Gyms and fitness center are loaded with machines and equipment; there are balls, bars, free weights, balance discs, and all sorts of gadgets for the exerciser to choose from. Sometimes it is hard to know the benefits of using one piece of equipment over another. Weighted vests are tools that have become popular for a variety of fitness activities. However, many people are not sure how or why to use weighted vests.
Weighted vests are heavy vests worn over the torso, which have varying amounts of resistance. The most common weights are 20 pounds and 50 pounds. The purpose of a weighted vest is to increase the intensity of a workout. Since more weight is added to the body, the body is forced to work harder, which causes increased muscle mass and fat burning. Vests are versatile; they are used for resistance training, weight loss, cardio benefits, and variation.
First, vests supplement resistance training and increase performance. Resistance exercise, or strength training, increases the strength and mass of muscles. This was demonstrated by a research study at Texas Tech University, where a group of athletes wearing vests were compared to those not wearing vests. They found that the group wearing vests had substantially better results with their resistance training .
Next, weighted vests intensify aerobic workouts, thereby increasing the number of calories burned and promoting weight loss. A study in The European Journal of Applied Physiology showed this increased cardio effect by looking at a group of distance runners wearing a 50 lb weighted versus those without added weight. Those wearing the vest had improvements in their VO2 max and lactate thresholds, both of which affect endurance exercise.
Further, using a vest can change up an exercise routine. Our bodies adapt to the same patterns of movement, and it becomes harder to see a change when we repeatedly do the same exercises in the same routine. By wearing a vest, we provide variation to our normal routine. This will challenge our bodies so that we can continue to see results.
Another benefit from exercising with a vest is improved bone density. Several small studies show that the extra load from a weighted vest can help build bones. One four-year study on postmenopausal women showed increased bone density when a weighted vest was used during stair climbing.
Weighted vests have many benefits, but it is important to remember they should be used in moderation. When first wearing a vest, a low amount of weight should be used and it should never exceed more than 20% of an individual’s body weight. Too much weight may negatively affect the joints, muscles, and bones. It should also be worn tightly secured to the body to avoid any additional strain. An individual may experience back pain if it isn’t strapped on properly or if the weight is not distributed evenly. When wearing a weighted vest, the force upon landing is greater, increasing the risk of impact-related joint injury. Also, flexibility is limited because the vest constricts some types of movements. Lastly, there is a potential for overheating since the vest covers a large area of the body.
While there are many reasons to try using a weighted vest during a workout, it is important to remember that weighted vests are not for everyone. A doctor or personal trainer should be consulted before it is added to any exercise routine.