Best Weight Vest for Firefighter Training: How heavy?
Weighted vests for firefighters are a popular bodyweight training tool. But what features make the best weight vest for firefighter training? The Hyper Vest® weighted vest from Hyperwear has long been a popular choice for firefighter weight vest training. One of our firefighting customers wears 10-15 pounds around all day for everything from working out, to washing the fire engine, to cooking lunch. When the call comes for a fire, he takes off the vest and puts his gear on. Now, because his muscles have been trained to carry 10-15 pounds of excess weight all day, his 40 pounds of gear feels more like 25 pounds. In addition, because he wears his vest cinched down pretty tight during the day, he is training his lungs to work harder, which means he has greater oxygen efficiency when actually in a fire. Lighter-feeling gear + greater oxygen efficiency = a firefighter with even better ability to save me when it counts. So the best weight vest for firefighter training is not necessarily the heaviest one that you can find.
A heavy weight vest is good for firefighters too. The demands of the public safety job include being able to carry a fire victim on a ladder. When shopping for a heavy weight vest a firefighter needs to pick one that has adjustable weights. Strength is built by progressive loading. The best weighted vest for firefighter training is one where you can start with lighter weight and increase over time. With this in mind, Hyperwear designed the Hyper Vest TAC tactical style weight vest that holds up to 40 lbs of 1/2 pound weights. Men's Health named it the "Best Heavy Weight Vest" in 2023.
Should you train with the heaviest weight vest possible if you are a firefighter? Not to start with. As sports performance training has evolved to focus on training for movement more than muscle development, so has thinking about how to use a weighted vest for firefighter training.
The CrossFit MURPH WOD is a perfect example. Using a 20 lb weight vest for MURPH is what makes the WOD such a benefit for functional strength. A weighted vest that is easy to zip-on and off is another quality you want in the best weight vest for firefighter training.
Wearing a form-fitting weight vest that can be worn longer and during movement, like the Hyper Vest adjustable weight vest, is best. Additional weight can be included in your training by lifting, carrying and throwing heavy neoprene sandbag weights like the SandBell or SteelBell. The SandBell comes in up to a 50 pound size. The SteelBell is available in weights all the way up to 200 pounds. Training with shifting dead weight in these sandbag training tools is a perfect example of training for functional movement. The movement of lifting and carrying a person in a fire rescue for example. Dynamic firefighter performance training can be a big part of a program to reduce injuries and improve health and performance.
A perfect example is the SteelBell ground to shoulder exercise: