A bit of a shakeup was in order as we revisited this article on the best weighted vests for calisthenics, with some older models making way for three new additions.
These comprised two awesome high-end options in the Hyperwear Hyper Vest Elite and classic BOX Weighted Vest, as well as the minimalist Aduro Sport Weighted Vest.
Heading to a calisthenics park to smash out a series of muscle-ups, pushups and dips is as popular as spending time in a traditional gym these days.
Table of Contents
In this article we are taking a look at seven of the best weighted vests for calisthenics, to give you the edge whether you want to build muscle or endurance.
We are also highlighting some considerations you should make before jumping into a purchase, as well as some of the most frequently asked questions.
Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, XL
Weights: 15lb, 20lbs, 25lbs
Storage Pocket: No
Features: Low-profile construction, patented weight pocket design, adjustable elastic side cords, reflective sections
We start this list with a weighted vest from the higher end of the market, coming from the respected manufacturer Hyperwear. This is their top of the line vest, which is a slight upgrade to their popular Hyper Vest Pro.
What makes the Elite such a beast of a vest is the superior fit, comfort and freedom of movement it offers. This is largely thanks to the unique weight placement system that utilizes a series of 2.25oz steel bars – a highly-adjustable system that we cover in more depth in the complete review of the Hyper Vest Elite.
There’s a fully-adjustable body-hugging design that remains low profile, despite holding weights of up to 25lbs. The build quality is impressive, while the Cordura fabric is durable, breathable and moisture-wicking.
Weights: 20lbs to 100lbs
Material: Military-grade nylon
Storage Pocket: No
Features: Compact design, narrow shoulders, full padding, range of colors, patented belt clamp system, lifetime warranty
The BOX weighted vest is another premium garment and one that is actually designed for CrossFit. Considering the amount of bodyweight movements CrossFit implements into WODs, it’s no wonder that this is also a great vest for calisthenics workouts.
One of the main benefits of this one is the short size, so bending, jumping and crunching are not impeded. Due to the narrow shoulder straps, the range of motion in the arms is also very free – ideal for pushups, muscle-ups and dips.
Thanks to the patented belt system and great padding, the BOX delivers the perfect fit and optimal comfort, while the 45lb of weight is easy to adjust and reposition. We’ve taken a closer look in the full review of the BOX weighted vest!
Weights: 12lbs to 32lbs
Material: Cotton blend fabric
Storage Pocket: No
Features: Unisex, slimline design, iron weight bars, front zipper, narrow shoulders, three adjustable straps, machine washable
Mir is a household name when it comes to weighted vests, with several options available – many great for calisthenics. One of these is the Super Slim Air Flow weighted vest.
Getting in and out of it is a cinch due to the front-zipped waistcoat design, yet it is as adjustable as other weighted vests so a snug fit is easy to achieve. Another plus is that the shoulders are some of the narrowest you’ll find on the market (3”), which means arm movement is unrestricted.
This vest packs up to 32lbs of smartly-distributed weight – not the heaviest around, but will be suitable for many users. It’s expensive, but with such a low-profile design, durable build and comfortable feel, it’s well worth the price.
We arrive at another popular choice in the weighted vest market, that impresses whether you are running, doing CrossFit, or simply working on your muscle-ups in the calisthenics park.
This stylish air-flow-enhancing vest comes in weight variations of between 20lbs and 60lbs, which is one of the highest load options on the market. These weights come in the form of removable metal blocks allowing the load to be adjusted to meet your level.
An advantage of this vest is the freedom of movement it offers – it’s very short and has narrow shoulders, so everything from pullups and pushups to dips and handstands are comfortable to perform. The fact it can be thrown in the washer and dryer after a workout is a big bonus!
Weights: 4lbs to 25lbs
Storage Pocket: Yes
Features: Unisex design, evenly-distributed weight, iron pellet-filled, adjustable double chest straps, rear mesh storage pocket, reflective strips
This minimalist offering from Aduro Sport is a popular vest for running, although it has several qualities that make it just as worthwhile for calisthenics enthusiasts.
One of these is that the slimline, ultra-flexible build allows for unhindered movement, which is a breath of fresh air compared to some of the bulkier weighted vests out there. With easily-adjustable straps, it fits most body shapes pretty comfortably, while the iron pellet-filled neoprene is form-fitting and snug.
The weight isn’t adjustable, although this vest does come in load options ranging between a lightweight 4lbs and a respectable 25lbs. A mesh pocket on the back of the vest is a handy storage solution for wallets, keys and phones when working out in a calisthenics park.
If it’s range of movement you are looking for, this vest from SKLZ is a solid choice. In fact, it’s more ‘half vest’ than full vest. While the overall look may produce a few raised eyebrows, this weighted vest has a lot going for it.
Firstly, it’s incredibly slim and very comfortable, with the truncated length and narrow shoulder straps provide a feeling of freedom. The wide Velcro belt keeps the vest snugly in place, while the breathable mesh-lined padding makes it’s a wise choice for warm summer workouts.
The downside to such a minimalist approach is that it only offers a weight of 10lbs, held in inside pockets for minimal movement (although this is adjustable if you struggle with that amount). Great for beginners, as well as lighter-weight athletes.
One of the most compact vests on this list also happens to be one of the most affordable – and well worth checking out whatever your level. This is the shorter version of the popular original vest from CAP Barbell.
This design gives you a great range of motion, particularly when you are bending at the waist. A series of pockets cover the front and back of the vest, with removable iron blocks delivering up to 50lbs of weight. This means you can adjust the vest to be lighter, although not heavier.
Despite the low price, this vest offers a good fit for most, with a padded body and shoulders along with an adjustable waist belt. Not as durable, slimline or comfortable as the leaders, but a worthwhile choice for those on a budget.
Like a good weighted vest for CrossFit, a vest for calisthenics has to display a few qualities to work with you. Don’t just jump in and buy the first weighted vest you see, or you may start regretting it as it restricts your ability to do a simple pullup!
Here are some of the factors worth considering as you look around:
Unlike a gym-based or running workout, one thing that defines calisthenics is the dynamic nature of the movements. In fact, even the simplest of calisthenics workouts may see you perform sets of pushups, dips, muscle-ups, handstands, crunches and a few front levers thrown in for good measure.
You’re rarely isolated in one position and therefore need a weighted vest that will move with you and not hinder your movements, whether that’s your arms, legs or core.
This is why we recommend looking for vests with a shorter design. While you can get away with longer vests for some movements, the moment you start jumping or bending, you may find they get in the way. In our view – for calisthenics – the shorter, the better.
The fit on the shoulders is also important. Narrow shoulder straps are popular as they ensure your arms have free range of motion, whether you have them above your head or in front of you for any pushing or pulling movements. Shoulder strap widths differ greatly, but anything from 3” to 4” is ideal for a person of average build.
These shoulder straps, as well as the main vest, should be nicely padded. Wearing a weighted vest is not a comfortable experience due to the increased resistance it puts on your system. You don’t want added discomfort from the vest digging into or rubbing your skin.
This is why good padding is essential – even if the shoulder pads are sold separately, don’t skimp on them.
On this note, your vest should have a snug fit, ensuring the garment doesn’t shift around unnecessarily while you are moving quickly in all directions. Don’t confuse this with a tight fit – you still want to be able to breathe naturally!
Finding the right fit tends to be easier the more money you spend, as adjustment systems tend to be more sophisticated.
You may find cords on the side, belts around the waist or straps on the shoulders – or a mix of these. Either way, ensure there is some sort of adjustability, as it will help you find the best fit for you.
Of course, this all depends on what you are planning to do. Some routines may require more aggressive movements, which demands a better fit. On the other hand, if you are simply doing pushups and pullups, you have more wiggle room to work with.
Finally, with a different body shape, women may find it more beneficial to shop for weighted vests specifically made for women.
Every vest tends to deliver a range of weights to choose from. Some will offer variations of 20lbs to 100lbs, while some will come in one fixed weight. How heavy should you go will depend on your bodyweight, level and aspirations – see our FAQ section for more details on this.
When buying a vest, it’s important to determine whether the weight you buy – say 30lbs – is fixed or adjustable.
If it’s fixed (usually with sand or pellets sealed in the jacket), you cannot remove or add weight, so training with 30lbs is your only option.
If the weights come in the form of removeable metal bars or sandbags, you have more flexibility. You could remove all but a few and work out with just 10lbs of weight on your back if you wanted a lighter session.
A word on the weights themselves. Metal bars tend to be favorable, as they have a higher density than a sandbag equivalent. This means they take up less room in the vest while delivering the same weight, and also have no risk of splitting and spilling out like sandbags.
The material a weighted vest is made from probably won’t be the first thing on your mind when shopping around, although it’s an aspect worth considering.
The vests we have featured on this page vary in materials, all with their own properties. Ideally you want something that provides good comfort, durability, breathability and moisture-wicking qualities. The higher-end fabric Cordura combines these, although you certainly pay more for the privilege.
Other vests are made from heavy-duty nylon which is durable and usually washable, whether by hand or machine (although always check this before you start washing).
Some vests use a neoprene material instead, which is very comfortable against the skin, although it tends to be less durable than other materials.
Providing your vest offers a snug fit, appropriate weight and good comfort, there’s not much else you can ask for. However, you will find vests that offer extra features, such as mesh pockets, water bottle holders and reflective strips.
These features can be handy for some users. For example, if you run to your calisthenics park in low light, then reflective strips to make you visible to traffic are a must. If you don’t want to bring a separate bag with you, having your smartphone or key in a secure pocket can also be very convenient.
Keep an eye out for these extras when shopping for your vest, although don’t buy it solely because of them.
In short – yes! Unless you are a complete beginner, building muscle isn’t always easy with calisthenics. Your body adapts to standard bodyweight exercises, and progressively overloading your muscles becomes difficult.
You can increase the reps and sets of a certain exercise, although this only works for so long. When you are passing 15 reps, you start to train more towards endurance than hypertrophy. This is why adding weight can shift the emphasis back to muscle building.
Some people may use a weight belt for dips or pullups, or a loaded backpack for pushups and squats. However, a weighted vest does the same job and is more convenient to wear through an entire workout.
As long as you are gradually increasing the work you do with that weight, and/or adding weight each session – and your diet is in check – then there is no reason you shouldn’t see muscle growth through weighted calisthenics.
Are you just starting out in the world of calisthenics? Or just beginning a fitness journey in general? If you can only do a few pushups, one or two pullups, and struggle with bodyweight dips, then a weighted vest isn’t needed… yet.
There’s no exact formula, but you should look towards a weighted vest when you can comfortably complete around 20 pushups, 15 pullups and 30 bodyweight squats.
Until you can perform these exercises with good form, a weighted vest should be put on hold.
This one will completely depend on your weight, your current fitness level and how strong you aspire to be. The general rule tends to be to aim for around 10% of your bodyweight to begin. So, if you are 200lbs, you’d aim for a vest of around 20lbs.
Having said that, once you step into the world of weighted vests, you will soon become stronger and your body will eventually demand a tougher challenge. That 20lb vest may not be enough anymore.
This is where some smart planning can save you some cash down the line. As you will have seen from the vests we have recommended, many come in different weights. However, these weights are often removable.
So, if you purchase a 60lb vest, you can actually remove the metal bars/sandbags until you reach perhaps 20lbs. Then you can incrementally add weight as you get stronger.
You can always buy one fixed-weight vest now, then a vest with a higher weight down the line. However, if you feel that weighted calisthenics is going be to a long-term passion, then do yourself a favor and invest in a heavier adjustable vest from the beginning.
Like any fitness equipment, there is a risk involved with using weighted vests. However, providing you are using them correctly and take a few precautions, you should have no problems whatsoever. These precautions center around how well the vest fits and the weight you choose.
As we have mentioned before, choosing a vest with a snug fit is crucial. Not only does it inspire more confidence, a snugly-fitting vest won’t move or slide around while you are exercising.
The last thing you want is to have a 30lb load on your back shifting around freely as you run, jump, press and pull. It could cause all sorts of muscular problems and even put your spine out of alignment.
Next, make sure you don’t start with too heavy a weight. If you are used to working out with just your bodyweight, throwing on an extra 60lbs will be a big shock to your system!
Instead start with a weight you can handle, then – if your vest allows – gradually increase it as you become stronger and more used to working out with weight.
Naturally, if you have any pre-existing condition affecting your muscles, bones, joints or cardiovascular system, please seek medical advice before you start a new workout program.
Calisthenics is one of the greatest ways to work out and challenge your body, helping you build the muscle and strength that can benefit your day-to-day life. Adding a weighted vest to the mix can increase the challenge – and the rewards that come with it.
In this article we’ve demonstrated some of the best weighted vests you can use for calisthenics, coming in an array of designs and price ranges.
All that’s left to do now is figure out which vest will work best for you and your ambitions, then go find your nearest pullup bar and feel the burn!