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Your Guide To Using A Weighted Vest For Running & The Benefits

March 29, 2021 9 min read

A weighted vest for running refines your running posture, boosts your speed, your running form, and helps your body to exert more force. The result? Training sessions that pack a punch!

When it comes to improving stamina, this is a go-to tool for the knowledgeable certified personal trainer, pro runners, and fitness enthusiasts across the globe. Once you have trained with one, for example, a 10kg weighted vest, even without it, your body will continue to utilise more power and continue calorie burning for hours after you've taken off your running shoes.

But what do we know about the gains? Asides from a training method that provides lots of potentials, there are numerous benefits to adding a weighted vest to your run, a handful of which we've outlined below.

Why use a weight vest when running?

As you'd guess, weight vests are heavy vests, which envelope the torso. Their aim? To improve aerobic performance, physical performance provide exercise enthusiasts with a diverse range of resistance and improve your running, this is especially true of our vests because they allow the user to remove or add weighted plates as they see fit. 

As well as running, these versatile training tools can be used in varying exercise activities, including overhead squats, rope climbing, jogging, pull-ups, sit-ups, burpees, push-ups, and more. You can essentially create your own crosstraining days and look at them as part of your running gear.

The benefits of running with a weighted vest

Some of the key weight vest benefits of running with a weighted vest include cardiovascular and musculoskeletal benefits. They also assist in weight loss and improve the strength in your leg muscles as well as building up your core strength. But start slow! To begin with they might slightly alter your running style so ease them into your training plans gradually.

Advice on buying the right weighted vest for running

As a general rule of thumb, here are the things you need from your vest:

1. They come in a variety of styles, but they must have padded shoulders and light weights due to the fact running workouts will put pressure on your shoulders.

2. It should have pockets to store your essentials in, or at the very least a phone pocket.

3. It should be a compact vest that snuggly fits your upper body, body type, body mass, and body composition.

4. Ideally it should have adjustable shoulder straps and adjustable side straps to stop the vest from moving too much, thus reducing the risk of injury.

5. You should also be able to adjust the weight, depending on which bodyweight exercises you're doing. For example, endurance athletes want different things from their cardio workout compared to someone who is into combat training or weightlifting.

Therefore removable weights are essential, because your muscular endurance will change as your cardiovascular fitness and aerobic fitness get better over time.

Musculoskeletal benefits

Studies suggest running with weight vests may improve bone density, especially in post-menopausal women. Weight-bearing exercises are key to the prevention of osteoporosis, and those who exercise regularly using a weight vest, often do so to put a stop to hip bone loss. Why? Because running with weight vests increases our muscle strength and heightens our strength gains.

This additional load works to stimulate osteoblast cells, which strengthens our bone mass, increasing bone material in acknowledgment of the loads being placed on our body. In a nutshell, our bones become denser and stronger so they can handle the additional weight.

Cardiovascular benefits

According to numerous studies, running with a weight vest can heighten the heart rate, which increases cardiovascular health. How? By tricking our body into working harder than it normally would. The extra pounds carried when running with a weight vest thrusts our weight forwards, heightening the intensity we exercise and increasing our lungs and heart efficiency as a whole.

Providing your fitness levels allow your body to indulge in consistent cardio exercise, investing in a weighted vest is a great way to improve your cardiovascular conditioning in both aerobic and strength training activities. Carrying this additional extra weight during exercise necessitates additional oxygen and strength, all whilst depleting our energy stores. The more weight used, the more our muscles need to adapt.

Improve core strength

Many use weight vests when training their body to improve balance. When wearing a weighted vest, our body becomes more mindful of form and posture, especially when running. If like many, you struggle with your balance when jogging along cliff paths or beaches, a weighted vest can help to improve stability.
This not only improves core strength, but it also prevents us from falling.
Wearing a weighted vest when training is a must for anyone wishing to build muscle and strength endurance, and ultimately, body balance.

Weight loss

When it comes to losing weight quickly and efficiently, if you're an avid runner, a weight vest is your go-to tool! Wearing this device when training makes us work harder, and ultimately, helps us to burn more calories. But that's not all! Running with a weight vest can trick our bodies into feeling fuller due to heightened bone mass. When an individual's weight increases suddenly, our bones attempt to restore our body's equilibrium in response to this change. This has the benefit of reducing our appetite.

Running in a weighted vest safely

As with all exercise equipment, it's important to know how to use a weight vest before attempting to take it for a spin. If you fail to understand how this training tool works, or use a weight vest that is too heavy for your frame, this could increase in injury risk.

Choose the right weight

First things first, and to minimise injury risk, choose the correct weight! There are many variants of weight vests on the market today. Some are available as set weights, whilst others come with interchangeable weighted plates (like ours), allowing you to share the weight across your body, and over time.
With our vests, you have the ability to add or remove extra weight to suit your needs and running posture.

The piece of equipment you choose all comes down to individual preference. For best results, opt for a lighter version (especially if this is your first time using a weighted vest) and add additional weights as you progress in your training. The weights vary from five pounds to 50 pounds, with 80 pounds being one of the heaviest weight vests available.

For running, a weight vest weighing between five and 10 pounds is highly recommended. Unless you’re a professional athlete or ultra runner, anything more could prove an injury risk. For best results speak to a trainer before investing in a vest.

Make sure your vest fits you

Another important consideration? The fit of the vest and your running posture. This isn’t a case of one size fits all, as all bodies are different. A 6-foot man would never invest in the same vest as a 5 foot 2 woman. The majority of basic vests on the market are available in small, medium, and large sizes. Certain editions can be adjusted to the person wearing them using Velcro or toggle straps.

Prior to purchasing a weighted vest, measure yourself! To determine the width, measure your chest by lifting your arms slightly. If looking to invest in a compression vest, choose the smallest width for a snug fit - around 4 inches less than your actual chest measurement.

Get in the right headspace

When it comes to working out, most are familiar with walking and running. These two exercises are one of the easiest ways to get a simple workout in, and neither requires a trip to the gym. If you're a fan of endurance training, you’re likely already familiar with using weighted vests when running.

Asides from adding a layer of warmth throughout the winter months, a weighted vest promises to burn more calories than usual, whilst increasing your balance and core strength. However, running with weight is a lot harder than running without. It can take a little while to get used to, which is why it’s important to start small.

Before your workout, get in the right headspace. Listen to tunes that boost your performance, wear the right kit, choose the right day (running in a storm will only add to the sufferance), and fuel your body with the right foods.

Other top tips include investing in the services of a pro trainer, running with friends, and watching training videos online. You can even download a motivational fitness app! These handy tools offer tips on exercise intensity, wearing a weight vest, weights, performance levels, and workouts suited to all abilities.

Does running with a weight vest build muscle?

Weighted vests boast numerous benefits - one of them? Building muscle. Obviously, the actual load you carry will make a difference, but a heavier load, although makes your muscles stronger, it will leave you open to an increase in injury risk.

However, if your sport is CrossFit, then using a vest for running is part and parcel of your monthly WOD's (Workout of the Day).

CrossFit requires athletes to undertake weighted training almost daily, but when it comes to running, things are often done on rounds for time to exhaustion.

Here are a handful of WOD's that require running: 

Murph: one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and another one-mile run

Manion: 7 rounds for time – 400m run, 29 back squats

Nancy: 5 rounds for time – 400m run, 15 overhead squats

Nicole: 20-minute AMRAP – 400m run, max pull ups

Rosa: 5 rounds for time – 10 handstand push ups, 400m run

But if CrossFit isn't your thing, another way to train is the by simply splitting your training sessions up into defined types, for example:

Day 1: Strength & conditioning

Day 2: Long interval run of 4 x 1 mile, 5 minute rest.

Day 3: Weight lifting + short interval run 4 x 200m, 3 minute rest

Day 4: Mobility or bodyweight workout

Day 5: 6 mile run with no intervals

So basically, break the runs up i.e. 1st time / long intervals, 2nd time / short intervals, 3rd time / long run. By doing this you mix things up with both the longer and the shorter workout.

Is running with a weighted vest beneficial?

Providing your fitness levels are good, and you know how to use a weight vest, running with this piece of equipment can prove a huge benefit to your workout. Why? A weight vest heightens both training intensity and leg strength when running, which increases heart rate, caloric expenditure, and oxygen consumption.

On top of this, weight vest training adds an additional element to your everyday workout routine, through conditioning our bodies and boosting bone mass. This is an asset to athletes wishing to lower the risk of stress fractures.

Is it hard to run with a weight vest?

If you've never used this training tool before, and don't use weights to train in general, you'll likely find running with a weighted vest difficult the first few times.
It's recommended you start small as your joints won't be used to handling a heavy load. Running with a lot of weight increases the stress on your body, which can prove an injury risk.

Is running with a weighted vest bad for your knees?

If you have had knee problems in the past and you want to start running again, a weight vest isn't the best option for you. The additional resistance can worsen existing ailments, causing more stress. If the injuries are temporary, allow them to heal fully before using this training tool. If long-term, consider a different form of exercise such as resistance training or use lighter weighted vests.
You can also invest in specialist footwear to combat knee pain when running, and opt for shorter workouts, such as walks or a 5K run on softer surfaces including the beach or a track.

How long can you wear a weighted vest?

This depends on your ability and your training routine. And whilst they massively increase your strength and endurance, it's best to start with some small workouts and build these up over time. The more you train, the stronger you will get.
If you run at a high speed, wearing the vest often but for shorter periods is recommended. If you're a distance runner, who performs at a slower speed, you can wear the vest form longer.
Most who run with weighted vests do so for 30–60 minutes at a time, removing the vest for one hour in between activities. It's important to avoid removing the vest mid-way through a run, as this can cause you to lose balance. This is especially true if you're training for an event such as a half marathon. Whilst they might help you when running faster and improve your running speed, they can also lead to injury if you're starting to tire and you're hitting your lactate threshold.

Can you walk in a weighted vest?

When exercising with weight vests, you can use them for a variety of activities, including walking, simple body weight training, and of course, running.
If you're a weight vest newbie, my advice for training would be to take it for a walk before attempting a run. This will allow you to establish the feel and weight of the vest.

Do you need to clean a weighted vest?

As with all exercise equipment, it’s important to clean your weight vest after use, irrespective of whether you’ve been for a short run or a longer run.

You can do this by spot cleaning the plate carrier with a mild detergent and soft cloth. Household dish soap combined with water works well, providing you wipe some of the excess water away as you clean the vest.

If your vest is heavily soiled or stained, you can use a toothbrush to clean tricky areas of the weighted vest, using a gentle scrubbing motion.

Alex Nicholas
Alex Nicholas

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