How To Build Upper Body Strength With a Weighted Vest

pull ups with weighted vestIf you’re looking to build your upper body’s strength, or just improve your fitness in general, working out with a weighted vest is an excellent option to try. 

Weight vests are a great way to upgrade a regular workout routine with one simple piece of equipment!

What is a weighted vest?

The weighted vest is an underappreciated item of workout gear that is brilliant for strengthening the upper region of your body. 

They follow a similar design to that of a life jacket and the pockets are filled with various weights. The total weight usually amounts to around 10% of your bodyweight – though it is recommended for beginners to start with 3 to 5%.

Exercises like push-ups and jogging can be enhanced by the use of a weight vest, as it trains your body to work harder and more efficiently to accommodate the added weight. Not only this, but when you exercise without the vest, you will notice increased power and fitness, and overall better performance in athletic activities. 

The Benefits of Using Weight Vests

Weight vests have a range of excellent benefits, so here are just a few:

Improve Your Heart Rate

One benefit of working out with a weighted vest is that it will raise your heart rate. Your muscles are not used to carrying the extra kilos, and will require more oxygen from the blood. This then forces your heart to pump faster to meet the additional need, which helps keep it healthy.

Build Strength

Movement in a weight vest is more labour-intensive. Therefore, the same amount of reps with the vest will work out your body significantly more than without – encouraging your muscles to become stronger, and increasing your stamina

Muscle Building

When you use a weighted vest you will build muscle mass. The harder you work, the more your muscle groups will have to push themselves to cope, which will eventually increase their size.

How You Can Increase Upper Body Strength With a Weighted Vest

There are a variety of exercises you can try with weighted vests that will do wonders for your physique.

Remember, before you exercise always ensure that your vest fits properly – especially at the shoulder straps – as this can cause pain later on.


Dips are an exercise that can be done at home or at the gym. You can use two stand-alone bars, a dip station, or even just two sturdy chairs placed close together. 

Begin by lifting yourself above the ground with your arms on either bar. If you’re using chairs, you may want to raise your feet onto one to ensure that your arms carry the majority of your bodyweight. 

Raise and then lower your body back down using the tension in your arms. A weighted vest will create additional resistance and intensify the workout.

Pull-Ups With Gym Rings

You can use either gym rings or a pull-up bar to practice these bodyweight exercises. With hands firmly situated in the rings, or shoulder-width apart on the bar, start by slowly pulling your body up until your chest is level with your hands.

You can do this with your heels on the ground, or for an extra challenge, you can raise yourself entirely off of the floor. This will train you to carry the added weight of the vest – thus increasing overall fitness.

Jump Squats

Another excellent bodyweight workout that requires no additional equipment is a set of jump squats. Begin in a squat position with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and hip-width apart. 

Rather than raising into a standing position, push up from your heels into a jump, immediately return to a squat, and repeat. Jump squats with a weighted vest may seem quite a challenge at first – but you’ll build up all of the muscle needed in no time!

Vest Push-Ups

Weight vests will bring an additional challenge to your everyday press-ups. 

Start in the usual press-up position, lying parallel to the ground with your hands under your shoulders, and begin to push upwards. 

The added resistance of the weight vest will increase your core strength while developing your ab muscles.

Weight Lifting

Lifting weights with the addition of a weighted vest will increase your heart rate as you work out and challenge your body to exercise its muscles harder. 

Start small by using weights that you are already comfortable with, as the additional kilos may be difficult on your muscles at first. Do this for a few reps before moving on. 

Over time you can slowly work up to more challenging weights.

Hill Training

Do you want to exercise your upper and lower body during your weighted vest workout? 

Hill training is a great option that gets the whole body moving. Begin with a short warm-up jog to get used to the sensation of the extra weight, then start to run up the hill. Run for around 50 yards before turning around and jogging back downhill. 

Consider this the first set, and repeat a few more times until your workout is done. Be sure to cool down at the end with another light jog. The use of the weight vest will help you to burn calories at a much faster rate during cardio.


  1. Do weighted vests help build muscle?

Weighted vests are an excellent way to build your muscles and bulk up, as they allow you to carry more than your own body weight while you exercise.

  1. Will wearing a weight vest make you stronger?

A weighted vest forces your muscles to work harder in order to carry the additional weight. Having adapted to working out with the vest, when you exercise without it, you will find that you are stronger and have improved your overall performance.

  1. How long should you wear a weighted vest?

Everyone’s limits are different, and it is important to be careful until you know how much your body can take. Aches and pains are a natural bodily response to exercise, but excessive pain may be a sign that you’re taking it too far. 

Always proceed with caution, as overworking your body may lead to you paying the price in your fitness journey later on.

  1. Is it good to wear a weighted vest all day?

As with any exercise, it is important to practice moderation. The use of a weighted vest can increase your chance of injury – so make sure to only wear one during exercises that you are already competent at and comfortable doing.


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