Over my 20 plus years of training athletes with weight vests, one thing has held true. I have always stopped using them. Despite experimenting with several styles and variations of the implement, I inevitably drift away from them for one reason or another.
For example, one vest required small weights to be placed in the vest and was expensive. Every time I turned around the kids had loaded them with as many plates as possible, looking like they were camping for a week in Northern Minnesota. The vest flopped around as the athletes moved about, and while we did use these vests for typical body weight enhancement movements like dips, pullups, pushups, and squats, it was a real mess.
Another vest had sand-filled tubes that slid into pockets but kept falling out, and we slowly got away from them, too. The tubes were everywhere, and the kids kept loading the vests up to maximum capacity. At this point, I had all but given up on finding a weight vest that fit my needs. Could anything change my mind after two decades of lackluster results?
ReadyArmor Weight Vests
Well, I recently tried the Gopher Performance ReadyArmor Weight Vests and was immediately impressed.
The weights are individually stitched into the vest, so the kids can’t load up the vests too heavy when I’m not looking. That’s a great feature for me because when it comes to weighted vest, in my opinion, the less you do the more you do. I believe that a 10-15% increase in body weight is plenty. We attempt to train fast and explosive, and overloaded vests present problems for me as the athletes’ form often degenerates into poor training techniques and in some cases injuries from overuse.
Using Weight Vests for Recovery
The recent return of weighted vests in our weight room occurred as one of my athletes returned from ACL surgery. He was 12 weeks post op and his doctors cleared him for normal movement patterns including slow jog and body weight squats with a weighted vest. He was excited to see the vests show up and started using them immediately. This got me thinking about what else we could do with the vests, within parameters of his physical therapists.
The result was “weighted and unweighted gait tasks,” including sled pulls, weight vest walks, and weight vest and sled pulls. This is when things got interesting for me. The sled pulls and weight vest tasks were performed using 50% of body weight, a swift departure from my philosophy of weight vest training with 10-15% body weight.
But research showed a wide variety of weighted movement tasks are beneficial to athletes returning to sport training protocols in body weight activities. What’s more, advancing physical therapy wasn’t the only practical application we found for the ReadyArmor Weight Vests. We’ve had great results with all of our athletes using these vests to enhance body weight movement training.
Johnson is a graduate of Normandale Community College, Augsburg College and the University of Minnesota, playing football at both NCC and Augsburg. “RJ” teaches physical education at Wayzata High School and is the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator for Wayzata Public Schools, a position he began in 2000. Wayzata Athletics have captured 52 team state titles in histenure; Johnson works directly with the three-time state champion football program as Director of Operations and Player Development. He is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist as well as a Registered Strength and Conditioning Specialist – both certifications with Distinction and is the Minnesota NSCA State Director. NSCA awards include Minnesota High School Strength and Conditioning Professional of the Year 2010; State Director of the Year 2013; Strength of America Award 2015; and 2017 National High School Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year. In 2017 he became a founding Board Member of the National High School Strength Coaches Association (NHSSCA); and serves as a Regional Director for the organization. A former volunteer firefighter, he also received an Award of Merit from the Minnesota Department of Health and Safety for participation in a lifesaving CPR/AED effort to revive a player that suffered sudden cardiac arrest while at practice. Johnson is a frequent clinician, speaker, author and his Wayzata Trojan Power program has been visited by over 50 other high school and small college programs. He also volunteered his time in the Rockford School District where he and his wife and four children reside by serving as the Rockford Area Youth Athletic Association President and Youth Football Director.