Do I Need a Weighted Vest For CrossFit?

Training with a weighted vest, or additional weight added to your body, is not a new concept. Strongmen, CrossFitters, first responders and military, are some of the many groups who use gear to help them create a more difficult training environment. This helps them to perform better in real-life scenarios. A weighted vest, for CrossFit or any activity, is the most well-known and widely used piece of gear for this purpose.

In recent years, a weighted vest has evolved to be more tactically inspired. This helps them appeal to various groups, but also helps them become more functional and utilitarian.  

These days, a weighted vest usually has pockets for body armor shaped plates, and is typically called a fitness plate carrier. There are tons out there and there are plenty of reviews on them. But, many people still have questions about them. Let’s touch on some of the most common questions.

Are there any benefits to using a weighted vest for CrossFit?

Research is pretty mixed on this. There are many variables, and the simple answer is that it depends. From my own experience, there are times it is beneficial to wear one and there are times it isn’t. 

If you are not used to the additional weight, it can actually slow you down because you are having to rest more. Therefore, you have trouble keeping high intensity throughout your workout.

Some benefits are they can increase your VO2 (how much oxygen your body can actually use while working out). The added resistance can help increase speed and your time to exhaustion.

When should I use a weighted vest?

First and foremost, focus on performing a movement correctly without any additional weight. If you can do high reps of a movement without loss of form, then you might consider a weighted vest.

There are also certain movements where a weighted vest isn’t necessary, doesn’t do much for you or can actually be harmful. For instance, doing bicep curls with a weighted vest probably won’t do much for you. Exercises such as sit ups or hollow rocks with a weighted vest on can do damage to your back and spine, so should be avoided.

You also don’t need to wear one every single day and for every single workout. Give your body a rest. Plus, variety is part of the CrossFit methodology. Follow it.

What weight should I use?

Well, that depends! A weighted vest for CrossFit is usually 14lbs for females and 20lbs for males. However, if you are not accustomed to a weighted vest or physically exerting yourself in heavy gear then you might want to start with a lower weight. 

The nice thing about a plate carrier vest is that you can adjust weight simply by switching to heavier or lighter plate(s).

How do I know it’s the right size?

Weighted vests typically don’t have sizes because all of the plates are made to be a standard size. They are more like a one size fits most thing, but they are usually adjustable. The problem with having the standard plate size is that for smaller framed individuals the vest can feel way too big. Sometimes, it may not be able to adjust down to small enough.

But, for those the adjustments do fit, you want the vest snug, but not tight. A weighted vest that is loose will allow you to breathe a little better but depending on your movements, it can make you feel like you’re taking a beating. A vest that is super tight will be more like a part of you and therefore more comfortable, but it will not allow you to breathe as deep because it will constrict you.

What should I be careful of when wearing a weighted vest for CrossFit?

In my opinion, the biggest thing to be careful of is the impact it can have on your body. Your body is a very fine tuned machine. It is used to moving you (and your exact weight) through space.  hrowing a vest on is instantly more weight with no time to adjust. 

This is where proper movement and form come in. If you don’t maintain these you open yourself up for injury. The chance of injury increases with the more weight you add.

Another thing I learned early on is that if you are doing anything involving a violent hip extension (i.e box jumps, push press, thrusters, etc) then there is a good chance that the vest will upper cut you. You are moving in one direction, the vest is moving another, next thing you know there is a shooting pain across your lower jaw. If you are lucky, you had your mouth closed and your teeth gritted. 

Do I really need to spend multiple hundreds of dollars on a weighted vest?

There are some very expensive weighted vests out there. By the time you add in the plates and shipping it can get very pricey. I have worn some expensive carriers and yes, they are definitely comfortable and nice. But I have also had a $50 carrier for years and it has done just fine.  

The nice thing about the more expensive tactical ones is they usually allow for more and easier adjustment. If that is not a big issue for you, then save your money and go with the less expensive choice. When it comes to workout gear, more expensive often doesn’t mean better.

What to look for in a weighted vest?

There are tactical plate carriers, and there are plate carriers that are more designed for athletic functions. You can use a full on tactical carrier for your plates, but typically they have a cummerbund that is very wide to accommodate MOLLE and/or side plates. 

Having a cummerbund that goes from hip bone to rib cage and is made out of thick material is going to make you very hot, very fast. So, look for one that has low side attachments, or at least allows air to get to your skin easier.

Also, pay attention to rub points. The vest obviously has to rest on you and touch your skin, unless you always wear a shirt under it. Vests are made from thick, heavy, course materials and have lots of velcro, plastic or metal bits. Point is, anywhere that touches and rubs your skin will get rubbed raw after even a few reps. If you wear a vest regularly this is just normal, but most people don’t and so they never even consider this. But now you know!

Have questions about a vest?  Let us know, we would love to help.