As I write this, we’re in a pandemic. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
I’ve gotten a lot of questions from readers who can’t or don’t want to head back to the gym yet and want to know about working out at home. For sure, if you don’t already workout at home, it’s a very different prospect than going to a gym for a variety of reasons.
Not only do you have figure out what equipment you need, but where do you even get it at this point? How do you make your own workouts? How do you motivate yourself to head down to the basement workout space that maybe isn’t as appealing as, say, the couch and some Netflix?
Those are all good questions and there are answers, but what I want to talk about today is one way you can boost the intensity of your home workouts and, just maybe, have a little more fun? Well…fun is a relative term, right?
The Weighted Vest
When we talk about working out at home, there are a few basic items that are worth buying, from dumbbells to an exercise ball, but maybe a weighted vest is something to think about if you just want that extra edge to your workout.
A weighted vest may seem like a weird addition to your workout but, if you want to add some intensity to your workouts without adding impact, this is a great idea and here’s why:
Have you ever seen someone walking and carrying hand weights? Or maybe they have ankle or wrist weights? If so, then you should stop that person and tell them they’re risking an injury doing that. Or just keep it to yourself, since they might not want your opinion.
Lots of people want to make their walks or workouts more intense, especially if running it out of the question. A weighted vest is a great option because it distributes the weight at center mass, leaving your joints free from injury. Carrying weights can lead to repetitive stress injuries and no one wants that.
Here’s the other good news about weighted vests. Studies have shown that using one increases the metabolic cost of your workout, increases intensity and it also increases the load on your bones. That’s not only good for burning calories but it’s great for strong bones.
Now, you don’t want to just throw on a 30-lb vest and go for a 10-mile jog or anything. Like any new exercise, you want to take your time and work up to using a weighted vest in your workouts.
Choosing Your Weight
Rule of Thumb here: Start Small – Say about 5 percent of your body weight. It’s great if you can find adjustable weighted vests so you can add weights when you’re ready. In fact, you’re going to get the benefits even if you just stay at 5 or 10 percent of your body weight.
It also depends on your goals. If you just want to add some intensity, keep it light and just add it to one or two workouts a week to see how your body responds.
When looking for a weighted vest, keep these thoughts in mind:
- Something adjustable – Now this can be tricky, especially if you’re a woman. Lots of adjustable weighted vests are made for men who want to increase muscle and strength so they tend to look like some kind of weird straightjacket. This weighted vest by GoFit is adjustable from 3/4 lbs to up to 20 or more, but it’s one-sized fits all so it may not work for all body types
- Something breathable – This will probably be the norm for most vests you buy, but if you’re working out outside, you definitely don’t want to feel sweaty and confined.
- A good fit – Again, this can be hit or miss. I have this weighted vest and it works fine for low impact, but if I try to do any kind of jumping it moves around all over the place. It really does depend on your size and, as a women, well, your boobies.
- Weights that are evenly distributed – I do think most vests these days are already compliant with this, but you don’t want extra weights hanging out somewhere that might cause injury.
You Shouldn’t Use a Weighted Vest If…
You have any kind of joint issues with your knees, hips, ankles, etc. Any added weight may put more stress on your joints and that’s exactly what you don’t want.
Weighted Vest Exercises
You can use a weighted vest while lifting weights, walking, running, or doing other types of cardio. I like to use mine for lower impact activities to make them a little more intense.
Here are just a few exercises you can do with a weighted vest that will help you get a little more out of your low impact exercise.
With the arms overhead, weight on the right leg, bring the left knee up while pulling the arms down. Lower and repeat, really using the upper body and core. Repeat for 30 seconds on each side.
Take a giant step out to the right bringing the arms out wide, like you’re stepping over a giant puddle. Go to the other side and keep going, as fast, low and wide as you can. It’s a big puddle! Repeat 30 seconds
Begin in a squat position and come up on the toes or jump in the air, circling the right arm around and down into a chop as you land. Jump/come up on the toes again, this time chopping down with the left arm. Repeat for 30 seconds.
Side to Side Punches
Turn to the right, stepping the left foot straight back and bending the right knee while punching with the left arm. Step back and repeat on the other side, lunging to the left and punching with the right hand. Repeat for 30 seconds.
Rear Lunge with Kick
Step back with the right leg, touching the floor if you can. Stand up and bring the same leg forward as you stand and do a front kick. Repeat for 30 seconds on each side.
With the weight on the right leg take the left leg out to the side. Touch the toe to the floor and bring the leg back in, touching the toe. Repeat for 30 seconds on each side.
Clean and Press
With the left leg back at a diagonal and arm straight out, bend the knee and pull the arm back in as the knee comes up. Punch out as the leg goes out. Move as fast as you can with good form. Repeat for 30 seconds each side
Step out to the side and jump (optional), bringing the right heel towards your butt. Repeat on the other side, jumping as high as you can (or lift on the toes) for 30 seconds.
Side Knee Side Kick
Take right arm up and shift the weight onto the left leg. Bring the right knee and take the right elbow towards the knee. Bring the right leg down and kick out to the side with the left leg. Repeat, moving as quickly as you can. Alternate each side for 30 seconds.
These are just some examples. Always take your time, work on your form and if you feel anything going sideways, take the vest off and take a break. Got questions? Leave a comment or email me!
Macadam P, Cronin JB, Simperingham KD. The Effects of Wearable Resistance Training on Metabolic, Kinematic and Kinetic Variables During Walking, Running, Sprint Running and Jumping: A Systematic Review. Sports Med. 2017;47(5):887-906. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0622-x
Puthoff ML, Darter BJ, Nielsen DH, Yack HJ. The effect of weighted vest walking on metabolic responses and ground reaction forces. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006;38(4):746-752. doi:10.1249/01.mss.0000210198.79705.19