Weight Vest Workouts
Weight vest workouts can bring your fitness to the next level; plus, we've included a 1 day vest training program.
Weighted vests are underrated
Many people are under the impression that weighted vests are only useful when preparing for some sort of military selection, as it helps to mimic the equipment you’ll be carrying out on the field. Whilst they absolutely can be used for that, weighted vests have lots of utility not only for regular resistance training but also to aid fat loss.
How weighted vests can help you lose fat
It’s no secret that the more fat we lose, the harder it gets. This is mostly due to the fact we are losing weight and getting lighter. The lighter we are, the fewer calories we need to maintain our body weight. This is partly because we have less active tissue but mostly because we expend fewer calories doing day-to-day activities.
A 200lb person is going to expend more calories running 5 miles than a 160lb person because they have more weight to shift.
Typically, in order for a 160lb person to expend the same number of calories as a 200lb person, they’d need to run further than 5 miles.
This is where a weighted vest could be utilised to help offset weight loss and maintain a similar energy expenditure.
If you lost 20lbs, wearing a 20lb weighted vest allows you to expend similar calories compared to when you were heavier, without having to go further.
When weighted vests are better than free weights
Dumbbells and barbells are probably the most widely used resistance training equipment but there are several scenarios where weighted vests are actually better.
Why? Weight distribution. As the weight is very close to your body and evenly distributed from front to back, there are several exercises where it makes more sense to wear a weighted vest rather than adding more load to a dumbbell or barbell.
If you’ve ever performed a weighted pull-up using a dip belt or dumbbell between the legs you’ll know how awkward it is (and I’m not even talking about the awkward waddle up to the bar). It’s natural for your lower body to want to swing during a pull-up. If you have something between your legs and your body swings, it’s going to amplify that swinging motion so you effectively turn into a human pendulum. Not only will this be incredibly distracting but may also put you into a compromised position whereby you’re not performing the movement correctly.
If you wanted to spice things up a bit you could even do a drop set by performing a certain number of sets with the vest on before quickly taking it off and performing sets with just bodyweight alone.
Another great use of a weighted vest is during exercises that require you to hold onto dumbbells for an extended period of time, such as walking lunges. As you get stronger, you might find your grip strength becomes the limiting factor. Your legs could give more but you can’t physically hold on to the dumbbells. You could wear straps but in that case, you’re doing the complete opposite and not working your grip at all. This could limit your grip strength over the long term and so wearing a weighted vest allows you to increase the resistance whilst not being limited by grip strength.
Trying to jump with dumbbells is doable but cumbersome. Much like pull-ups, the inertia created by the dumbbells can pull you out of position. Wearing a weighted vest eliminates this whilst also allowing you the full use of your arms. If you were to do a jump right now, it’s highly likely you’d use your arms to generate more power, which you can’t do when you’re holding on to something. Squat jumps, box jumps, and broad jumps are all going to be closer to what you might actually do in day-to-day life and sports in particular.
Unless you have a partner to help you, loading up a press-up is nigh on impossible. You could use a band to create tension but that can be uncomfortable and only provide extra resistance at the top of the movement when the band is stretched. A weighted vest allows you to comfortably add resistance whilst easily being able to get in and out of the press-up position.
Conditioning sessions often involve multiple exercises, many of which are bodyweight. You could add more reps or try to complete sessions in a shorter time frame but weighted vests give you another option of adding load without needing lots of equipment. You can’t just add reps indefinitely so being able to add load easily is another tool in your toolbox.
Holding dumbbells as you perform daily tasks would be incredibly impractical. A weighted vest could be worn doing pretty much anything you normally do day to day without impacting your ability to perform them, it would just make them marginally more difficult. From walking to the shops to walking up the stairs you would be challenging your body a little more than bodyweight alone.
Almost every exercise involves your torso
Whilst there are some exercises that really suit the use of a weighted vest, the reality is you could use it for almost any exercise that involves your torso. Back squats? Sure. Deadlifts? Why not. The weight distribution might be a bit different from adding load on the bar but it’s undeniably going to make the lift more challenging. It obviously doesn’t make sense to use one for a bicep curl but if you feel badass wearing one, I get it.
In summary, a weighted vest is a very versatile piece of equipment that can be used for a variety of goals including fat loss, strength, and hypertrophy. What’s more, one of the biggest advantages of a weighted vest is that you can use it in conjunction with other pieces of equipment. You wouldn’t be able to use dumbbells and a barbell at the same time without difficulty but you can certainly use a weighted vest with either of those things and not be hampered in your ability to perform an exercise.
Full Body Hypertrophy Focused Workout
This session includes an equal mix of pushing, pulling, and lower body exercises for a balanced full-body workout. Perform each round 3 times before moving on to the next round.
Pull-Ups x AMRAP
Feet Elevated Push-Ups x 15
Bench (box) Jumps x 10
1 minute rest
Inverted Rows x 15
Chest Dips x 15
Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats x 10
1 minute rest
Bodyweight Curls x 15
Tricep Bench Dips x 15
Burpees x 10
1 minute rest
About the Author
Harry is an online personal trainer and WNBF men's physique professional from the UK. He's has been working in health & fitness for over a decade and has had almost every job the industry has to offer. From owning a private personal training studio to training Bollywood actors in India and now, coaching clients from all over the world online. Harry also started out competing in natural bodybuilding before transitioning to men's physique where he won the world championships in Las Vegas in 2021. Harry's primary interest is to take more nuanced and complex subjects related to health and fitness and make them more accessible for those who don't have the time to trawl through the research. When he's not in the gym, Harry enjoys going out for drinks with friends and getting his hands dirty with DIY (although preferably not at the same time!).