Skip to Content

How to Train with a Weighted Vest (a 17-Exercise Workout)

There’s a reason more athletes are opting to train in a weighted vest.

Weighted fitness vests help you to burn more calories while exercising, and they help condition your heart and lungs and develop the musculature within your body.

In the photos and video lower within this article, my vest is 11 pounds. If 11 pounds doesn’t seem like a lot to you, imagine walking around for an hour carrying an 11-pound dumbbell without ever putting it down – and you begin to get the idea.

What Is a Weighted Fitness Vest?

The most convenient feature of a weighted fitness vest is that is has pockets on the front and back of the vest in which you can easily add or remove individual weights – depending on your energy level and the workout you have planned.

The vest is sleeveless and usually made from a canvas-type of material that is durable and wicking (so that the vest doesn’t get heavy with perspiration). It usually has velcro straps that secure the weighted vest comfortably to your torso.

Originally, the weighted fitness vests available in sporting goods stores sometimes appeared clunky and uncomfortable, but today many of the models are streamlined, tailored, and can look quite athletic and appealing on the wearer.

Optional features for weighted vests include additional pockets for a phone and water bottle and shoulder padding for increased comfort.

You can find a weighted fitness vest online for under $60. Catch one on sale and you might pay $30.

Results of Research Study on Weighted Fitness Vests

University of Gothenburg scientists conducted a research study involving participants who had surplus body weight:

  • The participants wore 24-pound vests for 8 hours per day for three weeks.
  • They lost an average of 3.5 pounds during the 21-day testing period without changing their normal diets.
  • They also retained all of their previous muscle mass.
  • They did not do anything special – such as designated exercises – other than wear the weighted vest while doing everyday normal activities such as driving, working at their desk, doing errands, etc.

So you can lose 3 to 4 pounds of fat simply by wearing a vest for 8 hours per day for a few weeks (source: Chris Shugart/T-Nation: proof-of-concept randomized clinical trial on the weighted vest – EClinicalMedicine, 2020.)

However, if you’d rather just wear the vest for one hour each week, then the following weighted-vest workout might be for you.

Dane Findley, age 54, completes a 17-exercise circuit training workout wearing a weighted fitness vest.

The Weighted Vest Workout

A weighted fitness vest can help you stay healthy.

You can wear a weighted vest during bodyweight exercises, yes – but you can also walk, jog, hike, climb, and bike in a fitness vest (while biking, the vest really comes into play when going up or down hills).

You can even wear a weighted fitness vest while doing household chores.

The weighted vest benefits you in all the ways other types of weight training do – firmer core muscles, strengthening bones, developing muscles, burning fat cells for energy, and building overall endurance.

 
 

The workout below is for both women and men – and can be modified to accommodate any level of fitness.

Of course, the less weight you add to the vest, the easier the workout will be.

Because this is a circuit-training workout that includes some higher-intensity intervals, you might find that even a small amount of weight – say, 4 pounds – will begin to feel like 30 pounds as the workout progresses!

Abdominal Warm-Up Circuit Using a Weighted Vest:

The first circuit contains five exercises in a row – while wearing a weighted vest – that will engage your abdominal muscles.

The movements are designed to gradually raise your body temperature and lubricate your joints – in preparation for more challenging circuits to come.

  1. Crunches.
  2. Ab Roller.
  3. Plank.
  4. Stairs.
  5. Knees-In.

Do all 5 exercises consecutively with no break. Then, take a 3-minute break (before beginning the entire circuit again).

After completing the circuit three times, you’re finished – time to move on to the next circuit.

TIP: remember to secure the velcro straps around your midsection tightly. Last time I did this workout, I was so eager to get started that I neglected to notice my vest was loose, which caused it to bounce around during exercises.

Crunches done with a weighted fitness vest.

Weighted-Vest Crunches

The trick to doing abdominal crunches effectively is to keep your spine long so that your abdominal plate can pull flatly down to the ground (instead of bunching outward).

Remember, too, to press your lower back firmly into the floor and keep it there throughout the entire exercise.

Draw your navel in tightly!

Finally, resist the temptation to lift your head using your arms, shoulders, and neck muscles. It’s your abdominals that initiate the movement.

Do 16 full-range reps, then finish up with 10 pulses at the very top.

Athlete, age 54, does ab roller exercise in weighted vest.

Ab Roller with Weighted Vest

The slower you do the ab roller, the more difficult the exercise.

On the return trip, remember to stop when the hands come directly underneath the shoulders (there’s no point in bringing the roller all the way to your knees – as your abs stop working during the last foot of the journey).

Keep your core muscles active throughout the entire exercise. If you let your abs go loose and soft – even for a moment – your lower back will over-arch and you could injure your spine. Stay focused.

12 repetitions.

Plank exercise with a weighted vest.

1-Minute Plank

Use your phone, or a workout buddy, to time your plank.

A minute might not seem like a long time, but by the time you’re making your way through this circuit for the third and final time, you’ll definitely feel it.

 

Pin this article so you can find it again later:

Older man running stairs wearing weighted fitness vest.

Stair Drills in a Weighted Vest

Jog up and downstairs for a full minute.

This is still a warm-up only, so no need to sprint (unless you’re an advanced-level athlete and you’re already warmed-up).

Be mindful of your posture as you climb the stairs, you want the energy of your body traveling upward (instead of forward) to help protect your knees.

Man doing abdominal exercises outdoors while wearing a fitness vest.

Knees-in with Fitness Vest

You can do this knees-in exercise on the floor, or on the edge of a bench.

Using bent elbows for support, lean way back as you straighten your legs out, then as you exhale bring your knees into the chest and pull your belly button in with intensity.

The movement does not initiate from your legs but rather from your core.

20 reps.

Dane Findley age 54 helps others achieve stellar wellness and a healthier physique.
Dane earned a master’s degree in Counseling Depth Psychology from Pacific Graduate Institute. His past professional adventures include being a Therapist and Discharge Planner at a Dual-Diagnosis Hospital Inpatient Treatment Program, Digital Marketing Director for a real estate brokerage, and decades spent as a professional fitness and Pilates trainer. Today, Dane is a Healthy-Lifestyle Advocate and he curates the popular Quality of Life Newsletter – a free weekly update for creative types who want to increase their daily joy. Currently, he’s facilitating the new online course “Silver and Strong: How to Get Fantastically Fit After Age 50.,” which helps people learn to eat for lean strength. Click-through for details.

The Second Circuit

The second circuit contains six exercises in a row. Do all six without stopping, then take a 3-minute break. Repeat. Break. And, repeat a final time.

  1. Walk Outs.
  2. Bulgarian Split Squat.
  3. Wide-Stance Push-Ups.
  4. Prisoner Squats.
  5. Staggered Push Ups.
  6. Knee Ups.
Athlete does walk out exercise wearing a weighted vest.

Walk Outs

Begin by standing tall with feet firmly planted on the ground. Then, bend at your waist and touch the ground, walk your arms out to a perfect plank position.

Beginners: walk your arms back to the return position and stand upright again.

Intermediate and Advanced Athletes: add-in a traditional push-up before returning.

12 reps.

text

Mature athlete does Bulgarian Split Squat exercise in a weighted fitness vest.

Bulgarian Split Squat in a Weighted Vest

The trick to a good Bulgarian Split Squat is to keep your front foot firmly planted, without rolling your foot to one side or the other.

Position your back foot up on a chair or bench.

If your knees are in good shape, it’s okay for your knee to come over your toes as you squat. However, if your knees are tender, then it’s better to position yourself so that your knee is directly over your heel.

12 reps on each side.

Wide-stance push-ups in a fitness vest for creating sculpted arms and powerful chest.

Wide-Stance Push-Ups with a Fitness Vest

Feet together and hands far apart – keeping your abs and glutes activated the entire time.

16 push-ups (beginners can do this exercise on their knees). For the pecs!

Prisoner squats in a weighted vest for developing leg and core strength.

Prisoner Squats

Prisoner squats are more difficult than they appear. Place your hands behind your head and open your elbows up wide.

With a tall torso, squat down to knee level (advanced athletes can go lower).

TIP: if your hips are feeling tight, you might want to use a foam roller on your glutes and outer thighs beforehand.

16 prisoner squats.

Man demonstrates the staggered push-ups exercise.

Staggered Push-Ups

Staggered push-ups involve one hand up higher than shoulder level, and the other hand positioned lower than shoulder level, with fingers pointing away from the nipples.

Beginners: feet can be far apart.

Intermediate and Advanced Athletes: feet closer together.

8 reps on each side.

Knees-up drill in weighted vest, performed by silver-bearded athlete.

Knees-Up Drill with Weighted Vest

Jog in place lifting those knees as high as you can.

Tighten the straps on your fitness vest so that it doesn’t bounce around.

1 full minute.

The Final Circuit

This final circuit in the Weighted Vest Workout has six more consecutive exercises. As before, do the circuit 3 times with a 3-minute rest period in between each 6-exercise round.

  1. Bent-Over Handstand Pushup.
  2. Prone Bodyweight Floor Triceps Extension.
  3. Jump-Up and Step-Down.
  4. Tricep Dip.
  5. Butt Kick.
  6. Pull-Up.
Dane Findley, age 54, does tricep bent-over handstand pushups.

Bent-Over Handstand Push-Ups in a Fitness Vest

To strengthen your shoulders and triceps, this variation of a handstand push-up can be effective.

It’s all about positioning. Get your butt way up in the air as you bend forward from the waist, placing your hands below your shoulders on the ground.

Then, bend and straighten the arms like you’re doing a shoulder press.

16 reps.

Exerciser trains his triceps and chest muscles while wearing a weighted vest.

 Prone Bodyweight Floor Triceps Extension

Plank position with hands in a diamond position in front of your head. Pressing the side of your hands into the floor, straighten your arms. It’s a small movement, and very challenging – really hits the triceps.

8 repetitions.

Dane Findley, age 54, does plyometric bench jumps.

Jump-Ups and Step-Downs

Jump up on a bench, then step carefully down. Repeat.

One of the most effective exercises for creating strength in the legs while improving explosive speed and sports performance. A real calorie burner!

Use common sense with jump-up exercises. If the bench is too high or moves around, that is not good.

You want a bench that is high enough to be challenging, but not so high that you might not make it. Also, the bench should be secure and completely immobile. Don’t let your mind wander on this one. Focus on the task at hand.

12 reps.

Athlete with silver beard is wearing a weighted vest while doing tricep bench dips.

Tricep Dips

The trick to a good tricep dip is to keep your hips close to the bench.

Also, rotate your elbows in so that they point directly back.

16 reps.

Mature athlete does butt kick drills during interval training.

Butt Kicks

Jog in place again, only this time instead of lifting your knees high up in front (working the quads), you’re going to do the opposite and keep your legs back – kicking your heels into your butt (working the hamstrings).

1 minute.

Man doing pull-ups exercise in weighted vest.

Pull-Ups

If you have a bar, a tree branch, or a sturdy door frame (use common sense: safety first) that you can grab on to and do pull-ups, it’s the best way to sculpt your back and give you that tapered torso. Place your hands on the bar at medium-width:

  • Beginners can do up to 6 reps.
  • Intermediate-level do 6 to 10 reps.
  • Advanced athletes do to failure.

The results from exercising with a weighted vest can be a leaner, stronger , and healthier body.

If you want to get exponential results, combine your weekly workouts with an anti-inflammatory diet.

When you combine strategic fitness with an advanced nutritional regimen, that’s when your physique will really go next-level.