Adding weight to your frame when engaging in different exercises is a great way to build strength and endurance.
For some individuals, bodyweight exercises may not be challenging enough to yield significant results.
Weighted vests are a great way to pack on a couple of extra pounds, without having to eat tons of junk food. These versatile vests can also be used across various types of exercise like calisthenics workouts, weightlifting, or CrossFit.
While there are many benefits to using a weighted vest, it is important that you are buying one that is best suited to you and your fitness goals.
To get you started, here is a guide on the best weighted vests, how to use them, and more.
Benefits of Using a Weighted Vest
A weighted vest is a good way to increase your fitness levels. This includes your strength, endurance, cardio, and even your speed.
Adding extra mass can help increase the intensity of different exercises, which can, in turn, yield positive results.
Various studies show the benefits of using a weighted vest. A study by the American Council on Exercise found that a vest that weighs 10-15% of your body weight could allow you to burn up to 13% more calories.
A recent study also found that training with a weighted vest helped improve the stamina of long-distance runners. Participants in the same study who wore heavier weights also saw improved performances in their sprints.
So, if you’re looking to take your training to the next level, a weighted vest is a worthwhile investment.
Best Weighted Vest: Buying Guide
With so many different weighted vests to choose from, it can be challenging to find the best ones, let alone the one that is best for you. Below is a brief buying guide highlighting what to look out for when searching for a good weighted vest.
One of the most important factors when trying to find the right weighted vest is the type of activity you will be using it for. A runner would require a different type of vest to someone who needs one for heavier resistance training.
For cardio-based activities, a lighter vest with less coverage is best. It also helps if the vest is back-loaded, as this allows for easier chest expansion. On the other hand, a vest with a greater weight capacity is ideal for strength and conditioning workouts.
Each of the vests included in our roundup is selected with specific activities in mind, such as running, cross-fit, weight training, and various others.
The material used in making the vest is also important. The last thing you want is a vest that causes chafing or doesn’t last.
There are two factors that reduce the life of your weighted vest. These are moisture and rips.
Low-quality vests can hold germs or bacteria due to sweating. They can also become stretched and worn when used for vigorous exercises.
A good-quality vest often features antibacterial or moisture-proof material that is durable enough to withstand an array of activities. Additionally, some good materials to look out for include:
- soft nylon
- soft neoprene
Fit and design
The fit and design greatly influence the comfort and functionality of the vest. Popular designs include one-size-fits-all, short stack, and full-size.
One-size-fits-all vests are designed to fit most people, though there may be some exceptions. When deciding on such a vest, ensure that it has enough adjustment options.
Weight vests can also be categorized as short stack or full-size. “Short stack” suggests that the vest only provides coverage on the chest, leaving the abdomen free to bend and move. These generally allow for a wider range of activities. While this is great, the design does not always allow for even weight distribution, which can be a problem when holding heavier loads.
Full-size vests generally cover the entire torso. These distribute the weight evenly between your front and back. This design restricts one’s movement to some degree, so it is not suitable for certain exercises like crunches. However, it can support heavier loads.
Weight and load
The load you wish to add to your frame with your weighted vest will also influence what product you will need. Some weighted vests are more streamlined and support little weight, while others can support as much as 40 pounds or more.
Weight adjustability is also something to look out for. Some weighted vests come in one fixed weight.
However, one of the most important components of any training program is progressive overload. So, you’ll want an adjustable vest where the load can be easily increased or decreased in suitable increments.
5 Best Weighted Vests
Now that you have a better understanding of what a good weighted vest is, it’s time to find what suits you best. Listed below are our top picks.
- Type: Strength and conditioning
- Material: 500D nylon
- Weight: 2.5 lbs – 30 lbs
- Price: $$$
Made from durable, water and abrasion-resistant 500D nylon, the 5.11 Tactec Plate Carrier Vest is both comfortable and functional. It also comes in six different colors, so you’re sure to find one suited to your liking.
On its own, the Tactec Plate Carrier Vest weighs 2.5 pounds. However, it can support medium and large ballistic plates weighing up to 30 pounds. Note that these plates are sold separately.
The vest boasts a slender design and sits higher on your chest. This will provide you with a greater range of motion, broadening the type of exercises you can engage in while wearing it.
Whether you’re running, jumping, or calisthenics training with parallettes, this form-fitting vest will not bounce around. And exercises like climbing and crunches can be easily performed, too, thanks to the positioning of the vest.
- Type: Running
- Material: Neoprene
- Weight: 4 lbs – 25 lbs
- Price: $
For more cardio-focused weighted vest workouts, you will need something that loads on the back. Vests with weight loaded on the front generally do not allow for easy chest expansion, which is necessary when breathing heavily.
One of the best back-loaded vests for activities such as running is the Aduro Sport Weighted Vest. This workout accessory features a minimalist design and ranges from 4 to 25 pounds. It also has adjustable straps, allowing you to comfortably secure the vest to prevent it from moving around.
Made from soft neoprene material, the running weight vest provides a comfortable fit. It also includes a convenient mesh pocket along the back, where you can store smaller items such as your smartphone or keys.
- Type: Crossfit, strength, and conditioning
- Material: 1000D Cordura
- Weight: 20-30 lbs when loaded
- Price: $$
If you’re looking for a back-loaded vest that can support more weight, consider the GORUCK Ruck Plate Carrier. This vest easily supports a 20- to 30-pound plate – which is sold separately.
The Ruck Plate Carrier is durable as it is made from 1000D Cordura. It also features EVA foam padding, which provides additional support for your lower back. And due to the streamlined design, it is also easy to clean and more comfortable overall.
The vest’s back-loading design ensures that there is not too much pressure placed on your chest, even when fully loaded. This vest is ideal for those engaging in cardio-intensive training that may require added weight. Whether for Crossfit or HIIT (high-intensity interval training), the Ruck Plate Carrier will have you covered.
- Type: Crossfit, calisthenics, strength, and conditioning
- Material: Nylon
- Weight: 2.5 lbs – 45 lbs
- Price: $$
If you’re looking for an adjustable weight vest, the BOX weighted vest is a good option. The one-size-fits-all vest has panels on both the front and back, which supports weight boxes rather than plates.
The Crossfit weight vest weighs 2.5 pounds (unloaded). Weight boxes can be purchased in increments of 2.5 pounds up to a maximum load of 45 pounds. Note that the price of this Rogue weight vest will depend on the weight options chosen.
The use of boxes instead of plates may appeal to individuals who prefer a less bulky design. The narrow shoulder straps are also a good feature, as it allows for optimal overhead and forward arm movements. The vest also has a kipping-proof belt system that ensures the vest stays in place.
- Type: Outdoor trail runs, strength, and conditioning
- Material: Cordura nylon
- Weight: 1.5 lbs unloaded
- Price: $$
The Condor Sentry Plate Carrier is an adjustable weighted vest designed to hold both medium and large plates. Plates include the ESAPI standard plates, and the Rogue USA cast weights, which are available in 5.75 pounds, 8.75 pounds, and 13.75 pounds.
The sleek design ensures minimal bulk, allowing for a greater range of motion. As such, the vest is suited to a wide array of training programs.
The Sentry Plate Carrier has a padded mesh interior, heavy-duty webbing, quick-adjust cinches, and quick-release buckles. All these unique features ensure a high-performance tactical vest that is comfortable, breathable, durable, and ready for action.
Weighted Vest Exercise Options
Whether for pushups, pull-ups, or dips, using a workout weight vest will allow you to increase the amount of weight you are moving with each exercise.
For resistance training, a weighted vest can be used for a broad range of exercises targeting different muscle groups. Wearing a weighted vest when squatting strengthens the muscles in your legs.
And, when doing pull-ups, you place more stress on your lats (latissimus dorsi muscles). Using a weighted belt along with consistency, you’re sure to see some notable gains.
Alternatively, pop on a more streamlined vest and head out onto the road or trail. Lighter vests are great for running as well as various other exercises, such as calisthenics. You can even wear them while using gymnastic rings.
There are many ways that you can benefit from using a weighted training vest. From bodyweight workouts to cardio-based activities, here are some exercises to include in your program.
- Push-ups (and other push up variations)
- Bear crawls
- Crunches (using a short stack weighted vest)
- Running or walking
Best Weight Vest Summary
With the wide variety of weighted vests available, deciding on one that is right for you can be puzzling. The items mentioned on this list are among some of the best weighted vests, so you can’t go wrong with them. Just be sure that the vest you pick aligns with the type of activity you are doing.
If none of the items in this list seem to fit the bill, at least you have learned the general criteria for buying a weighted vest. We hope that with the tips mentioned above, you’ll be able to make a confident purchase decision and reach your fitness goals.