Every now and then, it helps to raise the stakes with your training. While you're more than capable of getting in a quality session with just your bodyweight, there are some perks to adding some resistance to your workouts in the form of added weight.
Weighted vests can be exceptional fitness tools for including some fresh challenges to your conditioning efforts. These vests can add anywhere from 10–40 pounds and beyond to your frame, unlocking a new sense of training that's sleek, compact and doesn't require you to exercise with a barbell strewn across your shoulders or hefty dumbbells in your grasp.
Before we get strapped and outline the best weighted vests available today, however, let's look at some of the perks you could see in your cardio and strength training if you opt to add one of these silhouettes to your workout wardrobe. Plus, while weighted vests may seem like a simple accessory in design, there are a few key features to consider when finding the ideal profile for your training needs.
BEST OVERALL WEIGHTED VESTGoruck Training Weight Vest Read More
BEST UPGRADE WEIGHTED VESTOmorpho G-Vest+ Read More
BEST BUDGET WEIGHTED VESTCAP Barbell 20–150 lb. Adjustable Weighted Vest Read More
BEST WEIGHTED VEST FOR HEAVY TRAININGKensui EZ-Vest Read More
BEST BACK-LOADED WEIGHTED VESTGoruck Ruck Plate Carrier 3.0 Read More
Why Train with a Weighted Vest?
Cardio and Endurance Training
Wearing a weighted vest during your running or plyometric training can be an easy way to boost your workouts. The added weight puts an increased sense of stress on your respiratory muscles, making it more taxing to breathe. This can help increase your heart rate as you train, leading to better cardiovascular health over extended use. Additionally, the added load across your shoulders, back and chest can place a constant strain on your muscles, which can be great for endurance training and getting your body used to outside stressors. Think of weighted vests as a bat donut in baseball. Training with them (i.e., warming up with a weighted donut) can allow your body to get used to the strain, and when it comes time to perform in your race, you'll be better prepared to take on the challenges.
Increased Energy Expenditure
Because of the uptick in your heart rate, wearing a weighted vest can help you expend more energy in training, leading to an increase in the number of calories burned throughout a given workout. This can be a welcome perk for anyone looking to lean up or lose fat as their end fitness goal. Plus, weighted vests can be intuitive to strap into, meaning the decision to boost a session for added calorie burn doesn't take a lengthy setup or dedicated regimen. Whether running on a treadmill, busting out some agility ladder sessions, or simply powering through a strength workout, a weighted vest can seamlessly fit into whichever modality you choose.
Naturally, any added weight to your silhouette can help with increasing your overall strength, but the idea of wearing weighted vests isn't just pigeonholed to calisthenics like push-ups, burpees, pull-ups and other exercises. There's plenty of benefit to wearing a weighted vest during barbell exercises, too, as the added resistance is shared across your frame, creating more work and stress than you'd typically see in a barbell squat or row. You'll not only get the muscle training from moving the barbell but also controlling your core and upper body throughout the movements.
What to Look for in Weighted Vests
One of the first items to consider when choosing a weighted vest is how much the structure weighs. Most weighted vests range from 10–40 pounds, but some can be increased or decreased with the addition or removal of accessory weights. While this can be great for varying loads and stressors in training, it's important to take into consideration your abilities and planned activities. For example, a 50-pound plate carrier can provide plenty of resistance but may be too much for long-distance running endeavors, as well as a bit too much weight for beginner athletes.
You'll also want to consider how the weight is distributed across the vest's frame. For those that don't want a constricting profile across their chest, consider a plate carrier that keeps all weight strewn across your back. If you want a more level silhouette, there are weighted vests that showcase a full-weight distribution, which can be great for targeting your core and chest muscles. Above all, make sure whichever you choose provides a comfortable silhouette, as there's nothing worse than feeling discomfort with a device you willingly strap on for more intense training.
Size and Fit
To go along with the loading area, make sure your weighted vest provides a sufficient fit. Take a look at all available size guides, and try to find silhouettes that feature some form of adjustability in the straps and shoulders. This can allow for a more fine-tuned fit that isn't too constricting or baggy. Plus, creating a tighter, next-to-body fit can help improve comfort through more dynamic training modalities like running or plyometrics. Those heavy weights beating across your back and chest can get annoying rather quickly if the vest itself is ill-fitting.
How We Tested
Over multiple weeks, I strapped into a number of the weighted vests shown below, highlighting key features like the weight range, fit and overall comfort. Whether taking on hill climbs and shorter trail runs or powering through agility workouts and strength modules, I kept these resistance-boosting accessories at the ready for more calorie-burning potential. Bonus points were also awarded for silhouettes showcasing ample breathability and durability. After all, weighted vests can be more expensive than other training tools, so it helps to know you won't have to replace these devices often, whether through wear out or just sweating through them to the point of no cleaning return.
Goruck Training Weight Vest
Thanks to redesigned shoulder straps from the brand’s Rucker lineup of rucksacks, I found each workout with the Training Weight Vest from Goruck to be a comfortable, worthwhile experience. The 500D Cordura exterior is plenty durable and marries well with the 210D Cordura interior for a silhouette that’s poised for extended training regimens. I also enjoyed the two plate holders that allowed me to mix up load placements, as each pouch is capable of holding a 30-pound plate securely with little movement or jostling.
I also had no problem fitting the Training Weight Vest across my frame but would’ve appreciated some adjustability in the waist belt straps. For larger-chested athletes, these straps may be too short to accommodate your profile.
While our top pick gives off that burly aesthetic that can be a welcome inclusion to your hard-nosed training sessions, not every workout calls for that much aggression. I loved the sleek, pliable vibe of the Omorpho G-Vest+ and found the fit to be exceptional without restricting my range of motion. The 10-pound frame easily keeps its place no matter your modality, and the pull-cord side straps make finding that ideal fit a breeze.
I do wish, however, that Omorpho offered this silhouette in varying weights, as there’s no room to add resistance if you grow accustomed to the load over time. I’d recommend this for long-distance running scenarios most, as the 10 pounds is enough to add stress without being as demanding as other vests in this roundup.
Cap Barbell 20–150 lb. Adjustable Weighted Vest
If you’re just getting into weighted vest training, consider this budget pick from Cap Barbell. The 20-pound total can be an excellent starting point and can be whittled down to accommodate your abilities by simply removing one or multiple 2.5-pound weights across the frame. Plus, the padded shoulder straps help promote an added sense of comfort, which can be ideal when learning the ropes of this boosted training practice.
It should be noted, though, that the nylon and polyester makeup of this vest may not be best suited for intense wear and tear, as some athletes have noted durability issues over extended use. Plus, the shoulder straps, while plush and cozy, aren’t adjustable for a more personalized fit.
If you really want to up the intensity of your bodyweight exercises, take a look at this innovative silhouette from Kensui. Rather than relying on cast rucking plates or smaller weights for improved resistance, this EZ-Vest employs standard Olympic weight plates as its load-altering source. I found this unique design to be exceptional and fun, allowing me to add a number of plate varieties across the front and rear plate shafts.
Naturally, though, these heavier weights do take some getting used to, and housing a 45-pound plate across your chest can definitely limit mobility (while also making you look like a training-centric Flavor Flav). For this reason, I recommend this weighted vest for less dynamic modalities where the compromised range of motion is not as detrimental.
Goruck Ruck Plate Carrier 3.0
I really enjoyed the durable design of Goruck’s Ruck Plate Carrier 3.0, as it was a breath of fresh air for my trail running workouts, literally. The lack of weight across my chest created a better breathing environment, and the isolated weight across my back and shoulders forced me into a wider chest for better posture. Plus, the padding across the shoulder straps made for more comfortable wear and less jostling during movements.
In my opinion, though, I think this silhouette could be improved upon with the addition of a waist belt strap. The sternum strap does an efficient job of keeping the plate in place, but at times I felt the weight begin to slide down my back. Cinching in at the base of the plate could help prevent this, and eliminate the chance of the sternum strap riding up during longer sessions.
5.11 Tactical TacTec Plate Carrier
When partaking in high-intensity WODs and other demanding circuits, I really enjoyed the fit and feel of the TacTec Plate Carrier from 5.11 Tactical. The oversized air panels allowed for exceptional breathability which kept me calm and cool when circuits got rather strenuous. I also appreciated the back yoke shoulder pads that better distributed the added weight, even when focused at just the chest or back of the vest.
Just be sure to do a little research beforehand to make sure you’re loading your weight plates correctly. There are multiple straps within the interior to ensure your loads don’t jostle during training, and setup is not as easy to pick up, especially for novices. Thankfully, 5.11 Tactical has an informative step-by-step video to help ensure your setup is as secure as the 500D Cordura makeup of this training-ready pack.
Hyperwear Hyper Vest Elite
For running endeavors, this is easily my favorite silhouette thanks to a well-distributed weight total and the flexible fabric. I didn’t feel like my mobility was compromised with the Hyper Vest Elite, which allowed me to pace and stride comfortably, albeit with an added load.
In testing, however, I did find this weighted vest worked best when worn directly over my base layer. Anything bulkier created a tighter fit that didn’t mesh well with training. Plus, the pull-cord side straps make adjustments very easy for a fine-tuned setup, but there’s a lot of excess cord at the end. It’s best to tie this material up in a knot prior to training if you don’t want it slapping your sides as you stride toward your finish line.
TRX XD Kevlar Weight Vest
I get it, weighted vests aren't always the most comfortable accessory to add to one’s frame. TRX, on the other hand, looks to squash that notion with this impressive option boasting high-density foam for comfort and a durable XD Kevlar exterior for extended use. I also really appreciate the cross-strap design at the waist which allowed for a premier fit without digging into my hips or abdomen.
The plates across the XD Kevlar Weight Vest are also removable for added versatility, but getting the plates back into their interior slots can take some finagling at times. I’d recommend setting some time aside prior to your training to achieve a proper weight setup if you opt to go for less of a load.
Hyperwear Hyper Fit
For female athletes, finding gear that’s in line with their specific needs can be a pain at times, and while most weighted vests boast a unisex profile, there still exists some room for discomfort. Thankfully, though, this sleek silhouette from Hyperwear was designed by women for women, featuring one-way stretch that allows for some flexibility while still keeping the plates in place, albeit around the torso and lower back, which may feel uncomfortable to some users.
This can be a great weighted vest for walking and other cardio-specific workouts, but those wanting more resistance may want to look elsewhere, simply because this vest is only available up to 10 pounds. For heavier training, it may be best to look at other vests included in this roundup.
Powerhands Weighted Powersuit
If you want to add weight across your entire frame rather than just your chest and back, consider wearing an entire bodysuit during training for a widened scope of resistance. I enjoyed the fit and feel of the Powersuit from Powerhandz, as the plates were flexible enough to allow for better mobility and the material itself was stretchy enough for that less constricting feel. Plus, the more even weight distribution gave each workout a unique sense of resistance not experienced with other weighted vests.
While this can be a great option for those wanting to change up their resistance training, it does come with more of a contractual agreement. This bodysuit fits best when worn overtop your base layer, meaning you can’t simply pop this added weight on and off between circuits. Still, though, for resistance training that targets both your upper and lower body, this can be a great option.