How Heavy Should A Weighted Vest Be? (Explained)


Do you wanna know how heavy should a weighted vest be? No worries. I’ve been using weighted vests on and off for a number of years.

Today I will explain what is a good weight for the weighted vest whenever you want to do walking, running, jumping, or lifting weights.

As a whole, the weight of the weighted vest should be equal to 5 – 12% of the person’s body weight. However, the optimum weight will be different for people who wear the vest only during the training versus people who wear the vests during daily activities, without any specific training program.

In other words, the good weight of a weighted vest will depend on your fitness level, as well as the type of training you’re planning to do (more on that later).

How Too Choose The Right Weight For Your Weighted Vest?

I’ve been using a weighted vest since 2018 for strength and conditioning training, as well as running, hiking, and regular everyday walking throughout the day.

One thing I’ve learned is that you need to adjust your vest weight based on the activity you do. For example, if you plan to walk for 45 minutes on a flat road (zero percent inclination), you can get away with wearing a heavier vest (30+ pounds).

On the other hand, if you’re planning to go hiking at the altitude all day, I recommend using something lighter like 10 to 15 lbs (although this should match your fitness level and current body weight).

My first weighted vest (20lbs). It was the old model of cap barbell weighted vest. This was a good weight for bodyweight training like push-ups, jumps, pull-ups, and squats (at the time, my body weight was 187 lbs).

However, it was too heavy for running and hiking. I felt like my legs were getting tired and I wasn’t able to run/walk as far as I would want.

My second vest (the one that I currently use) is much better because I’m able to adjust the weight. This way I can choose the right weight based on my workout plan.

Learn more: Click here to learn more about “can I wear a weighted vest all day“.

What Does The Research Say About Weighted Vest Weight?

To be honest, not a lot.

I see a lot of people recommend choosing the weight of the weighted vest based on the current research (most precisely, the weight that has been used in the research).

Most of the longitudinal studies on hypergravity training (aka weighted vest training) were done with vests that correspond to a load of 5-10% of the participant’s body weight.

These are those studies where people wear a vest for a number of days (or weeks) either specifically during the training or throughout the day.

On the other hand, in some of the hypergravity training case studies people were wearing weighted vests that were equal to 20% of their body weight.

In these studies, people wear a vest to manipulate exercise intensity only once (e.g. YMCA 3-minute step test). Most of the research compares the results either “loaded” vs “unloaded”, and they do not provide sufficient information about what is a good weight for the weighted vest.

(The heaviest weighted vest I’ve seen in research was equal to 26% of the person’s body weight).

Ashley D Knight, Ph.D., has shown that a 56-year-old male who weighs 86.8 kg (190 lbs) was able to improve his walking speed and functional performance by wearing a 22.8 kg (50lbs) weighted vest.

My point is that many studies use a specific weight range to assess the efficacy of weighted vest training, However, there are no current studies that show the upper limit of how heavy the vests should be.

Related article: Why You Should Do Squats With Weighted Vest

What Is A Good Weight For Weighted Vest?

On average, a good weight for a weighted vest is between 10 to 30 lbs, depending on the person’s body weight and training experience.

The heavier vests (20+ pounds) are good for people who are physically active and want to improve their performance.

Eric Lee Salazar, a natural IFBB Pro, did an experiment during his preparation for a bodybuilding show where he was wearing a 20-pound weighted vest 90-95% of his waking hours and managed to lose 19 lbs.

Do not start with a 50-pounds vest, Eric said, the intensity will get too high and it can get too difficult where your body can start to fatigue as you wear it for most of the day.

I also find that heavier vests are better for low-impact activities (e.g. walking). Walking is one of the easiest weighted vest workouts you can and if you just wear your vest for that, don’t shy away from adding extra weight.

How heavy should a weighted vest be for walking?

For walking, the ideal weight of a weighted vest is between 10 to 25 pounds, depending on your body weight and walking duration. Untrained people who make less than 5,000 steps should use lower weight, whereas trained people who do 10,000 steps or more can use heavier weighted vests.

Don’t forget about the duration and incline.

I was using a 20-pound weighted vest for my morning uphill walking (the vest had a fixed weight so I couldn’t change it). Walking on the flat surface was easy, but as soon as I started going up, my heart rate went through the roof and my legs started to get tight.

According to my Fitbit, uphill walking at 10% incline for 20 minutes wearing a 20-pound weighted vest brought my heart rate to zone 4. This is equivalent to tempo training. I wasn’t able to do it for a long time.

On the other hand, the same 20-pound vest on the flat road with a 3mph pace was hard enough to elevate my heart rate to reach zone 2.

My point is that the weight of your weighted vest should be based on the type of walking you do, the terrain you walk on, and the duration.

Learn more: Click here to learn more about how to use a “weighted vest for weight loss

How Heavy Should a Weighted Vest Be For Running?

Knowing how heavy a weighted vest should be for running is tricky because it will depend on the running intensity and duration, as well as your personal goals.

For running, I always reduce my vest weight down to 10-20 pounds, depending on my energy levels, how I slept the night before, outdoor weather conditions, and (most importantly) the running duration.

For my longer distances, I prefer to use a lighter vest (10 lbs) because it doesn’t put so much strain on my joints. On the days when I feel fully recovered and energetic, I don’t mind going harder and adding up to 14 lbs (6.35 kg).

According to my Fitbit, during a 50-minute run, I burn 150 calories more when I wear a weighted vest with just 10lbs.

However, keep in mind that I’m not a professional runner. Well-trained distance runners who want to improve their running speed and power can wear up to a weighted vest up to 32 lbs.

Kyle Barnes, Ph.D., a professor from Grand Valley State University, has shown in his study that wearing a weighted vest with a weight equal to 20% of participants’ body weight during warm-up was effective in significantly improving peak running speed, leg stiffness, and running economy.

My point is that if you want to lose weight, increase your metabolic rate, and burn more calories, it’s better to use a lighter weight (less than 20-pounds) because it allows you to exercise for a longer duration.

Related article: Best Weighted Vest Treadmill Workouts

Weighted Vest Weight Recommendations

Below you can see the table with the weighted vest weight recommendations for beginners based on body weight and the activity. Keep in mind that those recommendations are based on my experience, as well as current research.

BodyweightHigh impactLow impact
13010.4 – 15.6 lbs lbs26 lbs
14011.2 – 16.8 lbs28 lbs
15012 – 18 lbs30 lbs
16012.8 – 19.2 lbs 32 lbs
17013.6 – 20.4 lbs34 lbs
18014.4 – 21.6 lbs36 lbs
19015.2 – 22.8 lbs38 lbs
20016 – 24 lbs40 lbs
21016.8 – 25.2 lbs42 lbs
22017.6 – 26.4 lbs44 lbs
23018.4 – 27.6 lbs45 lbs
24019.2 – 28.8 lbs45 lbs
25020 – 30 lbs45 lbs
26020.8 – 31.2 lbs45 lbs
Weighted vest weight recommendations for beginners
  • Low impact activities refer to light-intensity exercises like walking and hiking.
  • High-impact activities refer to more intense movements like running, jumping, calisthenics, and Murph.

As you can see, for beginners I don’t recommend using more than 45lbs vests for low-impact activities.

Learn more: Click here to learn more about how to use a “weighted vest to build muscle“.

Conclusion

According to recent research on hypergravity conditioning, the recommended weight for weighted vests is in the range of 5 to 20% of the person’s body weight. Anything that is more than 20% was being used only by professional athletes.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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