In the world of resistance training, barbells and free weights get all the glory. But strength gains don’t come from heavy lifting alone. They come from progressive overload—consistently placing your muscles, tendons, and ligaments under greater levels of stress. Training with a weight vest can get you there.
“It allows you to add external resistance while keeping movements more realistic and safe,” says CJ McFarland, head strength and conditioning coach for Onnit Gym in Austin, Texas. For instance, think about doing a weighted squat jump, like the one to the right, while holding a kettlebell. It would be awkward to move and hard to grip, and your arms would be pinned in front of you. A vest allows your full range of motion while giving you the added resistance to improve your fitness.
The vest has slots that allow you to change the weight as you go along. When you first put it on, keep it light and move around to get a feel for it. Make sure it’s tight enough not to jostle when you’re jumping. And yes, breathing is a little harder with the vest on. It presses on your diaphragm and intercostals—two of the breathing muscles. That constriction actually helps increase your aerobic capacity, McFarland says. At the very least, it’ll make unweighted squat jumps feel almost too easy.
Wearing the vest, walk briskly for 5 minutes, then perform body-weight squats, walking lunges, and lateral squat walks, doing each movement for 30 seconds, repeating the series twice.
There are 4 sets of moves. Start with set 1, complete 2 or 3 rounds, then move on to the next. After you’ve completed all 4 sets (8 moves in total), do it again. The workout should take you 30–45 minutes.