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Weighted vests can offer many benefits but you may want other options. What are some alternatives to weighted vests with similar benefits?
A weighted vest is simply a vest with some weight, often sand, added to it. You can wear a weighted vest to make many exercises in your current workout routine harder.
Among other benefits, you can use weighted vests to strengthen muscles at home or in the gym, they allow you to add resistance without using your hands, they have an even weight distribution, etc.
Whether you don’t enjoy using a weighted vest, you want a cheaper alternative, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these weighted vest alternatives can help you train similar areas of your health in a similar way.
Keep in mind that implementing these alternatives can offer benefits but like while using any exercise equipment, there is always some risk of injury. Make sure you use these equipment options in a safe way and if needed, get guidance from an expert.
1. Resistance bands
Resistance bands are an inexpensive type of fitness equipment that are basically elastic cords. These do not look like weighted vests in any way but they can actually benefit your workouts in similar ways.
Some examples where you can use resistance bands instead of a weighted vest include weighted pushups, weighted pull-ups, weighted dips, and the weighted version of more standard exercises like squats and lunges.
Resistance bands are even more useful than a weighted vest in certain ways. They allow you to make movements at basically any angle more challenging.
That means the potential for tricep, hip abductor, hip adductor, hamstring, etc. isolation. Additionally, good loop resistance bands can help you work up to a full pull-up or dip if these are currently too challenging.
On top of that, some of the other benefits of resistance bands are that they are relatively inexpensive, easy to store, and very portable.
One downside is that resistance bands are not the type of fitness equipment you can use for the rest of your life. At least every few years you will need to replace the last set with new resistance bands.
For certain exercises you may also need a resistance band anchor. Lastly, unlike weighted vests, you cannot use resistance bands to make cardio exercises like walking, running, and jumping rope harder.
Resistance bands are not the perfect weighted vest alternative, but they can offer the same benefits in many training situations, and even more benefits in others.
2. Heavy backpack
A weighted vest is not the only type of weight you can hang on your body. Many people forget that they have something that can do the same somewhere at home.
You can load a sturdy backpack with heavy things like books and wear it during certain exercises. For exercises like pull-ups, pushups, and dips this can have a relatively similar effect on your training as a weighted vest.
Besides that, a benefit of this weighted vest alternative is that it is a lot cheaper.
One thing to keep in mind is that backpacks often have a lower weight limit. Not many models can offer the same amount of resistance as a good weighted vest. You don’t want to break your backpack and have to buy a weighted vest anyway.
Backpacks also generally don’t have the same even and non-bouncing weight distribution. This can make a heavy backpack less comfortable and not suited for exercises like running and jumping rope.
3. Steel chains
It is not the first piece of equipment most people think of when hearing the word workout but steel chains can be a great alternative to weighted vests in many ways.
As the name implies, steel chains are simply heavy chains. In a fitness context, you can wrap these around your body to do certain types of exercises with more resistance.
The main exercises where these can replace weighted vests include pull-ups, pushups, and dips.
Something where steel chains can offer more benefits than a weighted vest is lifting other weights. For example, you can use steel chains as a barbell accessory.
Simply wrap one end of a steel chain on each side of the loaded barbell and do your exercise. As you lift the bar higher, more of the steel chain comes off the ground.
This leads to more resistance at the top of the movement and more constant tension throughout the exercise.
Another benefit of this option is that steel chains last a long time and can in turn benefit many workouts.
One potential downside of steel chains is that they are relatively expensive. If you are looking for a cheaper weighted vest alternative, some of the other options on the list are likely better.
4. Dip belt
The dip exercise is an exercise where you put your hands on horizontal bars, lower yourself, and raise yourself back up. This exercise has a similar issue as pull-ups and pushups. Because your hands are needed elsewhere, they cannot hold weight.
One of the relatively unique benefits of a weighted vest is that it can help you overcome this challenge. Even so, a weighted vest is not the only piece of equipment that can do this.
Instead you can use a dip belt which is a belt you can attach weights to that goes around your waist. This is a great equipment option to do weighted dips and pull-ups.
A benefit of dip belts is that they are cheaper than weighted vests.
One thing to keep in mind is that you do need extra weights to attach to the dip belt. Besides that, check the weight limit of the different models so that your choice can hold the weight you intend to use.
5. Ankle weights
Ankle weights are simply straps with some extra weight that are attached to your ankles. Similar to the previous two weighted vest alternatives, ankle weights are great in the sense that they are extra weights that you don’t have to hold in your hands.
Additionally, they can be used in a variety of exercises for many different body parts. Ankle weights are relatively inexpensive, easy to store, and very portable.
On the other hand, ankle weights are different in a few important ways from a weighted vest.
One of the downsides is that ankle weights generally only come in light weights compared to weighted vests and some of the other weights on this list.
Due to the location of the weight, you can’t use ankle weights to make pushups harder.
You can run with ankle weights but the weight distribution is a lot less natural compared to a weighted vest.
On the flip side, these differences can also be positive. Because your legs hold the weight, ankle weights can be helpful for inner thigh, outer thigh, and core exercises. Weighted vests are relatively lacking for these body parts.
A dumbbell is a typical piece of fitness equipment that is basically a handle with a weight on each side. This is definitely not a weighted vest alternative that can be used in the exact same way.
However, that does not mean dumbbells are not a good piece of fitness equipment. Dumbbells are one of the best types of free weights for a variety of resistance training exercises.
Additionally dumbbells, especially two of them, generally come at higher weights than a weighted vest. This can be important for individuals more experienced with resistance training.
You can even clamp a dumbbell between your legs to make pull-ups and dips weighted. On top of that, a partner can keep a dumbbell in place on your back during pushups.
Besides that, another benefit of dumbbells is that they last a very long time without much reduction in value.
A potential disadvantage is that dumbbells often require a slightly bigger investment, even compared to a quality weight vest. Dumbbells are also not convenient to use in exercises like running and jumping rope.