4 Weighted Vest Treadmill Workouts You Should Try


If you’ve ever wondered how to use a weighted vest for your treadmill workouts to get ripped, this article is for you.

Today I wanna share why walking (or running) on the treadmill while wearing a vest is one of the easiest ways to burn fat and improve your cardiorespiratory system (without feeling tired or sore the next day).

In general, brisk walking on the treadmill while wearing a weighted vest can burn between 50 to 100 calories more, depending on the weight of the vest and workout duration. Unlike high-intensity interval training, wearing a vest on the treadmill helps to burn more fat while adding very little stress to the body.

Of course, you can also use a weighted vest for HIIT treadmill wokrouts too, but they have to be done intermittently (more on that later).

What Is Weight Vest Treadmill Workout?

One of the reasons why I like walking on a treadmill with a weighted vest is becasue it’s hard to overtrain. This type of workout can be done every day, as long as you don’t go too crazy with the incline.

You can think of a weight vest treadmill workout as a combination of hypergravity training and steady-state cardio.

It is an effective fat-stripping training method that not only burns more calories but also improves your VO2max while reducing your workout time.

How does it work?

You simply wear a 10-40 lb vest or backpack while walking or running on the treadmill. Heavier vests are more suitable for flat surfaces, whereas lighter vests are perfect for incline and running.

Ideally, you should have an adjustable weighted vest that allows you to add or reduce weight as you want. My favorite vest is from the company CAP Barbell becasue it can carry between 20 to 150 lb.

You can check out the prices on Amazon via my affiliate link. Details here.

(if you buy through links on this page, I may earn a small commission).

Related article: How Heavy Should A Weight Vest Be

How long is a good weighted workout on a treadmill?

On average, a good weighted treadmill workout should take between 10 to 45 minutes, depending if you’re running or walking. It also depends on the type of weighted vest you have, as well as your fitness goals.

For example, if you’re looking for a Metcon workout after your strength training session to increase your work output potential, you can use HIIT treadmill workouts like deadmill sprints where you go hard as hell for 30-60 seconds, followed by 3-5 minutes of recovery.

(If you’re doing this after your gym session, I recommend doing no more than 5-10 rounds).

On the other hand, if you’re looking to develop muscle endurance, strong grip, and focus on fat oxidation, you can use treadmill-loaded carries (more on that later).

Related article: Does Weighted Vest Build Muscle

What Are The Benefits Of Weight Vest Treadmill Workout?

Some of the benefits of walking on the treadmill with a weight vest include better aerobic fitness and anaerobic conditioning, depending on the type of workout you choose.

More strenuous weighted treadmill workouts that include high-intensity intervals help to improve your VO2max, whereas steady-state low-impact walking is an excellent tool to burn fat and enhance recovery.

Plus, this exercise is relatively easy and safe for most people (as long as you don’t overdo it).

It can be used by untrained, overweight, and obese individuals becasue it doesn’t put too much pressure on the joints. This (of course) allows for doing longer and more frequent workouts where you feel better afterward, not worse (which helps with exercise adherence).

In other words, it’s hard to lose with this one becasue it helps you become a well-rounded, healthier, and stronger badass.

Related article: How To Use Weighted Vest For Weight Loss

My Thoughts On Weight Vest Treadmill Workouts

For me, the biggest advantage of wearing a vest on the treadmill is that I don’t have to rely so much on the incline to increase my workout intensity.

I can maintain an elevated heart rate, without increasing the speed or gradients too much (which is also good for people who struggle with shin splints).

(to be clear, I’m not bashing incline walking).

I think incline walking is one of the best ways to burn calories and improve your recovery, especially when done after a strength training session.

A lot of studies have shown that incline walking is more effective than normal walking when it comes to energy expenditure and weight loss.

Here are a couple of citations from the studies available on PubMed.

“Walking up an incline requires adjustments of muscle activations and increases metabolic cost, compared to walking on flat terrain”

Duggan and Haisman, 1992

“Incline walking comprises predominantly shortening contractions of the lower extremity muscles (…) shortening contractions are associated with higher metabolic cost than lengthening contractions”

Hortobágyi, Tibor et al. 2011

However, there are some long-term disadvantages of incline walking.

For example, higher muscle activation in the lower leg and calves muscles can lead to muscle stiffness, shin splints, and low back pain.

For that reason, wearing a weighted vest on the treadmill is good because you don’t have to go crazy with an incline to keep your workout effective. Again, good news for people who have tightness in their legs, sensitive knees, lumbar spine problems, or shin splints.

Related article: Can You Wear A Weight Vest All Day

Weighted vest workouts are more efficient

Another reason why you should wear a vest on a treadmill is you can ramp up your training volume, as well as shorten your workout duration.

  • If I walk without the vest, my typical walking session is around 45 minutes.
  • If I walk with the vest, I can finish my cardio in under 30 minutes.

I like to make my sessions as efficient as possible. So if I can have a slightly higher effort, but finish the work sooner, I will do it.

On the other hand, if you wanna keep up with your walking duration, but are looking for ways to increase the training volume, adding a weight vest can do the trick.

Best Weight Vest Treadmill Workouts

Okay, wanna know how to transform your time-consuming and boring treadmill walking into an energy-pumping metabolic conditioning tool?

Below you will see a list of my top 5 weight vest treadmill workouts for running and walking you should try.

#1 Treadmill Loaded Carries

You can think of treadmill-loaded carries as doing farmers’ walks on the treadmill (or farmers’ walk 2.0). All you need is to put on a 20-30 lb vest, grab a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells, and set up the speed for 2.0 – 2.5 mph.

Of course, your speed will depend on your fitness level, as well as on how heavy you choose your weights. For loaded carries, I prefer to wear a heavier vest (30 lbs) and pick up heavier weights (25 lb dumbbells or more) but take it easy with the pace.

Number of sets: 3-6 rounds.

You can do this workout either at the end of a strength training session or on a separate day when you focus purely on your conditioning.

Time: 2-minute intervals (I aim for no longer than 2-minute intervals. If that’s easy, you can go heavier or increase your incline.

For loaded carries, I like to use a steep incline (walking on a 10% inclination is way more effective than 1%). Again, the incline is optional and should depend on how heavy your vest is.

TIP: I recommend setting up a timer on the treadmill before you start the workout. There is nothing worse than trying to stop the treadmill while carrying weights. Alternatively, you can attach a treadmill safety clip to your t-shirt and move back to pull it when done.

#2 Uphill Intervals

You can think of uphill intervals as sprinting uphill with a vest. It works by setting up the treadmill for a 10% gradient and choosing the speed a little bit faster than your steady state run.

For example, if you normally run at the pace of 5 mph, start the workout at 7-8 miles per hour. When it comes to the weight of the vest, I recommend going lighter (5-10 lbs).

Time: 30 seconds intervals.

Here you can manipulate with workout duration (again, depending on your individual fitness level) In general, I find it more effective if I go faster for a shorter time (30 seconds ON), followed by 30-60 seconds recovery.

For your safety, after you finish running, grab the handles of the treadmill with both hands, lift yourself up and jump out onto the side decks. After your recovery time, lift yourself up and jump back on the belt again.

Number of sets: 5-10 rounds.

The goal of this workout is to get you out of breath and improve your VO2max (therefore I think 5-10 sets or “rounds” is more than enough). VO2max refers to “maximal oxygen uptake,” which means the maximum amount of oxygen that you can utilize during maximal effort exercise.

Better VO2 max means your heart becomes more efficient at pumping blood into your muscles.

TIP: For advanced and trained peeps, I recommend increasing the speed of the treadmill every second set by 0.5 mph.

#3 Weighted Speed Walk

You can think of a weighted speed walk as a low-intensity fat-burning session. It refers to a steady-state brisk walk on the treadmill where you maintain your speed between 2.5 – 3.5 mph (incline optional).

The goal of this workout is to either maintain your heart rate around 60-70% of maximum heart rate (which is equivalent to heart rate zone 2) or progressively increase your heart rate throughout the session.

Time: 20 to 45 minutes (depending on your fitness level).

You can manipulate your duration in several ways.

For example, if your goal is recovery, I recommend doing 20-minute sessions with a 5-15 lbs vest. This way you increase your lymphatic drainage, eliminate waste build-up, and improve blood circulation.

On the other hand, if your goal is to shred fat, I recommend going longer (30-45 minutes per session, 3-5 times per week). You can make your workout more effective by including sidewalks, adjusting incline and speed on the treadmill, as well as arm swing work.

(You may think that adding an arm swing may not seem like a big difference).

However.

If you look at the science, the studies have shown that walking with dynamic arm swinging increases the metabolic rate by up to 26%.

Steven H. Collins, Ph.D., an associate professor at Stanford University, said that arms swinging magnifies the ground reaction moment, causing the metabolic rate to increase by 26 percent.

See the graph below.

 Image credit: Collins, S. H (2009)

The picture above is an excerpt from the study done by Dr. Collins and his colleagues.

  • Normal refers to walking with normal arm motion where the right arm moves with the left leg.
  • Bound means walking while having arms bound to the sides of the body.
  • Held means holding the arms still.
  • Anti-Normal refers to swinging arms where the right arm moves with the right leg and vice-versa.

According to Dr. Collins, a normal arm swing alter gait by offsetting the motion of the legs and makes it easier to walk. It reduces vertical ground reaction moment and attendant muscle forces, which leads to lower metabolic energy expenditure. 

On the other hand, an anti-normal arm swing where you move your right arm and right leg at the same time resulted in increased ground reaction moments and increased metabolic cost, according to Dr. Collins (Collins et al. 2009).

Going further, if you add arm swings together with elevation and speed, all of a sudden you have transformed your typical treadmill walk into a fat-burning session.

#4 Weighted Deadmill Sprints

In general, weighted deadmill sprints refer to interval sprints while the machine is turned off. It works by holding your hands on the handle in front of you, leaning forward, and running with your legs as fast as possible short period of time.

This exercise is a full-body workout, similar to a sled push. It helps to build up your power, and speed (and burns lots of calories).

Here in the video below you can see the example of deadmill exercise.

For deadmills, I recommend wearing a weighted vest no heavier than 20 lbs.

Time: 10-15 seconds intervals.

When done right, this exercise gets you out of breath within the first 10 seconds. I recommend you take at leat 50 seconds rest between the rounds.

Number of sets: 5-10 rounds.

Keep in mind that this is an advanced conditioning exercise that trains all of the energy systems, which means you should use it no more than once or twice per week.

Unlike aerobic steady state cardio, weighted deadmills are short, which means you can improve your workout capacity and preserve lean muscle mass.

Conclusion

As you can see, wearing a vest while doing treadmill workouts not only can make your workouts more interesting and challenging.

They can be used on their own (as a part of your strength and conditioning workout), as well as for pure fat burn at the end of your resistance training to increase metabolic rate and preserve lean muscle mass.

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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