Weight vests are nothing new, but over the past decade the use of weight vests as a tool for fitness has increased significantly, especially in the Tactical Fitness industry. Equally, however, the athletic training world is using weight vests now more than ever with weighted calisthenics, speed and agility, and other weighted running workouts. For those seeking employment within the military, police, fire fighter or special ops professions, you will need to get used to carrying extra weight while on the job. Adding a weighted vest to a basic calisthenics workout will definitely place that workout into a different level of difficulty.
You can tell weight vests are more popular these days by the increased volume of weight vests on the market. There are dozens of weight vest companies with products that range below $100 to well over $300. Which are the best for you and your goal and budget?
Here is a list of the top weight vests I have encountered over the years. I have tested 11 weight vests personally, varying in weights and price. Below is a multi-level review as well as the workouts we often conduct with them.
This company was really first on the market with rugged vests, and therefore the first weight vest we tried came from www.weightvest.com. Simple enough! The Vmax, VForce, and the BOX versions of the weight vest are all top notch. I have found these to work great with calisthenics like pushups, burpees, pullups, rope climbs, squats, lunges and many more. The chest-strap keeps the vest snug when moving with only minor slipping when inverted – doing handstand pushups or stair crawls (bear crawls up and down stairs). Price ranges from $130-$450 the heavier you go. Why one would need a 150lb. weight vest I do not know, but if you are that strong it could be beneficial to make gravity a little harder for you.
The weight vests are adjustable with several individual weights and pockets to place them in.
Must have: They do have a $40 velcro sweat liner which is key to be able to wash after a sweaty workout. Otherwise, you will have a funky smelling piece of gear that resembles two-day old hockey pads.
One of our favorite weight vest workouts is a Murph made popular by Crossfit (1 mile run, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, 1 mile run). This vest works great for that, as do most vests.
ZFOSports Weight Vest
I found the least expensive but highest quality vest on Ebay.com years ago, which is actually made by ZFOsports.com. You can get a decent 40-60lb. weight vest for under $100 and shipped to you relatively cheaply too as they fit into a medium Priority Mail Box. Your mailman will not appreciate it, but shipping can be expensive depending how it is mailed. The vests are adjustable with several individual weights and pockets to place them in. There is no sweat liner that comes with it.
The straps are connected with Velcro and do the job of securing the vest to your torso, but they can get easily tangled. Some of the newer vests have sewn-in straps that are less likely to get lost or tangled. The shoulders are not the most comfortable, but they are not painful either.
I mainly use this vest for simulating rucking when I don’t feel like getting my backpack out. But the basics of calisthenics work fine. Any inverted exercises do not do well with this brand.
But, this is the best vest out there for under $100 in my opinion.
Tac Tec Plate Carrier Vest
5.11 Tac Tec Plate Carrier Vest – This vest is a well-made and comfortable vest using large, flat plates so it feels similar to body armor. It is designed to simulate tactical vests with body armor plates so you are only looking at a 10-20lb vest. You can make it heavier with additional plates that are not that expensive (see link from Rogue Fitness above). It is very durable and ideal for climbing ropes, crawling, obstacle courses, as well as doing all types of calisthenics. I would limit any inverted exercises as the waist band is not that secure. Great padded shoulders make it very comfortable. Prices are in the $250-300 range complete with weight plates.
Raptor Weight Vests
This has been my go-to weight vest since I met the creators at a NSCA TSAC conference a few years ago. I agreed to post a video review for them on their site www.raptorweightvests.com (no money exchanged) and have been using the Raptor Weight Vest for a great variety of exercises. The great addition to this weight vest is a series of D rings that make the weight vest double as a towing harness. With the Raptor, you can pull sleds or tires (even cars!) while wearing the vest for sprints or bear crawls. In fact, I am in the process of writing a new Weight Vest Workout book featuring this product as it is my favorite. The sweat liner works well and is easily washed and replaceable with each use. The Velcro weight band is the best on the market featuring both Velcro wrap and a tactical buckle to double-secure the vest for any type of movement.
The negative is the price tag. It is a British-made product, so the shipping and duty fees are high for the USA purchaser. However, they have teamed with www.Sorinex.com to handle USA distribution, thus saving the consumer large shipping and duty fees. Prices for the Raptor will be in the range of $200-300.
My workout group has used the Raptor for everything. We like PT Pyramids, Supersets, rope climbs, bear crawls, obstacle courses, rucking simulation, stair climbing, and of course towing drills with this comfortable added weight.
If calisthenics are too easy for you, make them harder with a weight vest. If you want to prepare for rucking and are looking for a quick piece of gear to simulate moving with extra weight on your body, these vests come in quite handy.