Weight Vest Training

From push-ups to pistol squats and, yes, even muscle-ups, there’s hardly a bodyweight exercise out there that can’t be cranked up by wearing a weight vest.

Sure, some of you guys (and gals) are still learning to do a pull-up, but I know lots of you can peel off 15 or 20 of them in a row (I’ve seen your videos on youtube). If you’re looking to add a new challenge to your bodyweight regimen, weight vest training could be for you.

It’s All Good
While working towards higher reps on basic exercises like pull-ups, dips or squats can lead to progress in your training, wearing a weight vest when performing these exercises can shock your body and stimulate new growth.

That’s not to say you can’t continue to increase your strength with just your bodyweight. If you continually work towards harder exercises, no equipment workouts can still be very intense! However, it is helpful (and fun!) to vary one’s training stimulus on the road to a well-rounded, functionally fit body.

“Weight” For It
Only once you can perform a given bodyweight exercise for ten or more reps with proper form should you consider adding resistance. Better to wait until you are ready than to get injured because you were overzealous.

Do the Math
Keep in mind that the amount of weight in your vest must be relative to your body weight. A man who weighs 135 pounds might find doing dips with an additional 25 pounds to be very challenging, whereas a man who weighs 235 might barely even feel a difference with 25 extra pounds. It’s better to base your decision on a percentage of your bodyweight, rather than a catchall number. First timers should add between 10-20% of their bodyweight (depending on the difficulty of the given exercise). When you can get at least five reps with clean form, feel free to gradually ramp up that percentage.

Maybe This Weight is a Gift
Weight vests are not the only way to add resistance to bodyweight exercises. You can use a weight belt, have a training partner provide manual resistance, or simply toss some free-weights into a backpack. Just don’t do that last one at your gym or they might get the wrong idea; free-weights doesn’t mean free weights!

Watch the video below for more:

26 thoughts on “Weight Vest Training

  • Pingback: Training with a Weight Vest | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page

  • By Stefan -

    Good stuff as always Al! I’m gonna add some weight to my backpack and try some exercises.

    Have you ever tried running with weight? I’m thinking about trying it in training for an upcoming race…

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, Stefan! Running is actually one of the few exercises that I wouldn’t recommend this technique with. I think running with a weight vest would change the balance and make it feel awkward. If you want to increase the intensity of your runs, do some hills or just try to go faster!

      • By Stefan -

        Thanks for the reply. I do hill sprints (every bodyweight enthusiast should do them!) and more recently I’ve gotten into doing 400m intervals – they’re BRUTAL!

        • By Al Kavadlo -

          A quarter-mile is a long-ass sprint! Keep training hard!

      • By Dreamcatcher -


        I have been doing weighted running for several months now, slowly adding weight as I dropped it from body re-comp. My hill repeats (10-20 X 50-100yd) and srpints (30″ with 90″ recovery) have all been with weight. I am settled in at 15% of my body weight and do not intend to raise it for running. I slip in a few more pounds for pull ups and dips. Super easy with the v-force (2.5 pound slot weights). Starting slow and having a really well fitting vest is critical to success. The v-force vest at weightvest.com is by far the best one I have ever seen and used. I am sold completely on their product. I agree that running in a vest that flops around or with a backpack will destroy your form, but a tight fitting vest works quite well. Keep up the good work. Dave Stark – Dreamcatcher Fitness, LLC

        • By Al Kavadlo -

          Thanks for sharing your experience, Dave! It’s always good to get different perspectives.

  • By Todd -

    Nicely done Al, your videos are great!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Thanks, Todd!

  • By Thor Falk -

    I like weight-belt with kettlebells for weighted pull-ups. Gives you a certain look, especially when walking to the bar…. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Haha – it sure does! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • By Thor Falk -

    one more thing: any chance you could embed your videos as html5, not flash? they are awesome, but I rarely get to see them as I generally only have my iPhone or iPad with me…

    and to all commenters out there: I have no interest in engaging into an Android vs iAnything discussion here and I know that Android play Flash ๐Ÿ™‚

    • By Stefan -

      Thor, the video is a Youtube video and should work perfectly fine with iPhone and iPad…?

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      I embed the vids through youtube so I’m not sure why you can’t see them on the iphone/ipad. Guess you’ll have to set aside some time to sit in front of your computer in order to catch up on all of them!

    • By Jen G -

      I also have trouble seeing the videos on my phone from the website… but if you search for al kavadlo through the youtube app, the videos are there too.

      Shows how much I like these videos, that I will go seek them out. Thanks, Al!

      • By Al Kavadlo -

        Thanks, Jen! Good idea about just watching the vids direct on youtube.

  • By Lawmune -

    Nice! That certainly looks a lot more versatile than what I did yesterday–a pistol squat while holding my son in my arms (he’s ~40 lbs). May I ask what brand of vest you’re wearing?

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      A pistol squat w an extra 40 lbs. is no easy task. Especially if the child is squirming around! ๐Ÿ™‚

      As for the vest, I’m not sure what brand it is, but I’ll be back at that gym tonight so I’ll check later and get back to you.

      • By Lawmune -

        Thanks for the info!

        I’m lucky that pistol squats have come pretty easily for me. I could do a few when I was in college (when I was quite lean), and over 10 years later, they’re actually easier now! It’s because I cleaned up my diet and lost a lot of excess weight in the last 5 months. Over the years, my legs got used to carrying a lot more load (well over 40 lbs more than my current weight). So I guess one way to build leg strength is to gain weight and then lose it (but I wouldn’t recommend that route! Vests are cheaper in the long run.) ๐Ÿ™‚

  • By Morten -

    Hi Al! You are pretty good at flags. Have you tried them with a weighted vest? I was just curious b/c Iยดm working on my flag, and can only do them with legs bend. Perhaps a wv would bust tru my plateau?

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      I’ve never done a human flag with a weight vest – it’s hard enough with just my body weight!

      I wouldn’t recommend that you try flagging with a vest either until you can comfortably get it with your bodyweight first. You probably need to build more strength in your shoulders and triceps. Push-ups, dips, hand-stand push-ups, etc. are good ways to do that.

  • Pingback: Weight vest | Mark's Daily Apple Health and Fitness Forum page

  • By Dima Vladimirovich Sonin -

    Hey, Al,it is offtopic, but why do not you capture videos in 480p or higher?!

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      This is an old post.ย  I actually got a new camera a few months ago that is much better quality.ย  Also, when I upload the videos to youtube they are reduced in quality so people can easily stream them on mobile devices.ย 

  • By Jatudrei -

    My kids like to help me with my exercises. You know, sitting on my back during pushups, my lap during bench dips, my shoulders during squats. Ups the intensity of the exercise, and gives the kids lot of giggles. (Of course, I’ve got to be VERY careful not to drop them; unlike steel weights, kids can get hurt.)

    • By Al Kavadlo -

      Haha – there’s lots of ways to add resistance to bodyweight exercises! Fun for the whole family!

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