What is a weight vest? They are garments that have weights embedded into them. They’re used in weight training because they add more gravity and resistance to your body, making your exercise more effective.
Another reason why they are so popular is that they leave your hands free while you exercise. You can wear them under your usual clothes too, so they’re perfect for sneaking in some exercise while you go about your day.
You can buy weighted clothing for your core, neck, upper arms, wrists, thighs, ankles, and even your hands and feet. Weighted backpacks and belts are also available, and every product will differ in size and mass.
It’s fascinating how many options there are, but I want to home in on weight vests. I’ve narrowed down five of my favorites, and I will share my picks with you.
Is a Weight Vest Helpful?
The truth is research regarding the effects of weight vests is inconclusive. Individual studies each yielded solid results, but the problem is the investigations contradict each other.
Some studies have found that weight vests significantly improve your overall workout and have lasting beneficial effects on your health. Others discovered that weight vests are mediocre and don’t make that much of a difference.
So what’s the truth? I’m no scientist, so I can’t say. But what I do know is that weight vests are all the rage because they assist with cardio and resistance training—and we don’t need scientific papers to understand why.
Weight vests make you work harder. In cardio, they speed up your heart rate and slow down your breathing. This means that you burn more calories while being less active. In weight training, they build strength by adding some extra fire to your muscles.
How to Use a Weight Vest
You might be thinking, “How hard can it be?” But as with any fitness equipment, there is a correct way to use a weight vest. Using one incorrectly or irresponsibly can injure you or cause damage to your health. They’re not for everyone, and they’re not worth hurting yourself for.
Start slow: Going straight for the heaviest setting your weight vest can carry could cause strain and injury. The point of a weight vest is to make your usual routine more challenging—it’s NOT to push yourself to your breaking point.
Don’t wear one all the time: Excessive use of weight vests can throw your body’s equilibrium off center. It can also damage your posture and cause injury to your spine. There is a big risk of too much of a good thing with weight vests. Use them, but don’t abuse them.
Find a vest that fits you properly: If your vest is too loose (it should hug your body perfectly), the weights can slide out of place and alter your balance. It also increases the chance of injury. If it’s too tight, it could restrict your breathing and cause unnecessary compression of your bones.
Don’t ignore the warning signs: If it hurts, causes extreme discomfort, freaks you out, constricts your breathing, or makes you work too hard, stop. There is this idea going around that weight vests are for masochists, but this doesn’t have to be true.
There is a difference between “if it hurts, it’s working” and your body trying to tell you to stop. If you can’t handle it, it’s best to admit defeat. Pushing your limits can cause serious damage, and—to reiterate—injury just isn’t worth it.
Remember the golden rule: Weight vests should not exceed 10 percent of your body weight.
Risks of Weight Vests
Just a word of warning before I show you my favorites: weight vests can cause spinal injuries, and it is of utmost importance that you use them correctly. It may only be in extreme cases that this occurs, but you should know the risks involved before you invest in one.
Weight vests can also cause labored breathing. If you are new to wearing one, you might find this uncomfortable. Restricted breathing can lead to panic attacks. If you are claustrophobic, you might want to reconsider using one.
The Five Best Weight Vests
Deciding on a weight vest can be tricky because none are perfect. Most will triumph in certain areas and completely fail in others.
What’s most important when you choose a weight vest is what you will use it for. Heavy-duty weight vests shouldn’t be used for cardio, and nonadjustable vests won’t help much in resistance training, for example.
I have rated the following according to comfort, features, and usability. After reading my weight vest review, you’ll have more of an insight into what’s available.
ZFO is a bestseller and firm favorite among enthusiasts. These vests come in four different weights, ranging from 20–80 pounds. All except the 20-pound vest have removable weights for use in different settings.
Its contoured design, reinforced stitching, and adjustable Velcro strap give you flexibility and comfort. It’s a strong, yet versatile, weight vest that is certainly worth investing in.
- Impressive adjustability in weight and size
- Great customer reviews
- You can get very hot when wearing it
This unisex 10-pound vest looks a little bit feminine but it’s thanks to its adjustable laces, which can be adjusted according to your chest or bust.
This breathable and lightweight vest is made of stretch fabric that is sweat and odor resistant. It’s also machine washable, which is something all weight vest manufacturers could stand to be inspired by.
The Hyperwear vest has a lot of potential. It’s comfortable, and it gets points for that. However, there are some customer complaints regarding tears and breakage, so it doesn’t seem to be too durable.
- Adjustable both in weight and fit
- Can be used in all areas of exercise
- Quite comfortable
- Suitable for all genders, shapes, and sizes
- Breakages and tears appear to be common
It’s not very often that fitness equipment is designed for 21st-century people, and that’s why this vest made it into my top five. It’s not the ultimate, but its key features are pretty special.
This 12-pound, temperature-controlled vest is made of neoprene. It has reinforced stitching, and one size fits all. You can pick between black and blue, and it’s sweat and odor resistant.
I like that it has reflective tape and a pocket for mobile phones or important gadgets. But it’s almost as though it’s overcompensating. Unfortunately, for all its peacockery, when it comes to comfort, it falls short.
- Temperature control makes it great for high-intensity interval workouts
- Its light weight makes it great for cardio and resistance training
- Reflective tape for extra protection when running at night
- It has a place for your phone
- Choice in design
- It’s just not that comfortable
This vest doesn’t have too many fancy features, but it’s a crowd-pleaser and is proof that less is more. It’s contoured neoprene with adjustable straps and reinforced stitching. It also has something called Evergrip—a patented feature that holds the vest in place.
This vest has so many pros, I was tempted to make it my number one. But not only is it prone to damage, its weight is nonadjustable. That’s great if you’re only using it for one type of exercise, but it just won’t do for generalists.
- Fully adjustable in size and shape
- Patented design
- Absorbs sweat and fights odors
- The simple design isn’t overkill and is functional rather than fancy
- Breathable and comfortable
- Is great for going incognito, as it fits well under casual attire
- Although it’s available in two weight choices, the weight is otherwise not adjustable
- Women might experience discomfort in high-intensity workouts or while running due to how it fits around the bust
- Prone to tears and leakages
This is a 12-pound, one-size-fits-all vest. It’s simple so a great choice if you are going for a minimalist workout. It’s made of neoprene, and it comes with a belt. Heavier vests in this range come with removable weights for more versatility.
The Runmax has extra support, which we can all appreciate, but it overheats and is therefore not something I’d recommend for cardio or high-intensity interval training. I like its design though. It’s one of the more stylish ones around.
- Shape (and weight in heavier vests) can be adjusted
- Sturdy and durable
- Belt offers more stability and support
- Gets very hot in this vest
- Not very breathable
My Choice for Best Weight Vest
This was a really close call because each of the above choices in my weight vest review has features that stand out to me.
The Everlast was a strong contender for my favorite. It looks good, it’s comfortable, and it’s patented. But I can’t look past the non-adjustability, and it’s not the best choice for women.
So my top pick is the ZFO weighted vest. It wins because of how adjustable it is, making it the most versatile vest I could find. The masses are right about this one. It’s comfortable, durable, and great value for money.
If only it wasn’t so warm. Perhaps ZFO will improve upon the design in the future and, in doing so, create what could very well be the perfect weighted vest.