Weighted Vests are excellent pieces of training equipment.
So in this review, keeping in mind that the weighted vest in general is a very useful piece equipment, I'm going to go through the benefits and the potential drawbacks of weighted vest training.
First Off, What is a Weighted Vest?
Weighted vests are specially designed to fit snugly and comfortably on your body so you can perform a variety of activities with it...bodyweight training, cardio, plyometrics...you name it.
Vests are generally made from tough material with soft cloth on the inside as well as good padding to keep you comfortable. They have straps that go around your waist to cinch the bottom of the vest to your body.
The weights in the vest are in the form of small 1 lb steel sticks that slide into the pouches in the vest - the number of pouches depends on the capacity of the weight vest you get. These are generally very adjustable simply by removing or adding more sticks.
They've got a nice design...comfortable, usable, practical...don't try and wear one through airport security, though.
What Are The Benefits of Weighted Vests?
This is where the FUN begins...at it's simplest, the weighted vest is a way to to increase your bodyweight. The benefits of increasing your bodyweight include:
1. Increased caloric expenditure during ANY activity you do...anything from walking to weight training. This happens not only DURING the training sessions but AFTER the training sessions due to increased metabolic rate from carrying the extra load.
2. Increased resistance/workload on your muscles during training, be it bodyweight training or even conventional weight training. The X-Vest is a great way to increase the resistance used with bodyweight exercises like push-ups, chin-ups, lunges, etc. You can also wear the vest when doing standard weight training exercises.
3. Improvements in bone density with regular use. You carry more weight, you get stronger bones...simple as that.
4. Increased core strength from carrying the extra load on your upper body while performing exercises.
5. Improvements in speed and explosiveness in athletes by increasing the bodyweight load on athletic performance drills, e.g. shuttle runs with a weight vest on. When the vest is removed, your body will be used to training with the extra weight and you will feel light and fast. It's also very effective for vertical jump training.
6. You can use it to load yourself for exercises that put torque on your body because the resistance is out in front of you. For example, pushdowns for triceps and barbell curls for biceps. When you increase your bodyweight with the vest, the resistance out in front of you becomes less in comparison to your bodyweight. That means less torque on your lower back and it also means you'll be instantly STRONGER in those exercises.
7. It'll make you bulletproof...seriously, wearing 84 lbs of steel on your chest will at least make FEEL bulletproof, even you're not ACTUALLY bulletproof. I'm not volunteering to test that potential benefit.
What Are The Downsides of Weighted Vests?
Weight vests do have a few drawbacks that I need to mention. But to be honest, taken in perspective as to the benefits of the vest, they're pretty minimal. Nothing that should stop you from using one of these.
1. When doing exercises with your body in a horizontal position, on some vests, the vest waist straps can slip off the lower weight pouch will flap freely.
2. If you're training in a hot environment, it will increase your body temperature faster than training without it. It is an insulated vest and it keeps your core heat in. Something to be aware of, for sure.
3. They can be challenging to get in and out of, especially when using you're fatigued from training and you don't have somebody around to help and the vest gets heavy. There is a way around this, though.
4. Can be a pain to change weights, especially if you want to go from 84 lbs down to something like 20 lbs. That would involve removing 64 weight sticks.
5. There is the potential to try and use a heavier vest than you probably should...if you like to challenge yourself, believe me, the temptation will there to try use a LOT of weight on the vest. This is fine for bodyweight exercises...you'll learn fast enough how much you can and can't use with those. But when doing athletic movement like plyometric training, start light and progress slowly. Don't do rebounding box jumps from 3 feet up with an 84 lb vest on unless you like the taste of your kneecaps.
Those are the main drawbacks that we've identified. Like I said, nothing that should really stop you from using one of these vests. They're VERY effective for what they're designed to do.
What Can You Do With A Weighted Vest?
The sky's the limit! You can do pretty much ANY activity with the weighted vest that you can do WITHOUT the vest. What the vest does is just make your body a bit heavier while doing it. The only thing I REALLY would not recommend would be swimming, for obvious reasons.
And naturally, you do need to be aware of your limitations when adding weight to specific types of training (like the plyometrics that I mentioned above).
You can walk, jog (be sure to start with light weight if you're going to jog with the vest on), do interval training, wear it while cycling, doing athletic drills, etc. Pretty much any type of bodyweight exercises are fair game as well as many free weight exercises (in fact, you add some interesting twists on exercises like barbell squats and deadlifts when you add in the torso loading of the vest).
Bottom line, the weighted vest is a great choice for serious athletes seeking to dramatically improve their event-specific strength through the use of what the Soviets call 'special exercises.' This is more than just a 'vest' - it's a valuable piece of training equipment. You have to use a weighted vest in order to fully appreciate how effective it is.
This is one product family that gets top marks.
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