The Disadvantages of Using a Weighted Vest
Weighted vests are used as training aids to boost metabolism, increase endurance and improve resistance for certain types of muscle training. While studies have shown that there are definite benefits to training with a weighted vest, there are disadvantages to using these vests as well. Depending on the specific model of vest and how it is used, weighted vests can cause discomfort, injury and other problems.
Weighted Vest Design
Different vests use different design aesthetics and weight types. Some vests use weighted plates that are sewn into the vest material itself, while others feature pockets that the plates slide into. There are even vests that don't use plates at all, instead using sealed packets of ball bearings to add weight to the vest. Unfortunately, these differences in design can make weighted vests difficult for some users to wear. Straps or pockets may be placed in locations that are uncomfortable, poor weight layout can lead to a feeling of being off-balance and some pockets may not close well and allow weights to fall out when the wearer is leaning over.
Back and Shoulder Problems
Weighted vests add weight to the torso, which is where the body naturally stores much of its excess weight. Unfortunately, the weight in a weighted vest must be supported largely by the shoulders instead of being supported from below by the hips like natural weight. This can lead to vertebrae compression, shoulder injuries and pinched nerves in the spinal column. Those with existing back or shoulder problems should consult a doctor before using a weighted vest to make sure the added weight of the vest won't make the problems worse.
Though the immediate strain of wearing a weighted vest is borne by the shoulders, the added weight to the torso must still be supported by the hips, knees and ankles. Even natural weight can cause joint problems, and the weight added by a weighted vest can simulate this strain and irritate the joints that support the body's weight. As long as proper form is used when exercising with a weighted vest, there is generally little problem, but people who use improper form or who continue exercising while tired can suffer from lower body joint injuries as a result of the increased weight that the joints are supporting. As with back and shoulder problems, those with existing lower body joint problems should consult a doctor before using a weighted vest.
While low-end weighted vests are available for $20 to $40, higher-quality vests sell for $350 or more. Cheaper weighted vests are more likely to have poor construction, poor weight balancing and poor overall design because of limitations imposed by designing the vests to be sold at a low price point. Higher-quality vests may not be possible for everyone interested in using a weighted vest, resulting in some users having to buy a vest that doesn't fit properly or doesn't meet their fitness needs.
Born in West Virginia, Jack Gerard now lives in Kentucky. A writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience, he has written both articles and poetry for publication in magazines and online. A former nationally ranked sport fencer, Gerard also spent several years as a fencing coach and trainer.