Pros and Cons of Training With Weighted Vests, Wrist and Ankle Weights
Training with weighted body vests and body weights can add extra resistance, loads and cardio conditioning to workouts. It makes the workouts harder for the same time commitment. However, they are not for everyone particularly if it affects your gait and stride pattern.
Weighted vests, and body weight straps for wrists and ankles, are worn during exercises to increase loads, resistance and to promote cardio conditioning. You can also carry small hand dumbbells for short walks. Most weighted vests can be adjusted to be heavier or lighter by adding and removing extra bars or plates. Wrist and ankle straps come in various weight sizes.
Before strapping on any extra weights to your body it is important to understand the benefits, disadvantages and possible problems they may cause.
Benefits of Weighted Vests, and Arm and Leg Body Weights
They can help in developing strength, endurance and cardio conditioning by increasing your body weight.
More force is exerted by your body which leads to faster energy depletion.
It increases your heart rate and oxygen consumption rate for the same pace at which you run or walk.
It adds variety to your workouts as more muscles are involved including arms, legs and torso. It can create a multiple focus exercise involving legs and arms at the same time.
Initially, start with small weights at first and check how they affect your gait.
Some studies suggest training with the added resistance can improve speed, heart rate, VO2max and time to exhaustion. Nothing will increase your heart rate faster at the ame walking speed than wearing a weighted vest. It is similar to climbing on an inclined treadmill, walking up steps or up a hill. Wearing weights is simply another way of achieving higher heart rates for the same amount of time spent walking, and for the same distance.
Some people argue that wearing a weight vest is the most efficient way to add extra load to an exercise routine. Because the extra weight is closer to your natural center of gravity compared to say walking with hand dumbbells.
Wearing a weight vest offers no real benefits in terms of upper-body and arm exercises that you get with like biceps curls or bench press. However, upper body and arm benefits can be gained by wearing wrist weights or carrying hand dumbbells.
Risks and Disadvantages of Training with a Weight Vest or Body Weights
Working out, walking or jogging with a weighted vest or body weights can be risky if you are not conditioned for it, especially with heavy weights.
It can affect your posture and form causing muscle and back strain
The risks get worse the longer you wear the weights and the more tired you get.
People with poor posture, tight neck muscles, or any type of back problems should avoid weighing weights until they’ve built up strength and form.
Exercise can become less enjoyable and a chore or drudge
Free swinging weights on the arms and legs can adding strange side motions to your walking form or change your gait or stride form. This may lead to muscle strain and potential back problems.
Your body can get used to the unique leverage and weight distribution from wearing the vest and leg/arm weights. So when you exercise without the weights it can cause neuro-muscular confusion and your body may take time to adjust and re-calibrate. So mix it up doing some exercise with and without the weight.
Tips for and Against Wearing Weight Vests
For walking sessions, a weighted vest is probably less likely to cause injury than wearing weights on wrists and ankles. The extra weight is carried around the upper torso in an area where your body naturally adds extra weight or body fat via overeating and weight gain. The risk of repetitive motion injury though unnatural extra stress on the arms, legs when you wear hand weights or ankle weights is less with weighted vests.
Preliminary research studies have shown that wearing weight vests up to 5% of body mass were well-tolerated.
Wearing weight is not recommended if you have pre-existing problems with your knees, hips, ankles or feet.
Choose Your Weighted Vest Wisely
These are the tips for what to look for:
Adjustable - It should be easy to add or remove small amounts of weights.
Balanced - The weights should be evenly distributed around your chest or torso.
Well Ventilated - Look for a design with a fabric that allows good air flow especially in hot weather
Well-Fitted - The vest should fit well and be easily adjusted for comfort - not too tight, not loose and not bobbing around
Functional - The design should still work well with whatever kind of water carrier you use. This also applies for rain jackets, coat or or warm clothing.