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The Weighted Vest

an InVESTment in Your Workout

DeSimone, Grace T. B.A., ACSM-CPT, ACSM-GEI

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ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal: March/April 2020 - Volume 24 - Issue 2 - p 4
doi: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000546
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Adding a weighted vest to your workouts may seem like a good idea, but is it? Like all fitness choices, use of equipment depends on your goals, current fitness level, and overall condition.

WHAT IS A WEIGHTED VEST?

A weighted vest is a training aid made of sturdy material and fashioned with many pockets designed to carry small weights. Vests vary by manufacturer, but most provide the ability to add or remove the weights. Some brands offer a one-size-fits-all vest; others offer more choices. Choose a vest that fits snugly and ensures that the weights are not bouncing or sliding as you move. Wearing a weighted vest immediately increases your body weight, which results in increased resistance for body weight exercise such as squats or pushups; increased oxygen consumption for cardiovascular exercises like walking or hiking; and increased power output for moves including jumping or sprinting. You will burn additional calories as well.

WHEN IS A WEIGHTED VEST BENEFICIAL?

There are multiple benefits to adding a weighted vest to your fitness routine:

  • Vests can add variety for an individual whose routine is limited or enhance specific training goals to increase performance. If you are limited to low-impact activities such as walking or hiking, adding a weighted vest can increase the aerobic intensity and stress on muscles and joints, which could be a challenging addition to a ho-hum routine.
  • If you are training for a specific goal, such as a long hike, the weighted vest will add stress to your existing trail providing a great workout companion. Once you remove the vest, your hikes will seem much easier because you have gained strength and cardiovascular improvements.
  • Athletes use the vest to improve sprinting time, jumping height, and distance. Military personnel use vests to improve skills such as hill running, load carrying, crawling, speed, and overall endurance.

Vests are beneficial in movements that require using your body weight. For example, doing a bicep curl while wearing a weighted vest will do nothing for your biceps, but doing a pull up would certainly make a difference. Because of the added stress on the joints, weighted vests are often recommended for those seeking to stave off the effects of osteopenia or osteoporosis. This varies by individual, so seek medical counsel first.

CONSIDERATIONS IN USING A WEIGHTED VEST

Consult your physician before training to ensure your health is in good standing and you are physically capable of performing using the added weight. Meet with an ACSM-certified professional for training tips and assistance with your routine. Master your form and technique before adding any weight or resistance to your workout, or else you can do more harm than good. Weighted vests are not advised for long-distance running or long-duration high-impact activities as the added weight can cause excessive wear and tear on the body. Start out with a short duration of time (10 to 15 minutes) when first using the vest. Gradually increase time as your body adapts to use.

© 2020 American College of Sports Medicine.