By the end of it, you’ll know exactly which weight vest is best for you and your particular use case. Let’s get into it!
Why Buy A Weighted Vest?
A weighted vest is traditionally worn on the chest, suspended from the shoulders and secured to the upper torso by a strap that wraps around the rib cage.
Wearing a weight vest adds more weight to your overall body mass and this extra load to your musculoskeletal system triggers several reactions within the body as you move around.
Good for Your Bones
Your skeletal system is the first to feel the effects of a weight vest. Even before movement, your body’s structural and support system is engaged by the stress of the additional weight.
This stress to the skeletal system activates the generation of new bone tissue and can help increase bone density.
A 5-year study conducted at the Bone Research Laboratory of Oregon State University found a significant prevention in hip bone loss in postmenopausal women who exercised 3 times per week using a weighted vest.
Good for Your Muscles
During movement (exercise or other daily activity) your muscles are exerting force to move through rhythmic contractions and extensions.
The more weight your body is trying to move and support, the more your muscle fibers and filaments are being torn down. This signals the body to create more filaments and promotes muscle growth as participants experienced in this study published in The Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy.
Good for Your Metabolism
A vest can also enhance weight loss because moving or exercising with more weight on your frame expends more energy and calories. Simple physics — the more mass you have, the slower your acceleration in movement which means the harder you have to work to maintain performance.
This article from the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity highlights how body fat percentage was significantly reduced in participants that did weighted vest exercises 3 times per week for 12 weeks.
Good for Your Heart & Lungs
The respiratory system is also impacted by the extra weight of a vest in two ways. First, the location of the vest on the torso directly affects your inhalation and exhalation muscles. This often results in more labored breathing and an increased heart rate.
Second, oxygen is vital to movement and muscle function thus the added weight to your musculoskeletal system requires more oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and heart resulting in a stronger cardiovascular system and improved vo2 max.
Participants in this study from Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise experienced improvement from just walking with weighted vests in 4-minute spurts.
Types of Weighted Vests
Like most fitness equipment, weighted vests come in different styles and are tailored towards different use activities. Here’s what you can expect to find as you narrow your search online or in-stores:
Short vests are just that—short. They only cover your chest and give you a lot more freedom to move around than most vests.
If you need to be able to run or move a lot during your workouts, you’ll want a short vest. They also work well for bodyweight workouts if you want up the intensity.
Heavy Duty Vests
With extra padding and a hefty exterior, you’ll feel like a pro going into the gym wearing a heavy-duty vest. These weight vests typically provide 20-40 lbs of resistance and are often used for weight training.
Note: heavy-duty vests are not meant to be worn for extended periods of time. If you want something you can wear throughout the day with lots of mobility, a heavy duty weight vest is not what you want.
These vests restrict upper body movement in the torso and chest to help maintain an upright position at all times. Translation: no more slouching!
Training your body to default to this position is great for your posture. This is what you want to buy if you plan on sporting your vest throughout the workday under your clothes.
These strappy vests are form fitting and slimming. Shaped like the letter “X” across your chest, this design distributes the weight evenly across your torso while maintaining breathability.
If you plan on wearing your vest for long periods of time and need something that’s lightweight and compact, these vests are a great choice, regardless of gender.
5 Things to Consider Before Buying a Weight Vest
Weight vests can cost you hundreds of dollars and last awhile so take your time while browsing. Here are five things to consider while comparing your options.
#1. Use Case
This is the most important thing to consider before buying a weight vest. What do you need it for? The answer to this question will help you quickly narrow your search and what features to look for.
For low-intensity workouts and/or if you want to wear your vest for any length of time, you need to make sure it’s comfortable, breathable, and can potentially fit under your clothing if you’ll be wearing it throughout the day.
For high-intensity workouts like box jumps or intervals, your vest needs to fit snug to your body and be able to handle sweat.
Also, consider the frequency of use. If you plan on wearing and training with your vest a lot, you need a quality vest that can take a beating. Sometimes spending more up front can spare you serious headaches on the backend.
There are several weight vest materials available. Some are designed for comfort. Some are designed for punishment. Some are designed for both.
Traditional weight vests are made from neoprene and nylon which are tough but not the most breathable fabrics. This is great for shorter workouts but not great if you plan on wearing your vest for extended periods of time.
The newer (more expensive) vests are often made from chemically-treated wicking fabrics with better breathability and can even help repel moisture and tough odors (e.g. sweat).
Do you sweat a lot? Make sure your vest is tough enough for the washing machine so you aren’t having to hose it down after each use. There are some vests that are fit for the dryer (like this one) but in most cases, you can expect to have to hang-dry it.
Also, in case your weight vest feels stiff out-of-the-box, make sure you give it some time to break in. In some cases, it can take several weeks depending on how often you use it. Relax. Patience is a virtue.
Weight vests can be adjusted in both weight and size. Good vests will give you at least one of the two options whereas the pricier models typically offer both.
Vests that allow you to adjust the weight usually come with little “pockets” that can be filled with extra weight. The vest will come with weight “bars” or “rods” that weigh a few pounds each. Slide these bars into the pockets on the front or the back of the vest to adjust the weight as you need.
The nice thing about being able to adjust the weight of your vest is that you can do more with it. Lighten the load and go for a run. Throw some more weight on there for chin-ups or box jumps. The more adjustability you have, the better.
Being able to adjust the size of your vest is equally as important. For high-intensity workouts like HIIT, you need to make sure your vest is snug to your shoulders to prevent slipping. Nothing ruins a workout faster than having to stop every few seconds to adjust your vest.
Is your vest for multiple people? If so, look for a vest with side laces. It’s like having shoelaces in the side of your vest. Tighten them for smaller frames. Loosen them for bigger ones. It’s that simple.
#4. Safety & Convenience
One of the most popular convenience features to look for is pockets.
Pockets allow you to keep your phone, keys, and wallet securely on your person so they don’t bounce around in your pockets for an hour. Plus, if your weight vest has pockets, you don’t have to worry about finding a locker.
Water bottle holders are another big one. Some vests make it easy to store your water bottle for easy hydration mid-workout. For high-intensity workouts, this doesn’t really help you because the bottle is almost certainly going to pop loose. But for lower intensity workouts like jogging, it’s a great way to stay hydrated.
In terms of safety, some vests come with reflective tape which makes it easy to spot you at night. If you plan to be outside in the evening with your weight vest, this is a must-have feature.
The warranty of the vest is usually a good indicator of how long it’ll last. Most vests come with at least one-year of coverage and some brands will even cover defects for the lifetime of the product.
Make sure you read the fine-print beforehand because sometimes where you live and/or buy your vest will impact the warranty. Keep your vest off the floor and away from children and pets to avoid any accidents.
We recommend using a damp cloth to wipe down your vest periodically. If you let dirt sit for too long on your best, you risk compromising the material which can result in tearing.
Best Weighted Vest Reviews & Recommendations
Best Weighted Vest for Beginners — Cross101 Adjustable Vest
- Weights Included. 10 x 4lbs Iron Ore weights
- Weights are adjustable in 4lbs Increments. Max weight...
- One piece design with belt attached onto the vest for...
- 13-Inch in width, One size fits all
- Manufacture warranty included
This one-size fits all vest is offered in a variety of options ranging from 20lbs – 120lbs. The adjustable weight options make this vest versatile for a variety of exercise and training formats.
When you’re starting out, it’s important to remember that the secure fit of your training equipment plays a part in long-term use and wear and tear. The double Velcro straps help secure the vest to your core and minimize movement with exercise.
But, this product offers a lot of external sleeve and pocket accommodations so be sure you’re evenly distributing the weight between the front and back.
This vest is great for beginners because it allows you to slowly build resistance and use in just about any type of training. The vests’ durability can make your investment worth your while, however, if you’re a runner you may not find this to be the most comfortable vest.
Best Weighted Vest for Running & Hiking — Harbinger Humanx Vest
- 20LB Weight Vest adjustable in 1LB increments 1 through...
- Patent pending FLEX weight design contours to body...
- Exclusive compact design fits securely for max mobility
- One size fully adjustable belt for customized fit
- Hand wash cold lay flat to dry
This one-size fits all vest features a shell-like design that secures the weights inside the vest and snug to your body. You can purchase this vest in a 10lb, 20lb, or 40lb option and they all come with adjustable ½lb or 1lb weight increments.
The shell-like design adds a bonus in that this vest is washable, which can be a luxury after a few hard workouts.
The comfort of this product during exercise is great, but the weights in this vest are filled with sand. Heavy impact to the vest and weights themselves may cause some sand leakage.
This vest is great for runners and hikers because the body contour design and dual shoulder padding provide comfort where you need it most on an endurance adventure. Other high-impact exercises like Crossfit or heavy weight lifting may not require a sand-weighted vest.
Best Weighted Vest for Women — Empower Weighted Vest
- HANDS-FREE RESISTANCE: Women's weighted vest adds...
- MADE FOR WOMEN: Contoured x-shaped silhouette designed...
- COMFORTABLE DESIGN: Soft, stretchy Lycra spandex...
- INCLUDED POCKET: Convenient pocket is great for small...
- REFLECTIVE ACCENTS: Reflective accents on the front and...
Coming in on the lighter end of vests, this product offers options between 4lb – 8lbs. The female inspired design features a light X-shape that covers less of the torso and is specifically limited to 8lbs to accommodate a woman’s frame.
The vest is complete with clips for security and additional pockets for cell phone storage convenience.
But, the smaller vest does mean weight storage is more compact so be ready for snug and tight-fitting sand weights when you go to adjust or remove weight.
This is great for women who are active in a variety of exercise formats weekly because the small vest size means less bulk in your way when you’re doing aerobics, squats, or even yard work! If you’re a woman looking to train for a specific sport, you may want to consider a heavier vest.
Best Weighted Vest for Crossfit — Box Weighted Vest
- Designed specifically for crossfit
- Fully padded design, is great for running and active...
- Wipe down lining for easy cleaning
- Removable 2.5lb cast iron weights provide perfect...
- SHIPPING INCLUDED IN PRICE TO USA DESTINATIONS! and a...
You can’t go wrong with finding the right vest since this product offers 8 options between 20lb -100lbs. Not only do you have more weight options, but you can also decide whether you want a long or short fitting vest, and you can adjust the vest’s shoulder settings.
The short fitted vest option allows you to perform more waist bending exercises with ease and less bulk.
The vest is very easy to use and features 2.5lb adjustable metal weights, but the look of the product is very basic and doesn’t offer a lot of design variation.
The short vest option and shoulder weight versatility were designed specifically for Crossfitters so those of you just starting in weight vest training may be less than impressed with the lack of bells and whistles on this product for the price point.
Best Weighted Vest for Outdoor Training — V-Force Weight Vest
- Lifetime Warranty, 30-day money-back guarantee, made in...
- Short model keeps weight off stomach.
- Maximizes fulcrum effect - best for targeting core...
- Two shoulder widths give you the option of a wide...
- Complete with all weights included.
This vest is forged out of all military grade materials and is fitted with adjustable 2.5lb cast iron weights. This rugged vest provides you with weight options between 25lbs – 150lbs and sports a short and long vest option.
It features an easy-adjust signature belt system that makes adjustment easy anytime and anywhere.
The material of the vest makes it easy to wipe clean and the most popular colors are black and camouflage.
The V Force weight vest is built for intense training outdoors. The only drawback is that it’s quite bulky so you can’t wear it for long periods of time or under your clothes.
Weight Vest FAQs
Q: How much weight do I need?
A: It’s easy to make the mistake of going too heavy too fast. If you overload your system too quickly, you increase your risk of injuries like shin splints and muscle strains/tears.
Try starting with a vest that’s 5% of your body weight and work your way up to 10% if you need to.
Q: How frequently should I use my vest?
A: The majority of the studies referenced in the article found participants saw improvement in performance and health when they used a weighted vest in exercise 3 times a week for 30-60 minutes.
Q: When should you not use a weighted vest?
Q: Do ankle and wrist weights offer the same benefits as a weighted vest?
A: Overall, no. They can help improve bone density and muscle mass, but it’s also easier to hurt yourself with wrist and ankle weights because the weight isn’t centered on your body.
Plus, your spine is much more engaged when you wear a vest, which is great for your core and posture.
Weight vests are one of the most versatile pieces of fitness equipment you can buy. Whether you want to burn some extra calories throughout the work day or push yourself to new heights, weighted vests are the way to go.
Our top recommendation for beginners is the Cross101 Adjustable Weighted Vest because it can be adjusted and used a number of different ways. For running it’s the Harbinger Humanx Weight Vest because it’s lightweight and gives you a lot of freedom to move around.
For a lightweight vest that can be worn for extended periods of time, the Empower Weighted Vest is a great choice. For Crossfit we recommend the Box Weighted Vest because it’s durable and can add significant amounts of weight to your workout.
For outdoor training we recommend the V-Force Weight Vest because it’s virtually indestructible and built with military grade materials.
Now it’s your turn. Which vest are you currently using or considering buying and why? Let us know in the comments below!