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Weighed Vest - training friend or foe?

run stong

Weighted vest - Training aid or training foe?

A weighted vest can be the missing piece of kit to help enhance speed and help build strength however, care is needed as using it incorrectly can not only slow you down, but it can lead to bad technique, causing injuries.

All runners should include weight and resistance training as part of their training program. A well rounded training program must include a combination of cardio and strength training. A weighted vest provides just one way to get more results from training. It also has shown performance improvements can come from including a vest in your warm-up before training or races.

So why use a weight vest?

Imagine doing the same cardio exercises you would do in your daily routine with added weight. Say you add 5kg (10lb) to your weight vest, you are essentially doing the workout of an individual 5kg heavier than you. You are increasing the intensity and the efficiency of your workout, also burning more calories in a shorter amount of time. As calories are being burned and fat is being lost, lean muscle can begin to form. The increased intensity of the workout makes cardiovascular systems work harder, strengthening them and engaging the entire core. All of these changes that come as a result of combining cardio and weight training improves overall performance (speed, endurance, etc.)

So how do you use a weighted vest?

Firstly, the most important question is how heavy should my weight vest be? While the majority of weighted vests that have traditionally been sold for strength training are very heavy and bulky, the research shows athletic and running performance and speed are improved using no more than 10-15% of body weight. For example, if you weigh 75kg then you are going to need a vest between 7.5kg and 11.25kg.

Not the way to add weight - have it evenly distributed

What does weight vest research tell us?

A study cited in the Journal of Applied Physiology examined the effects of adding weight to strength training of subjects who already had a steady level of performance. The weighted vest research study took place 3 days a week for 10 weeks. Leg strength was increased by 30% and short-term endurance during cycling and running was increased by 11-13%.

Researcher, Helkki Rusko, in another study, stated that improvement occurred while running with a weighted vest. Using twelve well-trained athletes as his subjects, he gave them weighted vests that weighed 10% of their body weight. Rusko made subjects wear the weighted vests throughout the entire day as well as during at least three of eight weekly workouts. After four weeks, the results his subjects experienced were negative they needed more oxygen to run at a given pace. He asked his subjects to take the weight vests off and resume normal training and retested them two weeks later and this time he witnessed endurance while sprinting rise by 25% and stair running speed increase by 3%.

Research published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport looked at the effect of warm-up exercises using a weight vest for running endurance. Elite distance runners wore a weighted vest equal to 20% of their body weight during the “strides” portion of a commonly used warm-up. Strides are short duration intervals of fast running. Peek running speed was shown to be very significantly improved by 2.9% in the group using running weight vest warm-up. Measurements showed a moderate increase in leg stiffness and large improvement in running economy of 6%. Cardiorespiratory efficiency in the runners also showed a small to moderate improvement.

The majority of all research papers I have looked at show positive results, and even if the percentage was small, there was still improvement.

So, is it all good?

There are numerous benefits but what are the disadvantages of wearing a weighted vest? As far as weight ed vests have been studied, the disadvantages can be:

· damage or injury can result if the individual is not used to exercise

· injury can arise if the individual uses improper form

· injury can arise if the weight vest itself is constructed poorly

· injury can arise if the vest is too heavy

All of these reasons could lead to a strain on joints and muscles and back problems.

To ensure that none of these problems become a concern, it is crucial to slowly integrate the use of a weight vest; if you do not exercise regularly, then establish a workout schedule first and add the weighted vest to optimise your existing workout. Although true for any workout, make sure you have a nice, erect posture; never slouch. It is also important to take some time off from using the weighted vest, if you use it frequently, to give your muscles a chance to recuperate from the added pressure and weight.

The factor that differentiates a well-constructed weighted vest from a poorly constructed weighted vest is in its design. The design should evenly distribute the added weight across the entire body. The weight vest should be adjustable. The weight should be enough to intensify a workout, not make it impossible. There are various designs, from those that have adjustable pockets for you to add/take away weight, to those that are of a fixed weight. They range in price too, so you might want to borrow one before you buy one, or go to a store to try them on, before you actually make a purchase to make sure you get the right fit.

Weighted vests are a great tool for both men and women looking to intensify their existing workouts. Weight vests are flexible in use and can be added to cardio and weight training and improve overall athletic performance

Work for Speed, Not Endurance

Unlike some speed training tools, a weight vest allows you to sprint without compromising form. Nevertheless, your speed muscles will fatigue faster when you're vested up, which can lead to flaws in your mechanics, so be aware.

To get the best from your vest, try 20 metre weighted Sprints for three to five reps. Distances beyond 20 metres tend to become more of a conditioning workout.

Vest-to-Rest Ratio

Typically, with sprints, the rest time is one minute for every 10 metre sprinted. When speed training with the weighted vest, you may want to increase this to 80 seconds per 10 metres.

Lose the Vest

Generating explosive movements requires more ground force production when you're wearing a weighted vest. Once you've trained your speed muscles to fire in an explosive manner, transfer that ability by performing free sprints (without the vest) following a series of weighted sprints.

End speed sessions with the vests off so you get a feeling of being quick at the end of the workout.

Only got time for a short run?

If you are a distance runner, or looking to build up in distance a weighted vest can be a useful tool if you only have time to run a short distance. Only got time for a 2 mile run, then after your warm up, head out for a fast mile and then warm down with a slower mile, all in the weighted vest. Over time the endurance you build up using the vest will make a difference to your leg and core strength, as well as your time.

Exercise Caution

When training in a vest, runners are at greatest risk for injury when decelerating. The external load of the weight vest increases the risk, which is why you must pay special attention to bending your knees, lowering your body and slowly decelerating.

Extra benefits

If you are a menopausal female, or are at risk of conditions which affect bone density, then weighted vest fitness sessions will have a positive impact on your bone density, due to the added resistance they give to a work out.

Weighted vest work outs can add a different element to a training program. They are not meant to be used for long training sessions, i.e don’t run a marathon in one. However, in the same way you may add hill sessions to a running training program, and weighted vest sessions can have a positive impact on core strength, leg strength, increased oxygen capacity and bone density. What’s not to like!


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