Best Weighted Vests: Free-Weight and Fixed-Weight

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Improving your physical fitness is all about pushing your body in ways it hasn’t been pushed before. This new stimulation is what forces your body’s systems to adapt and improve by either increasing their capacity for output (e.g., increasing the mass of specific muscles) or by becoming more efficient.

You become more advanced in your training, especially with aerobic and bodyweight exercises, it becomes increasingly harder to stimulate those adaptations and improvements. You must become increasingly sophisticated and diligent in progressively overloading your body.

One of the best ways to do so is to get a weighted vest. In this article, we’ll show you our top picks for the 8 best weighted vests to supercharge your training.

Once we go over our picks in detail, we’ll spend some time discussing how this simple accessory can improve your fitness routine, how to properly choose the right one and how to use it. As you’re about to find out, there’s some depth to weighted vests. Not all of them are created equal and there are certain features to look out for. Let’s get started!

Best Weighted Vest At a Glance

1. BOX Weighted Vest

The vest itself is made of robust, reinforced nylon that is rated to withstand years of abuse. Stitching is good and reliable with triple stitching in key areas. Without weights, this vest weighs around 2.8lbs. You can push it all the way to 45lbs by adding iron weights in 2.5lbs increments.

As far as comfort goes, this is a one size fits all vest that features a simple hook-and-loop belt adjustment system. That way you’re sure to find your size. Straps are well padded, offering a decent amount of comfort even during prolonged use. It’s not the cheapest vest out there, however, if you follow the buy once, cry once ideology, you’ll love this rig.

Pros

  • Made in the USA with a lifetime warranty
  • Features rock-solid construction, robust materials and triple stitching
  • Available weight ranging up to 45lbs
  • Easy to adjust and comfortable design

Cons

  • One of the more expensive models on the market

2. RUNmax Pro Weighted Vest

As far as construction goes, this is a solid enough rig that is well balanced in terms of weight distribution. RUNmax has gone one step further and added a wide adjustment belt that offers a comfortable fit even when tightened down completely. There is also a media pocket with enough space to fit a larger smartphone, as well as a water bottle holder.

The vest comes in a huge range of weight options; from 12 lbs. to 140 lbs. Be aware that the 12 lbs. to 80 lbs. vest incorporates a slightly different design to the 100 – 140 lbs. vest and uses different sized weight bags.

Although the quality of materials is quite decent, this vest is held together by single stitching, which is probably its only flaw. At this price (generally ~$35 to ~$300 depending on weight), that’s something we can live with.

Something worth noting is that the 12 lbs. to 60 lbs. vest can be purchased with a lifetime warranty, depending on which seller you purchase through. For some of the weight range, it’ll cost you extra though (~$20 to $25). Otherwise, they all come with a one year warranty.

Pros

  • Features a utilitarian design
  • Well-made with a lifetime warranty (costs extra and is not available on all weights)
  • Decent weight range that is neutrally balanced around the vest
  • Optional shoulder pads for added comfort

Cons

  • It’s more expensive than most similar models

3. CROSS101 Adjustable Weighted Vest

They have the same weight range (12 lbs. to 140 lbs.), media and water bottle holder, and use the same adjustable weights. They also cost roughly the same amount irrespective of the weight chosen.

The only difference is really in the color. CROSS101 has stepped away from the all-black design and decided to add some color to the mix.

The vest comes in a variety of camo patterns, most of which mimic the well-known and decommissioned Universal Camouflage Pattern used by the US Military.

Comfort-wise, it’s about average. Some people will find that it can rub in certain places: Shoulders, scapula area, and biceps are common, but will depend on your particular body shape. Like the RUNmax, you can get optional shoulder pads for less than $10 should you need them.

Pros

  • A versatile vest that’s both functional and attractive
  • Offers a huge range of weight options
  • Comes with a bottle holder and a media pocket
  • Wide adjustment belt for a comfortable fit

Cons

  • Single stitching may not inspire complete confidence

4. Mir Short Adjustable Weighted Vest

Its compact size doesn’t mean that Mir’s short vest is compromising on anything. On the contrary, you can get these with anywhere from 20 lbs. to 60 lbs. of weight.

As far as build quality goes, Mir went all out on this rig. This vest is built to last. They’ve used high quality, heavy denier 1200D (the D stands for ‘denier’) reinforced nylon which greatly surpasses the durability standards of most of the military webbing in use today. Tearing fabric on this vest is highly unlikely.

The downside to such an over-engineered setup is the price, which puts this model among the more expensive options. Is it worth it, though? If you’re the type to give your exercise equipment a good thrashing, then absolutely.

Pros

  • A short, compact design that mimics plate carriers
  • High center of mass allows for greater mobility during your workout
  • Made tough using 1200D reinforced nylon
  • 20 lbs. to 60 lbs. weight range

Cons

  • Relatively expensive, but worth every penny
  • Adjustment strap lacks in padding, though it’s still acceptably comfortable

The Best Fixed-Weight Weighted Vests

1. 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier

The TacTec is essentially a real plate carrier that takes medium and large Enhanced Small Arms Protective Arms Insert (ESAPI) plates. In other words, you can take this bad boy into battle should you need to (you shouldn’t need to). That said, the TacTec carrier is designed to be lightweight and comfortable, which makes it a great weighted vest for exercise training as well.

If you’re not planning on getting shot at while you workout, weight it up with Rogue’s USA Cast Weight Vest Training Plates (these won’t protect you against small arms fire).

5.11 has used their abrasion-resistant 500D nylon that has proven its worth numerous times. The plate carrier also features comfortable straps with yoke shoulder pads and plenty of mesh to keep your body breathing. Its fit is adjusted using the flexible side straps that also double as Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) panels. Speaking of which, both the front and the back of this carrier feature MOLLE webbing for any other gear you might want to add.

If you’re looking to train with a fixed weight vest, then you can’t go past a good carrier. And, the 5.11 TacTec is arguably the best plate carrier you can get.

Pros

  • Robust yet light vest made to last
  • Features plenty of padding in all the right places
  • Comes with MIL-SPEC MOLLE webbing
  • Takes medium and large ballistic plates
  • Comes in 7 color options

Cons

  • Just like most 5.11 gear, it’s not cheap

2. Condor Sentry Plate Carrier

Its minimalist layout is meant to offer the bare minimum of acceptable comfort and functionality at a price that makes it an absolute steal. With that said, Rogue has also added regular MOLLE webbing to this build. The carrier comes with lightly padded shoulder straps and standard side straps that use regular buckles.

The rig also comes complete with hook and loop panels for all your morale patches. Additionally, there are also loops built into shoulder straps that are designed to hold your camel back’s tube. The vest works perfectly with Rogue’s USA Cast Weight Vest Training Plates.

Pros

  • One of the most inexpensive plate carriers on the market
  • Minimalist design that is light and durable
  • Will accept medium to large ESAPI plates
  • Comes with an emergency drag handle
  • Standard MOLLE on front and back of the carrier

Cons

  • The minimalist design means a compromise in terms of comfort
  • Unlike most Rogue gear, this vest isn’t made in the USA

3. Aduro Sport Weighted Vest

Designed to give you additional resistance in the most comfortable way possible, this type of weighted vest uses built-in pockets of tiny iron pellets that are sewn into the straps themselves. Aduro offers these in several versions ranging from 4lbs to 25lbs. With two chest straps, this vest snaps into place and stays there no matter what kind of exercise you’re performing.

The vest is made of fairly durable neoprene that won’t fall apart on you even if you push it hard. The only thing to look out for is the stitching that could have been better. However, it’ll work well enough if you treat it with respect.

Finally, the vest comes with a mesh pocket built into the back panel where you can store your phone or other accessories.

Pros

  • An extremely stealthy vest that is light and comfortable
  • Made of durable neoprene materials
  • Filled with iron pellets instead of sand, meaning no odor issues
  • Affordable

Cons

  • All vests that don’t use solid weights suffer from the content starting to leak out in different places. This vest is no different.

4. Northgym Weighted Vest

With that said, North Gym has used 600D Oxford nylon, which is quite durable. Plus, they’ve added the MOLLE webbing to front, back and sides. The vest comes with two plates that total anywhere from 14 lbs. to 20 lbs. depending on which model you go for.

As far as comfort is concerned, North Gym has done a decent job with padding on the inside of the vest as well as on the shoulder straps. If you’re looking for a basic plate carrier that’s all about utility and which comes complete with weighted plates, this is the model for you.

Pros

  • The simple design meant to mimic combat plate carriers
  • Built from durable materials that will last
  • Comes complete with weighted plates
  • Comfortable fit that is easily adjusted for various body types

Cons

  • Slightly expensive, although it does included plates

Should You Get a Weighted Vest?

Making gains from your workouts must involve pushing your body outside its comfort zone, and loading it with more strain than it’s used to handling, thus stimulating growth. This is fairly easy to do when you’re surrounded by complex machines and free weights in your local gym. However, some forms of exercise like aerobic exercises like running, various bodyweight routines, Crossfit or similar? There is only so far you can go with your body’s weight alone.

At some point, you’ll need to use weights. Since no one likes to run around dragging a set of dumbbells, one of the best options out there are weighted vests. These allow you to load your body with the additional weight, all while having your hands completely free. With all of the extra mass on your chest/back area, you’re able to do all kinds of exercises unencumbered. If you’re at the top of your fitness game and you want something that’ll make your bodyweight routine harder, weighted vests are a very solid option.

However, not all weighted vests are created equal. There are different types of vests out there that will work better for specific applications. Let’s touch upon that for a moment:

Weighted Vests for Crossfit

Crossfit is one of the most forgiving activities when it comes to weighted vest design requirements. That is why you will find a lot of different types of vests in this category. Just about anything out there can be used for Crossfit as long as it doesn’t restrict your range of motion.

Weighted Vests for Running and Walking

Running and walking are both activities that require vests you can strap down securely. There’s nothing worse than having the weight move around on you as you run. Vests from this category also come in a variety of shapes and forms.

Weighted Vests for Women

Although just about any vest on the market is designed to be suitable for both men and women, there are vests out there designed specifically for a woman’s anatomy. You’ll find that these vests offer more room in the chest area, thus making their use more comfortable.

Weighted Vests for Bodyweight Training

Bodyweight training, like Crossfit, is rather forgiving when it comes to vest design. Since bodyweight fitness tends to be more static compared to Crossfit, you can get away with vests that aren’t as balanced. Again, there is a lot of overlap between the two categories.

Low-Profile / Slim Weighted Vests

Some weighted vests have a low profile that allows a much wider range of motion. These can also often be worn underneath workout clothing, thus making them much more discrete than most weight vests.

Choosing the Right Weighted Vest

Choosing the right weight vest can be a confusing process, especially if you’re not particularly well-informed on the subject. As we’ve just mentioned, not all vests are going to be suitable for any activity. In this next segment, we’ll discuss several things you’ll want to pay attention to when selecting the best vest for your needs.

Intended Use

Before getting into the nitty-gritty details, it’s crucial to get clear on the specific use(s) you have in mind for your weighted vest as this will help you avoid wasting money on a weighted training vest that ends up being ineffective. For example, if you’re into running, selecting a bulky, heavy vest probably isn’t going to be the optimal choice. Instead, you’ll want something with a lower profile.

However, if you’re into bodyweight fitness, a larger vest may just be the perfect type for you. It’s okay to want to cover several different activities with one vest, but be cautious of which features you go for.

Adjustable Weight or Fixed Weight?

This is the next big question. Adjustable and fixed-weight vests each have their pros and cons. Let’s run through some of the most important ones.

  • Adjustable Vests: Adjustable vests are pretty straightforward. By being able to adjust the weight you’re harnessing at any given moment, you’re able to progressively improve yourself and your results. However, adjustable weights are more expensive for this reason.Additionally, weighted training vests are often bulky as functionality often times comes before comfort. Another pro with adjustable vests is the fact that they come with solid, iron weights, which means easy maintenance and great durability.
  • Fixed Weight Vests: Some of the arguments in favor of fixed weight vests are rather legitimate. Namely, you’re looking at a lower cost on average. More accessible gear will get you out there working out faster. Then there’s the fact that these vests are often times made to be as comfortable as possible since the weights are built into the vest itself. Of course, being limited to a single set of weights means that you will plateau much faster. Balancing out the pros and cons of each of these categories will lead you to a suitable solution for your needs.

Plate Carriers

With the increase in popularity of combat Crossfit, more and more brands are starting to produce plate carriers that can be used as weighted vests. If you’re into that kind of aesthetic, you’ll need to decide whether you want to get an actual plate carrier designed for actual combat use, or if you just want something that looks the part?

The use of plate carriers makes a lot of sense considering that various brands now produce ESAPI sized weighted plates. However, since actual plate carriers tend to get expensive, you’ll need to figure out where your priorities lie and make decisions based on that.

Similarly, there are plenty of fitness plate carriers that have all of the MOLLE webbing and other cool features but won’t accept actual ESAPI ballistic plates. Beware of what you’re getting if you plan to use these carriers for home defense or other similar applications.

Features

With all of the basics covered, let’s take a look at some of the features you’d want to have in a weighted vest. Some of these might seem obvious, but some definitely aren’t.

Weight Distribution and Pocket Placement

Any time you are adding artificial weight to your body, you’re messing up with your natural balance and weight distribution. Because of this, it’s important that your vest has a well-balanced weight pocket placement so that you can maintain that balance. This is especially important if you intend to run with the vest.

Build Quality

Build quality is obviously important, however knowing exactly what to look for can help you weed out the subpar vests more easily. After all, you’ll definitely want your weighted training vest to be as durable as possible. Here are just a few things to look out for:

  • Stitching. Triple stitching is optimal no matter what kind of vest you’re looking at. It’s pretty rare, though. Your next best bet is double stitching which is much more common. There are several single stitch vests that work well, like the ones on our list, but most of them aren’t durable enough.
  • Type of Fabric used. Fabric makes all the difference when you’re out there sweating in the field. The last thing you’ll want is a vest that falls apart on you during a workout. Look for vests that utilize heavy denier reinforced nylon as that has proven to be the optimal choice for this application.
  • Hardware. Oftentimes overlooked, hardware can be the weak link that renders an otherwise robust vest, completely useless. Look for quality hardware, solid buckles and robust hook and loop panels.

Additional Accessories

Lastly, there are vests that come with all kinds of water bottle pockets, media pockets and similar accessories. Whether or not these are important is completely up to you. Keep in mind that adding anything to your vest means adding extra weight plus having another thing pressed against your body while you train.

Frequently Asked Questions About Weighted Vests

Now that we know a thing or two about weighted vests and how to choose one, let’s address some of the most frequently asked questions regarding this subject.

What size / weight weighted vest should i get?

Finding the right size and weight is a completely subjective thing. The general rule of thumb is to go for vests that will add anywhere from 5-15% of your body weight. Naturally, this is very easy to set up if you get an adjustable weight.

It’s the fixed weight models you need to be careful with. Going overboard with weight can have a serious impact on your biomechanics, and put too much strain on your body. As far as size goes, most vests are one-size-fits-all. With that said, you’ll want to get something that is comfortable and isn’t impeding your freedom of movement.

Is wearing a weighted vest all day bad?

The jury is still out on this one. However, so far there is no conclusive evidence that wearing a weighted vest outside of your workout routine is either good or bad for you.

This also includes the so-called Hypergravity Training that is based around wearing weights for extended periods of time. Naturally, you are advised to exercise caution when using weighted clothing or weighted vests outside your workout routine as there are other risks involved aside from potential fatigue.

Are weighted vests bad for your spine?

Weighted vests aren’t inherently bad for your spine. As long as you are using reasonable amounts of weight during your training, you should be perfectly fine.

One scenario where you might be risking injury is if you’re wearing more weight than you can handle and decide to bend at the waist, thus putting a lot of strain on your back. Just like it’s the case with most other fitness equipment, you need to employ common sense when using weighted vests.

Does wearing a weighted vest build muscle?

Weighted vests alone aren’t enough to trigger muscle growth. Remember, the muscle needs sufficient stimulus to grow. Such stimuli come through pushing the muscle to failure and making it adapt to the new standards of stress.

Simply using a weighted vest just isn’t enough for that. With that said, using a weighted vest in order to introduce additional resistance to your Crossfit or bodyweight workout regimen, will be enough to stimulate muscle growth.

 

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