Franco Columbu, who was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best friend, a champion bodybuilder in his own right, as well as a competitor in strongman and powerlifting events, had his own views about adding weight to bodyweight exercises, famously saying, “Never add weights to your pull-ups.”
The thinking went, if you can do multiple sets of 8-12 reps of a pull-up with varying grips and perfect form, that was what you needed to do, and adding weight was a distraction from the ultimate goal, and not necessarily helpful.
There is, however, research on the use of weighted vests (WV) in training, and the recommendations indicate that a certain degree of thought needs to go into incorporating WVs in training protocols but, in some cases, they do produce results.
In Effects of Sprint Training With and Without Weighted Vest on Speed and Repeated Sprint Ability in Male Soccer Players the researchers didn’t find any conlcusive evidence to support the efficacy of WV training but did recommend its consideration as a supplementary addition to normal training because of improvements in repeated sprint ability.
However, in The Effect of Extra-Load Conditioning on Muscle Performance in Athletes, researchers determined that the WV experimental group improved their jumping heights in squat jumps with and without extra loads; their jumping heights in drop jumps and mechanical power output in 15 second of jumps.
On the other hand, in Weighted Vest Exercise Improves Indices of Fall Risk in Older Women, researchers found that postmenopausal women benefited from lower body resistance exercises where the resistance was increased through the use of a WV.
So, I am not going to advocate or deny the value of a weighted vest. When it comes to athletic or sports performance there are so many reasons to shy away from making any definitive statements because the one percenters in physical fitness aren’t like the rest of us so, it’s pointless to try and compare yourself.
And, based on research of older populations, there is certainly some value to be had from WV training so, there’s probably a middle ground usage criteria that can be applied to most trainees.
The Zelus Beginner Weighted Vest
Which brings me nicely to the Zelus WV that I had a chance to review for Breaking Muscle. The product used here is the 12 lb version, what we have designated as a beginner, but seeing as how the vest is avaiable in lower weight configurations, that might not be the case for you.
Judging by the research, you could be postmenopausal, start off with a 4 lb weight and that might be heavy enough to start you off. 12 lb may not sound like much but you do feel the weight, no matter how fit or strong you are.
The picture at the top of the article is how this vest looks compared to a heavy duty, 80 lb WV. There’s a world of difference, and not just the weight. Zelus’s WV is comfortable and suited to rapid movement. It loops around your back and shoulder, fits nicely, and stays on firmly. It’s definitely a good choice if you are going to be using it for a long stretch of activity.
I would prefer to carry a set of dumbbells if I wanted to do a loaded carry over a long hike, or use a heavier vest, much heavier, for ruck, but if it was a sprint, or jog then, Zelus’s WV is a no brainer. Again, it depends on whether you think a weighted vest is a help or hinderance in sprinting.
It kind of gets marketed as a CrossFit friendly product. There’s certainly a lot of people who like to add WVs to traditional WODs like Murph. Although, you may also like to wear a weighted vest to do your grocery shopping, and if you do, this is a great solution for you and will probably go unnoticed as just a fashion statement.
What I am really trying to say is that this is a pretty nice addition to the WV firmanent. It’s a good design. It fits nicely. I haven’t had a chance to use it over a year of activity so, I can’t tell you how reliable it is going to be but I can’t see anything that would indicate that it is not well-made.
I didn’t really care much for the detachable zipper pocket that came with it, a way to store your phone and keys and stuff. But, to be honest, it’s irrelevant to the product. If I am going to take my wallet and $700 phone into the gym or on a sweaty run, no one has invented a pocket that hits the mark, at least not in my experience.
On a positive note, I do keep the vest near me at my desk, and every time I can get off the computer, I can hit a few sets of push-ups with it on. Right now, I am at home, but I could keep one in my desk drawer at work, which is kind of cool.
Zelus Weighted Vest Features Comfortable material, dual storage pockets, adjustable straps, reflective stripes, rear mesh pocket, includes detachable front zipper pockets for personal items and phone Weight
20lbs/ 16lbs/ 12lbs/ 8lbs/ 6lbs/ 4lbs
Price $36.99 (Amazon)