As you explore your options for gaining strength and endurance during your runs, you might ask yourself: Should I run with a weighted vest? Are there benefits to wearing a weighted vest, or is it just another workout fad destined to fade away in a few years?
One of the hallmarks of military training is running with a weighted vest or heavy backpack to simulate real-world conditions. Vests may make it easier to travel great distances on foot while encumbered with supplies and weaponry.
Weight vests were once a fringe aspect of the workout world, but they’ve become increasingly popular with runners today.
Manufacturers advertise their weighted vests as helping to improve running posture and increase speed. One of the motivations behind wearing a weighted vest is that it allows a runner to quickly develop strength and speed. Those muscle and speed benefits translate to better performance when the runner isn’t wearing the vest.
What Does Running with A Weighted Vest Do?
Physiologically, running with a weighted vest increases your heart rate while you run, and your body uses more energy or force to run while you wear it. According to those who use weighted vests, the benefits of weighted vests are threefold.
The vests may improve cardiovascular health, increase bone density and musculoskeletal health, and improve balance. However, you might wonder: Does running with a weight vest make you faster? Since improved cardiovascular performance may lead to your ability to run faster, you might think this would automatically lead to faster running.
A small study published in 2006 in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise revealed that running with a weighted vest helped study participants increase their heart and lung efficiency. As a method of strength training, a weighted vest could also lead to a reduction in body fat, an increase in muscle mass, and greater running performance.
Is Running with A Weight Vest Safe?
Running with a weighted vest may carry an increased risk of injury for individuals who aren’t already somewhat proficient in running. Using a weighted vest increases the body’s aerobic activity during running, creating added stress on the runner’s joints.
Additionally, a weighted vest may make it harder to balance, which is why it’s essential to select a weighted vest that fits correctly to reduce the risk of falling. An article published by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends that runners speak with their doctors before using a weighted vest. It’s also important to make sure you get a quality weighted vest. The best weight vests for running will evenly distribute the weight to help with the balance issues.
I’m Fit – Should I Run With A Weighted Vest?
For runners who already have sufficient cardiovascular strength and overall proficiency, the question of whether running with a weight vest build muscle may emerge. When used during running and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), a weighted vest will help the muscles burn more calories and help build lean muscle mass. However, wearers may want to include weightlifting sessions to maximize muscle growth.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research actually indicated that wearing a weighted vest during regular day-to-day activities like walking improved agility slightly. For runners concerned about their ability to balance while running in a weighted vest, practicing with the vest while walking could increase safety.
Is Running with A Weighted Vest Bad for Your Knees?
Running with a weighted vest isn’t exactly as dangerous as jumping out of a plane or trying out for Red Bull Rampage, but the vest has some possible drawbacks. As far as running with weight vest pros and cons are concerned, the most significant dangers stem from using them while injured or before you’re used to running.
For example, if you have an underlying degenerative arthritic condition, using a weighted vest could exacerbate problems you already have with your spine, hips, or knees. You could also experience balancing issues with the extra weight. Imagine running down the street or around the block with a 40-pound child in your arms.
Running in and of itself is not bad for your knees, and using a weighted vest isn’t bad, either. However, running with poor form can harm your knees. Also, using a weighted vest when you already have a knee condition could create unnecessary stress on your body and lead to injury.
Despite these possible dangers, some studies have shown the benefits of wearing a weighted vest. A study published in 2015 in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport revealed:
It is postulated the associated major effect on peak treadmill running speed will translate into an enhancement of competitive endurance performance.
Users of weighted vests report increased speed and better cardiovascular strength when they wear the vests safely and correctly.
A weighted vest is one of many options you have as a runner to improve your speed and running performance. When you ask yourself, “Should I run with a weighted vest?” you’ll want to make sure your body is prepared for the added stresses the vest will place on your body.
A quick conversation with your doctor can help you make the decision, particularly if you have underlying health conditions. If you’re already trained and feel that your body is ready to benefit from the weighted vest, ease into using it rather than pushing yourself the very first time you wear it.
Let your body get used to the vest, and you may experience improvements to your running speed, strength, and endurance, whether you’re running on a treadmill, hiking up a mountain, or sprinting on the track.