an International Osteoporosis Foundation report titled “Move It or Lose It,” bones strengthen in response to increased stress. The repeated pounding of high-impact exercises like running can strengthen your bones, but repeated high impact can also lead to injuries, especially if you already have injured joints or weak bones. If your bones are extremely weak, just the act of weight-bearing exercise, like pedaling an elliptical trainer or walking, may be all your bones can handle. But as they strengthen, or if they’re not yet severely weakened, you’ll be able to tolerate the added load of a light weight vest. Your bones strengthen to support the extra weight, at which point you add more weight to prompt them to strengthen some more.

Weighted Vest Workouts for Weight Loss

Putting on more weight to lose weight might seem counter-intuitive, but the higher your workout intensity, the more calories you burn and the faster you lose weight. Putting on a weight vest only increases workout intensity if you’re moving your own body weight around. For example, wearing a weight vest won’t make much of a difference if you’re riding a stationary bike, but if you put on a weight vest and try to pedal uphill on a real bike, you’ll notice the difference very quickly. Try wearing a weight vest while walking, hiking, rock climbing, or walking up stairs; moving the extra weight automatically increases your calorie burn.

There are a few exercises that you should never do while wearing a weight vest. Never try to swim with a weight vest–the consequences could be fatal. Never wear the vest during activities where it puts you off-balance, increasing your risk of a fall.

Strength Training With a Weight Vest

Try wearing a weight vest as you do body-weight exercises like push-ups, lunges, squats, and dips. The vest’s extra weight automatically increases the workout intensity, just like carrying weights, but leaves your hands free. Don’t put the weight vest on until you’re past the learning stage of a given exercise. For example, wait until you can do full push-ups instead of knee push-ups, or regular pull-ups instead of assisted pull-ups, before you put the vest on.

Resources for Additional Reading

International Osteoporosis Foundation: Exercise Recommendations

International Osteoporosis Foundation: Move It or Lose It Report

Study: Metabolic Response of Endurance Athletes to Training With Added Load

Study: The Effect of Weighted Vest Walking on Metabolic Responses and Ground Reaction Forces