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The Best Weighted Vest Exercises

November 16, 2021 6 min read

Once upon a time exercising with a weighted vest was thought/assumed to be part of the fitness routine of elite special forces soldiers and the insane, however, over the years and with a massive thanks to CrossFit training, weighted vests have become an effective training tool as functional exercise has exploded in popularity.

Obstacle course racers use them to boost stamina. CrossFitters use them to make already unpleasant workouts almost unbearable, helping them develop bulletproof physiques in the process. Now everyday exercisers are using them to add a new dimension to home workouts.

Weighted vests saw a boom in usage thanks to lockdown while gyms are closed, and millions of gym-goers were desperate to carry on working out.

However, both beginners and experienced athletes should exercise caution when using them, especially when running, skipping, or performing gymnastics moves like pull-ups that are hard enough without strapping iron plates to your torso.

Can you build muscle with a weighted vest?

Absolutely, yes. However, using a weighted vest while working out, puts your bones and muscles under extra strain. They respond by building more bone and muscle mass, which creates denser bones, connective tissue, stronger muscles, and an overall stronger musculoskeletal system. But remember to increase your weight gradually and consistently over time, because if you train with the same weight of vest for a long period of time, your body will adapt to the resistance and you will stop seeing results.

But before you open your wallet and get ordering, remember this if you're a beginner. Your body needs to be used to controlling its own load before adding extra weight, so get used to doing your routines, such as handstands, ring pull-ups, and muscle-ups, etc before you put a training vest on.

And once you do add a weight vest to your workouts, start with low reps and sets, plus plenty of rest, and see how your body reacts.

What Exercises Can I Perform With A Weighted Vest?

Now on to the fun part and the reason you are here. What are some of the exercises that I can perform whilst wearing my weighted vest. 

Well, I'm glad you asked! We've already written a couple of other articles that can help you with your upper body bodyweight exercises and bodyweight exercises for legs, so be sure to check them out, too.

After you've checked out the exercises below, obviously!

So in this article, I'm going to go through a few different exercises that are a little different from normal and will challenge your muscles no end and build explosive speed. So strap on your training vest and see what you're made of.

And if you want to push things even further, make each workout “for time”, which means you need to complete everything as quickly as possible (and safely, don’t lose your technique and form and end up hurting yourself). It makes the workout eminently repeatable to see if you’re fitter and stronger.

But first...

How to choose the right weighted vest to exercise in

There are a number of things to look out for when choosing your weight vest.

  1. You need a versatile vest that can be used for everything from strength training to cardio sessions to a 45-minute walk and it must be an adjustable weight vest in two ways. You must be able to adjust the waist straps to fit your torso, and you need to be able to add additional weight to it. And this is exactly what you can do with our affordable vest.
  2. It should be a compact size, so that you can pick almost any form of exercise and perform it correctly and go through the full range of motion that each exercise demands.
  3. It must be a comfortable vest, therefore the shoulder straps need to have extra padding because of the additional weight that you'll be carrying. And with ours, you get additional padded support on the chest and back panels, too.
  4. You must be able to change the additional load that the vest can carry. For example, our tactical vest allows you to add additional plates depending on your fitness level and activity. This will vary from person to person and will change if you're performing a hill sprint compared to push-ups or a WOD where you're completing rounds for time. 

The best body weight exercises for weighted vest training

Ok, on to some of just a wide range of weighted vest workouts that will challenge the performance of even a professional athlete and will assist you in building muscular strength gains from your core muscles to your fast twitch speed muscles.

The range of exercises I've listed are a type of fitness training that will test every fitness level. Some are explosive movements that are great at building muscle whilst some are aerobic activities that test your cardio capacity.

Exercise #1 The Pull-Up

For this workout it doesn't matter how you grip the pull-up bar, you can either do your set with your palms facing you or facing away from you.

The aim here is to go for a lower rep count and focus on time under tension. So aim for 5 pull-ups but make them so and controlled, with you core nice and tight. This is eccentric strength at it's finest and the staple diet of many strength workouts.

Exercise #2 Beast Walks/Bear Crawls

Beast walks really test your body mechanics because of the angle of body and the stress it puts on each shoulder joint and your core, with the main areas worked being the forearms, shoulders and triceps.

Start in the press-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width (for extra balance). Then slowly crawl forward 

This is one of those bodyweight workouts that allows you to really feel the external load of the weighted vest and puts your agility to the test.

You will quickly start to feel shoulder fatigue so make sure you have a set rest time in between sets.

Exercise #3 Ring Pull-Ups

Ring pull-ups are slightly different from bar pull-ups in the sense that your body weight is starting and finishing in a different position, plus the rings move slightly so it's easier on your wrists.

For this however, I like to use heavier weights in my vest and count to 3 on the way up, and then count to 3 again on the way down. That way the entire movement is controlled and my muscles work much harder.

Alternatively, you can do them with an explosive pull-up, and a controlled drop (like the video).

Exercise #4 Burpees (sorry, they had to put in an appearance...)

Ok we all no that burpees suck big time and are hated by men and women alike, but I couldn't leave them out. 

Burpees are one of the cardio activities that end up being a test of lung capacity as much as anything. So in your starting position with feet shoulder-width apart, jump whilst raising your hands to the back of your head, then down to almost the squat position, then on to you stomach and back up. 

Aim for between 5 to 10 rounds with a lighter vest (you can add more weight to the vest as you get fitter) and look to set a time that you can consistently match or beat. And if you want to add a little more suck to this exercise, why not add in 10 push-ups after each round.

Exercise #5 Sit-Ups

Another tried and trusted exercise is the humble sit up. A simple core strengthening move that has many benefits, including: Core strength, improved muscle mass, better balance and stability, improved posture and reduced risk back pain.

Whilst you may be more inclined to do this exercise with your feet anchored under something, you can add an extra dimension to your set by doing it from a declined position, as demonstrated in the video.

Exercise #6 Mountain Climber From Plank Position

Another core crushing exercise that is guaranteed to destroy your abs is the mountain climber. And whilst at some point in your exercise cycles you've probably at least tried the plank, I bet not many will have given the mountain climber a go.

Start in a high plank position, quickly pull your left knee to your chest, and then extend it back out as you draw your right leg into your chest. Keep your butt as stable as possible and avoid sagging into your shoulders.

For extra oblique work, do mountain climber twists: Bring each knee underneath you to the opposite elbow, and the quicker you move, the better the cardio workout, just don't sacrifice your form.

Exercise #6 Elbows To Hands In Plank Position

The last of the core/abs exercises is the elbows to hands from the plank position. 

As with the mountain climber, start in the high plank position with your feet a little wider than your hands, take one hand down, followed by the other hand until your on both elbows, then return back up to the plank position by pushing back up, one hand at a time.

Make sure that your back, butt and legs are straight when going through each repetition and that your glutes and abs are braced.

Alex Nicholas
Alex Nicholas



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