There comes a time in any lifter’s life when they begin to find bodyweight pull ups and dips a bit too easy. At this point they have a few options, they can experiment with more challenging versions of the exercise (this is a lot easier to do with pull up than it is with dips), they can increase the rep range, or they can add a form of resistance.
The usual choice is to hold a dumbbell between their feet whilst raising themselves up, this is actually very difficult to do and can result in a lot of dropped weights! Another option is the weighted belt, where you use a belt that you can attach weighted plates to.
These are a slight improvement and out of the three options they definitely look the coolest. If you are planning to look hardcore on Instagram then a weighted belt filled with weights is definitely a great idea. But the main issue with belts is that all of the weight is centered around your waist rather than being evenly distributed around your body. It is also quite difficult to load a weight belt, though once you get the hang of it you’ll find it pretty simple.
The final option is a weighted vest, this is exactly what it claims to be – a vest that is weighted down. It gives evenly distributed weight around the chest whilst leaving your arms free. It will allow you to perform pull ups and dips with relative ease (movement-wise) and is very quick to attach and get going.
Another benefit of weighted vests over the other options is that the number of exercises that you can perform whilst wearing the vest is much higher. For example push ups could not be performed with a weighted belt, nor could Nordic Raises or Glute Ham Raises. This is because they are all performed close to the floor and there would be no space for the weights to hang down.
What to look for in a weighted vest
A good weighted vest will be adjustable so that you can make it heavier or lighter depending on your needs. The weights should be evenly distributed around the back and front of the vest. There should be durable shoulder straps as this is where the most issues can occur due to the weight hanging down. Being comfortable to wear is also a big plus, as any discomfort will prevent you from achieving your best results in the gym.
You want the vest to be able to hold a lot of weight, even if you don’t need it to at first. If you buy a vest that can hold 140lbs but only need 30lbs then you might want to consider a lighter version, but you should be prepared for your body adapting to a heavier weight. If you build your strength to the point where you can perform a pull up with the weighted vest on maximum then you will have to buy a new one.
The last thing you should look at is how secure the vest is, does it use Velcro? Or are there proper attachments. The last thing you want is the vest to break off mid rep!
The best weighted vest
Now you know what to look for you have the ability to go out and find the perfect weighted vest for your needs, alternatively you could take a look at the selection of excellent weighted vests we have picked out for you below.
RUNFast are a company that design weighted vests, they have adjustable and non-adjustable versions. The non-adjustable versions are a lot cheaper but unless you plan on using the same weight forever (which would not help you improve strength or hypertrophy) then they are pretty useless. The adjustable version is pretty fantastic though.
There are many options available from the 20lbs vest to the 140lbs vest, obviously the vests on the lower end of the weight section are going to have less options for adjustment whereas the heavier versions (140lb) will have a lot more options. You can also choose whether to include shoulder pads or not (which will obviously affect the price). The shoulder pads would obviously help if you are planning on using heavier weights, but if you’re only wearing a 20lb vest you can probably save your money and avoid them.
There is a one-year warranty on this vest and the manufacturer’s claim that it is one size fits most, so if you are very large or very small keep your receipt! If you buy the wrong weight size you are able to purchase more weights separately which is a big plus!
One minor downside is that a lot of customers are reporting difficulty in removing or adding the weights, saying that it is quite difficult to do this. The weights are made from sand that is tightly wrapped which is the standard weight used by all vests.
Minor negative aside this really is a great vest, it allows a high level of mobility which means that you can perform the traditional exercises easily but can also run and jump about with the vest on without worrying about it falling off. The straps are Velcro so they may not last forever, but you should get plenty of use out of it before worrying about that.
To be honest there is not a huge amount of difference between the RUNFast weighted vest and the CAP Barbell weighted vest. The CAP version looks to have more durable shoulder pads and the weight looks like it is distributed slightly better, but the RUNFast vest has a better warranty (in that it actually has one!). When two products are so similar it really comes down to which design you prefer and differences in price.
The CAP Barbell vest does look better, but it also looks a lot more militarised so you might end up looking like you’re in the army. This is either a plus or minus depending on how much you want to look like a soldier whilst running around your neighbourhood or weight area.
This weighted vest does have a slightly heavier version than RUNFast (150lb) and it is definitely cheaper, though the 40lb RUNFast vest is cheaper than the 40lb CAP vest. So shop around between the two and find the weight that suits you.
ZFOsports make an absolutely quality weighted vest, sadly they only provide one weight-size (60lb) but you can adjust it for lower weights but not heavier ones. In reality most people would find 60lbs enough but if you’re looking to increase strength over time this vest may be quite limiting.
Other than the weight issues this vest is fantastic! The durability of the shoulder straps is very high and there are additional straps to help adjust it for smaller shouldered people. There are two straps that go round the waist (compared to the standard one strap) which will allow for more confidence in the vest and lower the risk of it becoming loose. An excellent and long-lasting vest made from high quality materials.
This weighted vest is a little different to the others, for one thing it only has weights between 0 and 20lbs. This means that you probably won’t be able to use it to increase strength after initially adapting to this weight. The other difference is that this weighted vest is a lot shorter than the others, only covering the chest (rather than covering the abs as well). This makes it a lot easier to run in.
It is clear that the 20lb CAP Barbell vest is designed with cardio in mind, you could run in this jump in it, climb stairs, and even sprint in it with relative ease (though obviously the weight would make the exercise challenging). The other vests might make it possible to run, but the heavier ones are clearly designed for exercises such as pull ups and dips. You would struggle to run flat out with those vests because they would be constantly banging into your upper thighs, what’s more the weights would be too heavy for cardio anyway!
Clearly the lighter vests have their advantages, but if you are buying a weighted vest for strength training then spending the extra money to get the heavier version does make a lot of sense. This is because you can start light and slowly progress the weight without having to worry about becoming too strong for the vest.
If you are looking to buy a weighted vest for cardio then the first thing you need to understand is that wearing a weighted vest will not improve your cardio fitness. Nor will it really help you burn more calories, it will weigh you down preventing you from running as fast or as freely as you would normally be able to do. This will affect your running technique and while you will burn a lot of calories, you’d burn more by running faster!
Weighted vests are best used for bodyweight exercises that it is difficult to progress, that’s why pull ups and dips are what we focused on. If you are determined to run with a weighted vest, (possibly to recreate army training) then the 20lb vest by CAP Barbell is your best option.