If there is one advantage overweight people have over those of a normal weight when it comes to fitness, it’s that the more you weigh, the more calories you burn doing the same amount of work. Ask yourself: What is easier? Walking up a flight of stairs, or walking up a flight of stairs with a refrigerator strapped to your back?
While toting household appliances may be a bit extreme, you can get the same benefits of adding weight to your body for a more intense workout by using a weighted vest- a piece of fitness equipment designed for just such results. Unfortunately, most people either haven’t heard of them, or think they are just for hardcore athletes, when in actuality, they are great for even the fitness beginner.
Different types of weight vests are made for different activities. Some vests have a sleek design, like this one from Altus Athletic, which are less restrictive of movement and made for sports and activities that require more range of motion in the arm, such as throwing a ball or swinging a golf club. Other vests, like this one from GoFit, have broader shoulders, which is more comfortable for walking and running. Cardio becomes more taxing on the body when you must propel more weight, and your leg muscles will become stronger and more toned, especially when traveling uphill, than if you were walking with your own body weight alone.
Strength training can also be greatly improved by using a weighted vest. We all know dumbbells are traditionally used to increase intensity, but for some exercises, holding dumbbells in your hands can negatively effect your form by pulling your shoulders forward so you drop your chest. Also, for combination exercises like lunges with bicep curls, the weight of a pair of dumbbells may be enough to max out your arms during the curl, but your legs can handle 20-30 pounds more resistance during the lunge. You don’t want to short change yourself, so this is where a vest/dumbbell combo is ideal.
There are many advantages to using a weighted vest in an everyday workout, but vests are also a secret weapon for athletes. Added weight allows athletes to improve their speed without sacrificing mobility. Extra weight trains your body to think you are heavier than you are, so when the weight is removed, your body will still perform more explosively and at a higher speed because it thinks it needs to produce more force to move you. Wearing a weighted vest while performing explosive exercises, like plyometrics, is a common training method for serious and professional athletes.
Vests are great for just about everyone, but there are a few things you should be aware of. First off, of course, if you have knee or joint problems that will be exacerbated by added weight, check with your doctor before strapping one on. From a sheer comfort standard, the heavier the vest, the more the pressure on your shoulders- just like with a backpack or purse stuffed to the gills. This discomfort can become even worse when you begin jumping and moving around so start out with a light weight for your first workout and adjust accordingly.
As with any fitness product, there are quite a few options to choose from. Weight vests usually come in a range of 10-80 pounds, but some brands, like this one from ZFO Sports, allow you to increase and decrease the weight with removable weight plates – a smart investment, as you will get stronger and need more resistance. Trust the fit, though: comfort is everything with a weighted vest so try on as many as you can, move around in them and make sure the one you pick fits snuggly around your abdomen with as little movement as possible.
top image via fitter1.com