So, why the weighted vest?
First of all, weighted vests may be used to shred fat, build all-over muscle, and help induce systemic recovery! Weighted vests evenly distribute load onto your upper back, chest and shoulders, which is the safest and most comfortable way to carry extra weight while also leaving your hands free. Not only are they great for supercharging your walks, they can also be used in addition to your body weight and in lieu of dumbbells or barbells for exercises like squats, lunges, step-ups, push-ups, planks and more.
In fact, because the weight is added to your center of mass, using a vest may be a tad safer than heading to the free weight section once you’ve graduated from the bodyweight versions of those compound movements. If you already have a weighted vest, try using it in your next strength training workout. You’ll be focusing on the same fundamentals of form using familiar movements, but your muscles will be worked in a slightly different way.
If you haven’t picked your weighted vest up yet, how do you know what to look for?
As always, make sure to shop around and check out reviews for the vest you’re looking at, honing in on comfort, sizing and ergonomics. I recommend going with a vest that is adjustable in weight as opposed to a fixed-weight vest. Most adjustable vests may be modified by adding or removing the small sandbags or metal weights that come with the vest itself, which can range in weight from as little as 10 lbs to as heavy as 80-100 lbs. As a rule of thumb, sandbags are more comfortable than metal weights! Start light, focus on posture and work on proper form… you’ll be surprised at how quickly your body adapts to 10-20 extra lbs. For that reason, a good size to start with is one that’s able to hold approximately one third of your body weight. I weigh 180 lbs, so I bought a 60 lb capacity vest. If you weigh 120 lbs, make sure your new vest has the capacity to hold at least 40 lbs.
For your first couple of workouts, start with just 10-15 lbs in your vest and add weight in 5 lb increments every week or two, as you feel ready and able. Focus on consistency and the progression will take care of itself. If you’re not ready for the extra intensity that adding a load like a vest would entail, just be patient. Remember, the best “ability” is “availability.” The last thing you want to do is put too much strain on your muscles and connective tissues and cause an injury.
Speaking of, if you’re dealing with low- or mid-back pain or have severe tightness or pain through your neck, upper back or shoulders, maybe the weighted vest isn’t the best choice right now because of how the weight is distributed. Definitely avoid running in your vest — to me, the risk is NOT worth the reward. Stick to basic compound movements and wear it while walking the dog or taking the kids to the park, or use it to ramp up your next treadmill workout. In fact, you can even wear your vest to burn more calories during all the non-exercise physical activity you regularly do, like yard work, cleaning the house, grocery shopping (great conversation starter) or making dinner.
Regardless of how you choose to utilize it, the vest can be a great addition to many of your exercise routines and programs. The best part about it? Because the strain on your CNS (central nervous system) is typically pretty low, you should be able to recover quickly, which will keep you in the game for longer. If you’re looking to increase your strength, burn more calories on a daily basis, or simply make the things you’re already doing just a liiiiiiittle bit harder, the weighted vest is the way to go.