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:
One Arm Ring Rows
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.
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