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10 Of The Top Weighted Vest Exercises

You may realize that weighted vest workouts can offer you impressive benefits but what are some exercises you can do with a weighted vest?

A weighted vest is simply a vest with some weight, often sand, added to it. You can wear a weighted vest to make your current workout routine harder. This can in turn benefit muscle strength and other fitness components.

Before you add a weighted vest to exercises make sure you can easily do them without one. Weighted vest workouts can offer many benefits but they also increase your injury risk. When in doubt talk to an expert before doing exercises with a weighted vest.

Generally, you want your weighted vest to be about 4-10% of your body weight for exercises like running which involve a lot of jumping and shocks. For the resistance training exercises and low-impact exercises, you may be able to go heavier than that depending on your skill level.

That being said here are 10 weighted vest exercises to strengthen a wide variety of muscles and your cardiovascular system. You can start with these examples and think of new ones yourself, again always make sure your body is able to deal with the extra weight.

1. Squats

Squats are a resistance training exercise to strengthen your leg muscles. By adding extra weight in the form of a weighted vest, you can increase the amount of muscle mass you gain. To do a squat take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width.
  2. Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you want your hips to be at or lower than your knee height. You will likely have to bend forward for balance but keep your back in a straight line throughout the movement.
  3. Push yourself up again into starting position by stretching your legs.

You can also do other squat variations like the split squat and pistol squat with a weighted vest. These squat alternatives put most of your weight on one leg so they are more for individuals with resistance training experience.

2. Pull-ups

If you want to build back muscle, weighted pull-ups with a weighted vest may be what you are looking for. For many people regular pull-ups are challenging enough but at some point, you may need more of a challenge to keep building muscle. To do a pull-up take the following steps:

  1. Hang from a pull-up bar with your hands at about shoulder-width with your hand palms facing forward.
  2. Pull your body up slowly until your shoulders are the height of the bar.
  3. Lower your body again into starting position in a controlled motion.

Make sure the pull-up bar you use can handle the extra weight of the weighted vest. Some pull-up bars have a rather low weight limit.

Regular pull-ups are a great example, but you can also do other exercises with a pull-up bar and a weighted vest.

3. Pushups

Among other benefits, doing pushups with a weighted vest is a great way to grow your chest muscles. To do a pushup take the following steps:

  1. Start with your face facing the floor with your hand palms on the ground about shoulder-width apart and pointing forward. Your arms stretched, and your knees on the ground.
  2. Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line.
  3. Slowly fold your arms at your elbows until your face is close to the ground. Your arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees to your sides. Another way to put it is if someone is looking down at you from above your arms should make an arrow, not a T.
  4. Stretch your arms again until you are back in a straight arm plank position.

The way you do pushups influences what muscles you focus.

If you want to focus more on your tricep muscles you can do narrow-handed pushups. These are pushups where you place your hands closer together instead of at shoulder-width. Placing your hands further apart focuses more on your chest muscles.

On the other hand, if you want to focus more on your lower chest muscles you can do incline pushups which means placing your hands on an elevated surface. A decline pushup, a pushup with your feet elevated, focuses more on your upper chest muscles.

4. Dips

Weighted dips are the next exercise you can do with the help of a weighted vest. Although most people use equipment like dip bars for this exercise you can also do it with the help of things like chairs, benches, or a plyo box. To do a dip with dip bars take the following steps:

  1. Start with your hands at more or less at shoulder-width apart on the dip bars with stretched arms.
  2. Slowly bend your elbows until they are at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Raise yourself back to starting position in a controlled motion.

For many people, even regular dips are too challenging. If that’s the case you can start with dip alternatives until your muscles are strong enough for bodyweight dips and dips with a weighted vest.

The theme of this list is weighted vests but you can also do weighted dips with weighted vest alternatives like resistance bands, a dip belt, or steel chains.

5. Running

This next exercise is the first cardio-focused exercise on the list. Resistance training workouts are not the only exercises that can benefit from adding a weighted vest. By running with a weighted vest your cardiovascular system has to work harder. As long as you don’t overdo it this can help improve it faster.

One potentially big downside of running with weights is that the extra weight can be rough on your ankles, shins, knees, and back. That being said, a weighted vest is one of the best ways to run with external weights.

Generally, you want your weighted vest to be about 4-10% of your body weight. It is likely smart to start off with very light weights and if that goes well to slowly build up from there.

If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that running with a weighted vest is not for you.

6. Inverted row

A regular weight lifting row involves standing bent over and moving an external weight up and down. For this exercise wearing a weighted vest wouldn’t influence much. However, by doing an inverted row with equipment like dip bars, a weighted vest can help you build extra muscle.

To do an inverted row with a dip bar take the following steps:

  1. You start sitting down or lying with your back on the ground under the dip bars.
  2. Depending on what type of dip bar you are working with either put your hand in a neutral or overhanded position on the dip bar.
  3. Move your body so your arms are stretched, your knees are at about a 90-degree angle, and the rest of your body is in a straight line.
  4. Raise your body by slightly bending your elbows until your body reaches the bar. The goal is to mainly make your back muscles support this movement. Keep your arms close to your body, your body in a straight line, and your feet in the same position during the movement.
  5. Slowly lower yourself again until you are back in the position of the third step.

When done right the inverted row engages your back, bicep, and trap muscles.

7. Burpees

Burpees are the next exercise you can do with a weighted vest. This exercise will engage your cardiovascular system on top of a wide variety of muscles. To do a burpee take the following steps:

  1. Start from a standing position.
  2. Squat down and place your hands flat on the ground.
  3. Kick back your feet so you are in a plank position. Your arms should be stretched.
  4. Lower your body by folding your elbows until your face is close to the floor. Your arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees to your sides during this movement. Also make sure you keep your back straight.
  5. Push yourself back into a plank position by stretching your arms.
  6. Return to your previous squat position by kicking your feet to the front again.
  7. Jump up with your stretched arms pointing up.

In simple words you can describe burpees as a combination of a squat, pushup, and jump.

8. Lunges

If you are interested in strengthening your leg muscles, lunges with a weighted vest may be the right choice for you. You can describe lunges as taking steps so big that your front knee can stand at a 90-degree angle.

Compared to squats you will put more weight on each leg with lunges. Even more so when you add a weighted vest to the exercise. This makes it easier to build muscle with the same amount of weight available.

9. Walking

Walking is a popular form of exercise among other reasons because it is so convenient to fit into a busy schedule and because many people find it enjoyable. By walking with a weighted vest you can increase the number of calories you burn even if you walk the same distance and at the same speed.

A big factor in how many calories you burn during a workout is your weight. To move around your body needs energy, measured in calories. The more weight you carry, the more energy you need to fuel movement.

For example, a 155-pound (70 kg) person walking for 30 minutes at 3 mph (4.8 km/h) burns around 128 calories. On the other hand, a 185-pound (83 kg) person walking for 30 minutes at 3 mph (4.8 km/h) burns around 153 calories.

Because the shocks on your body are not as big as with running you can likely use heavier weights than the 4-10% of your body weight. That being said, it is still a case of rather safe than sorry. Start with light weights and build up from there.

10. Planks

Planks are another great example of an exercise where you can benefit from wearing a weighted vest. To do a plank take the following steps:

  1. Start with your face facing the floor on your elbows and knees.
  2. Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line. This means that your knees will be off the ground and that you are resting on your feet and elbows.
  3. Hold this position for an extended period of time.

Strengthening your core muscles, including your ab muscles, is the main use for planks. However, planks are a type of isometric exercise. In simpler words, this means that you engage your muscles in a more static way, without moving a lot. On the other hand, you have isotonic exercises where you engage your muscles in a dynamic way, by moving.

Isotonic exercises are generally more useful for building muscle. That means that other ab exercises are generally more helpful for building ab muscle than planks.

In any case, wearing a weighted vest while doing plank exercises can generally help you strengthen your core muscles more than doing plank exercises without one.