Should You Be Running with a Weighted Race Vest?

race vest

For runners and other athletes who are not too familiar with weighted race vests, they are vests with added weight primarily used to make your workout sessions more difficult and physically demanding. Race vests come in different styles, but in most cases, they are made using strong nylon that is reinforced with elastic velcro straps. Although some vests come with a standard built-in weight, there are race vests that can be adjusted by either removing or adding weighted blocks. Exercises most often associated with weighted vests include running, walking and calisthenics workouts.

The purpose of Running with a Weighted Vest

As previously mentioned, the main reason people run with a weighted vest is to increase the intensity of their workout. Athletes often wear weighted vests to enhance their physical performance by engaging different sets of muscles. The extra weight added by the vest causes additional resistance when running, which increases your heart rate and significantly increases the number of calories your body burns.

Most weight vests are outfitted with adjustable lateral and shoulder strap that enable customization to fit any body shape. These straps also ensure that the weight is properly distributed to occupy the center of gravity for every body type. To achieve optimal balance, make sure that the weight is concentrated in the upper body and chest when running. Now that we understand the purpose of these vests, let’s look at some of the benefits.

Benefits

1. Weighted race vests can greatly improve your endurance and strength

Carrying around extra weight during exercise requires additional oxygen and strength. The more weight you add to your vest, the more your muscles must adapt, leading to muscular endurance and improved physical conditioning. A study done by Texas Tech University, found that football players who wore weighted vests during their training performed much better in vertical jumps, broad jumps, and 40-yard dashes compared to their counterparts who did not train while wear vests.

2. A weighted vest acts as a tool for constant variation

Our bodies normally adapt to certain movements if performed repeatedly over a certain timeframe. If your body adapts to a specific exercise, it means that you will not be making any progress. For example, if you run one mile each morning at the same speed and elevation, there is a reason that it begins to feel easier. Your body is adapting to the routine you created. Weight vests are an effective choice of gear that keeps your body guessing by constantly adding variety to your workouts.

3. Significant cardiovascular benefits

Running or performing other physical activities with a weighted running vest poses a great challenge to your body. Your cardiovascular system works harder due to the added resistance. This strengthens your lungs due to the increased amount of oxygen your body consumes so it can continue performing at a highly demanding pace.

4. Musculoskeletal Benefits

Wearing a weighted vest when running will not only make your muscles stronger, but it will also strengthen your bones. The extra weight can increase bone mass by sending signals to skeletal cells known as “osteoblasts” to produce new bone material in response to the load placed on your body.

5. Enhanced Breathing Mechanics

Breathing from the diaphragm as opposed to the chest improves your exchange of air. If you run wearing a weighted vest, the pressure of the vest often makes it easy for you to engage your diagram, which enables deep breathing.

6. Psychological Advantage

When you are used to running with a weighted vest, you will feel lighter and faster once you remove it. In fact, in our experience, you are more likely to cover 50 percent more distance you normally cover when you train with a race vest for about 20-25% of your workouts.

Now that we’ve seen some of the benefits laid out, let’s recap with the ‘Pros’ and also take a look at some of the potential cons of using a weighted vest.

Pros

In additional to the aforementioned benefits, additional advantages of running with a weighted vest include:

  • Increased leg strength when running downhill
  • Improved core stability that assists in maintaining form
  • Lowering the chances of injury
  • Making uphill races easier to complete

Cons

1. Shoulder and back problems

Weighted vests place an additional load to the torso, where most of the body weight is already concentrated. If too much weight is added too quickly, your shoulders (and not the hips) will mostly support this extra weight. This can cause vertebral compression, nerve pinches, and shoulder injuries.

2. Joint Pains

It is imperative to ensure that your ankles, knees, and hips support the additional weight of the vest. The added weight can irritate and strain your joints. However, if proper form is observed when exercising with a weighted vest, we’ve encountered very little (or no) problems.

3. Comfort

If you exercise with a weighted vest that moves around too much, it can be quite uncomfortable, especially when running. In addition, vest weights are often made of metal that can poke you when you bend in certain directions. Certainly, this can be avoided, but a lot of runners don’t think to double check this before their workout!

Final Thoughts

If you are an athlete or fitness aficionado who wants to burn more calories, strengthen your bones and muscles, build endurance, and increase the intensity of your exercises, then wearing a race vest is the way to go. If you are more of a recreation runner that enjoys lower-impact workouts, then training with weighted vests probably isn’t for you. If you decide to give weighted vests a try, we want to emphasis the importance of making sure the vest is not too heavy, and that your form is perfect. Always make sure to start out with a weight that’s a little less than what you think you can handle. Just like working out a new muscle group, you want to start small (or ‘light’, in this case) and work your way up.