How to Work Out with a Weighted Vest

A weighted vest is a fantastic and highly underutilized workout tool.  I noticed tremendous results
shortly after starting to use one, after a lifetime of working out with conventional free weights and machines. In this post, I’ll go over how to use a weighted vest, I’ll share the best exercises to do, and I’ll provide tips on where to find one.

A weighted vest can be used for cardiovascular exercise and bodyweight strength exercises.


Any cardiovascular exercise can be intensified by adding a weighted vest.  Doing so will burn more
calories, raise your heart rate more, and provide a greater stimulus to your muscles.

A drawback to wearing a weighted vest is that it increases the stress on your joints.  For that reason, I don’t recommend doing any high impact cardio with a vest on.  No running, jumping rope, jumping jacks, burpees, etc.  It’s not worth messing up your hips, knees, or elbows.  I wouldn’t bike with a weighted vest either due to the risk of lower back strain.

Good cardio choices are walking, the elliptical machine, and the stairmaster/stepmill.  My personal
favorite is walking on a treadmill that’s slightly inclined (5 degrees).  It gets the heart rate up quickly, it’s easy on the joints, and it develops the calves better than anything else I’ve tried.  I’ve also noticed feeling lighter on my feet walking around day to day, after getting used to walking 1-2 miles with the vest on.  I use a 60-80 pound vest, but I would recommend starting lighter.


Some of the best strength exercises in existence involve lifting your own body, such as push-ups, pull-ups, dips, handstand push-ups, squats, and lunges.  They’re natural movements that your body was designed to do.  However, many advanced lifters stop doing those exercises because they aren’t heavy enough to provide a muscle building or strength stimulus.  Enter the weighted vest!

My personal favorite strength exercises to do with a vest are push-ups and inverted rows.  Push-ups are a far better overall exercise than the bench press.  They contain the benefits of bench presses and planks rolled into one, and they’re healthier for the shoulders because the scapula can move freely rather than being pinned by a bench.  Inverted rows are great for working your upper and lower back without compressing the spine.  Although it won’t be possible for an experienced lifter to match the bench press or barbell row in terms of total weight lifted, a 20-80 pound vest in addition to your bodyweight will build plenty of strength and muscle as long as you do enough reps to challenge yourself.

push-up (narrow)

inverted row

You may also use a vest for pull-ups and dips, but hanging weight around your waist via a dip belt is generally a better choice due to ease of adjusting the weight.  Lunges and squats can be done with a vest as well, but a barbell works perfectly fine for most people and allows for more weight variation.


Most gyms don’t carry weighted vests, partly because they get covered in sweat which can be a hygiene issue.  If your gym has one available, you’re in luck, but I’d advise wiping it down with disinfectant before and after each use.

If you choose to purchase your own vest, a light one that goes up to 20 or 40 pounds can be found at an affordable price at most sporting goods stores or Walmart.  A heavier one of 60+ pounds will generally need to be ordered and costs roughly $100-$200.  All vests tend to be adjustable in weight, using weight packets that fit in pockets on the vest.  Lighter vests use sand filled packets, while heavier ones typically use steel which keeps the bulk down but makes them more expensive.  A good place to buy a heavy
yet affordable weighted vest is titan.fitness.

When planning your workout routine, for the best results I recommend combining traditional weight training with the exercises I mentioned above using a weighted vest.  On a nice day, you could even skip the gym altogether and take your vest outside for a great full body workout consisting of push-ups, inverted rows, and a brisk 1 to 2 mile walk.  Good luck and happy training!

Free 3 day pass

Please enter your information below to access your 3 day pass.