Weight vests are an excellent way to add resistance to bodyweight exercises. Any exercise that you can do with bodyweight you can make harder with a weight vest.
For example, once you can do 3 sets of 25 push-ups with your bodyweight only, add a 10-20 pound weight vest and start again. When adding weight to the vest, always start light and work your way up. The bodies core muscles need time to adjust to the weight.
I found this quote while surfing the net: "The Israeli government set about to discover what form of exercise was best at developing cardiovascular fitness. Military and civilian workers as well as Olympic athletes were tested. As a group, the most cardiovascular fit individual was the mailman - the mailman, walking three to five miles per day, carrying 20-35 pounds. Tests soon demonstrated that walking with a weighted load was far and away the most effective exercise to develop and maintain cardiovascular fitness."
In researching weight vests, I found there are short vests and longer vests. The longer vest covers your abs, reduces mobility and sometimes makes it harder to breath. A shorter vest worn higher on the torso allows you to breathe and move freely, and increases the load on your core muscles. Sit-ups are much more difficult if the weight is located higher on the torso.
Well made vests cost big bucks. You can buy cheap ones, but the reviews say they fall apart quickly. Highly recommended vests such as the ones made by weightvest.com cost $200 for a 50 pound vest!
I knew I had items lying around the garage that I could use to make a lower cost homemade weight vest.
To keep costs low, I wanted to utilize my existing Olympic weights as the weight source for my vest. Grip plates will work better than standard plates because they have four slots or holes to tie down the weight plate to the vest:
The vest itself is an old hockey shoulder pad:
You can find these on craigslist, eBay, garage sales etc. I played hockey for over thirty-five years, so I had a few pads lying around. The pad I used has a liner, which allows air flow, keeping me cool when I sweat. Perfect for a heavy, weight vest.
First, I cut the shoulder pads off of the vest, saving them for future homemade projects. Initially I tried just strapping the Olympic plate directly to the vest, but even though there's hard plastic under the vest material and foam, it wasn't sturdy enough to support the plate. I reinforced it by adding a piece of 3/8" plywood to the front and back of the vest:
I attached the plywood and strapping to the vest using 1/4 inch bolts, large fender washers, lock washers and nuts ($5 for all of the hardware at Home Depot, and I had the plywood scrap already). I figured the larger diameter fender washers would help keep the bolts from pulling through the vest and strap material.
Drilling the clearance holes through the vest material was a challenge because the material would get hung up in the bit. I ended up just ripping the material away so the bit would go through easier.
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The straps and buckles were cut off of an old school backpack. I needed additional straps, and I found out that strap material and the buckles were sold at fabric stores. A quick trip and $5 bucks later, I had enough material to make three more straps, or five total straps; two for the back and three to hold the front plate on.
The front plate needed an additional strap to keep the plate tighter to my chest because the plate would swing away from my chest while doing pushups. All I did was drill a one inch hole through the plywood as a clearance hole for the strap, and then just strapped the plate to the wood. This worked great! There's no plate movement with this set up.
So far this vest will hold up to seventy pounds; two twenty five pound plates and two ten pound ones. This is pretty bulky however, not to mention heavy. You really do need to start out light, so two ten pound plates are enough for now.
You really notice a difference walking on a treadmill without the vest versus with it. 30 minutes is WAY harder wearing the vest.
I then strapped on two five pound ankle weights, plus the 20 pound vest and walked for thirty minutes. This was brutal! I was huffing and puffing!
I didn't realize until afterward that the 30 pounds I strapped on was the amount of body weight I've lost already. What a difference weight loss makes in your overall health. No wonder it was hard to do pull-ups when I weighed thirty pounds more.
Here's a list of exercises to do while wearing a weight vest:
This homemade weight vest cost me under $10 to make. If you have olympic plates and a shoulder pad, it shouldn't cost you much more than this. This is one piece of home exercise equipment worth having in your gym.
I'm still searching the net for a routine using nothing but a weighted vest. When I find one, I'll post it here.
Read COMMENTS or jump down to leave one.
Barry C. Please leave a comment!
jkg Hi Barry, Just stumbled across your site while looking for weight vests. This is a great find! A quick question though. I noticed you inserted the bolt from the inside to the outside as I can see the lock nut and washer in the image you provided. Do you find the bolt heads rub against your body in anyway? If not, how did you avoid that. Thanks.
Barry C. Jkg., The bolt head is kind of buried in the fabric of the vest, so no it doesn't run against my chest.
EhSteve What a great article! I'd really like to make a weight vest to augment the body-weight exercises I already do. I don't have any of the stuff you used, so I'll probably go a slightly different route, but I'm very encouraged to hear that a sturdy, effective weight vest can be home made. Keep up the good work!
Robert I'm overweight, obese, at 351 lbs. My top weight was 384 lbs, a lot of fat and muscle. I'm 6'4. My average weight has been 300 to 325 to 350. I've been 350 for 2 years now. Before 385 I was 350 also for a year. I weigh myself once or twice a year. Sux bein fat. Here's what I'm hoping for - I want to lose 105 lbs. I have it down to lose 105 in one year. I'll be 246 by then. 246 lbs is the max weight I can be to not be considered obese according to the BMI. At top bodybuilding form I can weight 246 and be fine, just have to replace all this fat for more muscle.
Divide 246 by 6 and you get 41 for the vest. Why 6? It just works. Divide that by 2 and you get 20.5 for each leg. Divide that by 2 and you get 10.25 for each arm. Add them all together (10.25 + 10.25 + 20.5 + 20.5 + 41) and you get 105, the weight of a model. This will be equal to the weight I will lose by the end of the year and I will be able to endure the weight because I am able to do so already.
My body type is very much an apple. I have alot of fat around the midsection and upper torso. Large stomach, big breasts and sides. Alot less on my arms, legs and hips; they won't be used to the weight of the ankle and wrist weights all at once, but I see myself being able to work with it after bulking up and starting low with the gradual increases.
I'll train with them on every day, doing everything. I know I'm going to have to do iron body training to my bones so they are strong enough to respect my strength, in case I raise my arm to fast and hit something. Just basic stone pounding.
My body is naturally fixed to want to stay at 350 right now. If I force my body to do more work by adding the weight, I'll be able to trick myself into losing the 105 lbs because my body will think it's there. It's all about laziness, I won't want to carry more than 351 lbs is what my body is saying. The heart can beat only so many times.
It's funny because I forced my brother to carry his backpack with weight in it from off of our dumbbells. And his friend from class comes over to pick up his bag and he loses balance because he was surprised how heavy it was. He asks him why it's so heavy and he said there's weights in there. So then his friend starts doing the same thing. It's hilarious. Too bad the backpack took a beating, it couldn't handle the load.
I don't know if your weight vest is good because it's high up. The weights in his backpack where shoulder strapped and low on the inside and it caused him back pain. Too much too fast? He stopped after awhile. So, we're going to an upholstery shop to tailor our own. We have rock material, like concrete gravel. Anything will do though. And your contraption gives me hope mine will succeed also. It's not as heavy as steel to which we may make a move in that direction towards and improvise with something.. Ball bearings? Bolts? Nuts? Yap.
Off the chest, off the mind. Thank you text.
Barry C. Robert, thanks for your comments. I was just talking to a guy who lost 100lbs in a year. He followed the paleo diet, did cardio with a weight vest, and of course lifted weights. Good luck with your 105lb goal this year!
Inspired Hey I like the idea! I am a little confused as I have no experience with drilling and whatnot--how exactly do I attach the wood to the vest? And I think you attached the straps by just putting end on the wood and just drilling through it?
Barry C. The vest has hard plastic underneath the fabric; I drilled through this plastic, then through the wood, then put the bolt through both to attach it.
Milan I've been planing my weighted vest for years now,even before i knew you could just buy one ! :D This article just added the missing element from my plan :D thanks a lot ,man :D
carol I'm thinking of making one with a back pack and sew through the backpack on the perimeter of the weight, leaving an opening or flap to exchange plates. I will also sew on chest and shoulder belts.
Barry C. Carol, lets see photos when u are finished
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