T Nation

Training for Size with Only a Weight Vest


#1

Hi!

First post on T-Nation, so hello to everyone.

On topic;

Would you say it is possible to make noticeable size gains while training only with a weighted vest?

The reason I ask is because lately I've been thinking that trainning with weights is not the optimal way to develop power that can be translated in other physical activities (in my case, grappling).

It seems to me that most body weight training works the body more a whole (push up variations vs. bench pressing, pull up variations vs. dumbell/barbell rows etc.).

However, I still don't wanna be skinny like most of the body weight guys on youtube look (there are exceptions of course) and I love the added size weight training gives you.

I crossed my mind that a weighted vest might enable to get the best of both worlds.

Your opionion? Experience?

Thanks in advance.


#2

First question: Yes it is possible, provided you have a weight vest that allows you to load your chosen movements significantly enough to keep your target reps/set in the mass-building range; this could be anywhere from 5-50 reps depending on the movement, muscles being trained, and the goal of the particular set.

My opinion on your idea: I don’t think there is such a thing as “sport-specific” strength training, unless your sport is a strength sport (PL, OL, strongman, etc). Strength is a general skill, and strength training is general practice for that skill. To make it specific to your sport, you must practice your sport and learn how to apply it optimally. I don’t think you will achieve optimal results training with a weight vest to the exclusion of all other strength training implements.

Why use a screwdriver to pound a nail when you could use a hammer instead?


#3

i have a 10 kg weighted vest.
i wear it while doing push-ups, dips and lunges.
its a great investment for those training in their home gyms with very limited equipment ( like me )


#4

what is your current level of strength and experience with strength training.


#5

Thanks for the great answers!

@ TheCB: I would say intermediate. I can press my bodyweight, squat a little more, can do a around 15 (unweighted) pullups, can do pistol squats (but no more than 10 in a row), etc.

@ Steel Nation: Great input. I definetly see your point about weights being superior in some ways to body weight movements (even weighted).
Still, I can’t help but wonder if the overall return is better with body weight than with the dumbell or barbell.
I also feel that the dumbell and barbell training leaves you more exausted in comparison, which is a negative for someone’s whos main goal is not size/strength. To me, size and strength are a tool to aid my main sport which is grappling. So if I can use a method which is less taxing on the body overall, it is preferable to me. But as I said in the OP, that is only true if I can still maintain decent muscle mass.


#6

at that level of strength you probably can add size with your plan.

for your goals you should look into calisthenics/ bar work imo - pullups/muscle ups/ dips and some of the more specialist stuff they do add in barbell squats as well maybe


#7

[quote]Steel Nation wrote:
Why use a screwdriver to pound a nail when you could use a hammer instead?[/quote]
This. Exercises are tools in a toolbox. You can’t use the wrong tool for a certain job and then say “See! I told you that wouldn’t work.” Ring dips and weighted chin-ups are killer exercises for grapplers, but so are push presses and turkish get-ups and farmer’s walks.

[quote]GrapplingGuy wrote:
Would you say it is possible to make noticeable size gains while training only with a weighted vest?[/quote]
“Noticeable” is a vague term, but yes it’s possible to build muscle (up to a point) using only a weight vest, or only one kettlebell or only a barbell. The biggest hurdle you’ll eventually hit is finding a way to progress in volume and/or load (possibly tempo) before having to change to a more challenging exercise variation.

Sounds like you’re almost talking about “functional training”, which has become something of a dirty phrase because it’s misunderstood and misapplied. I’ll just say that variables like volume, frequency, and general exercise selection are more important in that regard, rather than thinking in terms of “just bodyweight” vs “just free weights”.

It’s just as easy, maybe easier, to come up with a crappy bodyweight/weight vest routine compared to coming up with a crappy free weight routine. Focus on the bigger picture - your specific short and long-term goals - and use any/every method available to reach those goals.

I disagree. A bodyweight power clean, for example, will “work” the body more completely than pretty much any weighted bodyweight exercise I can think of. It will also go more towards building the strength, speed, and athleticism a fighter needs more than weighted push-ups, pistols, or gymnastic holds.

Then your programming (volume, intensity, and/or frequency) is wrong. That’s not an issue with free weights.

Do you mean overhead press or bench press? In either case, a well-designed program would’ve had you squatting more than “a little more” than what you can press.

Also, your profile lists your weight as 170 and your height as 175. Is that pounds for weight and cm for height?


#8

Barbells/Weights are king for strength and mass. You’d have to do a lot of pushups, pullups, tiger pushups, inverted rows, one arm pushups to get the same growth or strength effect that a few heavy barbell rows and close grip bench presses will produce.

Body-weight moves and calisthenics are great for relative strength, mobility, flexibility, work capacity/conditioning and all the things that make up “athleticism.” You could do broad jumps, pushups and walking lunges today and get a good workout in 12 minutes especially if you added the weight vest. Or you could spend a lot of time doing turkish get ups, Bulgarian split squats, 1 Arm bottoms ups kettle bell presses trying to get the same “functional strength.”

Your goal as a grappler is to get the most pay-off for the least time invested. So like SteelNation said, you want the best tool for the job. Do the lifts that challenge your strength, and the body weight stuff that challenges your mobility and stability. Spend your non-grappling time doing the most “great exercises.” Don’t worry if they are weighted or body weight. The best of both worlds will really be do do the best barbell moves and the best body weight moves.

If you can (overhead?) press bodyweight and do 15 chins you’re on the right track upper body wise.

On the other hand, if you can do 10 one legged squats but only barbell squat a little above bodyweight you really owe it to yourself to spend some time weight training your legs. You don’t have to squat super heavy weights, but you at least want to squat your bodyweight for many reps. It’s too soon to switch to just BW moves for legs.


#9

Yeah, what he said.


#10

Noticeable size gains are made in the kitchen. Exercise will help you shape it. Those “small” people you see on the internet most likely don’t eat that much since too much weight will seriously hinder the advanced exercises they do.


#11

@TheCB: Thanks for the advice!

@Chris Colucci: First of thanks for taking the time for such an informative post, really appreciate it.

Regarding the “right tool in the tool box” metaphor; I completely agree. I do believe in the way that best suits the specific goal(s) one is after. The reason for this thread was my unceraintanty with dumbell and barbell training being that tool as compared to body weight movements.

Regarding “functional training”; LOL, I’m also not really a big fan of the term and believe it’s been grossly missused and misinterpreted.
IMO, functional training is whatever is functional to the goal or goals you have decided for yourself. In my case, those are (by order of importance):

  1. Strength and power for grappling purposes.
  2. Size
  3. Overall health and longevity

And sometimes those 3 are not interchangble in the time you would choose to train for each one.
For example, if I traininng just for size; I would do SS or 5/3/1 with some isolation added in. If I was traininng just for overall health and longevity I would probably choose just unweighted body weight and a long walk occasionaly.
So my obstacle is really to find the correct way that combines all 3 goals, with 1 being the main goal.
I get what you’re saying about how you can follown a non effective routine with whatever type of traininng, no arguement there.
Again, my goal is to find the most suited tool and then a program using that.

Regarding my weight and height; You are correct. Height is in CM and weight in pounds.
175 CM translates to 5’9 ofcourse.

So overall, if I understand you correctly, you’re view is neither way of traininng is better than the other, and that both can be used as effectively given the right program?


#12

@FlatsFarmer: Thanks alot man. I think I’m starting to get the idea.

@Airtruth: I agree to an extent. I still think those guys aren’t nearly as big as they were if they were doing an equally high level (and they are certainly very high level) barbell and dumbell plan.


#13

Oh and by “press” I meant bench.
I am well aware I can still make a long way in barbell and dumbell traininng. This thread was to understand if that’s the best way to take for my reasons.


#14

[quote]GrapplingGuy wrote:
Would you say it is possible to make noticeable size gains while training only with a weighted vest?

The reason I ask is because lately I’ve been thinking that trainning with weights is not the optimal way to develop power that can be translated in other physical activities (in my case, grappling).
[/quote]

Size and power are two different things.

[quote]
It seems to me that most body weight training works the body more a whole (push up variations vs. bench pressing, pull up variations vs. dumbell/barbell rows etc.).

However, I still don’t wanna be skinny like most of the body weight guys on youtube look (there are exceptions of course) and I love the added size weight training gives you.

I crossed my mind that a weighted vest might enable to get the best of both worlds.

Your opionion? Experience?

Thanks in advance.[/quote]

I personally don’t think so. You can add size by adding weight to otherwise body weight movements, but not at the rate you would with barbell / dumbbell movements with the same goal.

Like Airtruth said, a lot of that will depends on what you do in the kitchen.

Now, do I think using a weighted vest as a way to augment your grappling training is useful? Yes. I personally also think gymnastics training is useful to a grappler. I think these two things will translate better on the mat while size alone does not. It just changes your weight class really.

How do you plan on addressing grip strength?


#15

Question for you, OP. Let’s say you have a match between two guys that are the same height, weight, and skill level. One trains using the weighted vest as a primary form of resistance. The other squats 2x his BW, DLs 2.5, benches 1.5, and uses the vest as part of his accessory and GPP.

Who do you think stands a better chance of winning that match?


#16

[quote]Steve-O-68 wrote:
Question for you, OP. Let’s say you have a match between two guys that are the same height, weight, and skill level. One trains using the weighted vest as a primary form of resistance. The other squats 2x his BW, DLs 2.5, benches 1.5, and uses the vest as part of his accessory and GPP.

Who do you think stands a better chance of winning that match?[/quote]

Well that’s really the whole question in the thread :slight_smile:

Honestly, if the guy using the weight vest can train in the same intensity as the guy using weights, I coulnd’t tell.

Who do you think would win? And why?


#17

[quote]usmccds423 wrote:

[quote]GrapplingGuy wrote:
Would you say it is possible to make noticeable size gains while training only with a weighted vest?

The reason I ask is because lately I’ve been thinking that trainning with weights is not the optimal way to develop power that can be translated in other physical activities (in my case, grappling).
[/quote]

Size and power are two different things.

[quote]
It seems to me that most body weight training works the body more a whole (push up variations vs. bench pressing, pull up variations vs. dumbell/barbell rows etc.).

However, I still don’t wanna be skinny like most of the body weight guys on youtube look (there are exceptions of course) and I love the added size weight training gives you.

I crossed my mind that a weighted vest might enable to get the best of both worlds.

Your opionion? Experience?

Thanks in advance.[/quote]

I personally don’t think so. You can add size by adding weight to otherwise body weight movements, but not at the rate you would with barbell / dumbbell movements with the same goal.

Like Airtruth said, a lot of that will depends on what you do in the kitchen.

Now, do I think using a weighted vest as a way to augment your grappling training is useful? Yes. I personally also think gymnastics training is useful to a grappler. I think these two things will translate better on the mat while size alone does not. It just changes your weight class really.

How do you plan on addressing grip strength?[/quote]

Well you’re grip gets plenty of work both using dumbells\barbell or doing body weight using a bar (dips, pullup variations).

I don’t really see an advantage for one over the other.


#18

[quote]usmccds423 wrote:
I personally don’t think so. You can add size by adding weight to otherwise body weight movements, but not at the rate you would with barbell / dumbbell movements with the same goal. [/quote]
I don’t have enough personal experience to say otherwise, but I’m surprised by this.

I’d imagine you can add just as much size with weighted dips and pullups as any barbell lift, assuming you trained them in similar ways.

Was that what you meant?


#19

[quote]GrapplingGuy wrote:
Well that’s really the whole question in the thread :slight_smile:

Honestly, if the guy using the weight vest can train in the same intensity as the guy using weights, I coulnd’t tell.

Who do you think would win? And why?[/quote]

If skill is equal or slightly in favor of the weight-vest guy, barbell training guy will win.

A 2xbw squat and 2.5xbw deadlift + good grappling skills is scary.


#20

[quote]GrapplingGuy wrote:
Well you’re grip gets plenty of work both using dumbells\barbell or doing body weight using a bar (dips, pullup variations).
[/quote]

For general fitness maybe, but not necessarily for grappling especially if you’re wearing a Gi.