The Truth of the Trend

Research has shown that training the nervous system with Olympic lifting, plyometrics, or any type of explosive high intensity training can be beneficial to the athlete when done correctly. There is much debate on the subject of CNS (central nervous system) fatigue and whether it is a real phenomenon or a false naming of adrenal fatigue, muscle fatigue, etc. Whether or not CNS fatigue truly exists or is being named correctly is beside the point. The fact is that explosive exercises with weight such a Olympic lifting place very high demands on all systems of the body and carry serious risk of injury if not learned and practiced properly.

Olympic weightlifting requires a high level of understanding and skill. Research suggests that the optimal number for training the nervous system is 1-3 repetitions with a rest period of 6 minutes between sets. In addition, ATP is only present for 6-8 seconds which is about 3-5 reps before needing at least 2-3 min of recovery. Once ATP runs out the lifts will become compromised because the muscle does not have the energy to elicit the contraction the nerve is demanding. Anything beyond said rep range starts to overload the joint because form is compromised. Since these methods are designed to tax the central nervous system it does not make sense to try to change them into strength and endurance movements for high reps. Despite the research and proven science, many mainstream programs will suggest doing a set of anywhere from 10-20 repetitions or even do as many reps as possible in a 30-60 second window. Using these methods for endurance is like telling a sprinter to sprint through marathons for training.

Another issue is that these methods require a very high level of motor control. Proper movement patterns need to be practiced without resistance at a low level until the client shows proficiency in the movement. Of all the lifting methods, Olympic lifting is the most difficult to master because of the required flexibility and motor control for explosive movements with heavy weights to get the max benefit. Olympic lifting is a sport in itself and can take years to learn. From our experience it takes the average person 4-6 months just to be able to get into the positions required to properly perform the movements. Once they can move it can take another 6-12 months to actually learn how to correctly do the lifts with weights. Olympic lifting is a professional sport yet everyone thinks they can do it without training. Even professional athletes should be cautious because the lifts were not designed for football, soccer or tennis, but instead for Olympic lifting.

Athletes should integrate Olympic style lifts into their strength and conditioning programs to reap the benefits of these movements but not duplicate them exactly. I suggest that most athletes train from the power position. This is called the hang (bar just below knees) since that is what most sports require. If a super elite athlete wants to learn the full lifts, it should be determined by a very high level coach.

Most courses that teach this method are 2-4 days, after which a certification is received and one is allowed to teach the lifts. Since we all agree Olympic lifting is just like basketball or any other pro sport, how is that possible? One cannot learn basketball in 2-4 days, let alone teach it, right? The answer seems obvious, yet people still spend millions on extreme home training videos and going to training facilities to do trendy high intensity programs that make no scientific sense.

The videos are the most dangerous, in our opinion. Any professional knows you cannot learn plyometrics by watching a video, and that the average person does not have the knowledge of the basic physical requirements and proper progressions. The science behind plyometrics is similar to Olympic lifting and should not be done for high repetitions either. The sad truth is that a majority of programs break the laws of proven science and safety, but their obvious flaws are overshadowed by attractive instructors, celebrity endorsements, extreme marketing tactics and industry politics. These companies are commendable, in a way, because the business intellect required to achieve such enormous revenue is impressive and there are some very good components in many of these programs. The main issues with these programs are that the parts that are wrong are so wrong it negates any of the positive aspects.

So the big question we get is  “why do they work if they are wrong?”

The fact is that if you do anything consistently and intensely while eating well you will obtain results. If you were to move bricks from one side of the yard to another for two hours a day with a 15 minute jog every 30 minutes for two months, you can be assured there will be fat loss and muscle growth. This is especially true for people who have never exercised or have done very little. So does that make it right? This sounds crazy but one of the best NFL receivers of all time, Jerry Rice, did just that growing up. He played a lot better when he started training like a football player instead of moving bricks.

Why doesn’t everyone get hurt? I know a guy who has been doing that stuff for years! Well, there are people who smoke until they are 90 and have no issues while others who never smoke die of lung cancer at 40 years old. In most cases smokers will develop health problems before 85, but there are always the exceptions. Everyone is different. There are countless variables that contribute to our physical constitutions and what our bodies can handle before we break down including genetics, nutrition and mental/emotional patterns, just to name a few. Some people are born athletes and can tolerate these programs because they have a natural ability to perform most plyometrics correctly and are strong and flexible enough to weather the storm of poor training.

Are all cookie cutter programs bad? No. There are some great instructors out there who can run programs that follow science and elicit even better results. This article is meant to educate you and serve as the WARNING LABEL. This is not meant as an attack on any particular company or program. It is simply meant to provide information based on common sense and science so that better results can be achieved safely.

 

 

References:

Bompa, T. (2005) Periodisation Training for sports. 2nd ed. Human Kinetics (taken from  http://www.brianmac.co.uk/cns.htm#ref)

Peinado AB, Rojo JJ, Calderón FJ, Maffulli N.

BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2014 Apr 24;6:17. doi: 10.1186/2052-1847-6-17. eCollection 2014. Review.

 

 

Why Your Workouts May Not Be Working

Have you been exercising & not seeing the results you’re expecting? Have you developed pain or made an already painful condition worse with exercises that were supposed to help? Have you been told by a trainer or physical therapist that your glutes are not firing or that you have poor balance and you just can’t seem to correct the problem?

These are very common issues that I hear about in my practice which can have multiple causes. The first thing to examine the program itself – what exercises are being done and are they even appropriate for the individual, based on their health history and present condition. I often see people doing exercises that they should definitely not be doing because they are harmful and will cause injury. Unfortunately, I also see many trainers and specialists prescribing these same exercises.

The second thing to examine is form to determine if the exercises are being done properly. A good exercise, if done incorrectly, can also be a bad exercise. Always be meticulous with form. The purpose of exercise should be to improve our health, whether the goal is increasing strength and endurance, rehabilitating tissue, or correcting movement patterns.

The above are very obvious reasons and should always be ruled out first. However, if the exercises are appropriate & being done with correct form but the issue is still present, there may be another less obvious culprit. This hidden hijacker of a good workout results could be fascial tension.

You may have heard of fascia recently, as it getting more attention due to research. Fascia is connective tissue that literally wraps and connects every structure in the body. To visualize this, imagine removing every organ, muscle, and bone. If we were to leave all the fascia intact, we would have a 3D outline of the entire body – a completely continuous web.

Fascia transmits energy and force, in addition to holding everything together. We often think of muscles contracting independently to perform an action. For example, flexing our elbow we attribute to the biceps and brachialis muscles. But in reality, it is much more than that. Tension is created throughout the entire arm and shoulder, into the trunk and down to the hand through fascial connection. Other muscles are also performing at different levels in order to stabilize the arm. So really, everything is working, but at different levels of intensity.

We often think of muscle contraction generating force in the tendons (which attach the muscles to bones) in order to produce a movement. Studies have recently demonstrated that only 70% of the generated force of a muscle contraction is transmitted to the tendons. The other 30% is transmitted outward to the fascia surrounding the muscle by way of attachments along its entire length. Because fascia is completely continuous throughout the body, this force is transmitted to other muscles and structures. This shows that when a muscle acts, it is doing much more than its attributed movement. It is communicating with and working in conjunction with other muscles along a line.

Fascia is also a sensory organ. Another recent discovery is that there there are more sensory nerve endings in the fascia than there are in the muscle. These nerve endings provide information to the brain and spinal cord about position, tension/stretch and pressure – a sense of where we are in space and what is happening to keep us there. Keep in mind that most of this is happening without us even realizing it.

Fascia is made up of different layers that need to slide over each other in order for movement to happen, and in order to have accurate information exchange with the nervous system. If there is restriction of this sliding, usually due to a densification of hyaluronic acid, the substance that lubricates the fascial layers, overall movement can become restricted. Muscle activity can become inhibited due to the lack of efficient communication through the nerve endings that live in the altered fascia.

The densifications causing this altered function can be a result of old trauma/injuries, surgeries, scars or repetitive strain. For example, an old ankle sprain that didn’t heal properly may subtly cause dysfunction either locally in the foot/ankle, or above in the knee, hip, pelvis or even in the shoulder on the opposite side of the body. These densifications may be difficult to detect because they are often found in different areas than where the symptoms manifest. In this case it would be helpful to be evaluated by a professional who understands this process to properly determine the dysfunction and correct it.

Fascial Manipulation is a diagnostic and treatment system developed by the Stecco family in Italy. It sees the body as an interconnected network of points along the fascia that make up different motion planes. The points are centers of coordination for underlying muscles. Interestingly, many of these are also acupuncture points. Densification, or dysfunction, in these points can alter the muscle activity. Fascial Manipulation practitioners find these areas of densification and remove them through a very specific, deep massage technique. When normal sliding is restored to these points, or centers of coordination, very often pain is relieved and muscles function much more effectively with less stress. It is worth noting that Fascial Manipulation has the most scientific research behind it than any other manual soft tissue technique.

Freed movement in the fascial planes leads to normal coordination of muscle activation. This can allow workout results to be more consistent with the targeted actions of exercise and desired goals. If you feel you are not getting the most out of your workout and you know you are doing the proper exercises with good form, consider a fascial evaluation.

Robert Inesta, DC, L.Ac, CCSP

Don’t Fear the Weight Room

Some women still fear the weight room.  The existing myth is that lifting weights will lead to women having big, bulky muscles or looking too manly.  Ideas like this give resistance training a bad name.  As trainers, we have to remember that men and women are physiologically different. The increased muscle mass that is acquired by men is due in large part to testosterone.  While it’s true that women secrete and deliver testosterone just like men do, they do so at much lower rates and volume.  This allows for women to build tone lean muscle and increase metabolism to enhance weight loss.  Many times the main objective for women to start an exercise program is to lose weight and look better, but there is more to it.  We have to remember that resistance training has various benefits that will help women’s health, both now and in the future.  Looking tone and fit is great, but what else can exercise do for women?  Looking great is always a plus, but resistance training may also decrease day to day stresses from our fast paced lifestyles.  Stress is a very important factor, which may lead to decreased motivation and eventual increase in body fat storage.  Studies have shown that proper exercise can reduce stress dramatically.  Another important factor for women is bone mineral density (BMD).  Women are at a higher risk of low bone mineral density than men, due to a higher level of estrogen.  A consistent moderate resistance program can increase BMD in women and dramatically reduce the possibility of osteopenia and/or osteoporosis.  The proper resistance training program can also increase posture, balance, flexibility and stability for all ages.  These are all very important aspects to our daily lives, but for many women, it becomes all about looking better.  How is exercise going to do this?

What is Metabolism?

Sure, running on the treadmill will help women lose weight, but so will every other daily activity we are engaged in.  Whether it’s walking, eating, or even sleeping, our bodies are using calories to function properly.  Losing weight all depends on the intensity and duration of what we are doing each day.  As mentioned,  running on a treadmill will help us lose weight more than walking, and walking will help more than sleeping, but if there were an easier way, we would do it…right?  Luckily there is.  It’s all about our metabolic rate.  Our metabolic rate (or basal metabolic rate BMR) is closely related to resting metabolic rate (RMR) and measures the total amount of energy expanded while at rest or sleep.  The term thermogenesis refers to the measure of total energy exhausted as heat disposal.  As we age, a decrease in BMR will coincide with the amount of lean body mass that we possess.  New scientific research has shown that aerobic exercise alone doesn’t correlate with an increase in BMR, but anaerobic does due to maintaining lean body mass.

Cardio vs. Weight Training

We’ve discussed the physiological differences that cardio (aerobic) and resistance training (anaerobic) play in exercise via metabolism.  Anaerobic exercise may contribute to an increase of metabolism, but aerobic exercise is important too.  Aerobic training is very important for the cardiovascular system (“heart health”).  Some people have trouble combining the cardio and resistance training.  There are important factors that a trainer must know before incorporating cardio and resistance training together.  First, if the trainee wants to increase power and strength then including cardio exercises can be detrimental.  This is due to an increase the muscle capillary density, increased number of mitochondria (both help in oxygen consumption to keep the muscle going), and a possible change in fiber type (type IIx to type IIa to type I).  Inversely, a trainee that wants to increase their aerobic power can achieve this by combining both cardio workouts with resistance training.  This will allow for an increase in aerobic power due to an increase in VO^2 Max.  VO^2 Max is the amount of oxygen exchange within a muscle for adequately supplying and keeping the muscle cells functioning properly (contributing factor may also be stroke volume SV).  For weight management the optimal goal is to combine both types of exercise by using circuit training.  Circuit training will allow a trainee to increase their aerobic and anaerobic power by incorporating moderate to high intensity (keeping the heart rate up) exercises with resistance training.

Frequency of Weight Loss

Weight loss can vary.  Some people go on extreme crash diets and lose 8, 10, or even 12 pounds a week.  Depending on the trainee, losing this much weight this quickly will almost certainly be put back on in the long run.  Furthermore, some may be able to safely and effectively lose 4 pounds a week, while another may only be able to lose 1 to2 pounds a week.  This all depends on the trainee’s starting weight.  A good table for measure can be a 1% rule (1% loss of starting body weight per week).  If a trainee’s starting weight is 150 pounds then a maximal weight per week should not exceed 1.5 pounds a week.  Whereas, someone with a starting weight of 300 hundred pounds may affectively lose 3 pounds per week.  The 1% rule can adequately allow for weight lose without becoming macronutrient deficient.  Macronutrients are the three essential nutrients that consist of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids (fats).    When people attempt some of these “fad” crash diets they ultimately fall short in the proper percentages of one of the three essential nutrients.  This may put the body in a particular nutrient deficiency that may change the body’s physiological chemistry.

Women’s Resistance Training Program Design

A proper program design should be specific to the person being trained.  Each trainee will begin at a different level based on their condition, so a tailored exercise program is crucial with the adequate amount of progressions for optimal results.  Each exercise program should begin with some sort of active/dynamic warm-up to help promote proper muscle activation for the following workout.  To circuit train affectively, three to four multi-muscle functional workouts can be grouped together to optimize increased heart rate and aerobic and anaerobic power output.  Between 2 to 4 sets and 10 to 15 reps of approximately 3 or 4 exercises should be performed in a continuous cycle with little rest (30seconds to 1 minute after completing each cycle of the 3 to 4 exercises).  Each group of three to four exercises may primarily target different areas of the body.  After the warm-up, the first group of exercises may focus on legs.  The second group may focus on the upper body, and the third may focus on the core muscles.  This exercise structure can help save time and effort with a busy schedule and may also maximize overall fitness results.  Ending each workout with a form of static stretching may also be a good idea.  Static stretching AFTER exercise can keep the joints from getting too tight.

 

References

Copley, J. Strength Training for Weight Loss. Weight Lifting is Better then Cardio and Dieting.

April 13, 2008. suite101.com

 

News Medical. What is Metabolism?  October 23, 2012

News-Medical.net

 

Why We Need Weight Training

A balanced exercise program consists of both aerobic exercise and resistance training. Many people still focus only on aerobic conditioning for weight loss and health, while ignoring the benefits of resistance training. Resistance training is important for both athletic performance and general fitness.  A well-rounded fitness program includes strength training to improve joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon and ligament strength as well as aerobic exercise to improve heart and lung fitness, flexibility and balance.

Resistance training (also known as strength training or weight training) is defined as using resistance to muscular contraction in order to increase the strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles. It incorporates the use of free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, and body weight. Resistance training is based on the concept that the muscles of the body will work to overcome a resistance force when required.

There are many physical and mental benefits to resistance training. It improves tone and strength of muscles, which protects joints from injury. It also may help prevent cognitive decline and improve mood by increasing self-esteem, helping to prevent depression, improving body image, and decreasing insomnia. Resistance training improves mobility and balance, increases flexibility & stamina, improves posture, and decreases the risk for injury. Additionally it prevents osteoporosis, sarcopenia, lower-back pain, and other disabilities. More recent research demonstrates that resistance training may positively affect risk factors for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These include insulin resistance, resting metabolic rate, glucose metabolism, blood pressure, body fat, and gastrointestinal transit time. Lastly, building and maintaining muscle is good for your metabolism and helps with weight loss and weight maintenance.

In order to become stronger and build muscle, resistance training must be done on a consistent basis. Most guidelines for physical activity recommend that adults do muscle strengthening activities at least two days each week. It is not necessarily required that the resistance is heavy; it just has to be controlled and precise for all the major muscle groups.

Proper form is essential in resistance training to avoid injury. Before starting any type of training, it is recommended to work with a qualified personal trainer who will assess your strengths and weaknesses, as well as help you create an exercise program to reach your goals, both safely and effectively.

Foam Rolling

Foam rollers have become very popular in gyms as they can be used for all fitness levels for training and recovery. However, many people don’t know the correct way to foam roll or the reasons why they are beneficial. Foam rolling is self-myofascial release, which is a method of self-massage that releases tight muscles and knots (trigger points). The goal is to release the muscles in order to increase elasticity for proper functioning, to improve flexibility, and to reduce inflammation.

Muscles are surrounded by fibrous connective tissue called fascia. Over time, individuals may develop painful points along the muscle and fascia due to trauma from injury, scar tissue, or structural imbalances. These trigger points can shorten the muscle, restrict blood flow to the muscle, and restrict mobility, which causes inflammation and pain and inhibits motion. This can lead to additional problems with posture, joint alignment, neuromuscular transmission, and exercise form, all of which make the body more vulnerable to injury. Further, the surrounding muscles then have to compensate for the weakened areas and may become strained due to overuse. Foam rolling helps the fascia stay mobile, and removing the knots enables exercises to be more effective so that structural balance and joint stability is restored, flexibility is increased, and stress on the surrounding muscles is decreased.

When our muscles are tight, we are often uncomfortable and display poor movement patterns. Our muscles can become tight for a variety of reasons ranging from poor posture, poor flexibility, training, hydration status, stress, sleep, etc. The idea behind foam rolling is to break up muscle knots, prevent knots from developing and create normal blood flow and nerve function back to the area. This decreases recovery time after a workout and decreases the risk for injury. Additionally, a greater range of motion allows for more effective workouts since there are no muscular restrictions. The ideal time to use a foam roller is before your workout as it will increase range of motion and bring blood to the tissues. In addition to foam rollers, tennis balls, golf balls and lacrosse balls can be used to break up muscle adhesions.

When foam rolling tight muscles, you will frequently feel pain which may radiate to another area. This pain should be uncomfortable, but certainly not unbearable. You can foam roll any muscle in your body by using moderate pressure and your bodyweight. When you locate tight/painful areas, you should concentrate on rolling those areas slowly, letting the muscle relax. If the pain is too intense, roll the surrounding areas instead and slowly work your way into the painful area. Do not overwork knots or painful areas, as this may damage the tissue. Avoid rolling bones or joints. Roll slowly. Make sure your form and posture is correct. Using a personal trainer to guide you will ensure that you do not cause more damage and will reach the muscle in the most effective way.

Not only are foam rollers beneficial for muscles, but they are also brain exercisers since the brain and nervous system need to be retrained to correct faulty movement patterns. The use of foam rollers requires complete concentration since they are unstable. Unstable exercises also improve proprioception and challenge core muscles.

Overall, foam rollers are a great tool that should be used by everyone in the gym, no matter their fitness level, to enhance their workout and prevent injury.

To see videos on how to foam roll properly, head to our video category & check them out!

Strength Training for Children

Strength training offers many benefits but did you know it can offer benefits to that of children and adolescents as well? Strength training is a type of exercise and conditioning that focuses on the use of resistance to build strength, endurance, and size of the skeletal muscles1.  When done properly, strength training can improve sports performance, protect against sports-related injuries, increase muscular strength and endurance, strengthen bones, promote healthy cholesterol and blood pressure, improve self-esteem, and help children maintain a healthy weight2.

There seems to be controversy with the proper age a child should be to begin strength training program and whether or not lifting weights is appropriate.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American College of Sports Medicine  (ACSM) and the National Strength and Condition Association (NSCA) all support strength training for kids.  In fact, AAP stated that “appropriate strength-training programs have no apparent adverse effect on linear growth, growth plates, or the cardiovascular system2.”

According to Dr. Avery Faigenbaum, a renowned pediatric exercise scientist, there are many common myths that surround strength training.  The first is that strength training will stunt the growth of children. However, research does not support this myth and does not show decreased stature in children that engage in resistance exercise regularly.  Instead, this type of exercise has a positive effect on bone growth and development.  The second myth is that strength training is unsafe for children.  Actually, the risks of training are no greater than any other activity as long as there is qualified supervision and a safe training environment.  The third myth is that children cannot increase strength because they do not have enough testosterone.  However, testosterone is not needed to achieve strength gains, which is evidenced by strength gains in women and the elderly.  The last myth is that strength training is only for young athletes.  As discussed, strength training has a wide range of benefits and therefore is valuable to all boys and girls, whether involved in sports or not3.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics position on strength training supports the implementation of strength and resistance training programs, even for prepubescent children, that are monitored by well-trained adults and take into account the child’s maturation level.  The only limitation the AAP suggests is to avoid repetitive maximal lifts (lifts that are one repetition maximum lifts or are within 2-3 repetitions of a one repetition maximum lift) until they have reached Tanner Stage 5 of developmental maturity.  Tanner Stage 5 is the level in which visible secondary sex characteristics have been developed.  Usually, in this stage adolescents will also have passed their period of maximal velocity of height growth.  The AAP’s concern that children wait until this stage to perform maximal lifts is that the epiphyses, commonly called “growth plates”, are still very vulnerable to injury before this developmental stage. It is repeated injury to these growth plates that may hinder growth4.”

The NSCA offers these guidelines for strength-training programs:

  • An instructor-to-child ratio of at least 1 to 10 is recommended.
  • The instructor should have experience with kids and strength training.
  • When teaching a new exercise, the trainer should have kids perform the exercise under his or her supervision in a hazard-free, well-lit, and adequately ventilated environment.
  • Calisthenics and stretching exercises should be performed before and after strength training.
  • Kids should begin with one set of 8 to 15 repetitions of 6 to 8 exercises that focus on the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body.
  • Kids should start with no load (resistance). When proper technique is mastered, a relatively light weight can be used with a high number of repetitions. Increase the weight as strength improves. Progression can also be achieved by increasing the number of sets (up to three) or types of exercises.
  • Two to three training sessions per week on nonconsecutive days is sufficient.

It’s important to remember that strength training should be one part of a total fitness program. It can play a vital role in keeping your child healthy and fit, along with aerobic exercise such as biking and running, which keeps the heart and lungs in shape5.

It is important to note that children should have a strong basic exercise foundation and have efficient movement patterns in order to develop strength and flexibility.  An ideal age to start strength training is 7-8 years old because balance and postural control skills have matured to adult levels.  Proper form, technique, and safety are keys to success, and therefore explosive and rapid lifting is not recommended because it is difficult to maintain proper form and perform exercises safely, which may stress body tissues2.

As for as sports specific training, a child athlete must master the basics, such as strength, balance, power, coordination and visual perception in order to improve athleticism. .   You cannot solely train specific skill, like throwing or swinging, for a specific sport.  The key is to improve strength, power, flexibility and speed through efficient movement patterns.  After a child become proficient in the basic skills, more specific skills can be introduced.  It is important to remember that flexibility is the key to preventing injury and stretching should not be neglected6.

In conclusion, strength training is safe for children and adolescents and should be incorporated into their exercise routine to increase both physical and mental performance.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strength_training
  2. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/121/4/835.full
  3. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/121/4/835.full
  4. http://www.strongkid.com/uploads/Myths.pdf
  5. http://www.protraineronline.com/exercise/strength-training-for-childrena-review-of-research-literature/
  6. http://kidshealth.org/parent/nutrition_center/staying_fit/strength_training.html#
  7. http://www.todddurkin.com/the-best-exercises-for-youth-athletes/

Weighted Vests

Gyms and fitness centers are loaded with machines and equipment. There are balls, bars, free weights, balance discs, and all sorts of gadgets for the exerciser to choose from.  Sometimes it is hard to know the benefits of using one piece of equipment over another.  Weighted vests are tools that have become popular for a variety of fitness activities.  However, many people are not sure how or why to use weighted vests.

Weighted vests are heavy vests worn over the torso, which have varying amounts of resistance.  The most common weights are 20 pounds and 50 pounds.  The purpose of a weighted vest is to increase the intensity of a workout.  Since more weight is added to the body, the body is forced to work harder. This causes increased muscle mass and fat burning.  Vests are versatile; they can be used for resistance training, weight loss, cardio benefits, and variation.

For starters, vests can supplement resistance training and increase performance. Resistance exercise, or strength training, increases the strength and mass of muscles. This was demonstrated by a research study at Texas Tech University, where a group of athletes wearing vests were compared to those not wearing vests. They found that the group wearing vests had substantially better results with their resistance training .

Next, weighted vests intensify aerobic workouts. This increases the number of calories burned and promotes weight loss.  A study in The European Journal of Applied Physiology showed this increased cardio effect by looking at a group of distance runners wearing a 50lb weighted versus those without added weight.  Those wearing the vest, had improvements in their VO2 max and lactate thresholds, both of which affect endurance exercise.

Further, using a vest can change up an exercise routine.  Our bodies adapt to the same patterns of movement and it becomes harder to see a change when we repeatedly do the same exercises in the same routine.  By wearing a vest, we provide variation to our normal routine.  This will challenge our bodies so that we can continue to see results.

Another benefit from exercising with a vest is improved bone density.  Several small studies show that the extra load from a weighted vest can help build bones.  One four-year study on postmenopausal women showed increased bone density when a weighted vest was used during stair climbing.

Weighted vests have many benefits, but it is important to remember they should be used in moderation. When first wearing a vest, a low amount of weight should be used and it should never exceed more than 20% of an individual’s body weight.  Too much weight may negatively affect the joints, muscles, and bones.  It should also be worn tightly secured to the body, to avoid any additional strain.  An individual may experience back pain if it isn’t strapped on properly or if the weight is not distributed evenly.  When wearing a weighted vest, the force upon landing is greater, which increases the risk of impact-related joint injury.  Also, flexibility is limited because the vest constricts some types of movements.  Lastly, there is a potential for overheating since the vest covers a large area of the body.

While there are many reasons to try using a weighted vest during a workout, it is important to remember that weighted vests are not for everyone.  A doctor or personal trainer should be consulted before it is added to any exercise routine.