Weight Vest Training - Better Than Average

  • 34,000 Squats
  • 22,600 Push-ups
  • 11, 300 Chin-ups/Pull-ups

Since the first of May, I've done two weight vest workouts/day.  The above are my totals of each movement I perform. Each weight vest training session consists of AT THE VERY LEAST:

  • 20# Vest
  • 1 mile AirDyne
  • 150-200 squats
  • 100 push-ups
  • 50 chins/pull-ups
  • 1 mile AirDyne

The above is done two times every day.  Occasionally, I will substitute movements in place of the three listed above.  I'll mention those later.

I do not recommend this kind of training for everyone; the barbell has treated me like a king for decades and I still believe that it is the best and most efficient way to get stronger. I would be an idiot to steer anyone away from a hard set of squats, deadlifts and bench presses.

I knew about a year ago, probably two years ago, (probably longer), that I was going to have to make a change.  A life of football, competititve lifting and a motorcycle accident has taken a physical toll - the accident being the worst of it for my spine.  HOWEVER, I wasn't ready for it mentally. All of you here who have been training for decades with a barbell, and have trained seriously during those decades, know that this decision sucked for me. And fine, it's not Sophie's Choice. But for me, it was big.

I don't miss it right now because I'm feeling better than I have in a long time, but it was an awesome ride.  The beginning, the middle and also towards the end. Everything in my life, from HS to college, to my friends, to my wife to my job, has been tied directly to training with a barbell.

But as I've said many times before, "when there is doubt, there is no doubt." I held out as long as I had doubt and then I woke up one day...and I was just done. So for those of you that want to give this a try, go ahead and do it!  Try it for at least few weeks and if the lure of the barbell remains, you can always go back. You aren't ready to do it and that's OK. But for those of you that KNOW that it's time for a change and are ready for it mentally/physically - stop fucking around and start doing what YOU need to do. Here are few things I've done to help me:

    • I do a 10 minute 'Yoga' session in the morning.  Some of that is just plain static stretching.  I don't get too wrapped up in advancing this routine.  The consistency makes the basics work just as well.  I recommend you pick a series of movements/ stretches that give you the most return on time spent.  Stuff it into your routine and don't give up on it.
    • Make a goal to do X everyday - whatever it is. In fact, it can be X done Y days/week. It doesn't have to be everyday. But this kind of training, in the beginning, puts consistency before performance goals - your body needs to adapt to the volume and conditioning demands.

    • The hardest thing for me is that I have never trained for "endurance" - everything was done fast/strong and explosive. This style of training is not my strong suit and it was a shot to the ego. The best thing I did was remove ALL ideas of what is good/bad and just do what I could. I keep a running clock but I do NOT try to beat times; I train and do it right. Reps are solid, I don't do "piston reps" - I do real, clean reps. For example, a set of 20 weight vest squats takes about 45-55 seconds; I do not try to get the set done as fast as possible. Part of this is because I think it's important to do good reps. The other part is that I expect the kids I coach to do everything right; I have to lead from the front. At all times. Even when no one is watching me train.

    • Not every workout has to be with the vest in the beginning. If you need a weight vest break, take it. Get the reps in. The first 6 weeks or so, about 70% of my workouts with a vest. The other 30% were body weight.

    • Have a "Base Workout" - for me, it's squats, push-ups and chins/pull-ups. So if I'm getting too fancy with the exercise selections and veer off course, I always come back to this.

    • Have some variety...but not too much variety. I do lunges, single leg squats (bulgarian single leg squats), dips and fat man rows. Those are my main variations. I have others but those are the MAIN ones. You are free to do whatever you want to do or what you can do.

    • Start light/progress slow. You don't have to go all "Navy SeAL" in the beginning. You can work up to it eventually but take your time. Don't burn yourself out trying to go through BUDs in your garage.

    • For me, my legs got in REALLY good "ass kicking shape" but didn't get bigger. I’m sure they probably lost some size. My upper body, especially my arms and back have gotten bigger. Not massively bigger but enough that I’ve had people ask me what the hell I’ve been doing.

    • You aren’t going to be Mr. Olympia from this type of training. You can build muscle, get stronger, get in better shape, etc. But you aren’t going to turn into Dorian Yates.

    •   You aren’t going to be Ed Coan from this type of training. (See above.)

    •  Just like in barbell training, you are going to have good days and bad days. For example, I’ve had great workouts and finished “easy” in less than 18 minutes. I’ve also done the exact same workout on a very hot, humid-as-hell day and it’s taken me 37 minutes. Remember that consistency is king and it’s ALWAYS those hard/difficult workouts that make you stronger mentally. Don’t shy away from those days; embrace them!

    • If you combine this training with a fairly structured diet, you will lose fat. I always do the AirDyne bike before and after each session – and have recently added 50 yard sprints twice/week in place of ONE of the bike sessions. So you combine the vest work and the conditioning with a decent diet and you will lose body fat.  You still have to work your ass off and stop eating crap. Don't pretend like you don't know what a "structured diet" would look like - it definitely includes meat and greens and definitely doesn't include entire sleeves of oreos and boxes of DingDongs.  Start with that and stop pretending to be confused about food so you don't have to make any changes.

    • The big “pros” of this type of training for me: Now that I've adapted to it, I feel 100% awesome all the time.  I feel like I can do anything physical.  I don’t hurt (related to the first one) and I feel like I have a true training purpose again. I don’t always WANT to train but the purpose gives me the discipline to do it.

    • There aren’t any real “cons” for me – like I said, I made peace with breaking away from the barbell and I don't miss deadlifting or squatting anymore. Part of that is having purpose. During my last two years at Arizona, I still trained hard as hell but I realized that for me to play effectively, I couldn’t be over 230lbs. I was much, much, much stronger at 245+lbs but my PURPOSE/DRIVE was so strong to play that I didn’t care if I wasn’t squatting 700 anymore. It’s the same idea. I could make the same argument with running/conditioning and trying to squat 1000lbs.

    • Related to #2 – if you are primarily a fast twitch person (or have trained for sports in that manner for a long, long time), you are probably better off doing multiple short sessions/day to build up your workload. This is a great and easy way to work around who YOU are and still be awesome.

    Nothing in this training is super “scientific” or complicated. It’s just doing work, adapting and getting awesome. If anyone has any other questions, you might want to consider joining the Forum.  We post about this style of training in detail. 

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