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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, What to Know Before Buying a Weighted Vest for Your Workouts

What to Know Before Buying a Weighted Vest for Your Workouts

Reading Time: 5 minutes 15 seconds


DATE: 2022-04-06

A weighted vest is a great way to take your workouts up a notch. Before spending your money, learn more about these trending workout tools. A weighted vest is safe and effective for most, but it’s not necessarily the right fitness tool for everyone.

What to Know Before Buying a Weighted Vest – Understand the Benefits

You’ve seen people using weighted vests at the gym and wondering if you’re missing out on something. A weight vest isn’t cheap, so it makes sense to find out if it’s worth the cost. Here are some of the benefits of working out with extra weight:

Build More Muscle

Adding weight to your frame forces your muscles to work harder, and that means more gains, faster. The extra weight forces more adaptations in your muscles, which leads to strength and mass.

Bodyweight workouts are effective for adding muscle mass. Try these bodyweight exercises with a weighted vest to make even bigger gains.

Intensify Your Workouts in Less Time

When you add weight to your frame, you increase the intensity of a workout. If you’re pressed for time, this is a great way to progress workouts during a limited session.

Burn More Calories

The added weight that makes your workout more intense also elevates your heart rate and helps you burn more calories. A weighted vest can boost your weight loss or efforts to maintain a healthy weight.

Increasing the intensity of a workout with added weight can help you or a client get past a weight loss plateau. Here are some more reasons weight loss stalls.

Improve Athletic Performance

Whatever your sport, adding weight during training can make you a better athlete. Imagine, for instance, running in a weighted vest for weeks and then taking it off to do a race. You’ll feel lighter and be faster.

Work on Posture and Balance

Adding weight to your body during exercise forces you to think more about your form and posture. It also works your core muscles, giving you overall better balance.

Strengthen Your Bones

Any load-bearing workout will strengthen and increase bone density. Studies show that adding a weighted vest increases this effect and can decrease age-related bone loss.

Weighted Vest FAQs Before You Buy

The benefits are pretty solid, but you probably still have some questions about buying and using a weight vest. Get the answers before you buy.

What Exercises Can I do with a Weighted Vest?

You can use a weight vest for most types of exercises. They are best suited to bodyweight resistance training: squats, planks, pushups, pull ups, and plyometric exercises. You can also run or walk with a vest on for added intensity. For some exercises, like cycling, added weight doesn’t help.

Can I Start Using it Right Away?

It’s best to ease into adding weight to your workouts, especially if you are not currently well conditioned. Even if you work out regularly and are in excellent shape, start slowly to get used to the vest. Use it without weights initially and add a little bit of weight at a time. Using it right away with heavy weights could lead to injuries.

How Much Weight Should I Use?

Start with no extra weight in the vest, and slowly add more as you gest stronger and more confident with your form while doing exercises. A good general rule for safety is to use no more than 10% of your body weight. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, don’t exceed 15 pounds on the vest.

How Often Can I Use a Weighted Vest?

As a beginner, stick with one or two times per week. As you get stronger, or if you’re already very well-conditioned, use the vest up to three or four times per week. It’s not a good idea to use it too often or to wear a vest all day. This can lead to overexertion, fatigue, skin irritation, and soreness.

Who Shouldn’t Use a Weight Vest?

A weighted vest is safe for many people but not everyone. If you have an injury, hold off using extra weight until you’ve healed. Joint issues may be exacerbated by the extra weight. If you have neck or back pain, the added weight could worsen it. If you have any concerns about using a vest, talk to your doctor first.

Are There Any Other Risks or Safety Concerns?

One of the biggest risks of using a vest is simply overdoing it. As long as your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you ease into it, and don’t wear the vest too often, it should be safe.

How to Choose the Right Weighted Vest

You’ve decided a weighted vest workout is right for you, so now it’s time to buy. The purchase is a little bit more of a complicated decision than you may have realized. Consider style, fit, cost, and more before investing in a weight vest.

Adjustable Weight vs. Fixed Weight Vests

Weighted vests come in fixed weight amounts and in styles that allow you to add weights in specific increments. The adjustable style has the obvious benefit of being able to change the weight. You can start out low and add more weight as you get fitter or as your fitness goals change.

A fixed weight vest is a good option if you just want to add a little weight to your walks or runs. These vests are sleeker and add less bulk to your training gear. They have fewer parts to adjust and fit more securely to the body. Fixed weight vests are generally less expensive than those with adjustable weights, but they limit your options.

Know the Styles

In addition to the choice of fixed or adjustable weight, you also have several styles to consider:

  • Shoulder holster vests cover the least amount of the body. They fit like a hydration vest, over the shoulders and with a buckle in the front. The weight sits along the upper back and the shoulder straps.

  • A full torso vest is more like an actual vest. It covers most of the torso and is adjustable with Velcro straps.

  • Tactical or plate vests are like those used by police and the military. They use steel plates that fit into front and back slots.

These are the three main styles, but you’ll also see other types. For instance, you can find vests designed specifically for running and those that are supposed to fit women better.

What to Know Before Buying a Weighted Vest in Terms of Sizing

Sizing is essential for a comfortable fit, or you won’t use it. It should fit you snugly, so that it doesn’t move around when you work out, but it should not be so tight that it feels uncomfortable.

Check sizing before you make a purchase. Some vests have different sizes, while others are one size but with adjustable straps. If you’re larger or smaller than the average person, a one-size vest might not work for you. If you have a large bust, it’s especially important to look into vests sized specifically for women.

Materials and Weights

Finally, look at the material of the vest and the weights in adjustable models. The material should be breathable and moisture-wicking to keep you cool and comfortable during a workout. For the most versatility, choose a vest with weights in smaller increments, like 2.5 pounds.

A weighted vest can be a good way to intensify your workouts, increase fitness and performance, and burn more calories while building muscle. If you or your clients are interested in weighted training, take a little time to consider your options before making a purchase.

Fitness trends change all the time. To stay up to date and be prepared to be the expert your clients need, check out the Certified Personal Trainer – Self-Guided Study Program offered by ISSA. It’s a respected credential that signals your expertise in the industry.


Snow, C. M., Shaw, J. M., Winters, K. M., & Witzke, K. A. (2000). Long-term exercise using weighted vests prevents hip bone loss in postmenopausal women. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences, 55(9), M489–M491. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/55.9.m489

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