Six Rules for Weight Vest Training

July 7, 2011

Searching for the perfect accessory to complement your summer workouts? Look no further than the weighted vest, one of the hottest pieces of summer training gear. A weighted vest can be the missing piece for enhancing your explosiveness, but be advised: this popular apparatus does not work well with all exercises and training styles. An error in judgment can lead to training transgressions and even injury. And no one looks good slumped over a set of crutches, frustrated by an injury that could have been prevented.

To help you prevent a training faux pas, STACK summoned the industry’s leading performance experts for their weight vest do’s and don’ts.

Use the 10 Percent Rule
One size does not fit all: the general rule of thumb for selecting the appropriate amount of weight is not to exceed 10 percent of your bodyweight. For example, a 150-pound athlete should use no more than 15 pounds of external load in the weighted vest. [Read more about the 10 Percent Rule.]

Carl Crawford uses a weighted vest when performing a Rear-Foot-Elevated Split-Squat.

Work for Speed, Not Endurance
Unlike some speed training tools, a weight vest enables an athlete 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. To get the best from your vest, D1 Sports director of training Kurt Hester recommends performing 20-Yard Weighted Sprints for three to five reps. Distances beyond 20 yards tend to become more of a conditioning workout, says Hester, and “you don’t want to do anything that may hamper your stride length or stride frequency."

Vest-to-Rest Ratio
“Typically with free sprints, the rest time is one minute for every 10 yards sprinted,” Hester says. When speed training with the weighted vest, he recommends 80 seconds per 10 yards.

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 following a series of weighted sprints. “We like to end speed sessions with the vests off so the athletes get a feeling of being quick at the end of the workout,” says San Antonio Spurs strength coach Mike Brungardt.

Exercise Caution
When speed training, athletes 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, says Danny Arnold, owner of the Texas-based Plex training facilities.

No Jumping
“I wouldn’t do jumping exercises with the vest,” Arnold says. Instead, he recommends bodyweight exercises such as Lunges, Push-Ups and Half-Squats—“basically anything that will not risk or add more pressure on the joints.”

View the video above for another vest-approved exercise.

Stay sharp this summer by heading over to the STACK Summer Training Guide for more information on maximizing your off-season workouts.

Photos:  Layne Murdoch; Jason Wise

Zac Clark
- Zac Clark is STACK Media's Custom Content Manager. Prior to joining STACK in September 2008, he served as an editorial assistant for USA Hockey Magazine...
Zac Clark
- Zac Clark is STACK Media's Custom Content Manager. Prior to joining STACK in September 2008, he served as an editorial assistant for USA Hockey Magazine...
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