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The Best Weighted Vests for Making All Kinds of Exercise Much Harder

Everything you need for weight without bulk. Photo: Courtesy of the retailer

A few years back, I summited Mount Rainier with a team of climbing buddies; it was one of the finest accomplishments of my modest mountaineering career. Training for it wasn’t so easy as climbing up mountains. I lived in L.A. at the time, and the foothill peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains didn’t quite match the 14,411 summit of Rainier, so I had to find other ways to build my endurance. I had to get weighted vests.

When you train with weights in preparation for a grueling activity, everything becomes harder. It also means that when it’s game time, normal activity feels that much easier (it’s almost like you’re floating). Now, I add weight all the time, from casual jogs to cross-training to sprints to distance runs. Here, my favorites for helping build strength without lifting a finger.

My all-around favorite weighted vest

To be honest, one of the best things about the RUNfast weighted vest from RUNmax is the fact that it costs half as much as many comparable products yet works just as well as most weighted training hardware out there. It can be loaded with as much as 60 pounds of weight, with steps down to 50, 40, 20, and 12 pounds as well. With 20 pounds in the vest, my midrange three- or four-mile runs become more of a challenge but much more productive, especially the uphill slogs. (The built-in water-bottle straps are much appreciated there.) And with 40 or more pounds in the vest, push-ups, lunges, and other calisthenic exercises become true strength training.

Best weighted vest for cross-training

If you try to do serious circuit training wearing a bulky, heavy weighted vest, you’re going to have a bad time. Traditional weighted vests that use a handful of solid weights are great for jogs or hiking or for some basic exercises, but they are too restrictive and will throw you too far off-balance for all the jumping, sprinting, up-and-downs, and other high-velocity movement of a cross-training workout. The Hyperwear Hyper Vest PRO distributes its ten pounds of weight evenly across your chest and back, and the highly flexible vest can be tightened and adjusted at multiple points to create a snug, customized fit. You’ll hardly notice that you’ve strapped on an extra ten pounds of weight until you try the same exercises with the vest off and find yourself excelling.

Best weighted vest for running

The JBM Weighted Vest adds 12 pounds onto your frame, which might not sound like much, but it adds up over time, in a good way — if you routinely run with this vest, you’ll add stamina and muscle without discomfort. The vest is primarily made from soft, flexible neoprene, and the weight comes in the form of evenly distributed sand, so your range of motion isn’t restricted and your balance remains centered. Also, note the extra features that distance runners will love, such as a mesh pocket that can be used to stash snacks, a small water bottle, or your phone and keys, and the reflective strips that make night running safer.

Best weighted vest for strength training

From $190

If you want to turn your own body into a professional-grade strength-training gym, the Mir Adjustable Weighted Vest is a great way to do it. This vest can support up to 90 pounds of added weight, so you can complete amazing leg and core workouts just by putting it on. The weight can be adjusted by minute three-pound increments, so you can fine-tune your workout needs. And while it’s way too bulky for distance running or cross-training, for anaerobic strength training, sprints, and other muscle-building exercise, it’s the best.

And if you don’t like weighted vests

It’s true, weighted vests aren’t for everyone. But if you want to improve your speed and endurance, you have two options: run a whole lot more or make your runs harder. Another way to add resistance without weight is by using a parachute. The StillCool Running Resistance Parachute costs less than ten bucks and it weighs less than half a pound, packing down small when not in use, but when dragging along through the air behind you, it can add as much as 25 pounds of resistance. Run with a parachute for long enough, and you’ll feel positively untethered when you leave it behind. It just looks a little ridiculous. I can say from personal experience: Don’t try to use one of these thing on a windy day or in a crowded area.

If you’re looking for a different style of weighted vest, here are some highly reviewed options from Amazon, according to hyperenthusiastic athletes.

Best weighted vest for women

“I have used the vest for a couple of weeks, jogging for 45 minutes to an hour each use. I find it very comfortable. The straps allow for as snug a fit as you’d like. They can tend to loosen as you jog. I tried tying them, which didn’t work. I found that leaving them loose and then simply tugging on one while jogging instantly tightens it up. Not a big issue. I have had no issue with leaking sand, and the vest appears sturdy enough. The only downside to this vest is that there’s no option to increase the weight but at this price point that is reasonable. This vest has been a great addition to my cardio workouts. It has contributed positively to my fitness, and I hope to use it for some time before upgrading to a heavier vest.”

Best camo weighted vest

“I am just under five feet tall and was worried that this would be too large. All the adjustability makes it fit just fine, and the added shoulder padding is great. I bought this to help with osteopenia and hope the walls and housekeeping while wearing it strengthens my bones. I also like that the weight can be tapered down for days that I am not up for the full 20 pounds.”

Best weighted vest for CrossFit

“I hardly write reviews, but I have to admit, this weighted vest strapping system is like no other. Depending how tight or snug you strap this vest will depend how much it moves on you when you’re jogging or running with it. It is now 2017, and I bought this back in 2014 and it’s still up and going. Love it.”

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The Best Weighted Vests for Making Exercise Much Harder