There are two types of people in this world.
The ones who love working out – and the ones who don’t.
Sure, there are lots of people who don’t mind working out. Many more work out because they have to, even though they’d rather be watching Netflix or taking a nap.
But folks who look forward all day to hitting the gym? They’re the ones we’re primarily addressing in these Groom+Style reviews.
After all, people who simply put in their time working out and are relieved when they can finally head home probably aren’t in the market for a great weighted vest. Only workout warriors would want to wear an extra 5 pounds, 10 pounds or more on their back while in the gym or when out running.
There are also two types of those gym rats, amateur or pro athletes, who wear additional weight while doing resistance training, cardio orCrossFit: those who make sure they have the very best workout equipment, and those who wish they could afford the very best.
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The G+S review team has both groups covered. We’ve reviewed almost all of the weighted vests available, checking them for comfort, fit, quality, adjustability and versatility, and we’ve compiled our rankings of the best weighted vests in all price ranges. So whether you’re ready to lay out hundreds of bucks or can only afford to spend the price of a training meal, we’ve got all the details you need to add extra weight to your workout.
We’re ready to drop and give you ten…of the best weighted vests.
Best Weighted Vests
1. CAP Barbell Adjustable Weighted Vest
CAP has been making highly-regarded fitness products for decades, and their weighted vests are just as well-made and versatile as you’d expect them to be. The Groom+Style team was unanimous in its vote to put the Barbell vest at #1 – even before we considered the fact that there’s one of these vests available for every weight class.
There are eight versions of this CAP vest available, with 40 pounds as the lowest maximum weight and a whopping 150 pounds as the highest maximum weight. The length and price of the vest increases as you go up in maximum weight; the smallest vest is priced extremely reasonably, but as you get up to the top of the scale you be paying several hundred dollars. The weight is added with sand bags for the small and medium sizes (filled bags in 2½-pound increments come with the vest), and with metal bars in varied weights for the highest sizes.
The vest itself has wide neoprene-padded shoulder straps which balance the weight well (although you may want to add more padding at heavier weights), the mesh nylon construction breathes well, the stitching is just about impeccable, and there are both reflective safety strips and a pocket for your phone.
The team does believe that the standard CAP vests, particularly the bigger ones, fit larger people better than smaller ones. Those with slighter frames may want to consider the CAP Barbell Short Adjustable Vest which only hangs down to the midsection, available in 20-pound and 50-pound sizes. There’s also a 30-pound version designed specifically for women. All are sold at Amazon.
CAP quality shines through the company’s weighted vests, and the fact that they offer so many variations in weight capacities and sizes makes the Barbell the perfect choice for just about everyone.
Facts and figures for the CAP Barbell Adjustable Weighted Vest:
2. RUNFast/Max Adjustable Weighted Vest
Here’s a product fairly similar to the CAP Barbell, but with an option to get an even smaller vest with an even lower price. The RunFast adjustable weighted vests start at just 20 pounds, and can be purchased with as much as a 140 pound capacity; the vests capable of holding 100 pounds or more are quite expensive, just as with the CAP models. The company also has a line called Max PRO which is almost identical, which includes a 12-pound vest that’s not adjustable. All of the weights are sand-filled tubes, and they come in 2½-pound increments.
The vests are well-constructed, durable and balanced, and they cinch tight to your upper body with Velcro straps. One negative (and the primary reason the RunFast/Max comes in at #2 rather than #1) is that the vest can’t be fastened tightly on the lower torso, so it does bounce around a bit if you’re wearing it while running.
This weighted vest is made from breathable nylon, the shoulder straps are wide but for some reason the matching thin padding has to be purchased as an option, and the vest cinches to your body with Velcro straps. There are small pockets for (small) water bottles and phones.
The RunFast/Max is a very good, durable weighted vest that’s good for any type of workout except running, and the models with lower weight capacity are a very good value even though you have to pay extra for shoulder padding.
More details on the RUNFast/Max Adjustable Weighted Vest:
3. Titan Adjustable Weighted Vest
The Titan vest comes in five sizes, with 60 pounds at the high end and just 10 pounds at the low end.
That makes this series of weighted vests a more reasonable choice for everyday exercisers rather than the workout warriors who need 100 or 150 pounds added to their body for grueling sessions. The lower prices of the lower-weighted vests (the 10-pound vest only costs about what you’d pay for a meal for two at a local chain restaurant, and the price for the 60 pound model is priced quite reasonably) also make the Titan a more palatable choice for the budget.
This is a durable product, made from heavy-duty material that isn’t as breathable as our first two choices, but is tough and wear-resistant.
The wide shoulder straps have a good amount of padding, and the weights are solid steel ingots which slip easily into the vest pockets (and in a nice touch, have rounded corners so they won’t cut or rip the pockets). The Velcro straps will hold well unless you’re going to be trying to run in this weighted vest, in which case the bottom of the vest will jiggle and shift.
The G+S team recommends using this model in the gym, not on the roads.
The Titan Adjustable vest is priced quite fairly, and is a great choice for those who are just getting started with weighted workouts.
Looking closer at the Titan Adjustable Weighted Vest:
4. ZFOsports Weighted Vest
Another reasonably-priced weighted belt that’s built to last, the ZFO is bulky but will fit most people well. It’s available in 20-, 40-, 60- and 80-pound versions and even the heaviest one will only set you back around a hundred bucks. Of course, the big drawback to “bulky” is usually “not very breathable,” and that’s the one real negative the review team found to this choice. We think it’s worth wearing a sweatshirt underneath the vest – simply because sweat will build up relatively quickly if you are working hard.
The adjustable shoulder straps are nicely padded, as is the entire vest. And the Velcro straps hold the product tighter around the waist than on many competitors, making this a better choice for runners than some of the other vests we’ve checked out.
The weights are packets of sand (the manufacturer makes sure to use the words “iron ore” to describe the material inside the packets, but that just means there are little flecks of iron in the sand) and they come in increments of just under four pounds.
The ZFO vest is tough, well padded and comfortable, but bulky. If you don’t mind getting sweaty, it’s a good buy and the best weighted vest for runners.
More on the ZFOsports Weighted Vest:
5. JBM Weighted Vest
The JBM vest is G+S’s selection as the best lightweight, fixed weight vest.
It only comes in one size (although it will fit people who wear standard sizes from small to XL), and the weight in the 12-pound vest cannot be adjusted. That makes it a bad choice for those who want to keep increasing the resistance they experience during workouts, but a very good choice for those who simply want to make their cardio or strength training more challenging.
This is a comfortable vest to wear, made from soft neoprene fabric, although its light weight makes it more prone to being ripped. That could potentially be an issue, because the weights inside are tiny metal pellets which will spill out if the vest rips in the wrong place. The team didn’t find that to be a problem, however – just be careful around sharp objects. There is an adjustable buckle strap in the middle of this short stack vest (it only extends down to the top of the abdomen), there’s reflective tape for night use, and a large nylon pouch for holding a water bottle and phone.
The JBM weighted vest doesn’t have the flexibility you find with an adjustable weighted vest, but it’s a great choice for those who want a model that just adds 12 pounds of resistance to their workouts.
Details for the JBM Weighted Vest:
6. Hyperwear Hyper Vest PRO Adjustable Weighted Vest
There’s no way you can use one of the G+S top-ranked vests all day, or hide one under your (loose-fitting) clothing as you go about your work or chores. Those vests are just too bulky and too heavy.
Enter the Hyper Vest PRO. This is a weighted vest with a very low profile, with a maximum weight capacity of ten pounds. (The company also sells the Hyper Vest Elite, which can carry up to 20 pounds of weight.) It works well for cross-training, running or just working your muscles “stealthily” on a daily basis. The team had its doubts at first about whether this Hyperwear vest could really be hidden and effective, but we’re now believers.
It’s made from a stretch fabric blend which wicks away moisture and is odor resistant, but what we liked best is the design that features open sides, keeping you cool and giving you full range of motion. Instead of Velcro straps that fasten around the front, the Hyper Vest PRO laces up the sides and zips down the front; that’s one way the vest stays virtually invisible underneath your sweats.[youtube id=”4N_uAPc63pg” width=”750″ height=”340″ position=”left”]
The weights are 2¼ pound bars and can be removed to make the weight of this vest less than ten pounds, but getting them out of the pockets can be an endurance test all by itself. The company sells a separate tool that helps remove the bars and it’s a good investment. Our major concern with this weighted vest is that it isn’t the most durable that we’ve reviewed, and for a huge cost of several hundred dollars, we’d expect a bit more. We hope that Hyperwear can address that issue.
This is the slimmest low-profile weighted vest you’ll find, and it’s very comfortable to wear all day or for running and cross-training. It’s pretty expensive, though.
The lowdown on the Hyperwear Hyper Vest PRO Adjustable Weighted Vest:
7. Empower Weighted Vest For Women
We don’t want to add to the stereotype of women being unable to work out as hard or with as much weight as men. However, it just so happens that the weighted vest that’s best designed for a woman’s body is also the one which comes with the lowest maximum weights: four and eight pound fixed weight models, and a 16 pound adjustable weight vest. Please don’t blame us if you’re a female body builder or workout warrior; we didn’t make the vests.
What’s most noteworthy about the Empower weighted vests is their contoured X-shaped design, perfect for a woman’s chest. The vests are made from stretchy Lycra spandex and are adjusted with the use of side straps, making them comfortable and able to fit women with waist sizes between 24 and 48 inches. (That’s just for measuring; the vest itself doesn’t come down as far as the waist.
Sand is sewn into the four and eight pound vests, and there are removable sand pouches in a front pouch on the 16 pound model. The wide shoulder straps are comfortable, and the side-strap closures keep the vest secured tightly, so it can be worn for jogging, cross-fit or traditional workouts, as well as while you’re doing your daily housework. (Just kidding, just kidding!) There are reflective accents on the vest, and a pouch for a phone.
The Empower is smartly designed for a woman’s body, and it’s Groom+Style’s recommended weighted vest for women who don’t want to carry a lot of extra weight while working out.
Specs for the Empower Weighted Vest For Women:
8. RUNmax Cross101 Adjustable Camouflage Weighted Vest
The review team doesn’t put too much focus on the look of utilitarian products, since we think the most important factor is whether they do what they’re supposed to do. However – if you want to look good while working out, the Cross101 is the coolest-looking weighted vest we’ve seen.
The camouflage design isn’t overly obtrusive or over-the-top. It just looks very cool.
As for the vest itself, it’s well-built, breathable and suitable for all activities from CrossFit to hiking, except perhaps running. That’s because the vest is secured near the waist with a wide Velcro belt, and the bottom of the vest can bounce depending on the runner’s build.
This RUNmax is available in weight maximums from 20 to 80 pounds, with sandbags that can be removed to lower the weight of the vest. The one thing we didn’t like: you have to purchase the shoulder pads as a separate option, and we don’t advise wearing this vest without the padding.
The quality of the Cross101 isn’t far below the other products we’ve ranked more highly, and it definitely looks cooler.
Specs for the RUNmax Cross101 Adjustable Camouflage Weighted Vest:
9. Pure Fitness Adjustable Weighted Vest (incremental)
This is a decent-quality weighted vest – not the best the G+S team has reviewed, and certainly not the worst. It does the job pretty well, but the shoulder straps aren’t quite wide enough, the single large Velcro closure isn’t snug enough, and adjusting the weight isn’t quite easy enough to boost this vest higher than #9 in our rankings.
Then why is the Pure Fitness vest included in our top-ten list? It’s because it’s the most flexible weighted vest we’ve found. We’re not talking about your flexibility while exercising, although you’ll find this model is comfortable (except for the shoulder padding) when doing any type of workout.
What we’re referring to is the adjustability of the Pure Fitness vest; each sandbag that you can add or remove is only 0.88 pounds, meaning you can very gradually increase the amount of resistance you’re working against as you exercise.
For folks who are just getting into shape and want to go very slowly, the ability to add less than one pound at a time is invaluable. The vest is available in 20- and 40-pound maximum weights.
The Pure Fitness weighted vest isn’t fantastic, but it’s good – and the adjustability that’s possible with the very small sandbags is impressive.
Specs for the Pure Fitness Adjustable Weighted Vest (incremental):
10. V-Force Weight Vest
We thought long and hard about putting the V-Force vest at #1 instead of down here at #10, because it’s an absolutely fabulous weighted vest.
The reason we didn’t? Quite simply, this is too much of a vest, at too high a price, for most people. It’s a short stack weighted vest available in narrow or wide widths, but the maximum weight it can carry is just 45 pounds and it will cost you several hundred dollars, plus the price of any options you’d like to add (like a very useful sweat liner).
What you get for that price, however, is a workhorse of a vest that’s suitable for military or firefighter training. The V-Force is constructed with heavy, 1000-D cordura fabric with a heavy nylon liner that prevents abrasions, and the weights are rustproof, enamel-coated iron – this thing is built to last whether you’re using for a gym workout or out in the rain doing arduous training drills, and it’s particularly effective at working core muscles.
The V-Force vest is available in several designs including camouflage, and it comes with a lifetime guarantee.
You can probably now see the review team’s dilemma. This is the best weight vest on the market, but it’s extremely expensive for a 45-pound model. If you need a vest like this, however, you’ll absolutely love it.
Digging into the V-Force Weight Vest:
Best Weighted Vest Buying Guide
But does wearing a weighted vest really make a big difference to your workouts?
Believe it or not, there’s been a lot of research on the subject.
The Benefits of Wearing a Weighted Vest
Here’s the theory. If you’re exercising while wearing a vest that adds five or ten pounds to your “weight,” your workout becomes more intense and you’ll burn more calories, meaning you’ll lose more fat that’s replaced by lean muscle. The extra weight also requires your cardiovascular system to work harder, strengthening your heart and lungs while providing a multitude of overall health benefits.
The bottom line: endurance and strength improves, thanks to the added weight of the vest.
That makes sense in theory, but is it really what happens?
That’s just some of the academic research proving that the use of weighted vests leads to significant improvements in strength, endurance and weight loss.
There are, of course, other ways to exercise with additional weight, like holding adjustable barbells or wearing a weighted backpack. But most trainers agree that – with the exception of upper body exercises like presses or curls – a weighted vest is the most effective option, because it ensures that the burden is primarily carried right around your natural center of gravity. That could also be said for a weighted backpack, but excess weight on the back forces you to lean forward as you exercise, increasing the likelihood of injury.
The trainers also believe that a weight vest, which places most of the burden on your upper body, maximizes the aerobic benefits from working out with additional weight. It can increase heart rate by as much as 5%, providing a better aerobic workout in the same time frame.
Not everyone should wear a weighted vest; those who are relatively new to regular exercise, those already at risk of injury, or those who have cardiac, pulmonary or spinal issues must consult with their doctor before putting on a vest. And those who decide to try it should take certain precautions in their warm-ups and cool-downs; they should also carefully choose how much weight they’ll be carrying in their vest, with five percent of your body weight a good starting point. The specifics are more complicated than we have room for here, but please, consult with a trainer or do more research before just buying a weighted vest and heading to the gym.
When to Use a Weighted Vest
When you think about a weighted vest, the first picture that comes to mind is probably a bulked-up athlete going through superhuman (at least, they look superhuman to the rest of us) workouts at the gym. The potential benefits of adding weight to your body mass, though, aren’t restricted to workout warriors or athletes.
If exercises utilizing dumbbells, kettlebells or similar equipment are part of your regimen, a weighted vest creates more resistance. That means your body as a whole has to work harder, particularly the muscles you’re targeting. As a result you will burn more calories and fat, which is the primary goal of most who workout regularly.
That’s only the start, though. A weighted vest, when worn during exercises like squats, pushups, lunges or sit-ups, doesn’t just help you build strength in the affected muscles. It also works to strengthen your entire core and helps build bone mass and strength. Cardio workouts like running, climbing, swimming or cycling are also ideal for wearing a weighted vest, because the added weight helps strengthen the muscles in your respiratory system, while boosting your heart rate and metabolism so you burn calories faster. They’ll even help if you’re taking aerobics classes or mall walking.
Here are two more surprising tidbits. Research has found that wearing a weighted vest during daily activities helps increase bone density in post-menopausal women, who are at very high risk of broken bones due to osteoporosis. And experts now use weighted vests to help soothe children with issues like austism and ADHD. In truth, the only time a weighted vest is a detriment to your health or workout (if you’re in good enough shape to wear one) is when you’re doing exercises targeted specifically at your upper body, like bench presses or biceps curls.
Choosing the Right Weighted Vest
Fit and Comfort
What happens when you buy a pair of shoes, and discover after a few weeks that they hurt your feet? You stop wearing them.
That’s why comfort and fit are the most important consideration when you’re shopping for a weighted vest. Obviously, you can’t try on a vest that you’re buying online, but there are certain qualities you can look for if shopping online.
First, the vest should be breathable, so that it wicks away moisture and sweat instead of collecting it inside the vest where it will make you feel hot and clammy – and potentially be a breeding ground for bacteria. Second, it should have wide straps which distribute weight evenly by sitting comfortably across most or all of the shoulders’ width. Otherwise, all of the vest’s weight will be concentrated in two narrow straps, which very quickly will dig into your shoulders and make you miserable.
Most vests are full-length, distributing the weight evenly across your torso. However, if you plan on wearing a weighted vest primarily for lifting or other exercises which require you to be able to flex and bend, you should look for a “short stack” vest which only extends from the shoulders to above the abdomen.
Finally, you want the vest to hug your body snugly so it won’t bounce as you exercise, but not so tightly that you feel like an anaconda is squeezing you to death. Most manufacturers and vendors will take those guidelines into consideration when they provide size charts online, so it’s fairly easy to find the proper vest for your body size and type.
A weighted vest that doesn’t let you adjust the amount of weight you’re carrying won’t be much good to most people, who will want to increase the resistance they’re exercising against as time goes on. A vest that doesn’t allow you to make that adjustment is really only suited to people who are wearing a weighted vest to improve their posture or for medical reasons.
The vast majority of weighted vests are adjustable, letting you choose how much weight you’re carrying by swapping out metal bars or pouches filled with sand or steel shot. Each vest will have a different capacity, ranging from a couple of pounds on the low end to 40 or 60 pounds on the high end. Lighter weights are better for runners, while heavier ones are commonly used by lifters.
Consider how you’ll be using the vest, to decide how much weight you may eventually want to carry in your exercise vest. Also check how convenient it is to add or remove weights in the vest, and in what increments you can add more weight.
We’ve already addressed one of the most important factors in choosing a weighted vest: it should be sweat-resistant. That means the ideal fabric is anti-microbial or anti-bacterial.
The vest should also be tear-resistant, since the strain of carrying a lot of weight tends to rip apart lower-quality vests pretty quickly. The most rugged materials tend to also be the bulkiest so there’s a balance to consider, but a flimsy weighted vest won’t be around for the long-term. Nylon, neoprene and cordura are good choices.
One factor often overlooked is the material used to manufacture the weighted bars which go into the vest. It should be coated metal, so that the bars are rust-resistant. This obviously doesn’t apply to vests which use packets of sand for weights. A final item to check is how well the vest has been stitched together; poor stitching on the shoulder straps will rip apart fairly easily once you’re carrying a lot of weight in a weighted vest.
“Style” may not be the first word that comes to mind in connection with weighted vests, but it can be important if you plan on wearing your vest throughout the day to work your muscles and improve your posture. In that case, you don’t want a bulky, ugly vest that makes you bulge like the Hulk. Some models are slim, light and can fit underneath sweats or other loose-fitting clothes. (We’re not discounting the folks who also just want to “look great” at the gym; some weighted vests are certainly cooler-looking than others.)
If you’re going to wear your vest for running or biking, reflective strips on the vest are important. You may also want a vest with a spare pocket for a phone, MP3 player or even a water bottle. And while we probably don’t need to say it, cost can be a major factor in the buying decision, because there’s a wide range of prices for these weighted vests.
Frequently Asked Questions About Weighted Vests
Q: Can anyone use a weighted vest?
Q: Can you wear a weighted vest for CrossFit, biking, jogging or other types of exercise that don’t involve lifting weights?
Q: How about wearing them to do housework, walk the dog or just perform everyday activities?
Q: What’s the best way to start with a weighted vest?
Q: Are all weighted vests suitable for both men and women?
Q: Are military-style plate carriers better than weighted vests?