Want to add some extra intensity to your workout? The weighted vest isn’t for everyone, but for those willing to put the work in it could be the key to levelling up your fitness, stamina and mental toughness this year.
Look, we get it. Working out is tough. Yes, everyone on fitness TikTok makes it look like maintaining a 'killer bod' is the easiest thing in the world. But, for the rest of us, it takes dedication, hard work, and more often than not, forcing ourselves to the gym.
Which is why it makes no sense to make working out even harder. But stick with us here.
By introducing a weighted vest into the equation you’ll sweat more. And you’ll probably swear more. But the benefits for your stamina, strength and mental resilience will far outweigh the pain.
Don’t believe us? We asked musculoskeletal therapist and veteran PT Ben Dillon (founder of the Myo Room and an expert at Exercise With Style) to talk us through the uplifting effects of weighing yourself down next time you workout.
You may have seen the odd person in your gym or even out for a run looking like they’re wearing a SWAT type vest. They aren’t just being overly cautious, they’re actually wearing a vest fitted with weighted panels while they exercise.
The point of this is to put extra strain on the body, thereby forcing it to work harder while you move. It’s the same principle as people wearing a chain and weight plate around their waist while they perform dips in the gym. That’s arguably a bit cumbersome when it comes to your morning 5k (and indeed, for weighted dips too) so a weighted vest provides the same challenges, but in a more comfortable way.
It’s great for you, too. We know weight training can help with everything from circulation to bone density to overall health, but how about weighted vest training?
Dillon explains that by adding weight you’ll be getting twice the benefit – the benefit of performing the original movement, plus the benefit of hefting extra weight while you do it. Naturally, this will be harder, which will help improve your mental resilience as you push through it. By doing so, you’ll force your muscles and cardio system to work harder, fast-tracking muscle growth and stamina.
Another added benefit in essentially getting two workouts for one is that you’ll save time. And, by donning a vest during explosive, plyometric workouts like box jumps and squat jumps, you’ll supercharge your dynamic abilities which feeds over into general fitness and sporting ability.
“Crucially, a weighted vest offers the capacity to increase or decrease weight by changing the weight plates within the vest,” Dillon explains. Which means, unlike a set of kettlebells or some dumbbells, you don’t need to invest in new kit every time you want to up the ante.
Best of all, used responsibly, weighted vests are a safe way to work out (it’s probably physically impossible to load a vest up with twice your own bodyweight, after all). “These vests are incredibly secure, designed with reinforced stitching, and velcro straps to ensure there is no movement, or jolting during your workouts,” explains Dillon.
All of which means a weighted vest could be exactly what you’re looking for to help challenge you next workout.
A weighted vest is a really versatile piece of kit, and one that can help you push through barriers and reach new PBs in almost anything.
Running is an obvious example. Whether you’re heading out to pound the local pavements or planning a multi-day trail excursion, you’ll want to be as unencumbered as possible.
Now, a weighted vest isn’t exactly travelling light, but because you can wear it on top of your usual running jersey, it won’t get in the way, and you won’t have to carry it. (A word of warning: start with a short loop, because if you find yourself fatigued halfway through, you will very much have to carry the vest home.)
Another place vests are becoming increasingly popular is the gym floor, where their adaptiveness really comes in handy – especially in a particular gym subculture.
“The weighted vest has been increasingly popular in recent years, with the CrossFit boom inspiring average gym goers to push themselves to the limit,” Dillon explains. “The weighted vest can be used to increase resistance for calisthenics (chin-ups, push-ups, lunges, squats), running, and even just simply testing your capacity to carry heavier loads during your regular training sessions,” he explains.
You might even find people wearing weighted vests down your local bouldering gym, although we’d argue that takes expertise and a good degree of confidence in your climbing abilities.
The weighted vest can work for most exercises then, although we advise it at home on your next swim (for obvious reasons).
There’s a lot to consider when buying a weighted vest, from style to adjustability and comfort. “Weighted vests style and build quality can vary depending on the manufacturer,” Dillon advises.
Dillon points to the brand Rogue Fitness as a popular manufacturer offering a variety of weight configurations. “The Rogue Plate Carrier is a great model. It allows you to carry larger weight plates, but these can easily be swapped for even bigger, or smaller ones depending on your needs.”
If you’re just starting out, Dillon recommends a vest with smaller weight pouches, allowing you to change the resistance incrementally.
For a beginner vest, expect to shell out about £30. If you really want to spend some money you could easily go north of £100 but it’s best to get to grips with the basics first.
In terms of safety, Dillon says most brands offer stable, reinforced stitching to help support the weight, with adjustable velcro straps for added security. “For a little extra money, you can get foam padding to reduce friction and compression on the shoulders,” he advises.
Think we’d let you get out of here without putting you through your paces? No way. Now that you have a weighted vest and a good understanding of how they work, it’s time to put it to use.
Complete three sets of the below, aiming for 8 -12 reps depending on your ability. Rest for 30-60 seconds after each exercise.
And then, collapse.
“Reach overhead using an overhand grip and grab the chin-up bar. Begin the movement by pulling yourself up toward the bar, contracting through the shoulders and back until your collarbone is in line with the bar. Slowly lower back down to the floor for one.”
“Focus on pulling your elbows back; this will help activate the lats and improve contraction of the target muscles.”
“Set yourself up in the push-up position. Begin the movement by bending your elbows and lowering yourself down to the floor until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Once at the bottom, push yourself back up to the starting position.”
“If you are using the vest for the first time for your push-ups, consider reducing the weight and familiarising yourself with the resistance. Once you are comfortable with the vest, you can increase the load for a greater challenge.”
“Standing with feet together, take a step forward, dropping the back knee to the floor. Once at the bottom, push up with both legs until legs are straight. Then bring the back leg forward to meet the leading leg. Alternate in a walking motion, and repeat for the remaining reps.”
“Focus on dropping the back leg to the floor. This will help you put even resistance through both legs, and help you with pushing back up from the floor.”
“Grab a dip bar in each hand and hoist yourself up into the middle. Begin by bending your elbows and lowering yourself until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. From here push yourself back up to the starting position.”
“When performing the dips, lean slightly forward. This will help reduce pressure on the shoulders. Also, keep elbows tucked and in line with the dip bars. This will help you target the triceps.”
“Get the vest on, get moving.”
“With three rounds to go, there’s no point wiping yourself out first time. If you need to lower it to 100m and work from there, that’s a great place to start.”
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