Running In A Weight Vest: 5 Benefits, How To, And Recommended Vests

Exercising with a weighted vest may seem like Special Air Services behaviour. But you don’t have to be training for an elite military force to justify a workout with this piece of fitness gear.

Adding some extra weight to your body is a great way to elevate your fitness routine, whether you’re looking to get stronger, run faster, or just want to challenge yourself in the gym. Heck, you don’t even need to be in the gym—you can make progress by simply walking around with one.

But before you start adding on the weight, it’s important to understand exactly how weighted vests work, the exercises you can do with them, and how to find a vest to complement your fitness goals.

What Is A Weight Vest For Running?

A weighted vest, sometimes called a weight vest, is a garment that contains sand, iron filings, or iron weights that can be worn during exercise to increase resistance.

Some weight vests for running have removable weights so that you can modulate how much weight you’re adding to your body, whereas others are a set weight. Most weight vests for runners weigh between 4-20 pounds (2-10 kg or so).

Why Run In A Weight Vest?

Some CrossFit athletes or runners wear weight vests while running to make the workout that much more intense. Much like the old-school method of running with ankle weights, running in a weight vest increases the resistance your body has to work against, enabling you to build muscle and get stronger.

5 Benefits Of Running In A Weight Vest

There are several potential benefits associated with running in a weight vest, including the following:

1. Running In a Weight Vest Can Strengthen Your Muscles

Running a weight vest adds additional resistance or load to your body, so your muscles and connective tissues have to work harder. In this way, wearing a weighted vest while running can be seen as a form of strength training.

2. Running In a Weight Vest Can Increase Bone Density

By Wolff’s Law, bones adapt relative to the stresses placed upon them. Running in a weight vest increases the impact force when you land, so your bones respond by laying down a denser matrix of minerals.

3. Running In a Weight Vest Can Increase Your Aerobic Capacity

If you’ve ever lost weight, you might be able to recall how running was more taxing when you were heavier. Running in a weight vest is perceived by your body as running with a higher mass, so it requires your heart and lungs to work that much harder.

Over time, your cardiovascular system becomes stronger in response to the additional load. This, in turn, can increase your VO2 max, or aerobic capacity.

4. Even Weight Distribution

Unlike running with ankle weights or dumbbells, a weighted vest distributes the weight evenly over your entire trunk, closer to your centre of mass. This reduces stress on your joints and alters your running stride, reducing the risk of injury.

5. Running In a Weight Vest Burns More Calories

Almost anyone curious about running in a weighted vest asks, “Does running in a weighted vest burn more calories?” In short, yes. Running in a weighted vest will increase your energy expenditure.

The more weight you carry, the more energy it takes to move your body from point A to point B. Therefore, whether you’re a heavier person, carrying a large pack, or wearing a weighted vest, it takes more effort to run, which equates to burning more calories. 

How Do Weighted Vests Work?

Weighted vests are exactly what their name implies: a vest designed to distribute added weight evenly across your torso. They serve as a great low-impact option for those looking to burn more calories, build muscle, and even increase bone density by increasing body weight and adding resistance to your movements.

Basically, they’re a shortcut to activate the beast mode. However, you don’t even need to lace up your exercise shoes to reap the benefits of a weighted vest. Simply wearing one as you go about your day can reduce body weight and fat mass while building muscle. 

Keep in mind that weighted vests come with some risks. Vests make every exercise have a higher impact on the landing, meaning that even things like running or jumping will have more impact on your feet, ankles, and knees. People with troublesome joints or back problems should be very careful if using them.

What to Consider Before Buying a Weighted Vest

Weighted vests are not one-size-fits-all. They come in a variety of designs, sizes, and weight loads. Finding a vest you’re comfortable wearing is essential to maximizing effectiveness and avoiding injury. 

When choosing a weighted vest, you should first consider your fitness level, goals, and the activities you plan to do. This will help determine the style, size, and weight capacity that’s right for you. 

Weighted Vest Type

PRCTZ,15-25 lb Adjustable Weighted Vest -

There are three main types of weighted vests—shoulder holsters, tactical, and torso-covering. Each has its own unique benefits and drawbacks to consider before purchasing. 

  • Shoulder Holster: These vests fit like a backpack, with a buckle in the front and weight distributed along the straps and upper back. The minimal design is perfect if you value mobility and want something comfortable to wear for long periods. However, shoulder holster-style vests are often fixed-weight, meaning you’ll need to replace your vest with a heavier one over time if you want to continue progressive overloading. If back pain is also a concern, these vests may not be a great choice. 
  • Tactical: Originally used by military and law enforcement to hold ballistic plates, these weighted vests feature pockets on both the front and back to evenly distribute weight across the whole upper body. Tactical vests often have interchangeable plates so you can adjust the weight load depending on the activity. Compared to shoulder holster-style vests, tactical vests are a bit bulkier and may be uncomfortable for some, especially when working out in warmer climates. But you’ll look really cool. Tacti-cool. 
  • Torso-Covering: As the name suggests, these vests distribute weight across your entire back and torso. By adding weight to your core, you’re adding resistance to virtually every movement your body makes. Plus, distributing the weight to a larger area of your body allows for a slimmer design, granting you more mobility and a comfortable fit. These are prime options for both cardio lovers and bodybuilders, and they are adjustable—though fidgeting with dozens of little weight pockets is often the main complaint with this style vest.

4 Benefits of Working Out With a Weighted Vest | Muscle & Fitness

No matter the style, all weighted vests are either fixed-weight or interchangeable. If your goal is to build strength and endurance, a fixed-weight vest will allow for more mobility and comfort during long periods of wear.

On the contrary, if you want a vest geared more towards building muscle, then an interchangeable one that allows for progressive overload is the best option.


Fit is an important factor when purchasing a weighted vest, especially if you’re planning to use it for cardio and endurance training. 

Weighted vests should: 

  • Fit snugly to provide adequate compression
  • Have enough mobility in the chest area to facilitate breathing and for your arms to move freely

Some vests have features like shoulder pads to prevent friction, breathable material to wick away moisture, and ventilation to prevent overheating. Think about what exercises you’ll do and how these features may benefit you.

If you’re buying online, take the time to read through the reviews for comments on quality, comfort, and size. A good rule of thumb is to take your chest measurements with a cloth measuring tape and compare them to the sizing chart online before purchasing. 

Two Weighted Vest Workouts You Should Try


One mistake first-time users make when working out with a weighted vest is starting out too heavy. This can lead to overexertion, joint issues, and back injuries.

A weighted vest can also increase your risk of overtraining syndrome, which can create a performance plateau or decline, feelings of heaviness or stiffness in the muscles, a higher resting heart rate, and more. 


Weighted vests can cost between £30 and £350, depending on their quality and weight capacity. If you aren’t quite ready to make that investment, you could try other weight-bearing alternatives to gauge whether a weighted vest is right for you. 

Try performing your exercise wearing a heavy backpack (but maybe not school-textbook heavy), holding a medicine ball, or wearing ankle or wrist weights.

While the weight won’t be quite as evenly distributed as wearing a vest—and you may want to avoid certain exercises you could do with your weighted vest—you may see similar results.

Does Running With A Weigh Vest Increase Weight Loss?

Because your body has to work against additional resistance, running in a weight vest burns more calories than running without one. Therefore, running in a weight vest can accelerate your weight loss, provided you are running as far and fast as you would otherwise.

5 Tips For Running In A Weighted Vest

It sounds simple enough: slip on the weighted vest, buckle it, and get running.

However, running in a weighted vest isn’t something you should jump right into, especially if you have been running much or have never run in a weighted vest.

Here are some tips to increase the safety of running in a weighted vest:

1. Add Weight Gradually

If you buy one of the weighted vests for running that allows you to add or remove weight, start with simply wearing the vest without any weight to get used to the overall feel.

For your next run, you can add a couple of pounds of weight, and spread it evenly throughout the vest. Gradually add more weight each time you wear the weighted vest running, as long as you are not experiencing any discomfort.

2. Wear the Vest Occasionally 

There are many benefits of running in the latest vest, and it can certainly make you a stronger and faster runner. However, much like other forms of speed training with resistance like running with a parachute, running in deep sand, or running pulling a weighted sledge, running in a weighted vest isn’t the type of training you probably want to do every day.

Due to the added resistance, you will most likely run at a slower pace while wearing a weighted vest. In this way, you “run slower to get faster,” meaning that if you get used to running in the weighted vest—and your muscles and cardiovascular system adapt and get stronger—when you remove the vest and run without it, running will feel easier so you’ll be able to run faster.

However, you don’t want to wear a weighted vest running every day. This is because you have to plod along at a slower pace when you wear it because of the load and your neuromuscular system will lose its “sharpness” that normally gives you a faster cadence and running speed.

To balance the pros and cons of running in a weighted vest, wear a weighted vest running no more than a few times per week, interspersed with runs without the vest.

3. Build Up Slowly

If you get a weighted vest for running that can’t be adjusted in terms of weight, you’ll have to take a different approach to get used to running in the vest.

When you first start wearing the weighted vest running, instead of wearing the vest for the entirety of your usual 45-minute run, begin with just 5-10 minutes. Then, remove the vest and finish your run.

4. Be Careful On Descents

Any time you’re running downhill, your bones and joints are subjected to even more pounding, and wearing a weighted vest only magnifies this further. Try to limit downhills when running in a weight vest, especially at first.

5. Get a Snug Fit

When you are running in a weight vest, you want the vest to be as snug as possible. It should feel like it is part of your body rather than the external weight that it is.

Tighten the straps so that the vest does not rotate or bounce. You should be able to slip your fingers under it and breathe comfortably, though.


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