Weighted Vest Workout Regimen

A weighted vest is one of the best tools you can have in your arsenal for building strength. This is not only highly useful if you’re looking for your workouts to translate into skills that can help you in your work and personal life, but it also means getting a more “cut” body, rather than “bulking.”

Building strength simply means getting stronger workout-to-workout. In general, try to use enough weight to keep your workouts under 8 reps if you’re looking to build strength. This is in contrast to trying to bulk up and grow muscles, for which you would do something more like 10 - 12 reps. 

If your goal is to bulk up and grow muscles, simply add a few extra reps to this workout and reduce the weight so that your sets with the highest number of reps sit between 10 - 12 reps.

As a rule, always start your workout with a warmup. To do this warmup, just do some reps of whatever exercise you’re planning on doing with the vest, but do it without the vest. Don’t do these warmups up to the point of exhaustion meaning your maximum amount of reps. Just do some quick reps that get your muscles moving, the blood flowing, until you’ve hit about 75% of your maximum number of reps. 

Next, it’s time to load up your vest with weights.


Key Takeaways

  • Weighted vests are great tools for building strength and a "cut" body. When looking to build strength, use enough weight to keep your workouts under 8 reps. To bulk up and grow muscles, add a few extra reps and reduce the weight so that your sets with the highest number of reps sit between 10 - 12 reps.
  • When doing the Reverse Pyramid strength training regimen, the number of reps increases as you continue along in your sets. The first set should only have 1-2 reps while the last set should have 6-8 reps.
  • When doing the Pyramid workout, start with 6-8 reps in the first set, then decrease the number of reps by 2 in each set while adding 5-10 pounds of weights during each rest period. For both the Reverse Pyramid and Pyramid workouts, always start with a warmup, and make sure to rest for 3 minutes between each set.


Reverse Pyramid

As you continue along in your sets, your number of reps is actually going to increase. This is the opposite of what we typically think of when working out, where you start off by doing your maximum number of reps, and gradually decrease the reps as your muscles get more tired.

1st Set: 1-2 reps.

Put enough weight in your vest so that you can do the same exercise, but only up until about 1-2 reps. Put on the vest, and prepare for your first heavy set. If you’re doing an exercise like push ups, consider using parallette bars so that your vest doesn’t touch the ground as you lower yourself to the floor. 

The reason you should only do 1-2 reps for this “heavy set” is that the goal here is to improve your strength. Therefore, you want to be pushing your body to eventually handle additional weight, opposed to additional reps. 

Take a nice rest of about three minutes. While you’re resting, you can also go ahead and remove about 5-10 pounds from your vest. The reason for this is so that, for your next set, you can slightly increase your number of reps. 

2nd Set: 2-4 reps.

After your three minute break, you’re ready for your next set. This time, you should be able to accomplish about 2-4 reps, since you removed 5-10 pounds from your vest on your last rest.

Once this set is over, take another rest of about three minutes. 

Remove another 5-10 pounds from the vest.

3rd Set: 4-6 reps. 

This time, you’re going to increase your reps even more to do a total of 4-6 reps. Since you removed another 5-10 pounds from your vest during the last break, this should be accomplishable. 

After this set, you already know the drill—remove a little bit more weight, and prepare to move on to your last set. 

4th Set: 6-8 reps.

This will be your final set in your Reverse Pyramid strength training regimen. This time, you should be able to accomplish about 6-8 reps. And if you can get to 9 reps or above, go for it! 



Choose another type of workout that you want to do with your weighted vest, such as dips on a pair of taller parallette bars, or pull ups. 

As always, start off your workout with a light warmup. Again, a good way of warming yourself up is to do the exercise you’re planning to perform with the weighted vest, but do it without the vest, up to about 75% of your capacity before reaching exhaustion. Once you’re nice and warmed up, it’s time to put on your vest, and get down to it.

Your vest should already be relatively light from your last workout, since you were gradually taking out weights throughout your Reverse Pyramid regimen. 

1st Set: 6-8 reps. 

Start off by doing your exercise (let’s say it’s pull-ups) at 6-8 reps. If you feel like you can do a few more than 8, go ahead and do those as well. Once you’re done your set, you’re going to take another long 3 minute break. While you’re on your break, this time, you’re going to add an additional 5-10 pounds. 

2nd Set: 4-6 reps.

When you’re ready, it’s time to dive into your second set, this time aiming for about 4-6 reps. Again, if you can do a few more, go for it. However, it’s not at all necessary. When you’re done your set, take another 3 minute rest, and add another 5-10 pounds of weights

3rd Set: 2-4 reps. 

When you’re done with your rest, it’s time to go for your 3rd set. This time, you should be aiming for about 2-4 reps. This is your second last set, and when you’re done, take your last 3 minute rest and add yet another 5-10 pounds of weight. 

4th Set: 1-2 reps.

For this final set, you should have enough weight in your vest that it’ll be very difficult to do more than 2 reps. So, finish this regimen off with a final set of only 1-2 reps. 

After you’re done, take off the vest and do a set of straight bodyweight.


Straight Sets

With straight sets, you want to load your vest with an amount of weight with which you think you can accomplish a maximum 8 reps with. Perform this set aiming for 8 reps, take a 3 minute rest, then repeat for a total of 4 sets. 

Aim for 8 reps for each one of your 4 sets, but keep in mind it’s more likely that you’ll end up with something like 8 reps on the first set, 8 reps on the second set, 6 reps on the third set, and 5 reps on the fourth set.

The next time you do this straight set however, you should see your results increase to something that looks more like 8 reps on the first set, 8 reps on the second set, 7 reps on the third set, and 6 reps on the fourth set, demonstrating a tangible improvement over your previous day’s reps for your last two straight sets. 

The number of reps you can do with your 3rd and 4th set should keep improving every time you go through this complete workout. Once you can do 8 reps for all 4 sets of your straight sets, it’s time to move on to a heavier weight!


Bottom Line

Doing strength training means building muscle density, rather than mass. This means that instead of growing, your muscles will become denser and harder, meaning they’ll look more defined, and giving you that “cut” look. 

This complete regimen of 3 easy and quick workouts to do back-to-back with your weighted vest represents one of the best ways that you can begin building strength and getting the look you want right now. The best part is, these workouts can be done at home with minimal equipment. 

As you perform this workout regimen throughout the week, write down the number of reps you can do per set, and the amount of weight you use, in your phone or workout journal. Track your progress for motivation and to watch as your strength increases week over week.

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