Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Add More to Your Workout

You are exhausted and stressed. It feels like there in never enough time to do anything you want to get done. You finally found some time to squeeze in a little exercise. Someone walks up to you and tells you that you could get the same workout you do in an hour, in just ten minutes. Naturally, you would ask – “How?” – wouldn’t you?

Weight vests are the answer. By adding a weight vest to the exact same workout routine you already have, you can see a major improvement in overall fitness. A weight vest is worn over the shoulders so that the weight primarily lays on the chest and back. Removable weights are placed strategically positioned pockets usually located on the front and back of the vest. Its purpose is to provide a more intense workout in a shorter time. Basically, it works by adding more weight than the body is accustomed to.

A study done by the Ohio State University showed that people who exercised while wearing weight vests burned 60% more calories than those not wearing a weight vest. The same amount of calories you burn in an hour would take just ten minutes with a weight vest.

Weight vests have been on the market for about 20 years now. But it wasn’t until recently that they were functional enough for anyone to truly pay attention. Many improvements have been made throughout the years.

From professional athletes down to the twice-a-week-push-up-and-sit-up guy, weight vests are becoming a steadfast in the ever-evolving world of fitness. They are being used throughout professional and collegiate level sports. Currently teams in the NFL, NBA, and NHL are practicing and conditioning in weight vests. Olympic athletes train in weight vests. High school and college students exercise in weight vests. Young and old. Men and women.

Weight vests are a magnificent way to increase intensity in current exercise agendas. “The vest was easy to implement into my current workout routines,” said David Sloan, NFL Pro Bowl tight end. “It instantly enhanced my workouts without dictating a new routine.”

Studies done by both the manufacturers and outsiders prove the value weight vests add. Major universities including University of Southern California, University of Oregon, Ohio State University, Cornell, and Harvard have published research in weight vest training. Tests done by Texas Tech University on 27 athletes (14 of them using weight vests) showed a drastic improvement in vertical leaping ability and 40-yard dash times.

Professional strength training coaches and the nine-to-fiver alike all can use weight vests. Tom Zupancic, the NFL’s Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year in 1995 said that weight vests are the best product available for enhancing athletic performance.

“I use weight vests, and love them,” said Phil Campbell, a speed coach and author with two masters’ degrees. He trains men around the world and with phenomenal results. He is devoted to the use of weight vests in his training. Weight vests are a tool, just like dumbbells and barbells. They aid people in pursuing new levels of fitness and new physical results.

“As human beings we are mental, physical and spiritual, and if anyone of these is out-of-balance there are problems. If we don’t have strong, fit bodies, the other aspects of life suffer,” Campbell said. There have been studies done that prove this statement. In 1991, a researcher at Kent State, Wotjek Chodzko-Zajko, theorized that aerobic exercise is not only beneficial to a person’s cardiovascular health, but his mental health as well. Through the year studies have come to prove his hypothesis true.

Weight vests aren’t just for professional athletes and trainers. Lance Corporal Christopher Ayers bought a weight vest right after he returned from Iraq. “Over there we’d wear flak jackets that weighed about 50 pounds. We’d wear it for 20 hours a day in 140 degree weather. I’ve never been as fit. Its amazing how much a weight vest can do for you.”

Regular physical activity is beneficial to everyone. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health, regular physical activity is beneficial to people of all ages, people trying to manage their weight, people with high blood pressure, people with arthritis and everyone under stress, including people with anxiety and depression.

Health and fitness have become a major focus in the United States in the past 25 years. Campbell states, “Some people spend more of their resources -- money and time -- on the car that they drive. They change the oil and provide maintenance for their car, but we live life, all of it, in our body. The human body is magnificent, but it must have regular maintenance because you can’t trade it in every few years if you don't like it. Obesity stats tell us that over 50 percent of the people the US are grossly out-of-balance, and driving on empty.”

According to the National Center for Health Statistics in 2004, approximately 64% of people at least 20 years of age are overweight, with 30% of those being obese. According to a report by the Center of Disease Control in 2004, physical inactivity and poor diet contribute to obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Together, they account for 400,000 deaths every year. Only tobacco causes more preventable diseases in the United States. Regular physical activity burns calories, an essential part of losing weight or dieting.

Challenges to becoming a physical fit individual do exist, however. For instance, there are the obvious distractions that technology offer, like playing Madden or watching Seinfeld. There are also time constraints, lack of motivation, unwillingness to change and lack of education about health and fitness in general. Other factors play a role in keeping people from exercising as well. People sometimes simply lack energy or doubt that exercise can improve one’s life.

The Surgeon General recommends that every person get at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day. It need not be strenuous; however. Walking, mowing the lawn and dancing all burn between 3.5 – 7 Calories per minute (kcal/min). A weight vest can make the least taxing activities a modestly more strenuous.

Research suggests that if someone where to have the right combination of training tools and a comfortable environment, people would be more likely to start a new workout regime and stick with it for a longer period of time. A weight vest can solve both of these issues. It is an effective training tool. It can be worn anywhere that one feels most comfortable working out. Whether you workout at California Fitness or in your bedroom doing push-ups and sit-ups. It’s like having a personal gym on your shoulders.

There are several types of activities that could have a weight vest incorporated within the workout. “The key to training with functional resistance like a weight vest is to understand its purpose,” Campbell said. Going into a workout the person should know what muscle groups are being stressed and what a weight vest can add to the workout. Generally weight vests workout the legs and core, but some exercises used with a vest can allow for upper and lower body development.

Some high-impact activities, such as running and jumping rope, should be done for a 6 month period before adding a weight vest. These workouts are hard on the knees, ankles and hips and are better suited for a fitness enthusiast. Some low-impact activities exist as well, such as walking, hiking, stair-stepping (not to be confused with running up stairs Rocky-style, which is Phil Campbell’s favorite exercise with his training vest) or using elliptical trainers. These can be done wearing a weight vest by anyone (at low weights). It would suitable for a much wider range of people to incorporate a vest in these workouts.

Weight vests worn during cycling or in the water can serve as a way to increase intensity. These activities should be done with caution, however. Research has found that the use of weighted vests in yoga, Pilates and step aerobics can be advantageous, improving core strength, balance and mobility. It can help to progress individuals to a more advanced level. Weight vests can be worn when participating in numerous recreational activities such as snow skiing, water skiing, rollerblading, ice-skating, trampoline, tennis, golf and horseback riding.

Wearing a weight vest complements whatever physical activity you choose. One can see aerobic heart benefits, increased bone health and weight loss just by walking with a weight vest. Weight vests are designed specifically to increase the heart rate and drastically cut the amount of time it takes to reach peak calorie burn.

According to manufacturers’ reports, using a 10-pound weight vest increases caloric burn by roughly 15% (or .5 kcal/min); a 20-pound vest by 20% (or 1 kcal/min); and a 30-pound vest, by 25% (or 1.5 kcal/min). There are plenty of options on the market that range in price, size and shape. Some vests hold up to 90 pounds. Most of the ones on the market today allow for incremental increase in desired weight. It is recommended to start out light and never exceed 20% of the person’s body weight. Prices vary from around $100 to $300. Resistance Wear, Uni-Vest and Xvest are some of the big names but others do exist.

Pat Ott from Resistance Wear, one of the leading providers of weight vests, said, “The real advantage of weight vests is the weight placement. By moving the weight up on the body it forces the individual to use those muscle groups along with the legs. Essentially giving you a full body workout.”

There is a long list of benefits regarding the use of a weight vest in an individual’s workout routine. It can improve athletic performance, power, strength and endurance, balance and mobility, core strength and bone density. It also aids in improving acts of daily living in elderly (especially elderly women) according to Pamela Free’s website found at It can increase one’s perceived health status and self-efficacy. It also is an exceptionally useful tool for rehabilitating from injury or surgery. Allan Johnson, the Director of Strength and Conditioning for the Ohio State University football team said they “absolutely” incorporate weight vests to rehab athletes from injury. Ohio State football uses weight vests for various lunges and for mental toughness.

The design of a weight vest should fit snug and supportive, with appropriate padding for comfort. It should provide even weight distribution around the torso. It should allow for a range of motion and freedom in movement. Most men’s vests allow for a t-shirt to be worn underneath the vest (this is different from women’s that can be worn as a sports bra underneath a shirt). The weight vest should not extend below the abdomen or it will be restrictive. The pockets that the adjustable weights fit into should be designed to prevent the weights and vest from shifting or bouncing while the vest is in use. Unlike ankle weights and wrist weights, which have been proven to cause ligament and tendon damage to the knees and elbows, weight vests are designed for the purpose of providing a safe way to make your workout more effective.

You were exhausted and stressed but now you’ve squeezed in an intense core-body workout with the addition of a weight vest to the workout you never used to have time to undertake. Now you feel healthier both physically and mentally.

1 comment:

Mark The Weight Vest Freak said...

Good informative info. I'll have to check out the osteoperosis links, didn't know about that before