Weighted vests are one of the most underrated pieces of equipment in the entire fitness industry. Not a lot of people use them, and yet you’ll find that most professional athletes and other serious fitness trainers swear by them. They’re extremely versatile, so you can use one with just about any exercise, and studies have found that training with a weighted vest will significantly boost your stamina, increase your body strength, cut your body fat, and build your bone density.
Weighted vests seriously take your workout intensity to the next level, and if you decide to use one, you will see phenomenal results. The weighted vest market has become pretty competitive, so we wanted to create a simple buying guide for anyone looking to buy the best weighted vest. We bought, tested, and reviewed all of the top weighted vests and compared things like design, comfort, functionality, and price, and ended up with two top choices for the best weight vest.
We listed full reviews for each weighted vest below, but just so you can easily compare the differences between each one, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the 4 models that we tested:
- ZFO Sports
- 0-80 lbs
- 2.5 lb Sandbags
- 1 Year
- Cross 101
- 0-140 lbs
- 4 lb Sandbags
- 1 Year
- 0-90 lbs
- 3 lb Cast Iron Pills
- 0-100 lbs
- 2.5 lb Cast Iron Pills
Benefits of Weighted Vest Training
Increased Strength, Stamina, & Agility
With any exercise in fitness, the more weight you use, the more your muscles have to adapt and grow to be able to handle the higher resistance. And that’s exactly what you’re doing with a weighted vest, except it’s a much more unique type of resistance than a barbell or a dumbbell. Weighted vests were designed as a way to naturally add weight to your body, so when you put one of these weighted vests on, you’re basically tricking your body into thinking it’s much heavier than it really is. Let’s say you’re 150 lbs, and you just put on a 20 lb weighted vest. Your body is only used to moving around 150 lbs, but now that you’ve “gained” that extra 20 lbs, your body has to adapt in order to manage that extra body weight.
Carrying that extra weight around requires more energy and more oxygen, which means three main parts of your body have to adapt: your muscles, your cardiovascular system, and your bones. Your muscles are forced to get stronger in order to move the added resistance, your cardiovascular system is forced to provide more oxygen to keep you moving, and your bones are forced to endure all of this extra load that it’s not used to. What this does is give you performance benefits across all three categories. Your muscles gain strength, which increases power and agility, allowing you to move your body better, faster, and easier. Your cardiovascular system strengthens your lungs and increases your VO2 max (the max amount of oxygen your body can use), giving you a huge boost in stamina and endurance which allows you to last longer during workouts. And finally, your bones gain mass and density, which strengthens your skeleton and allows your body to endure more load of resistance.
Dominating Sports & Activities
In case it isn’t already obvious, weighted vest training plays a huge role in sports training due to all of the physical benefits discussed above. Professional athletes use weighted vests to train for every sport from basketball to football, swimming to running, and cycling to rowing. Training with the added body resistance significantly improves the body’s overall agility as well as substantially increases endurance levels, and as you can imagine those are two of the most important skills in nearly every sport or activity. Weighted vests are also popular with high intensity activities like CrossFit, P90X, and more. I was reading an article about the sports benefits of weighted vest training and the author asked his readers what their thoughts were on the subject, and whether this type of training had helped them. The top comment was from a man named Dillon Nagasan, who said:
“I know it helps me. Weighted vest training for martial arts makes you improve WAY faster than without. I always use a weighted vest when I train. I also use ankle and wrist weights.”Dillon N.
There have also been countless studies done to observe the physical benefits of weighted vest training. For example, a study conducted by Texas Tech University tracked the physical performances of a group of college football players over the course of 6 weeks. At the beginning of the study, the University scientists recorded each player’s results in the broad jump, vertical jump, and 40-yard dash. Over the next 6 weeks, they had each player follow the same routine of traditional resistance training combined with plyometrics, but half of the players wore a weighted vest during training, and half did not. After the 6 weeks were up, all of the players again tested their performances in the broad jump, vertical jump, and 40-yard dash. The results found that both groups improved their performances, but the group that wore weighted vests during training produced significantly better results.
Training with a weight vest is one of the most intense workouts you can do. As a by-product of this killer intensity, weighted vest training has been found to blast body fat. According to an article on Livestrong, “Wearing a weight vest that is 10 percent of your body weight can help you burn up to 8 percent more calories than doing the same activity without a weighted vest. The more weight you add, the more calories you will burn.” This a pretty significant success when it comes to weight loss, and as they said, the amount of calories you burn can even be increased as you continue to add weight to the vest. Using a weighted vest for weight loss purposes is obviously most beneficial when you use it while doing a cardio exercise, so I’d recommend using one while doing something like running, hiking, climbing, or cycling if you want the best results.
Mixing up your workout routine is crucial in keeping your muscles challenged and fresh, and training with different resistance types is another great way to add variety to your routine. Weight vest training does exactly that. It’s a totally unique type of resistance that no other machine or free weight can replicate because it literally mimics your body weight, and a weighted vest is so versatile that it can be used with almost any exercise you can think of. You can wear a weighted vest while you run, hike, bike ride, lift weights, and many others. In fact, I think the only exercise where you can’t where a weighted vest is swimming! Although if you are a swimmer, I know a lot of water polo player who use vests while they’re training out of the pool because it helps with stamina in the water. The fact of the matter is, a weighted vest is by far one of the best ways to add variety to your workout routine.
Adding a weighted vest to your home gym is smart because it ups the ante of the workouts that you are already doing. This is no doubt some of the best home workout equipment, but it has to be used correctly. Which leads me to my next point. . .
Things To Consider Before Buying
Design & Comfort
I would say the design and comfort should be top priority when looking for the best weighted vest. Because there are so many weighted vests on the market to choose from, that means there are a lot of different styles as well. Let me be the first to tell you, not all weighted vests are created equal. Some are bulkier than others, some don’t allow as much breathability, and some are just downright uncomfortable. The best weighted vest is one that’s going to fit your body nice and snug so that it doesn’t bounce around while you workout, but you want it to be a comfortable kind of snug, not one that’s digging into the body to the point where it’s intolerable. You also want a weighted vest that evenly distributes the weight so that the weighted vest feels natural on your body, not one that weighs you down on any particular side. Comfort was one of the main factors I looked at when comparing models during my weighted vest reviews, so don’t worry, I’ve got you covered here.
An added tip for this would be to consider what you’re primarily going to be using a weighted vest for. Are you doing mostly cardio exercises like running, hiking, etc.? Or are you going to be strictly using it for strength training? What about CrossFit or P90X? Figuring out your primary use will help you determine which style is the best weighted vest for you.
So if you’ve answered the question above (what are you primarily going to be using the weighted vest for?), you should have a pretty good idea of the weight capacity you’re looking for. There are different styles of weighted vests when it comes to capacity. Most give you the ability to add or remove weight, but there are others that have a fixed amount of weight that you can’t change. In this category, I wouldn’t say one style is necessarily better than the other, because it entirely depends on what type of exercises you’ll be doing. If you’re primarily going to be using a weighted vest for strength training, I’d say the best weighted vest is one that allows a big weight capacity so you can adjust weight as you feel fit. On the other hand, if you’re primarily using a weighted vest for running, I’d personally say the best weighted vest will be one that’s lighter or maybe not as bulky. But again, those are just my preferences. Everyone’s preferences vary, but I listed each weighted vest’s weight capacity in my weighted vest reviews so that you know what options you’ll have when choosing the best weighted vest for you.
I think cost should be considered in any purchase in life. A weighted vest is a rather simple product to make, but the problem with that is there are a lot of companies that cut corners and basically throw a cheap product together just to make some sales. The best weighted vest isn’t always the most expensive one, but with this type of product, you generally get what you pay for. As the quality goes up, so does the price, I’m afraid. I’ll be honest though, I’m not normally one that likes to spend extra money on things, but if you can’t decide between two models solely because of a price difference, I would say it’s completely worth it to spend the extra money on one of these.
Best Practices When Using A Weighted Vest
Exercising with a weighted vest is not your average type of training, so I wanted to talk quickly about some tips and best practices to help you get the most out of your weighted vest workouts.
For starters, there is a learning curve to using one of these. I’m not talking about experience levels, I mean your body literally has to learn to move with this extra “bodyweight” that you’ve put on. Because of that, it’s smart to do your first few weighted vest workouts with less weight so that your body becomes accustomed to the weight. Trainers recommend starting out with a light load somewhere around 5% of your bodyweight, and then gradually building up the weight over the next few workouts as your body gets stronger. This is the best way for your body to learn to move this new weight and will minimize risk and injury associated with too much initial load.
Next, if you’re going to be doing any running with your weighted vest, make sure you don’t have too much weight packed on. Trainers have found that running (or walking, jogging, hiking) with a weighted vest that’s too heavy can actually have negative effects on your body. First, a heavy weighted vest while running can put way too much load impact and force on your legs, which can stress your bones and joints and ultimately lead to a leg injury. Second, when you run with a heavy weighted vest, you use a lower and shorter stride pattern, which can completely alter your body’s natural running technique. I get it, we all want to be the baddest person in the gym and be able to move the most amount of weight, but with running in particular this isn’t a smart idea.
Finally, my last tip is to just make sure you’re ready for one of these. Training with a weighted vest is intense, and if you don’t have much fitness experience, you might find that the weighted vest does more bad than good for you. But as long as you read up on how to use one and take the two tips above into consideration, you should be fine.
Weighted Vest Reviews
ZFO Sports Weighted Vest Review
Notes & Review
The ZFO Sports weighted vest is one of the most popular choices on the market. It’s got nice quality, good functionality, and a surprisingly low price, offering a great value for your dollar. It’s highly rated by customers and also happens to be one of the best-selling weight vests on Amazon.
There are 5 different weight versions to choose from: 20 lbs, 40 lbs, 60 lbs, 80 lbs, or even a massive 100 pound increments. Whichever version you choose is the maximum amount of weight that that vest can carry, so depending on your weight requirements or strength level, you can choose the max weight capacity that best suits you. Thankfully, each version is also adjustable, so you can add or remove weight in 2.5 lb increments to get any weight setting you want. There are pockets for weight in both the front and back for even weight distribution, and the ZFO uses small sandbags to provide weight (as opposed to metal weights). I liked that the ZFO weighted vest gave you so many options when it came to weight adjustability because it makes the vest as versatile as possible, so the ZFO earned a point here for sure.
For my review, I went with the 40 lb version. Bought it on Amazon for only $48 and it arrived in a couple days. My first impression when I took it out of the box was that this thing looks like a military-grade bulletproof vest, I loved it! There are some older reviews on Amazon about the ZFO vest being hard to figure out, but it seems those are outdated because it was pretty easy to put on and the listing on Amazon even has an instructional picture showing you what to do. I’ve used the vest for the past few weeks now and I have to admit I’ve really liked the feel of it. It’s pretty good quality and the material is nice and durable, but what makes the ZFO weighted vest great for training is that it’s by far the most adjustable vest I’ve ever used (in terms of fitment). There are 2 straps on each side, as well as a padded strap for each shoulder. This is crucial because everybody has a different body type, and since weighted vests are typically a one size fits all kind of product, it’s so useful to have a lot of adjustability to get the most comfortable fit on your body.
For strength-training exercises the ZFO weighted vest is perfect. It’s easy to load weight in and out and even when the vest is fully strapped down you still have your full range of motion. Whether it was squats, push-ups, pull-ups, etc., I had no trouble doing any of these types of exercises. It’s great for most cardio exercises as well, but the only complaint I had was that it’s a little bulky for running. The ZFO is a long-torso vest, so it comes down to a little below the belly button when you put it on. That just makes it a little bit more uncomfortable to run in than some of the other short-torso vests that are made with running in mind. I had the same opinion when I did a few rounds of CrossFit and P90X with the ZFO on. Great for most exercises, but I think a short-torso vest would be more comfortable option. If you’re looking for a good short-torso vest for things like running or CrossFit, check out our review of the MiR weighted vest further down the page.
Overall, I’d say the ZFO Sports vest is one of the best weighted vest options when it comes to value for your dollar. It’s great quality, gives you a ton of adjustability to get the most comfortable fit, and is great for nearly all exercises. It specifically excels in weight training and strength training, but it’s equally good for cardio (with the exception of running, where it feels a little long). With that being said, at only $50 for a top quality 60 lb weighted vest, the ZFO can’t be beat.
Cross 101 Weighted Vest Review
Notes & Review
The Cross 101 weighted vest is another popular choice you’ll see around online. It has some pretty solid review on Amazon, and similar to the ZFO Sports vest I reviewed above, it offers a lot of good functionality at a really reasonable price.
There are 8 different weight capacities to choose from: 12, 20, 40, 50, 60, 100, 120, and 140 lbs. I have no idea who on Earth would need a weight vest with over 100 lbs, but holy cow if you do, the Cross 101 clearly has several options for you. The vest uses little sandbags to provide weight, each weighing 4 lbs, so you can adjust the weight of the vest in 4 lb increments by adding or removing these sandbags. The Cross 101 has a pretty even weight distribution across the front and the back as well. One thing to note, whether you like this or not, this vest is only available in a camouflage coloring.
I chose to go with the 40 lb option so that I could evenly compare it to the 40 lb ZFO Sports vest that I wrote about above. The two vests are just about the same price, and when you buy the Cross 101 on Amazon there’s an option to select with or without shoulder pads. The shoulder pads were only $6 more, so I thought hey, why not! Honestly, these didn’t really do much. They’re like one centimeter thick (if that), but I guess you get what you pay for since they were only six bucks. Other than that, the vest is a little more on the basic side. There’s nothing that really sticks out about the design, but other than that I’d say it’s good quality. The one thing I didn’t like about the Cross 101 weight vest was that it’s not that adjustable as far as fitting it to your body goes. All you have is one big strap across the torso, which gave me a couple issues during certain exercises that I’ll explain below.
Similar to the ZFO Sports vest, the Cross 101 weight vest was best for strength-training exercises where you’re not really moving around too much. Cardio was an entirely different story. When I ran through some basic cardio exercises as well as a few CrossFit routines, I noticed the vest kept sliding down my body. The entire point of having adjustable straps is to fit it tight to your body so that the weight isn’t just hanging on your shoulders. Well, since the Cross 101 only has one torso strap, it apparently doesn’t provide a secure enough fit because it kept sliding down during workouts where I was moving around a lot. I started to think maybe I was just doing something wrong, but then I read a few reviews on Amazon where customers had the same issue, so it’s not just me. If you’re going to be doing primarily cardio, CrossFit, or any other exercises that require a little bit of movement, I’d recommend a different vest that has more adjustable straps or more comfort around the neck. When this vest slides down, it tugs on your neck and shoulders giving some discomfort.
Overall, I thought the Cross 101 weight vest was a good option for strength training, but wasn’t secure enough for exercises where you’re moving around a lot like cardio or CrossFit. The vest lacks good adjustment to be able to fit it tightly to your body, so it slides down after you’ve been moving a lot and tugs on your neck and shoulders. At $50, it’s still a decent value, but I think there are better options.
MiR Weighted Vest Review
Notes & Review
MiR is easily the most popular name in the weighted vest market. This is one of the premium brands, the “Mercedes of weight vests” if you will. They’re known for having a slightly higher price tag (in the $100-200 range depending on which weight capacity you choose), but with that price tag comes a very high-quality product that most customers say is, “well worth the extra cost.” Naturally, I had to try it out.
There are two different styles of MiR weighted vest, the long-stack and the short-stack. Basically, the long style hangs down your whole torso and goes below your belly button, and the short style is designed more compact so that it only comes down to your mid-torso area, an inch or two below the chest. The short style is by far the most popular, so that’s the one I went with for this review. There are over a dozen weight capacities to choose from between 15 and 90 lbs. With that being said, the weight capacity is obviously just the max weight that that specific vest is made for, you can still adjust in little 3 lb increments to get your desired weight setting. Unlike most other models, the MiR vest uses cast iron weight rather than sandbags, and I really liked this because I’ve heard that sometimes the sandbags have a tendency to leak. That issue is rare, but still something to consider.
So I chose the short-style MiR weighted vest in 50 lb form because that’s the most popular version that people look at. Just to note, the 50 lb version actually has a max weight capacity of 60 lbs. MiR includes a few extra weight pockets for people that wanted to get a little extra stretch out of their vest, which I thought was cool. As I said in my intro, the MiR weighted vest is a little more pricey than the other models. I paid $139 for this whereas the ZFO sports vest (which I liked very much) was only $48. But what I also said was that this extra cost would be worth the quality from what I had read online, and I can’t deny it, those other people were right: the MiR weighted vest is very high quality. It’s got an extremely clean, compact design and the materials used are all top notch. There are adjustment straps on the sides and shoulders that allow you to fit the vest nice and snug regardless of what body type of have. It’s also double padded which makes it comfortable even when it’s strapped down tight.
I have to admit, after training with the MiR weighted vest for a few weeks, I was really impressed with the performance of this vest. The compact design coupled with the secure adjustability make this vest perfect for literally any exercise. Strength training exercises don’t require much since you’re not moving around a lot; as long as you have a weighted vest that can somehow hang on your body, you can work with that. But with exercises that require move body movement, like cardio or CrossFit, you need something that’s going to fit your body tight and not move around on you or be too bulky. And that’s where the MiR vest really excelled. Once you strap this thing down, it is not coming loose. I tried it out on some long runs, hikes, and a few CrossFit and P90X routines, and I really enjoyed the short compact design and the ultra-secure fit. The only issue I’ve found was that it can sometimes get a little tight around the neck, but I honestly only noticed this on super long training days where I had the vest on for several hours.
All-in-all, I was extremely impressed with the performance of the MiR weighted vest. The short-styled compact design and secure, comfortable fit make this vest perfect for any exercise whether it be strength-training, cardio, CrossFit, or something more. Honestly, I think this might be my pick as best weighted vest overall (one more vest to review and then we’ll find out for sure!). It is priced a bit higher than the other models, but in my opinion this is well worth the extra cost.
V-Force Weighted Vest Review
Notes & Review
The V-Force weighted vest is a very highly-rated model that people love for its tactical-styled compact design. V-Force is one of the very few companies to make their vest in the USA, and they proudly boast their premium USA quality. They claim their vests are so good that they’ll last you for life, and they even back that up with a lifetime warranty. Although it’s priced much higher, the V-Force vest is a direct competitor of the MiR weighted vest (which I consider to be the best weighted vest overall), so I wanted to test this out to see if there was any more functionality that made this a better option than the MiR.
Similar to the MiR vests, the V-Force weighted vest is available in two different styles: long and short. Because the short style is the most popular version (and also the version that competes with the MiR), this is the one I chose to test. There are quite a few different weight capacities starting at 15 lbs and moving all the way up to 150 lbs. I have no idea who would need such weight, but if you do, the V-Force is definitely for you because this is the only vest to offer such a ridiculously high weight capacity. Something I liked about the V-Force vest is that it uses actual iron weights instead of sandbags, which are much better quality and can’t rupture like a sandbag could. The cast iron weights are in 2.5 lb increments to give you precise weight adjustment. For added customization, there are 8 different color choices to choose between (black, tan, camo, etc.).
There was only a 50 lb vest available in a long style, so I had to settle with the 45 lb vest to get the short style I wanted. Not necessarily an issue, 5 lbs isn’t a terribly huge difference. That being said, this still ran me a hefty $210 (compared to the MiR which only costs $139). I will say that I definitely appreciated the quality of the V-Force. There’s something about a product that’s made in the USA that just makes it more well put together. Every V-Force weighted vest is made-to-order, so you know that a little bit of love goes into this thing since they’re literally making it personal for you. Although there’s only one side strap, there is a clip in the front which prevents the straps for coming loose. I like that they chose to use a clip instead of a velcro strap because the clip ensures the most secure fit.
The V-Force weighted vest performed well in every category of exercise, just like the MiR did. They’re truly very similar vests. The V-Force was great for strength training, but you get the most out of this vest when you’re using it for exercises that require a lot of action. Things like training drills, running, hiking, CrossFit, P90X, etc. are where the V-Force performs best because that’s exactly what it was designed for. This was made initially for military, law enforcement, and firefighter use so it had to be secure, comfortable, and versatile. And that’s exactly what it does. The compact design fits snugly against your body and makes this vest feel like it’s one with you. I also like that the side strap never came despite all the rapid movement. That’s important with weighted vests because very few hold up well during the majority of moving exercises.
Overall, I thought the V-Force weighted vest was an excellent product. Its USA-quality makes it top notch, it’s size fits comfortably, and it works well with every style of exercise thanks to its short compact design and snug fit. This is definitely one of the best weighted vest choices on the market, I just don’t think it’s quite worth spending over $200 on. This weighted vest and the MiR are truly very similar products. With the V-Force being $210 and the MiR being $139, I’d say the MiR is a much more cost-effective choice.
Conclusion: The Winners
After countless hours testing each of these four super-popular models, I definitely have to go with the MiR weighted vest as the best weighted vest overall. This short-style compact weighted vest was perfect for every style of exercise whether it was strength-training, cardio, CrossFit, or other workout routine. It’s extremely versatile and still gives you your full range of motion even after you’ve strapped it down tight, which is really important since most weighted vests do tend to restrict your mobility a little. At $139, the MiR vest does come at a slightly higher price tag than some of the other models, but with that extra cost over the other models you’re paying for higher quality, more exercise versatility, and a much more comfortable, secure fit.
Best Value For Your Dollar
If you’re on a low-cost budget and you want a less expensive option than the MiR, then the ZFO Sports weighted vest is undoubtedly your best choice. This is hands-down the best value for your dollar when it comes to weighted vests. It’s great quality and offers more adjustment features than any other weighted vest on the market, making this perfect for all body types. It works extremely well for nearly all exercises with the exception of a select few where it just felt a little on the bulkier side. That being said, the ultra-low price tag of $48 makes the ZFO vest virtually unbeatable when you’re looking for the best bang for your buck.