Weighted Running Vests: Should You Be Wearing One?

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weighted-vest-for-runningWeighted vests have long been a part of strength training, but they’ve also been used as a training tool for endurance sports like running. But, do they actually work? Should a weighted running vest be integrated into your training program?

How Do Weighted Running Vests Affect Your Training?

Most of what we know about weighted training for running comes from a study performed in 1987 by Finnish Researcher Heikki Rusko. He was trying to work out how the lack of gravity influenced muscle degradation in astronauts, so he simulated weight reduction by having a group of 12 athletes wear weighted vests for a period of six weeks so he could compare their performance against athletes without weight.

Click Here To Compare The 5 Best Weighted Vests For Running

The results were surprising: After the initial six weeks, the test subjects saw a decline in running economy, needing more oxygen for each stride, while seeing no other changes in performance. Rusko had the athletes train for another two weeks without the vests, giving their bodies time to recover. Running economy didn’t improve, but the athlete’s VO2 max and lactic acid threshold improved slightly, their sprinting endurance improved by 25% and stair climbing speed improved by 3%. It seems the extra effort required to move the added weight had helped activate fast twitch muscles, which, once they had some recovery time, gave the test subjects improved sprinting ability at the expense of endurance.

Buying A Weighted Running Vest?

Buying the right equipment can mean the difference between safe and effective training and minor, or even serious, injury. In Rusko’s study, he used vests that were no more than 10% of the runner’s body weight. Unfortunately, with most vest use centered around strength training, it can be hard to find a vest that weighs under 25 lbs, but there are some off-the-shelf solutions suitable only for your level of training.

Click Here To See 5 Great Weight Vests For Running

The results were surprising: After the initial six weeks, the test subjects saw a decline in running economy, needing more oxygen for each stride, while seeing no other changes in performance. Rusko had the athletes train for another two weeks without the vests, giving their bodies time to recover. Running economy didn’t improve, but the athlete’s VO2 max and lactic acid threshold improved slightly, their sprinting endurance improved by 25% and stair climbing speed improved by 3%. It seems the extra effort required to move the added weight had helped activate fast twitch muscles, which, once they had some recovery time, gave the test subjects improved sprinting ability at the expense of endurance.

Weighted Running Vests and Safety

Weighted Vest for SprintingThere are some safety issues that have to be addressed when it comes to weighted vests for running. Just as higher body weight increases the risk of joint injury, so does the added load of the vest. However, the added weight can cause the runner to hunker down and lean forward, ruining form and putting a disproportionate amount of stress on the lower legs leading to increased injuries.

The weight and running position also increase problems related to muscular imbalance. Perform a one-legged squat with each leg: If your knee tends to pull inward or outward, the muscles you have developed running are overpowering other muscles in your legs, butt and back, causing your leg to twist. With added force placed in this area by the pack, it means a much greater risk of knee injuries.

 

 

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