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Weighted Vest Workouts To Add An Extra Dimension To Your Training

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(Image credit: unknown)

Once confined to the army assault course, weighted vests have become an effective training tool as functional exercise has exploded in popularity. Obstacle course racers use them to boost stamina. CrossFitters use them to make unpleasant workouts unbearable, helping them develop formidable physiques in the process. Now everyday exercisers are using them to add a new dimension to home workouts.

“Weighted vests are a great accessory for fitness and have been especially useful for people in lockdown while gyms are closed,” says Will Kane, CrossFit athlete and co-owner of Blueprint Training (opens in new tab) and Team Training Programming (opens in new tab).

However, both beginners and experienced athletes should exercise caution when using them, especially when running, skipping or performing gymnastics moves like pull-ups that are hard enough without strapping iron plates to your torso.

“Your body needs to be used to controlling its own load before adding extra weight,” Kane says. Only once you are a technical wizard with tough gymnastics moves like handstands, ring pull-ups and muscle-ups should you even consider slipping on a weight vest.

“Once you do add a weight vest to your workouts, start with low reps and sets, plus plenty of rest, and see how your body reacts,” he says. “Then add volume a little at a time.”

Weighted Vest Workouts

Ready to set a personal best in your weighted vest? Strap in and see what you’re made of with these full-body weighted workouts, designed by Kane.

Each workout is “for time”, which means you need to complete everything as quickly as possible (and safely – don’t get sloppy with your form and do yourself a mischief). It makes the workout eminently repeatable to see if you’re fitter and stronger.

Beginner Weighted Vest Workout

The workout begins with a run, then requires you to repeat a sequence of press-ups, ring rows and squats 12 times in total. The time cap for this workout is 25 minutes. If you hit this limit, note how far you got through the workout, then try to complete more of it next time.

Sets 12 Reps 4

Support your body on your toes and hands, with your hands shoulder-width apart. Keep your elbows tucked close to your sides as you lower your chest until it’s just off the floor, then push back up.

Sets 12 Reps 8

Adjust the rings so they are between waist and chest height. The lower they are, the harder the move will be. Hold the rings and lean back with arms straight, keeping your body in a straight line from heels to shoulders. Pull your body up to the rings, keeping your hands in tight to your body, then lower under control.

2C Squat

Sets 12 Reps 12

Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Push your hips back as you lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor, keeping your knees over your toes. Drive back up to standing.

Intermediate Weighted Vest Workout

This workout uses the same format as the beginner workout, but takes it up a level. The time cap remains 25 minutes.

Sets 12 Reps 4

This variation shifts the emphasis to your shoulders. Start in the top press-up position, but with your feet elevated on a chair or bench. Walk your hands towards your feet, hinging at your hips, until your body forms an inverted V shape. Tuck your chin in to your chest as you bend your elbows until your head is just off the floor, then drive back up until your arms are straight.

2B Chest-to-bar pull-up

weighted-vest-pull-up

(Image credit: unknown)

Sets 12 Reps 8

Hold a pull-up bar using an overhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apart. Keep your legs together, moving your feet forwards slightly to activate your core muscles. Retract your shoulder blades to engage the muscles in your upper back and pull your chest towards the bar. Lower under control.

Sets 12 Reps 12

Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Push your hips back as you lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor, keeping your knees over your toes. Drive back up to standing.

Advanced Weighted Vest Workout

“In CrossFit everyone knows – and fears – the workout called Murph,” says Kane. Originally called Body Armour, Murph became an official CrossFit challenge in 2005 to honour US Navy SEAL Lieutenant Michael P Murphy (opens in new tab). This gruelling weighted workout is the ultimate full-body fitness test and should be attempted only by the very fittest athletes.

It is another workout done for time and the official version uses a 10kg or 7kg weighted vest. Kane says it can leave him “sore and drained for a few days” when attacking the workout at full pace, so he suggests starting with a lighter vest and setting a time to beat. As your fitness improves, you can start adding more load gradually.

1 Run 1 mile

Reps 100

Hold the pull-up bar with an overhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apart. Don’t attempt these with strict technique or you’ll never finish. Instead, perform a kipping pull-up, using momentum from your legs to help with each rep. Kick your feet forwards to generate power and then pull your chest towards the bar so your chin rises just over the bar. Break the reps up into more manageable chunks and pace yourself.

Reps 200

Once you’re finished with the pull-ups (thank God!) drop to the floor, supporting yourself on your toes and hands, with your hands shoulder-width apart. Keeping your core engaged so your hips don’t sag, lower your chest towards the floor, then drive back up. Again, break this into bite-size chunks. You’ll get there in the end.

Reps 30

This one should feel a breeze after the last two. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Push your hips back as you lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor, keeping your knees over your toes. Drive back up to standing. Once done, shake your legs off and get running.

Sam Rider is an experienced freelance journalist, specialising in health, fitness and wellness. For over a decade he's reported on Olympic Games, CrossFit Games and World Cups, and quizzed luminaries of elite sport, nutrition and strength and conditioning. Sam is also a REPS level 3 qualified personal trainer, online coach and founder of Your Daily Fix (opens in new tab). Sam is also Coach’s designated reviewer of massage guns and fitness mirrors.