I am always looking for different bits of training kit to try and utilise in my sessions, to add something different or enhance a specific area. It’s always a bit of a minefield as the fitness market is littered with loads of dodgy and gimmicky gear.
One piece of gym equipment that is far from dodgy or gimmicky is the Raptor Weighted vest. I came across the Raptor weight vest by accident, as I have tendonitis of my knees which means I am constantly having to do rehab on them. One of the exercises that I do often, are Decline eccentric squats, which requires me to either, hold or wear a weight. My rehab is very Posterior chain dominated.
I have tried wearing a weight vest for these various exercises, but always found them to be of poor quality and too light, but I am not saying they are all like that, but certainly the ones I had used in the past.
I was looking through good old twitter one day, when I came across Raptor and their unique vests. One is a Short body Pro vest which weighs a modest 15Kg and has 11 anchor points for towing 250lbs etc.
This looked awesome to me, as lot of the training I am doing is functional, circuit based stuff which has
- Sled pulls
- Down and ups
- Chin ups
- Tyre pulls
- Bungee work
So having a vest that you can wear and attach things to, to act as a harness as well as a being a weighted vest seemed like a great idea. It would make my life much easier, as well as trying to maintain momentum in a session and changing in and out of an ill fitting harness, to a weight vest is never ideal.
The other vest is the range, is the Raptor Military vest. This is probably the most practical vest to use on the pitch and in a gym setting, as it has a quick on and off belt system, utilising a large velcro strap and weighs 22kg / 50lbs with the impact weights and 28Kg / 60lbs with cast iron fill weights or what you would probably go for are the soft fill double stitched neoprene bags filled with shotgun ball bearings.
I contacted Raptor and asked if I could try these vests out for my blog and see what training was like wearing one. What struck me straight away was the build quality of all the equipment I was given. Everything is British made, with military standard build quality. You buy one of these and its something you will have for life. Everything is double stitched and it has a washable lining. The vests were originally used as training tool by the MOD to simulate soldiers wearing all their body armour and webbing. The MOD continues to use the military vest as a tool for troopers to build up to their Osprey body armour, which weighs 3 stone!
I went for the half-length pro vest to start with, and have been using it almost every day in some form or another. I do all my rehab in it, which would be for example the following.
- Eccentric single leg squats
- Calf raises
- Glute Bridge
- Body weight squats
I have also been using it during the main bulk of my sessions to pull sleds, do single leg inclusion squats (as you can see in the video)
It's amazing how tough it can be carrying more weight around while doing a session. Simple things get hard pretty quickly, so I try to keep the vest on as long as I can, and obviously some lifts mean it’s just not possible.
The Pro vests fit very snuggly and doesn’t move at all once you have centred it and strapped yourself in, unlike other ones on the market. Once you have it on it’s a tight fit. It also restricts a bit of your breathing when you get really tired, which just makes the session tougher. Whether you are pulling sleds or doing lunges, it won’t move around. I have to say a lot of the time I will drop out some of the hard cast iron blocks to reduce the weight. They come and out go back really easy. As carrying an extra 15kg is pretty hard and when you are lifting more weight as well on a barbell it can be a little too much.
The only criticism I have of the pro vest, is because of the fact you are pulling heavy weights in it, you need a buckle system at the front instead of a Velcro strap, this can be quite fiddly especially if you are tired, but once you get the hang of it, you don’t really notice it.
I also found that the pro vest is a great aid for most of the different types of sessions you could find yourself doing, running based fitness, strength, power. cross fit, rehab. However when you want to be really dynamic and do things like down and ups or anything involving getting off the floor the bulk of it can became a small issue, and the hard solid weights, are not great to land on. The guys at Raptor as always have thought of everything and do soft fill for this vest too, so problem solved.
This is where the Military vest comes into its own. Its actually heavier, but contains soft fill double stitched bags of shotgun pellets, which mean you can hit the deck, have light contact rugby sessions, wrestle, get up and down.
UFC star Jimi Manuwan uses one as part of his training. As you can see from the video. It is just as versatile as the pro vest with the option of the D-ring on the back for bungee work.
I had the Military vest with me on England duty, and used it again for my rehab, some cross fit sessions and most of my body weight work. As you can see from the video, it was great for the monkey bars.
Like the Pro Vest it fits really well and is very fast on and off. At times I did reduce the weight by popping the soft fill bags in and out. Not quite as easy as the solid ones but still simple.
Overall the Pro vest is a great addition to my rehab and training program. There are limitations to training with weight vests, but if you want to take things up a notch then the pro vest is for you. Its hardcore, is great for people who like a circuit-based session and want to make things harder. The military vest is in my opinion is best used for the every day trainer. Those who run rehab gyms, or PT classes should invest in one. Get you client to do the following for example in one
- 20meter run
- 5 burbeeps
- Chin ups
They will be knackered but get quick results and if you don’t have a lot of time but need a blast this is great.
I have been using mine in conjunction with something called Fit Deck that is essentially a set of playing cards with different Crossfit exercises on them. They do them for loads of different exercises and training methods. (I am going to write a blog on them)
You Deal out say 8 cards and do each exercise 3 times through, with the reps written on them Say 6 of each, continuously, while wearing the vest and you are cooked in 15mins. Short intense, hard work without the need to lift big weights or go to a gym.
I think every gym or Pt should have one, especially guys looking to add to their body weight training without going mad.
If you are interested in getting one then click on the link below.