Are weighted vests useful for triathlon?

Training with a heavier load could improve several areas of tri fitness, but as with any increase in resistance caution is required. Coach Nick Beer explains how to use weighted vests safely…

man with tattoos and winter hat running on a sunny winter day with gym weighted vest crosstraining

Adding resistance to your training can produce some physiological benefits. Wearing a weighted vest is no different, and several studies have highlighted that training with a heavier load could improve your VO2 max, strength and the number of calories burnt.


Also, including a weighted vest in your workouts could give your training some much needed variety, and add some freshness to your training schedule.

However, with any increase in resistance, it’s important to be aware of the risk of injuries.

For example, using a weighted vest for run could produce greater ground reaction forces. Allowing your ankles and knees to absorb most of these forces, putting the joints at risk.

What are the benefits of weighted vests for running, swimming and cycling?

Alongside the potential physiological benefits, several studies have shown that wearing a training vest when sprinting could help increase both stride length and cadence, which may improve your running technique.

A weighted vest has also been shown to benefit explosive movements, such as plyometrics. The extra weight may recruit more muscle fibres than without, increasing the overall training effect of the exercise.

Transferring these potential gains over to running and cycling may help you run more efficiently and allow you to push higher watts, without expelling too much energy.

How heavy should weighted vests be?

Ideally, you do not want to exceed 10% of your body weight. Research suggests that weighted vests should sit between 4-10% of your body weight.

If you’re thinking of investing in one, look for a vest that allows you to change the amount of weight in the vest. That way, you can start off light and gradually increase the weight as you get stronger.

How do I find a comfortable fit?

There are a wide range of styles and sizes for men and women, so it’s important to try them on to find what size and style is most comfortable.

Typically, the three main types are:

  1. Shoulder-holster-style: Weight is distributed at the front, along the straps and around the upper back.
  2. Tactical: Uses steel plates that are inserted into the front and the back.
  3. Torso-covering: Covers just your chest. Uses Velcro straps to hold the vest in place.

How long should I wear it for?

It’s not a good idea to wear a weighted vest all day. The general rule is roughly between 20mins and an hour. After that, the training benefit may start to become detrimental.

You’ll probably start to feel tired and your muscles will undoubtedly feel very sore! For beginners, short bursts with the vest will be a good starting point. Then you can gradually build up the time and weight.

How will I know if I’ve worn it too long?

An obvious warning sign would be fatigue. If the quality of the exercise starts to be affected, then it’s probably a good time to take the vest off. Pushing through with bad technique is a recipe for a potential injury.

Other signs to lookout for: if you experience your heart rate staying high during the recovery; chaffing or rubbing, causing the vest to feel unpleasant to wear; or if your muscles continually feel sore, making it harder to execute the movements.


Top image credit: Getty Images