Running With a Weighted Vest: Everything You Need to Know

Running With a Weighted Vest: Everything You Need to Know

You've been working out for a while but want to amp up your workouts a notch. Maybe you'd like to lose weight faster. There is a simple way to take your workout from "meh" to "effective."

What do you need to know about running with a weighted vest? You need to understand the major benefits along with potential problems before you run with a weighted vest. You also should understand the specifics of weighted vests so you know what to look for before you invest in this important fitness equipment. 

What are the Benefits of Running With a Weighted Vest?

You can break down the benefits of running with a knee vest into four different categories: cardio, musculoskeletal, balance, and endurance. 

Cardio Benefits

If you've ever have run during a time that you were carrying extra weight, you know the exertion that excess weight causes. You breathe harder, you struggle to catch your breath, and in short, you just work harder. 

People claim that running with a weight vest leads to a faster spike in heart rate and overall improved cardio health. Your body works harder to move your weight forward if you have extra weight on you, be it in your body weight or the weight of a vest. 

Weight vest running makes your heart work harder to pump blood. 

If you've had a doctor's approval for cardio workouts, a weighted vest will take your cardio conditioning up a notch. Studies are showing that weighted vests lower lactate threshold. This means you can go harder and have less lactate or soreness when you're finished with a workout. 

Additionally, the same studies are showing that experienced runners experience better running times before they're completely exhausted. They also improve their vertical velocity or the power that they have to push off the ground when they run. 

In short, they have great cardiovascular fitness. 

Musculoskeletal Benefits

Runners, in general, have better bone density than non-runners. High-impact endurance activities like running increase bone mineral density. 

Women in particular benefit from this side effect as many are prone to osteoporosis. Women over 50, in particular, are most likely to develop osteoporosis, with women being four times as likely to develop it than men.

Weight-bearing bones consist of the legs, pelvis, and spine. These bones tend to be stronger than the same bones in inactive people. If you're already strong, adding a weighted running vest will make those bones even stronger if you use it correctly. 

Thus, running with a weight vest could increase your bone density. One study even indicates that the long-term use of weighted vests when running prevents hip bone loss in postmenopausal women. 

Experts also claim that weight-bearing exercises of any sort are some of the best exercises for preventing osteoporosis. 

So this may lead you to wonder: if weight-bearing exercises are so great for your bones, why do overweight people have trouble with their joints? 

Point taken. When you carry around too much weight, you put extra stress on your joints. A weighted vest, however, allows you to control the amount of weight you carry. 

You should use a weighted vest only if you're already in shape and have the muscles to keep your joints aligned. So start by walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, playing little tennis, or even dancing. These weight-bearing exercises will help you get into shape so you can then progress to wearing a weighted running vest. 

Weighted vests will help you build muscle and bone density. They stimulate osteoblasts, the cells that build bone cells. 

Balance Benefits

Whenever you're carrying something, you have to be mindful of your posture and form. When you're not, you can lose your balance. A weighted vest will force you to be mindful of your posture and balance. 

As a result, running with a weighted vest can improve your balance as you run. Regular resistance training with a weight vest can decrease the risk of falling especially for those of us who struggle with balance anyway. 

Endurance Benefits

Wearing a weighted vest builds muscular endurance. Your muscles will be able to carry your body weight farther for a longer time if you train with the weighted vest. Once you remove the vest for your regular runs, you'll quickly find out you can run for a longer period or a farther distance more easily. 

So whether you're a sprinter who needs to go faster or an endurance runner who needs to go farther, you will gain great benefits from running with a weighted vest. 

Running With a Weighted Vest Pros and Cons

Running with a weighted vest has a dark side as well. You have to weigh your pros and cons before you decide if the sore muscles are worth the effort. You also should have your cold therapy ready when you're done so you can recover quickly and then keep at it. 

Weight Vest Pros 

Wearing a weighted vest could improve your running speed if you use the vest correctly. Imagine yourself doing sprints with the weighted vest, exploding from the blocks. Now imagine yourself doing the same exercise with less weight. 

You will get faster. 

Weighted vests are portable, and thus you can use them for other activities in addition to running. If you enjoy weight training in addition to running, you can take your weight vest into the weight room with you. 

Weight training with your weight vest on will help improve your bone density. 

If you wear your weight vest when doing any cardio workout be it a boxing class or just gym equipment like a stair stepper, you will burn more calories.  

Think about it like this: a 150-pound man will burn approximately 270 calories when he runs 30 minutes. A man who weighs 175 pounds will burn approximately 320 calories. So when you put on that weighted vest, you're burning more calories. 

Weighted Vest Cons

There's always another side of something good. As far as a weighted vest goes, the cons all depend on how you use the vest. 

Adding too much weight to your training regimen too quickly could bother your joints and even worsen osteoporosis in women. You must add weight gradually when you use the weighted vest to avoid this con. 

There's no real recipe for how much to add or when to add more weight, so wearing a weighted vest when running makes the balance tricky. 

You have to be patient when you're wearing a weighted vest and running. You need to start with an empty vest and then add weight a little at a time. Once your body adjusts to the new weight, then you can add more. 

Weighted vests increase your chance of injury. You are adding something foreign to your body that could cause extra wear and tear on your joints. It could also throw you balance off if you do not have it securely strapped. 

Weighted vests can also give you a false sense of improvement. You may come away from this article thinking that all you need to do to improve your speed or endurance is throw on a weighted vest. 

Truthfully, to improve as a runner, you need to do much more than shoulder more weight. You need to focus on your form to improve for one. Good form is the free speed in the world of running. 

You also need to focus on the proper nutrition to recover from your workouts. You may even need to lose weight before you add more weight to your frame. 

Before you take on the challenge of a weighted vest, you should focus on strength training your core and your hips. Adding more weight will challenge your joints, and you need a strong core to absorb the new weight that you're carrying. 

How Often Should You Run With a Weighted Vest? 

When you first get a weighted vest, you need to begin cautiously. If you're running every day right now, give your body a break from the vest every other day. 

Also, do not wear a weighted vest for long periods. Try to keep the vest on for no longer than one to one-and-a-half hours. 

When you first get your vest, take some time to learn about it. Setting up your weighted vest may take some time, but if you learn about it right away, you can avoid undue injury. 

How to Use a Weighted Vest For Running

When you use a weighted vest, make sure your lower extremities are in good shape. You need strong ankles, feet, and knees to absorb the weight that you'll be carrying and to stabilize yourself as you learn to balance with the vest.

If you're wondering if you're strong enough to handle the vest, try to bench or squat your full body weight. You should be able to do this and preferably more weight to be strong enough to carry the extra weight of the vest. 

If you're preparing for a running race, then drop the vest two to three weeks before the event. Your body will need that amount of time to recover from the extra weight. 

If you're a long-time runner, you understand the ten-percent rule. You should not increase your mileage by more than ten percent each week. 

The same applies to the vest. You should not increase your weight by more than ten percent each week. So if you start with five pounds, do not increase by more than a half a pound next week. 

What's the Best Weighted Vest for Running?

When you start shopping for a weighted vest, you will quickly discover the styles and shapes vary greatly. You need to find a weight vest that fits your body snugly. The vest should feel like the weight is evenly distributed around your trunk. 

Body Type

Keep your body type in mind. If you're a busty woman, then you want a vest that will accommodate your curves. If you're a mesomorphic man with a broad chest and narrow waist, then look for a vest that fits your V shape.

Adjustable Weights

Most weighted vests will have adjustable weights that you can easily adjust and balance. As you look at the vest, examine if you can change the weights easily or if changing weights is a hassle. 

Adequate Airflow

Look for a vest with good airflow and minimal chafing. If you plan on running for an hour in your vest, you will sweat. The wrong kind of material or fit will cause the vest to rub and lead to painful chafing.

Pay close attention to the construction of the vest and not how it fits the model. Most likely the model is already in tiptop shape. So unless you're a CrossFit athlete in dream shape, you need to keep your body shape in mind as you shop. 


Make sure the vest is made of anti-bacterial or anti-microbial material that is tear and sweat resistant. As you sweat, bacterial will build on normal fabric, and this bacteria will transfer to your skin and cause irritation. The anti-bacterial fabric prevents this problem. 

The weights should be coated or be a neoprene material. Otherwise, they will rust and corrode.

Weighted vests also come with accessories like pouches for a phone or sweat-resistant sleeves under the vest. You can even find them in different colors and with reflective strips.  

What is a Good Weight for a Weighted Vest?

As a rule of thumb, the weight you carry in your weighted vest should not exceed ten percent of your body weight. So if you're a 150-pound man, you should not have more than an extra 15 pounds in your vest. 

Every once in a while you will come across a website or advice forum where a so-called expert says you should build up to 20 percent of your body weight. If you're training for an event that requires that kind of extra weight, consult a doctor to make sure you have a heart that can handle that kind of stress during endurance and cardiovascular event.

Suit Up, Bulk Up

If your fitness has plateaued with your current running adventure, a weighted vest could be a great way to take the intensity up a notch.

For running advice and overall wellness articles, check out our blog. We can teach you things like how to run with a knee brace or recover from an injury as well as what running with a weighted vest will do for you. 

Take time to peruse our site and contact us for your wellness needs. 

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