Weighted Vest Workouts | Not Your Average Fitness Tips

Weighted Vest Workouts

A couple months ago I decided to buy a weighted vest.  It was a purchase that was long overdue.  If you’re at the point where you’re doing 20+ reps for bodyweight exercises or would like to burn some extra calories during cardio, then it might be time to perform weighted vest workouts.  I’ve been using a 40lb weighted vest to increase the difficulty of pushups, pull-ups, dips, and inverted rows.  Obviously I’ve had to significantly reduce the number of reps I’m performing, but that’s the whole point.  Increased resistance, decreased reps, increased strength and muscle mass.  I’ve also used the weighted vest when performing steady state cardio.  It’s amazing how much harder using an elliptical can be when carrying an extra 40lbs.  In an ideal world, I’d also wear it outside every morning while walking my dog, but it looks conspicuously like a bullet proof vest.

Weighted Vest Bodyweight Workouts

If you’ve been training for a while, then there’s a chance that bodyweight exercises just aren’t challenging any more.  Is there really much value to doing 110 pushups vs. 100 pushups?  I’d argue that you’re better off trying to make bodyweight exercises more difficult so that you can perform less than 20 reps per set.

So what’s the problem with doing bodyweight training with very high reps?  At some point, this turns into an endurance workout rather than a strength training workout.  If endurance is your goal, by all means continue to incrementally increase the numbers of pushups, pull-ups, or whatever exercise you’re performing.  However, if you’d like to add some strength and muscle mass, time to increase the challenge by adding weight.  That’s where the weighted vest comes into play.

I perform bodyweight exercises after weight training, but depending on your goals, a weighted vest might actually serve as a complete substitute for weight training.  Here are some exercises I perform with a weighted vest:

Pushups
Archer Pushups
Ring Pushups
Decline Pushups
Ring Flyes
Plyo Pushups
Standard Pushups

Pull-ups
Ring Pull-ups
Standard Pull-ups
Parallel Pull-ups
Chin-ups

Others
Ring Dips
Dips
One Arm Ring Rows
Inverted Row

Notice that some of my exercises are done using EXF rings.  If you’re not ready for a weighted vest, one of the best ways to make bodyweight exercises more challenging is to decrease stability or change angles.  Working toward one-arm pushups and one-arm pull-ups as laid out in Convict Conditioning is a great way to increase strength as well.

Obviously you can use a weighted vest to perform leg exercises, such as squats or lunges, but I use cardio as my preferred form of leg training.

Weighted Vest Cardio Workouts

Doing cardio with a weighted vest certainly increases the challenge.  I’ve honestly never tried running with a weighted vest and would be cautious about doing so.  I worry about high impact exercises and using additional weight can only worsen potential problems.  When I initially purchased a vest, I thought I would use it to perform plyometrics as well but decided to stick with my go-to routine based around intensity and endurance rather than strength.  Where I have found the weighted vest useful is during steady state cardio on the elliptical.  It’s a low impact machine so the added weight simply makes the exercise more challenging without causing any potential knee pain.  You could use it for HIIT as well but it’s hard enough to perform a good sprint without a weighted vest, let alone carrying an additional 40-60lbs.

Weighted Vest Buying Guide

I’m no expert when it comes to buying a weighted vest but I’d offer a couple tips.  First, consider how much weight you want to be able to use.  Do you need a 20lb, 40lb, 60lb, etc.?  Definitely get an adjustable vest since you probably won’t be able to use the same weight for pull-ups and pushups.  If you’re currently doing really high reps of bodyweight exercises, lean toward a heavier vest.  However, be cognizant of the minimum amount of weight you can use as well.  This is dictated by the size of the weights that you can add or subtract.  Every vest has unique selling points so beyond that, you’ll just have to read some reviews to determine if the vest fits better on larger or smaller people.  Other times you’ll want to choose based on function…certain vests are better for bodyweight exercises vs. cardio.  Personally, I’d avoid generic brands since you’re going to want a vest that lasts for a while and can endure some wear without tearing.  For what it’s worth, I decided to buy the ZFO Adjustable Weighted Vest.  It’s from MiR which seems to be one of the more reputable brands.  There are some weekly 50% off sales on Amazon as well…just watch the shipping costs.

At the end of the day, I think a weighted vest is a highly useful tool that helps make bodyweight exercises more difficult.  It’s also valuable when it comes to increasing calories burned during steady state cardio.  You can obviously perform other workouts with a weighted vest but I prefer to exercise a little caution.  Give it a shot if you’re ready for a new challenge.

11 Responses to “Weighted Vest Workouts”

  • Awesome Post Dave!

    I love bodyweight movements and find them to be very effective and in many cases more effective than weight training movements.

    A weighted vest seems like a great tool to blend the benefits of bodyweight training with the easy of progression of weight training. One of my goals is to perform a set of full range hand stand push ups with a 20 lbs weighted vest for 5 reps.

    Great advice on using a weighted vest during cardio! Walking is my favourite form of activity for fat loss. I will consider adding a weighted vest to increase the calories burned. This will be similar to how many soldiers over history had to march long distances with 40+ lbs.

    Greg.

  • Toni:

    Dave,
    Great post. I never associated weighted vests with push-ups but rather HIIT like sprinting. Good to know as decline push-ups have become a lot easier for me. Also, the vest I’ve seen in the sporting goods store reminds me of a vest that someone who is a CSI would wear. May have to investigate buying one now.
    Toni

  • Like the others, I usually think of wearing a weighted vest for pushups and pullups and not so much for walking and other cardio … great tips and you’ve made me seriously consider getting a weighted vest for my body weight workouts. :)

  • My favorite weighted vest workouts consist of pullups and dips as they don’t put any extra strain on my lower back. Incorporating multi joint movements like step ups and lunges work well too.

  • Dave, that’s a worthy investment to aid in your training. It’s great if you need to increase your resistance on the fly.

  • Dave,

    I’ve been doing bodyweight exercises for a while now and I’ve noticed them starting to get easier so it sounds like a weighted vest is just the thing I need. I’ll definitely consider getting one! Great post!

    Alykhan

  • Dave,
    Mates and I use weighted vests on long trail walks. It’s a great way to add intensity, without the extra strain on you back, which can happen when carrying a loaded backpack.
    -Niko

  • I recently tried doing plyometrics with the weighted vests and it makes for an incredible workout! I did box jumps nad broad jumps and I immediately felt more explosive afterwards. It also did not strain my lower back due to the weight being proportioned throughout.

  • Greg,
    Handstand pushups with a weighted vest would be pretty cool. Just make sure the weights are really secure…on my vest, they tend to slip a little even when I do decline pushups.

    Toni,
    The weighted vest is a good addition to decline pushups. Definitely consider it.

    Kevin,
    If you’d like to ramp up those bodyweight workouts, you can’t go wrong.

    Troy,
    Good point about the lower back.

    Mitchell,
    Agreed!

    Alykhan,
    Give it a shot!

    Niko,
    Weighted vest on long hikes, great tip.

    Troy,
    Nice to hear you’re using a vest for plyometrics…I might have to give it a shot…I just worry a little about my knees.

    Dave

  • A weighted vest can be a good idea for someone burning fat. As we know, as you lose weight your metabolism slows down.

    Sitting and lying down with it on, wouldn’t cause much if any calorie expenditure, but wearing it could cause more calorie expenditure while exercising and performing basic household chores.

  • I like the article. I really need to get a weighted vest. I definitely need it for pushups and dips and am starting to need it for pull ups and hand stand push ups. Thanks for the great idea. I never thought to wear a weighted vest on the elliptical. I could also use it for hiking since it is slow and low impact.

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