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The Best Weighted Vest

Updated

After hours of research and an interview with a personal trainer and run coach, we tested five highly rated vests to find the top-performing models under $100. For strength training, our top pick is the comfortable and intuitively designed ZFOsports – Short Weighted Vest. Our testers loved the lightweight Henkelion – Running Weight Vest for running, which is unobtrusive and barely noticeable during jogs. For women, we recommend the MIR – Women’s Weighted Vest, which is specially designed with non-restrictive straps and weights placed below the chest, rather than on top of it.

Our Top Choices

Best for Strength Training


ZFOsports

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Best for Running


Henkelion

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Best for Women


MIR

Women's Weighted Vest

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After hours of research and an interview with a personal trainer and run coach, we tested five highly rated vests to find the top-performing models under $100. For strength training, our top pick is the comfortable and intuitively designed ZFOsports – Short Weighted Vest. Our testers loved the lightweight Henkelion – Running Weight Vest for running, which is unobtrusive and barely noticeable during jogs. For women, we recommend the MIR – Women’s Weighted Vest, which is specially designed with non-restrictive straps and weights placed below the chest, rather than on top of it.

Who needs a weighted vest?

As its name implies, a weighted vest is a wearable vest with added weight incorporated into its design. This is usually in the form of sand that’s been sewn permanently into the vest itself, or removable, individual iron bars, sandbags or bags of iron pellets that can be added in increments until you’ve reached your desired load.

When you wear a weighted vest, your body adapts to the increased load by building muscular strength and endurance. Wearing a weighted vest can also strengthen the lungs and increase bone mass.

Originally used in military training to simulate body armor, weighted vests rose to fame when they were adopted by Crossfit gyms around the world. They’re best suited to seasoned athletes, lifters and experienced fitness enthusiasts looking to push their workouts a little further. They also come in handy for those who want to add more weight to their routine but lack the grip strength to do so with a barbell or dumbbells.

For expert insight on the subject, we spoke to personal trainer, fitness instructor and run coach Meghan Kennihan, who uses weighted vests regularly in her workouts.

“Weighted vests are definitely for the intermediate to advanced fitness enthusiast or athlete,” says Meghan. “You need to be able to do multiple reps and sets of exercises on your own before adding a weighted vest. For example, if you can’t do five push-ups or ten squats with your own body weight, there is no reason to be adding a vest.”

The bottom line: If you’re interested in wearing a weighted vest during your workout, first take your fitness level into consideration and consult your physician.

Important features to consider

Strength training

To use your vest for bodyweight exercises and strength training (think push-ups, planks, squats, dips and lunges), it’s best to start with about 5-10% of your body weight loaded into your vest. Proceed with caution and take it slow. The rule of thumb for wearing the right weight? If you can do 3 sets of 8–12 reps of any exercise in your workout, you’re using the correct weight.

As you get used to your vest and grow stronger, feel free to add more weight as needed, but to a point. “For bodyweight workouts, I wouldn’t go much higher than 15 pounds,” says Meghan.

Running and plyometric exercises

When it comes to weighted vests, runners should proceed with caution. A heavy weighted vest can put too much strain on the body’s joints when running and can also shorten your stride, which changes your regular running pattern. However, wearing a lightweight vest while running does have certain benefits.

“Wearing a vest can help with your running posture because it forces you to stabilize your upper body and use your core,” Meghan explains. “It also trains your body to exert more force. Then, when you run without your vest, your body will keep exerting that force as if it was weighted, and you will move faster with less effort. Basically, any exercise you do with the vest will make doing the same ones unvested that much easier or faster.”

While a weighted vest can also be beneficial during explosive plyometric exercises, the same weight precautions apply. For both running and plyometric workouts, start out by carrying only about 5% of your body weight or less. For any high-impact exercise, you should also ensure that your running shoes are comfortable and fit well with the best insoles and running socks.

Design and fit

To minimize excessive shifting, look for a vest that straps close to the body and incorporates stretch fabrics that will fit snugly. Test out the vest first by jumping up and down while wearing it.

“You want the vest to be snug around your upper body, but not so tight that you don’t have the mobility to move your arms and rotate your torso,” says Meghan.

Pro tip: If you test out a weighted vest and find that it puts too much stress on your shoulders, try one that comes with shoulder pads.

Breathing

Another thing to keep in mind is that the weight of a weighted vest rests directly on the shoulders and upper body, which puts pressure on the diaphragm and makes breathing more difficult. You’re not only training your body with a weighted vest; you’re also training your mind and instincts not to panic when your breathing becomes shallower. Be sure to give yourself longer rest periods to compensate, especially when just starting out.

“Progress slowly,” Meghan advises. “Don’t pick the heaviest vest to start. Do one session a week with the vest, then increase to two sessions in two weeks, and so on.”

1

ZFOsports - Short Weighted Vest: Best for Strength Training

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For use while strength training, the ZFOsports – Short Weighted Vest is our clear winner. We tested the 20-pound version, but this vest also comes in 12-pound and 50-pound models. The ZFOsports vest has 16 removable sandbag weights, distributed in two rows of four on both the front and back of the vest. Stretchy neoprene pockets allow for the easy removal and addition of the weights: an intuitive feature our testers loved. After struggling to wiggle and squeeze weights in and out of the non-stretchy pockets of other vests, our testers found the ZFOsports’ design to be a game changer.

This vest’s weight felt evenly distributed between the front and back. Though some weight does rest on the chest area, our female tester didn’t find it overly restrictive and was comfortable working out even with all of the sandbags inserted in the vest.Read more…

The wide, adjustable belt is well-made and cinches securely around the midsection with a broad panel of Velcro. It’s inevitable for a weighted vest to shift a little during explosive movements; but once we had Velcro-ed ourselves into the ZFOsports belt, it stayed secure during squat jumps and didn’t shift too much when we did push-ups.

The front of this vest’s waist belt features a mesh horizontal pocket that’s big enough to stow a phone. We couldn’t find a hole for headphones, but feeding the cord through the Velcro worked just fine. The belt also has a little water bottle holder on one side that functions well enough, but we wouldn’t advise adding more weight to only one side of the body.

The vest’s shoulders are sewn in, so you need to put it on over your head. It’s a little awkward, but it just takes some maneuvering to get the vest into place. Shoulder padding is on the thin side, but it didn’t seem to bother our testers. During a long or very strenuous workout, however, the lack of padding could become an issue.


2

Henkelion: Best for Running

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The Henkelion – Running Weight Vest comes in four different models — 4-pound, 6-pound, 8-pound and 12-pound — and is filled with iron pellets and metal rock sand that are sewn into the body of the vest. We tested the 6-pound version and found it incredibly comfortable to wear. The vest goes on over the shoulders like a jacket and secures in front of the chest with a plastic buckle. The weight feels evenly distributed between the front and back, and its neoprene fabric is soft and smooth against the skin. While running, the vest barely shifts at all and doesn’t rub or scratch the skin.

The vest features wide, stretchy bands of elastic at the waistline that help it fit snugly and comfortably around the body. Our testers also appreciated the flap underneath the vest’s chest buckle, which protects the skin from any rubbing or discomfort the buckle might cause. The vest also includes reflective bands on its front and back, as well as a back mesh pocket that, unfortunately, is too loose to securely hold much of anything, let alone a cell phone.Read more…

While this type of vest often rubs the insides of the arms during a jog, our testers weren’t bothered by this. The Henkelion vest lays relatively flat and isn’t bulky or overstuffed with pellets, giving arms more breathing room while running.


3

MIR - Women's Weighted Vest: Best for Women

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While most weighted vests place weight directly on the chest, the MIR – Women’s Weighted Vest is designed with a woman’s body in mind with its weight placed lower down on the torso. The vest’s straps are also closer-set and positioned more toward the middle of the chest, giving women more breathing room.

Our female tester could feel the difference immediately, commenting on how comfortable the MIR vest was to wear during her workout. Its narrow straps also offer plenty of arm mobility, with no rubbing during push-ups or dips. Another huge plus is the option to put the vest on by unfastening the shoulder straps, rather than putting it on over the head.Read more…

The MIR vest comes in 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50-pound models. This is the only vest we tested that had metal bars rather than sandbags, and it took practice and patience to coax the rigid bars in and out of their pockets. It’s not too difficult once you get the hang of it, but there is a learning curve. The MIR vest has six weight pockets in the back and only five in front, which isn’t ideal weight distribution. But the design does free up space so women will feel less constricted in the chest area, and that seems well worth it.

This vest’s Velcro waist belt held it close to our tester’s body during her workout, and it stayed in place when she did explosive movements like jump squats. The adjustable straps on the waist and shoulders are long enough to accommodate a variety of body types and chest sizes. While this vest doesn’t have a dedicated cell-phone holder, the front center-weight pocket could stand in as a makeshift holder for a small phone.


4

Aduro Sport

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When testing the Aduro – Sport Weighted Vest, it became clear that it is nearly identical to the Henkelion vest. The main difference between the two: The Aduro vest seems to be overstuffed with sand, giving it a more rigid feel against the body that also rubbed our testers’ arms more while running in it. The Aduro’s chest strap is also shorter than the Henkelion model’s.


5

RUNmax

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The RUNmax – Pro Weighted Vest is similar to the ZFOsports vest but with one key difference: the design of its sandbags. Rather than distributing small sandbags in two rows on both the front and back of the vest, RUNmax designed its vest with just one row of four long, large bags on the front and back. The effect of this isn’t clear until you strap yourself into the vest and experience how much more blocky and inflexible the long weights feel against the body. This was particularly constricting for our female tester, who felt like all of the vest’s front weight was resting directly on her chest.

Despite the awkwardness of their design, the sandbags are easy to slip in and out of their pockets. On the 20-pound vest we tested (it also comes in 12, 40, 50 and 60-pound models), the weight is divided into 2.5-pound sandbags. Similar to the ZFOsports vest, the RUNmax’s waist belt wraps securely around the waist with heavy-duty Velcro. It shifted only slightly during explosive movements, and the belt held it in place.Read more…

The RUNmax’s belt also includes a water bottle holder and a mesh pocket on the front of the vest — presumably for a cell phone — that’s sewn shut. We found an interior pocket behind the mesh pocket that could hold a phone, but accessing it was complicated: The waist belt needed to be un-Velcroed and then the pocket lifted to access the opening on its underside.

The RUNmax’s shoulders are sewn in, but the vest isn’t difficult to get over your head. However, once the vest is in place, its weight is very noticeable in the shoulder area, particularly during explosive movements. The model we tested came with optional shoulder pads, but they didn’t provide enough padding to make the vest comfortable. Without the shoulder pads, the vest’s shoulder seam sat directly on the collarbone and weighed too heavily upon it.


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