Best Weighted Vests

Updated: Aug 14

The fitness benefits, how to apply them and product review

‘Russian father sews weights into the clothing of his baby daughter!’ ran one headline of a news feed I was mindlessly scrolling through. But it sure grabbed my attention. I started reading - eagerly. It transpired that an over-enthusiastic father thought he could transform his daughter into a modern day Amazonian by stitching fishing weights into the seams of her clothes. Only a Russian would conceive of such an idea. I bet she was weaned on kettlebell swings and vodka.


But did it work? Did this father’s eccentric strength-building methodology yield the desired results?


A few thumb scrolls down and we see his daughter 18 years on. She’s hench, shredded and holds numerous national women’s strength titles. The picture shows her hoisting high a beaten and battered kettlebell whilst wearing a steely stare.


Are these coveted physical attributes the fruits of a father’s wayward parenting practices? Perhaps. But even if increasing the weight of his dhter’s clothing isn’t directly responsible for her superior strength it couldn’t have done any harm.


Is this going anywhere?

Yes – I think. The Russian father realised that by increasing his daughter’s overall body mass her muscular system would, over time, compensate. What he’d effectively done is to artificially increase her strength to weight ratio.


In our own pursuit for augmented physicality we can emulate the Russian father’s weird wisdom. With a weighted vest we too can stimulate the same strength gains without the added irritation of having to sew hundreds of weights into our clothes.


What are the reported benefits of training in a weighted vest?

This question can be summed in a simple maxim: train hard fight easy! Let’s imagine for a moment that you’re a boxer. It doesn’t matter if you’re not, we’re merely supposing for illustrative purposes. If you were to train every session encased in your weighted vest – skipping in your weighted vest, shadow boxing in your weighted vest, bag and pad work in your weighted vest (hell, perhaps even sparring in your weighted vest – though not body sparring) – your musculature will over-compensate and when fight night comes around, and you step in the ring 10-plus Kgs lighter, you really are going to float like a butterfly. Can’t guarantee that you’ll sting like a bee unfortunately.


Other reported benefits include:

  • Improved power to weight ratio

  • Increased strength

  • Improved performance times

  • Enhanced stamina


When should I wear a weighted vest?

Whenever you want! Taking the dog for a walk? Wear your weighted vest. Popping down the local shop for a carton of oat milk? Pop your vest on before you go. Getting off the couch to raid the fridge? Vest! Off to your salsa dance club for an evening of . . . you get the idea.


However, weighted vests are best worn when engaging in exercise. I wear a weighted vest during long cycles in the hope of increasing my power to weight ratio. Over the past ten years professional cycling has gone power to weight ratio mad; more accurately: watts to kilogram. This has become the premium mobile of performance metrics and it alone can accurately predict a professional cyclist's placement in the general classifications.


By cycling with a weighted vest I’m purposely decreasing the watt-to-Kg ratio thus placing a greater physical demand on my body. Over time, so the theory goes, this will increase not only power I can exert but also my stamina. Meaning that when I go cycling without a vest I should be able to maintain greater speed for longer.


The same tactic can be applied to calisthenics and other cardiovascular exercises. Prior to pounding the tarmac you could don your vest for that add kick. Or wear it when you attend Thursday evening’s body pump circuit class. Irrespective of what physical activity you plan to engage in you have the option of making it that little bit harder with a weighted vest (with the exclusion of swimming of course).


Weighted Vests – there’s really only two options

Before purchasing quite possibly the heaviest item of clothing you’re ever likely to own, you should firstly weigh up which type of vest will best suit you training objectives and exercise discipline. The two types are: 1) full vest and 2) half vest. Ok, so the options aren’t as complicated as deciding which investment vehicle is best for your pension plan. But, even when buying a weighted vest, we still do not want to make the wrong decision, especially when we could be spending hours each week wearing it. I will briefly look at each one in turn.


1: Full vest: these rather look like the waistcoats snooker players wear. The only difference being, instead of finding a pork scratching and a crumpled packet of Lambert and Butler in the pockets, you’ll find an assortment of iron bars or led shot-filled bean bags. The full vest completely covers your torso rather like a tortoise’s shell. What are the benefits of this design? You have the option of including more weight for one. The weight is evenly distributed around the back and chest for two. And, for three, they can fit more securely – which is an important factor. The last thing you want when out on a run is your vest bobbing up and down. Downsides? They can feel a somewhat restrictive and place pressure on a certain part of the anatomy of the fairer sex.


Moving on swiftly . . .


2: Half vest: is exactly that – half of the full vest. Whereas with the full vest weights are located at the front and rear, with the half vest they are located solely at the back. The benefits? A half vest is certainly more favourable for exercises such as running and cycling; on account of the fact that they do not restrict the expansion of the chest when you’re desperately gulping in air. In addition, they do not present the same problem mentioned in the final sentence of the previous paragraph. Downsides? Limited weight capacity.



Quick FAQ - Three frequently asked weighted vest-related questions answered!


Can weighted vests cause back pain?

If you front-load the vest - that is: put the weights in the front pockets and fail to evenly distribute them - and if you over-load the vest then yes, it is quite possible that pain could manifest in the lumbar region of your back. It is for this reason why, if you are new to using a weighted vest, you should keep the load low, to start off with, and ensure to space the weights around the vest.



Does wearing weighted vests build muscle?

Probably not in any meaningful way no. Let me briefly clarify that rather vague answer. To build muscle, to gain size and mass, the weight must be high, the reps low and rest long. The best way to satisfy this simple muscle building equation is to use heavy training equipment which is typically located in a gym. However, a weighted vest could certainly help you make marginal size gains. For example, you could, when performing a heavy squat or dead lift, don your weighted vest for that extra kick.



Are weighted vests worth it?

That's a difficult question to tackle. Really the answer hinges on how serious you are with your training and how much difference to your life a slight improvement in physicality will make. If you're the type of trainer who enjoys exercise as a means of stress relief, or you do it because the government recommends that you should, then a weighted vest would be a waste of money. This is a fitness accessory for the hardcore trainer who is always striving to eek out that 1% gain.



Right, now that you know about the strange antics of a Russian father, how weighted vests can increase strength and the two different types, I suppose we ought to take a gander at:


The Top 5 Rated Vests!


Follow me . . .


1: Surreal Weighted Vest: this is a well rated product that has made people put on weight without making them depressed about the fact. The vast majority of the reviews comment favourably on the quality and durability of this weighted vest; even the reviews that aren’t so favourable still can’t deny the superior build quality of this product. So what’s so good about it? For starters this is one reasonably priced vest.


Many of its competitors are 20-plus pounds more expensive yet offer no additional features. Another positive about Surreal’s weighted vest is that the weights are sandbags as opposed to iron bars. The problem with iron bars is that they have a tendency to move about and/or work their way out of the pockets. Sandbags not only fit more snugly but they also flex and contort as you move; eminently a good thing when you’re performing a set of 20 crunches.


£69.99

139 reviews at 4.5 stars


What customers are saying

Favourable

- Good functional weighted vest

- Great product

- Value for money

Not so favourable

- Does its job but hurts the shoulders

Product Overview

· Evenly distributed Weights, Removable Sand Bags, Adjustable Velcro Straps

· Additional Shoulder Padding & Strap for Durability and Comfort

· One Size Fits All, Padded design for comfort and mobility

· Vest does not absorb sweat

· Weight options: 5kg, 10kg, 15kg




Click on image for availability




2: RDX Adjustable Weighted Vest: RDX are well known for producing high quality, affordable fitness equipment. With this weighted vest they’ve once again proved why they’re still a market leader and favourite amongst fitness enthusiasts. The vast majority of the reviews comment positively on the superior durability and design of RDX’s adjustable weighted vest.



Other favourable features of note include the flexible panels, which move with your body, and the removable weights. This, I think, is a must attribute amongst vests. A fixed weight vest is only ever going to constrict and limit application. But one where you can remove or add weights will enable you to tailor the resistance to suit the session objectives – whether they be strength, muscular endurance or stamina.


£58.99

187 reviews at 4 stars


Favourable

- Good weighted vest

- Solid product

Not so favourable

- Is a bit tricky to get on

Product Overview

· RDX innovative Hyper technology patent pending vest with Flex panels

· 18kg vests are adjustable with removable weights to suit your needs

· No weight is placed uncomfortable on your shoulder blades

· Soft padded backing we guarantee the RDX vest to be the most comfortable

· Patent pending hyper design keep weight away from arms. One size fits all



Click on image for availability




3: WeRSports XTR Weighted Vest: of the bunch WeRSports’ weighted vest is by far the best rated. Customers who reviewed this product commented on its durability and quality construction. These are important features that we should look for in a weighted vest. For this is one piece of training kit that tends to take a battering during exercise sessions. If they are made from substandard materials then they’ll end up peeling apart like banana skin; not what you want when you’re hulking yourself into a muscle-up. By all accounts this is something you won’t have to worry about with WeRSports’ weighted vest.


£69.99

221 reviews at 4.5 stars


Favourable

- Good product

- Durable piece of kit

Not so favourable

- Very effective but cuts into shoulders after prolonged use

- A good vest but the weights can sometimes ‘remove themselves’

Product Overview

- One Size Fits All

- Will Not Absorb Sweat

- This Can Be Used With Any Exercise.

- Ultra Soft Padding

- 1 Year Warranty






Click on image for availability



4: Adidas Weighted Vest: If you’ve ever fantasised about re-enacting that scene from the film Commando, the one where Arnie Schwarzenegger is indiscriminately unleashing blind fury through the short end of an M60 whilst tossing grenades into flower beds, well then this is the vest for you. From an aesthetic prospective this is the best of a boring bunch. So even at the end of that body pump class when you’re a blubbering wreck who's starting to melt into blancmange, you’ll still maintain some street cred.


But how does it perform functionally? Well, if customer reviews are anything to go by, this is an extremely durable bit of kit that'll endure any amount of punishment you dare throw at it. Another feature of note, besides the fact that you’ll strike the appearance of a Starship Trooper, is the Velcro straps, fastening buckle and full length zipper. When you strap on this bad boy you’ll feel indestructible and whether it's plyometric jumps or bastods on the menu, Adidas’ vest will cling to you like s@#t to a blanket.


£89.31

159 reviews at 4.5 stars


Favourable

- Quality product

- Strong and comfortable

- Built to last

Not so favourable

- Split in one of the pockets

Product Overview

- The premium Adidas weighted vest has been designed and developed with input from adidas' athletes to bring you the optimum vest on the market to effectively ramp up your cardio and bodyweight workouts

- Constructed from highly durable material.

- The secure velcro straps and elasticated buckle provide a comfortable and tailored fit, suitable for chest sizes from 38 to 50 Inch

- There are eight ergonomically placed weight packs, totalling 10 kg (more than 1.5 stone).

- A fully breathable lining with ventilation panels helps to wick sweat away to keep you cool and dry.

- There are two D-rings on the back that can be used to attach a resistance parachute to add even more resistance to your explosive sprints

Click on image for availability




5: Viavito Weighted Vest: as you’ll have probably noticed all the vests thus far reviewed are full vests. Viavito is one of the few companies that offers a decent half vest. Though the weight is fixed at 2.5kg, its one limitation, this is the perfect training aid for running and cycling sessions as it marginally increases body weight which means you’ll enjoy strength gains without barely knowing about it.


£29.99

55 reviews at 4.5 stars


Favourable

- Highly recommended

- Very good product

- Comfortable fit

Not so favourable

- Good vest but does move about a bit

Product Overview

· Increase calorie burn, strength and endurance

· Perfect for cycling, walking, running, cardio training, point exercises and more

· Hard wearing material designed to last; even weight distribution

· Easily adjustable for a comfortable fit; one Size fits most; hi-viz reflective strips

· Mesh back pocket for a water bottle; iron sand filling; weight 2.5kg (5.5lbs)



Click on image for availability




Conclusion

‘I appreciate the review,’ I can hear a couple in the audience mutter, ‘but what if I don’t want to shell out 60 large ones on a weighted vest, what options do I have?’ If you don’t have the dollar to dish out on a beefed-up waistcoat, which, by the way, I fully understand, then you can always improvise. For example, loading a rucksack with stones will deliver similar results. Alternatively, you can always do a couple of laps of the car park with your grocery shopping or follow in the footsteps of the Russian father and get sewing!



(As we are very interested in user feedback at Hungry4Fitness, I would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)

Blog Author

Adam Priest is a former Royal Marines Commando, professional personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.