Gadget Alert: Should You Wear a Weighted Vest While Cycling?

The truth about whether this is a good or bad approach.

Last week a guy I hadn’t seen for a while came to one of my indoor cycling classes looking bulky. Apparently he wanted to make his ride an extra intense sweat-fest so he was wearing a shell jacket as well as shell pants. It wasn’t until the sweat factor became too much for him and he removed the shell on his torso midway through the class that I realized he was wearing a weighted vest underneath. Now, I’ve seen people wear these vests while walking or running but not while cycling—and I wasn’t sure what to think of this so I investigated.


It turns out there isn’t much research on the use of weighted vests during cycling. Several studies have examined the effects of a weighted vest on walking, running, sprinting, and jumping, and some of these have found benefits (while others haven’t). But I came across only one study that investigated the use of weighted vests while cycling.

What the Study Found

In a 2013 study for the American Council on Exercise, Len Kravitz, Ph.D., and his research team examined the metabolic effects of wearing a weighted vest while cycling in a standing position. In the study, 12 women who were active cyclists randomly performed four 4-minute bouts of cycling in a standing position at 65 percent of their peak power output under different conditions—without a vest, while wearing a vest loaded with 5 percent of their body weight, wearing one with 10 percent of their body weight, or one loaded with 15 percent of their body weight.

A 4-minute stint of riding in a seated position served as the control.

Not surprisingly, the women’s heart rates, oxygen consumption, and calorie expenditure were higher in all of the standing conditions but no significant differences were found in terms of heart rate or oxygen consumption between riding standing without a vest and riding standing with weighted vests.

There was, however, a slight boost (around 5 percent) in calorie expenditure while riding with a vest loaded with 15 percent of the women’s body weight, and the women reported a higher perceived effort with the 10 percent and 15 percent weighted vests. In other words, riding with a weighted vest in a standing position felt significantly harder to the cyclists but it provided hardly any additional benefits over riding standing without a vest.

The Bottom Line

Here’s my take on the matter: I’m not a fan for several reasons. For one thing, wearing a weighted vest places more stress on your back and core muscles and it can throw your spine out of its proper alignment. Given the prevalence of poor posture in indoor cycling classes, my feeling is: Why add to the challenge in this way? It’s a recipe for injury and just not worth the risk.

Secondly, you need to consider what you’re hoping to gain by wearing a weighted vest. If your goal is to improve your cycling performance, it’s not going to happen with a weighted vest.

If your goal is to burn more calories, sweat more, or simply work harder, wearing a weighted vest might fit the bill but there are better ways to achieve these same goals. You could crank up the intensity of your workout in a safer fashion by pedaling faster, doing intervals, increasing your resistance along with your pace, or riding in a standing position for long stretches (as the Kravitz study found). Each of these strategies will increase the rate at which you burn calories and your heart rate, and the perceived difficulty of your workout. If those are your goals, you can achieve them gadget-free!

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