The beauty of bodyweight exercises is that you can do most of them anywhere and, unlike a lot of machine exercises, they work several muscles groups. And they can be upgraded with a weighted vest. Squats, for example, are easy to adopt to a weighted vest. Just do them like normal, with your arms crossed in front of you instead of using a bar. You don’t have to change your technique. Pay attention to choosing the right weight, though. You might not be able to go straight to maxing out a fully weighted vest. Same goes for lunges and step-ups.

For certain exercises, such as Spider-mans, mountain climbers, planks, push-ups, and pull-ups, a weighted vest is the only way to add weight. Remember to work up to heavier weights as part of a solid workout plan, as if you were using traditional plate weights on a barbell or progressing through heavier pairs of dumbbells.

If you’re thinking, “Hey, Matt, you’re forgetting about ankle weights,” I’m not forgetting them. I’m overlooking them. They put stress on your knees, won’t get up to anywhere near the max weight of a vest (I hope not, at least), and they won’t add functional weight to some exercises, like push-ups, mountain climbers, and so on.

The WIRED and TIRED of Weighted Vests

How to Add a Weighted Vest to Your Workouts at Home
Photograph: Amazon

If you’re a hardcore weight lifter, you should have realistic expectations for what the weighted vest will and won’t do for you. Even loaded up to 60 or 70 pounds, a weight-vest squat isn’t going to pack on the muscle the way a 240-pound squat will. But using it with the right exercises can put some muscle on your frame and tone your body, and using it regularly can help stave off muscle loss as you wait to get back in the gym. Do a set of push-ups with 60 pounds on your back. It’s not easy. And in exercising, “not easy” means good.

The point isn’t that this will replicate exactly lunges with kettlebells in your hands or a lat pull-down machine. Wearing the weight keeps it centered on your body, which isn’t necessarily better or worse than holding two kettlebells by your side or a pair of dumbbells over your shoulders. It’s just different.

After you’re able to start going to the gym again, you can keep incorporating a vest into your workouts. You can return to (or start) barbell squats and dumbbell bench presses as soon as you can get back to your heavy equipment, but there will be a place for the weighted vest in your routine. It allows you to do things you otherwise can’t, such as beefing up lunges to warm up, souping up planks to work your core, and supercharging push-ups and pull-ups—fantastic exercises that many serious lifters keep in their tool box even when the rest of their routine is heavy iron.

If you’re feeling out of shape, now’s a great time to wear your weights.

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