The dilemma of whether to train with a weighted vest or a barbell is not one that affects most women on a daily basis. As a fit, healthy, go-getting gym girl, however, it's something you might want to think about. Barbells tend to be one of the go-to strength tools, while weight vests are a little more underground, but that doesn't mean one is necessarily better than the other.
A weighted vest is just as it sounds -- a vest, usually made of nylon or neoprene that has pouches sewn into it. These pouches contain removable weighted bags. Vests start at around 10 pounds and go up to around 60 pounds. Barbells come in two forms -- standard and Olympic. An Olympic barbell is 7 feet in length and weighs 45 pounds. Standard barbells range from 4 to 6 feet and from around 5 pounds to 25 pounds.
When you think of traditional strength-training exercises such as deadlifts, bench presses and rows, you need a barbell for these. For other exercises, such as squats and chin-ups, however, a vest makes a suitable replacement. Instead of holding a barbell across your back when squatting, you could wear a vest. Likewise, ditch your chin-up belt and wear a vest instead to make the exercise harder. The only downside to doing this is that on some exercises, a weighted vest isn't heavy enough to provide a suitable challenge.
Unless you enjoy the weird looks you get from jogging on the treadmill with a barbell on your shoulders, the weighted vest wins hands down when it comes to cardio. Wearing a weighted vest can increase the calorie burn of your cardio workouts by 14 percent, claims Holly St. Lifer of the Fitness Magazine website. Wear a vest that's around 5 to 10 percent of your body weight, advises Cedric Bryant of the American Council on Exercise.
If you have access to a well-equipped gym and want to get stronger, make barbells your main focus. For training at home, or increasing the effectiveness of your cardio, vests are your best bet. Vests are also a good addition if you start to find body-weight exercises such as lunges or pushups too easy, notes strength coach Nia Shanks. This is ideal if you're limited on space and want an easy way of cranking up your training intensity.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.