If you’ve read about Gravitostat and know some history and research behind the weighted vest, the next step is figuring out which kind to use with your clients.
Just putting in the word “Weighted Vest” into an internet browser brings up thousands of webpage results with a myriad of options to choose from. There are different designs based on a client’s body type, fitness status, and goals. There are also plenty of colors and aesthetic options, too. Here’s a list of logistics to consider when deciding on which weighted vest to use with a client:
1) What’s your client’s goal? Is s/he trying to lose weight, gain weight, increase lean muscle tissue mass, maintain current physique? For example, if a client’s goal is to lose weight the exercise programming is created as a circuit, the client can wear a light-weight vest for the session.
2) What’s your client’s current fitness status? Are they heavy set a.d/or deconditioned? Or have a well-established fitness base? While research shows using weighted vests to add resistance to training sessions can positively impact bone density, using too much weight can be detrimental and lead to injury. This is no different than over stacking a leg press machine or overloading a barbell while doing a chest press.
No matter what a client’s goals are, it is important to select a weight their body can support without leading to injuries. Also, while working with a client wearing a weighted vest during exercise, carefully observe their posture. A break in posture such as elevated or crowded shoulders indicates the weight is too heavy or they haven’t gotten used to wearing it yet and aren’t moving optimally. Just as if the client was using kettlebells, free weights, or other resistance training implements when there’s a failure to maintain optimal posture we want to figure out why that’s happening and make the appropriate adjustments.
3) Is the weighted vest being used for sports performance enhancement? If so, is the client an endurance athlete or ballistic sport athlete (Karate, Mixed Martial Arts, etc)? Similar training principles and exercise program design apply to weighted vests as other forms of resistance training. For example, if the client’s goal is muscular endurance, a lighter weight vest would be best. If the client is looking to increase power, a slightly heavier weighted vest would be appropriate while doing explosive plyometric-type exercises. The vest wouldn’t be worn during the entire workout in this latter example.
4) What’s your client’s body shape? There are vests designed for men with broad shoulders and wider, mesomorphic builds, vests designed for thinner, ectomorphic men with longer-limbs, and vests designed for endomorphs too (although a bit harder to find).
The varieties are available for women too and these vest designs also take into consideration a women’s curves and breasts, and of varying sizes. If you would like to have one vest on hand for yourself to train all of your clients and to share amongst them, you can only do your best. You might not be able to find an individualized vest that fits every body type but maybe start by purchasing a more conventional weighted vest that’ll fit most clients (pulled overhead, wraps around the waist, and fastens on the sides or back) and see how it fares.
For the women’s weighted vests, there are two main types: One that can be worn at the shoulders (men who do not have broad backs and shoulders can wear this as well). This vest is good because it can provide a solid external cue to maintain proper posture at the shoulders.
There’s also another one that crosses and fastens at the front in a “Y” shape. This design can be helpful for women who prefer the support for their chest while receiving the benefits of training with a weighted vest. Having a vest fit a client properly leads to the most optimal range of motion (ROM) and functional movement.
Here are some visuals of different types of weighted vests on the market. (Please note, that NFPT doesn’t take an official stance on which one to buy, these pictures and information are for educational purposes only.)
5) Adjustable weights or not? Depending on the type of vest you get, you may be able to adjust the weights. The more conventional vests are more likely to be adjustable. They come with little individual weights that each get a slot within the weighted vest allowing you to choose the total weight by adding or removing them. Be mindful to put the weights into the vest so they are equally distributed and not affect muscle imbalances or posture distortions.
Some of the contoured vests come in one weight only. While these vests are a bit more form-fitting and subsequently more comfortable, the downfall of this more custom fit is that the weights can’t be swapped out. So if you need to adjust weights, you need a whole different vest to do so.
5) How sweaty are your clients? Some people sweat more than others. This can be due to glands, hormones, hydration levels, and/or environment. In this case, weighted vest breathability, ventilation, and material might be a factor. If the client tends to perspire more than others, a mesh weighted vest or one that is made out of more breathable material would be best. A Kevlar-made vest might be very unpleasant for the clients who sweat profusely and it would make cleaning and washing it difficult too for you as the fitness professional, keeping up with hygiene standards.
6) Does the client prefer to wear the weighted vest under his/her fitness attire, over it, or without a shirt at all? This is mostly client preference. Obviously, if a client is wearing a weight vest under the shirt, it would be beneficial to have a session that allows the vest to remain on the whole time so time isn’t lost changing and taking it on and off. A weighted vest that goes over clothing is optimal if it is your business’ vest. This is good for hygiene reasons and exercise program design. Unless the design aligns with a client’s goals, you won’t be ‘forced’ to create a program that allows for the vest to stay on the whole time.
Some fitness professionals opt for clients to buy their own vests if the client wants to train with just the vest on or the vest underneath the clothes on.
7) What are the purchaser’s budget and resources? Decide if you want to provide the vest for clients or are advising a client looking to buy their own. Do you want to add the weighted vest into your regular exercise training programming and have it as a piece of equipment like you would with kettlebells, dumbbells, etc.?
Or do you want to ask your clients to purchase their own so that they can choose the style, fit, and contour and buy one based on their goals? Consider that they are already working with you and may have limited fitness budget and not planning on purchasing one. Educating them on the benefits and helping them select one within budget would be great!
Weighted vests have are a great way to add variety to a client session which in turn can help with retention and referrals. They can also help create variability in client programming and help reap great physiological adaptations consistent with client goals. Vests can also be one way to help clients who have plateaued. Armed with the advantage of reading this list you can feel confident using weighted vests with clients or recommending a client purchase one.