Is wearing a weighted vest bad for my spine?

  • by Weng Hui Foong

Most people would agree that working out means pushing yourself to the limits. While this statement holds true, some people take it even farther -- by strapping on a weighted vest. 

The idea behind this is to add resistance and thus, taking your cardio game up another notch. The more resistance you encounter, the harder your body has to work to withstand the added load. This is how you can develop strength and endurance -- by slowly adding more and more weight to your vest for continuous progress.

But this has also raised concerns on whether the spine suffers from the extra weight. 

The Spine

Let’s get anatomical, for a second.

The spine is one of the most important parts of your body. Your spinal column consists of 33 vertebrae and intervertebral discs. It is what holds you up and supports you, allowing you to move freely and flexibly. While the spine is intertwined with muscles that can benefit from exercises with a weighted vest, it also puts a lot of pressure on your spine.

Many things can happen. Your intervertebral discs may get compressed and lead to an injury, putting you away for at least a week -- or more.

And if you already suffer back pain from a previous injury, then your spine will be begging you to sit this one out. Unless the back pain is caused by muscle weakness.

But to answer the question, is wearing a weighted vest bad for your spine?

Let’s Weigh This Out (Pun Intended)

No two spines are the same. Everyone is born different and unique.

A strong healthy spine and correct exercise form decreases the risk of intervertebral disks.

The weight vest itself plays an important role as well. If the weights are not evenly distributed, this may spell an even larger injury from the stress on targeted areas or muscles of the body. It is true that a weight vest can make or break your game.

Here is some characteristic of a good weight vest that will not only enhance your game, but minimize the chance of injury.

Weighted vests that moves with you

Choose the weight vest  that fits you best. It should fit to move along with your body during vigorous training. The weights in vest should not bounce as that would create unwanted momentum.

A good weighted vest is one that fits you like a glove. This ensures that it targets the right muscle areas, and prevents further risk of injury.

Adjust the weight according to your fitness level

Know your body. Understanding your body's fitness level can protect you from injury. A progressive increase in weights will give your body a chance to adapt to the weight overtime.

Your spine can also be saved if you are careful not to put on a weighted vest that weighs more than you can handle. Start with a low weight before steadily piling it on. A weighted vest works as a resistance, and letting it drag you down will defeat its purpose.

Balance the weights

For adjustable weighted vest like Grav Weight Vest. Always adjust the weight in pair of weight blocks. That said, they should be perfectly balance in term of left and right, and front and back. For example, if you decided to start with 8kg. Place 4 of the 1kg weight blocks in the front and 4 at the back of the vest. In the same slot position front and back.

Be mindful of posture

Keep your back straight at all time. Especially for movement like reaching down to the ground. Bend down with knee more, and bend over with lower back less.

Activate the core at all time if you can. It can work the core as secondary target, and minimize the chance of twisting the lower back.

The Takeaway

Not only weighted vests are not inherently harmful to your spine, they can be great gear to help strengthen it.  Pick the weight vest with best fit, customizable weights, be cautious of posture when using one, and you are good to crush your training with all the added intensity you needed.

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