Find out how to do squats with a weighted vest, what their benefits are, and whether they are worth it compared to alternatives.
Weighted vest squats are basically the same as the bodyweight version in terms of technique.
On the other hand, the extra resistance does offer benefits like more muscle growth potential, faster workouts, and better bone density.
At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that you will need a relatively heavy weighted vest to see optimal results from your squats.
This is a downside because it is hard to get a heavy weighted vest in the right position.
At least compared to alternatives like squats with a barbell, workout sandbag, or heavy resistance bands.
So if you don’t have the budget, storage space, or preference for more effective resistance alternatives, weighted vest squats can be great.
Table of Contents
How to do squats with a weighted vest
Take the following steps to do squats with a weighted vest:
- Strap on your weighted vest with the desired amount of weight. This will depend on your training goals and capacities.
- Stand upright with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
- Slowly lower your hips as far as you comfortably can by folding your knees. Keep your knees above your feet. You can tilt your upper body forward for balance but keep your spine straight.
- Push yourself up again in a controlled motion until your legs are slightly less than stretched again.
In simpler words, weighted vest squats are very similar to the regular bodyweight version in terms of technique.
Beginners mainly want to keep in mind to keep their knees above their feet and spine straight.
It is typically also smart to start with just bodyweight squats before adding a light weighted vest.
You also want to play it safe in terms of how far you lower your body.
Can you do barbell squats with a weighted vest?
While I’m not sure about the reasons why, some people are interested in doing barbell squats with a weighted vest.
In theory, this could allow you to stay more upright which could feel more comfortable in your lower back.
In practice, the difference with or without weighted vest will likely not be that big.
At the same time, adding a weighted vest to your barbell squats should also not hurt as long as it does not get in the way.
You can try this variation to see how much you like it.
Can you do dumbbell squats with a weighted vest?
Doing dumbbell squats with a weighted vest makes slightly more sense with the upper weight limit of dumbbells and/or your grip muscles.
In simpler words, a weighted vest allows you to add more resistance to dumbbell squats in a relatively convenient way.
For strong individuals who don’t have access to a barbell or workout sandbag, this can mean some extra results.
Benefits of squats with a weighted vest
Some of the main benefits of squats with a weighted vest are:
- More muscle growth: You need to challenge your muscles enough to cause growth. With the strong muscles squats work, extra resistance like a weighted vest will be more than welcome.
- Hands-free resistance: Some weighted squat variations like barbell squats require you to put your arms in positions certain people find uncomfortable. In cases like this, a weighted vest could be a better choice.
- More muscle strength potential: Training muscle strength typically requires a lot of resistance. Weighted vest squats make this easier to achieve.
- Often adjustable resistance: Weighted vests often have adjustable resistance which is great for slowly challenging your muscles more as they get stronger.
- Reasonably priced: While there are cheaper options like resistance bands too, a weighted vest is a reasonably budget-friendly way to make squats more challenging.
- Versatile: This benefit won’t influence your squat workouts but you can use your weighted vest for other exercises too. In turn, one investment improves your workout routine in a variety of ways.
- Better bone density: Similar to your muscles, your bones can get stronger by safely pressuring them. By adding a weighted vest to squats, this will happen to a larger extent than the bodyweight version.
Some of these positive points of weighted vest squats are related to relatively unique benefits of weighted vests.
Others are somewhat common/standard for other types of resistance too.
Muscles worked when doing squats with a weighted vest
Similar to other variations with weights, weighted vest squats mainly work your quadriceps (front thighs), glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thighs), erector spinae (lower back), and calves.
If you want to get really detailed, you could say weighted vest squats likely focus slightly more on your quadriceps and slightly less on your glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae than a barbell back squat with the same weight.
This is because the weight of the vest is positioned slightly more forward.
In turn, you can keep your upper body more upright without falling down.
This will require your glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae to work slightly less.
The slightly different muscle engagement is not necessarily better or worse for everyone.
Whether you prefer weighted vest squats or other variations with weights will depend on details like your training goals, budget, and storage space.
Is it safe to do squats with a weighted vest?
Similar to other variations with weights, it is safe to do squats with a weighted vest if you use the right technique and don’t overdo it with weight and range of motion.
To play things safe, you want to start with regular bodyweight squats and a small range of motion.
If this goes well, you can consider adding a light weighted vest and slowly increase the weight and range of motion over time.
It is generally smart to take things slowly, a few slightly less optimal workouts are often better than being out a few weeks due to an injury.
Are weighted vests good for squats?
Weighted vests are reasonably good for squats but it is also fair to say that there are better resistance options.
The main disadvantage is that it can be hard to get a very heavy weighted vest in position.
And this will generally be necessary since squats involve some of the strongest muscles you have.
In turn, weighted vest squats will either be less optimal or less convenient than certain weighted vest alternatives like for example a barbell or workout sandbag.
At the same time, weighted vests can still help you get many of the benefits of squats to a larger extent.
Their versatility and reasonably budget-friendly price are nice upsides too.
Additionally, no matter what weighted variation you choose, keep in mind that you need to implement the right squat sets and reps to see your desired results.