With over 1 billion pairs of running footwear sold every year worldwide, running has become one of the most popular sports out there, especially for those of us who love the outdoors or have no access to the gym. But, is there a way to make it better? Does running with a weighted vest build muscle?
Weighted running has many benefits including increased cardiovascular response, building muscle, stronger bones, better posture and balance, and of course increasing the calories burned to help facilitate weight loss.
We discuss these benefits, and more, as well as what a weighted vest actually is and how it works, how to properly choose a weighted vest and some of the safety concerns related to weighted running below.
If you’re not familiar with weighted vests, think of the life vest you wear on a boat, but it’s loaded with weights instead of the air. Of course, you can find many wearable weights, but vests are more commonly used than others.
The total weight of a weighted vest varies tremendously, and it can be anything between 12 and 150 lbs. This makes it easy for you to choose the weight you’re most comfortable with, and in some types, you can adjust it to your liking.
Another great advantage to weighted vests is that they’re convenient and easy to move wherever you want to exercise. You can wear your vest when running at home on your treadmill, running in your neighborhood, or take it with you to the gym. Running with a weighted vest has many pros and cons.
What Does a Weighted Vest Do?
Weighted vests aren’t just another trendy workout item. They work and have many benefits on your body’s overall health and performance.
That’s why many athletes choose to use wearable weights during their training, and weighted vests are the most common choice.
The whole idea of wearing a weighted vest during exercises is that the extra weight makes it harder for your body to perform activities. Imagine walking a mile carrying five bags full of groceries and walking the same mile carrying nothing, which will need more effort?
And likewise, weighted vests challenge your muscles to exert more power and push your body to newer limits, all while doing the same activities you’re used to.
Well, the short answer is: Many! But let’s say more. Let’s dig into the many pros and cons of running with a weight vest.
Running with a weighted vest that weighs about 10% or less of your body weight can significantly impact your performance, fitness, and overall health.
Let’s take a closer look at how weighted vests can affect your body:
Increased Cardiovascular Fitness
As shown by a study, athletes who wore weighted vests weighing 9 to 10% of their body weight for four weeks of training had improved running time to exhaustion compared to other athletes who didn’t use wearable weights.
This means that running with the added weight helped increase the heart and lungs’ ability to provide the needed blood and oxygen for longer periods before getting exhausted.
When your bones are subject to stress, such as what happens to your legs, spine, and pelvis when you’re running, they start reforming to handle that stress more effectively.
This is why runners are known to have healthier bones with better density than others who don’t perform weight-bearing activities.
Therefore, running with a weighted vest will put more resistance on the bones engaged in running, which can stimulate the cells responsible for bone growth and overall health, giving you stronger and healthier bones.
More Muscle Strength
Wearing a weighted vest while running will push your muscles to work harder to adapt to the added weight and resistance. And the longer you apply added resistance to your muscles, the more you develop better muscular endurance. Running with a weighted vest will build muscle.
Improved muscle endurance means that your muscles will be able to perform physical activities for a longer time before they reach exhaustion. Running with a weighted vest will help build muscle.
If you’re trying to lose some weight, the increased intensity along with building more muscle fiber is a sure way to increase your metabolism and burn even more calories.
This would be especially effective if you’re going through a weight loss plateau.
Better Posture and Balance
Running with a bad posture is one thing, but adding some extra load to that equation is another! Bad posture and/or lack of balance while carrying weights will definitely increase your feeling of discomfort.
That’s why with a weighted vest, you become more aware of your posture and balance and more focused on improving or adjusting them.
Also Note That
- A weighted vest shouldn’t exceed 10% of your body weight, and if it’s too heavy for you, you can start with the weight you’re most comfortable with and then work your way up gradually.
- If you have any spine or joint injuries and/or pain, check with your doctor before running with a weighted vest or other types of wearable weights.
- Wearing weighted vests for extended periods of time might strain your joints, so try to limit wearing the vest to 1–1.5 hrs each time.
Choosing a Weighted Vest: What to Look For?
After training with your vest for a few weeks or months, you’ll get stronger, and the resistance you feel from the weighted vest will start to decrease with time. So, if you choose to go for a light vest, it might end up not being as efficient for your needs.
If you can invest in a heavier adjustable vest, that will be much better. You can then adjust the weights inside it to your physical capability and increase them with time as you continue your weight training.
This way, you’ll be able to keep using one weighted vest for a longer time than you would have with a lighter one.
Here are some tips to help pick the perfect weighted vest for you:
Choose a Vest That Properly Fits Your Torso
Most weighted vests come with adjustable straps, but some types might still have a loose fit even after you strap them. Those, you should avoid.
Tip: Try to avoid loosely fitted vests since they can be uncomfortable to work with when you’re running, jumping, or twisting. It’ll also affect weight distribution while you’re working out or running.
You can use your weighted vest for years before thinking of changing to a new one, especially if it has adjustable weights. We recommend that you invest in high-quality materials.
They might cost some extra cash, but if you can afford them, then you should go for them. They’ll last longer, and they’re less likely to wear out or tear. Most of the best weight vests for running will be made of high quality materials like neoprene, cordura, polyester, or nylon.
The More Adjustability, the Better
Keep in mind that not all weighted vests have the same range of adjustability. So, if you’re trying to lose a lot of weight or you’re building muscles, get a weighted vest that can be adjusted to fit different body forms so it lasts longer.
We know that adding a weighted vest to your run can be challenging, but don’t get intimidated! Start with a comfortable weight and pace, and the results will be worth it.
And now that we’ve explored the benefits of running with a weighted vest and talked about all the tips you need to get the perfect vest for you, this should be a fun challenge to take!