is the adding of weight to various parts of the body through attaching weighted pieces to the body which leave the hands free to grasp. Unlike with held weights or machines, the user is generally more apt for normal movement. In some cases certain weighted clothing can be worn under normal clothing
, to disguise its use to allow exercise in casual environments.
The use of weighted clothing is a form of resistance training, largely due to weight training. In addition to the greater effect of gravity on the person, it also adds resistance during ballistic movements, due to more force needed to overcome the inertia of heavier masses, as well as a greater momentum that needs deceleration at the end of the movement to avoid injury. This is a very good alternate method to increase muscle mass or lose weight.
It is normally done in the form of small weights, attached to increase endurance when performed in long repetitive events, such as running, swimming, punching, kicking, or jumping. Heavier weighted clothing can also be used for slow, controlled movements, and as a way to add resistance to bodyweight exercises.
Lower body weighted clothing
Thigh weights are the most reasonable form of resistance. The location of the mass more readily duplicates the natural fat-storage mechanism of the human body and being closer to the core. In leg raise exercises, it allows more activation of the hip flexors (and abdominals) without putting more strain on the quadriceps muscles
for extension, making it good for sports-specific training on movements like knees and jumping. The greater area and safe location allow it to handle much more weight. For those with wide thighs, such as bodybuilders with large quadriceps, or people with large amounts of fat stores on the inner thigh, it may cause chafing. If worn on both legs, however, the chafing would be between the weights and only damage them, possibly only chafing with a lack of tightness.
Thigh weights are not ideal for movements involving quadriceps use, as they require tightness which may limit the use of the muscle and blood flow to the legs. For such movements, weights worn higher on the body or free weights are more ideal.
Ankle weights are a commonly found weight used in many activities. Further from the core, fixated above the ankle around the lower shin and Achilles tendon, due to leverage much less weight is needed to increase the forces on the body.
As they are attached to a region with a far smaller diameter than the thigh, there is not room for much weight without greatly changing the effective width of the lower leg. An advantage over thigh weights is that they are not attached to any major muscle or fat storage region, so tightness is not a factor and it can be used in almost any exercise.
Being above the ankle, movements incorporating the calf muscles such as calf raises will be of advantage from ankle weights.
Ankle weights are useful in adding weight to pull-ups and dips, especially when incorporating leg raises into the movements. They are also useful in slow kicking katas, and static-active stretching of the legs when balancing on one leg, or suspended in the air.
Light ankle weights have a history of use resistance for kicking in swimming, and of forward flexion in kicking, walking, jogging, and sprinting exercises. Concern has been expressed regarding this type of training. It may put too much stress on the joints, similar to the shearing forces found in leg extension and leg curl exercises.
Practicing weighted movements at high speeds also causes the nervous system to fire at larger intensities. If an individual loses the weight without being trained to adapt to the transition, he may overexert himself without checking at the end of the movement and overextend a tendon. This is more of a risk when people fully extend their limbs in such movements and do not come to a controlled stop at the end, limiting muscle flexion. Generally, the muscle being extended is more at risk, not one held statically. For example, the quadriceps muscle could overexert in a snap kick trained with ankle weights, but in a rising kick, it is the hip flexor muscle more likely to overextend. In either case, the hamstring and associated ligaments would be at risk for a tear.
One major advantage to ankle weights, unlike wrist weights, is that it adds a whole new component to exercises that wrist weights do not, since we can't grip dumbbells with our feet like we can with our hands. It is a major advantage in training rotational hip stabilizers, to work on turnout for martial arts and dance postures. To do this, the leg is bent 90 degrees at the knee, and then rotated inwards and outwards to bring the foot upwards. This is commonly seen in footbag kicks and holds.
Weighted footwear, such as "iron" boots, sandals, and shoes, are generally very similar to ankle weights. The main difference is that being below the ankle, the calf muscle is not activated at all in wearing them. Muscles in both legs only become stimulated when the leg is raised in the air (calf flexion for the rooted leg, hip/knee/ankle for the raised leg, or the entire body if suspended from pull-up bar). For straight-leg flexion (front and back) the slight increase in distance does increase leverage somewhat. In regard to the flexion muscles of the ankle, weighted footwear provides unique methods of working them that ankle weights do not. Leverage is best when the weight is near the tip of the foot, either above the toes or (more often) below the ball of the foot. Flexed to the front, it works the muscle opposite the calf, which is very useful as it is not a commonly activated muscle for movement, generally only a stabilizer to the calf muscle. It is very useful in retaining flexibility. The calf muscle can also be activated, but the leg must be raised behind the body as to make gravity resisting the flexion. At the front of the body, it would only assist calf flexion.
An advantage to weighted footwear is that they can be inconspicuous, depending upon the weight and the form of the footwear in question. This mainly applies to those with a fixed weight, adjustable weighted footwear is more obvious, and may not even be used as normal footwear at all inherent to their design, an example being weighted boots with a pole for the weight stack extending directly from the sole of the foot. For footwear which can be worn normally, an advantage to wearing them beyond additional training stimulus, is their additional mass, which creates far more downward force than one would otherwise have, with foot-dropping attacks such as axe kicks and stomps. To gain this energy, more initial energy must be expended in hip flexion (and possibly knee extension) to raise the foot from the ground.
Core weighted clothing
Hip drags are not so much useful due to their weight, but are small attachments which add drag during many movements in swimming by making the swimmer less streamlined. This added resistance allows the swimmer to build up more force, and swim faster when they are later removed.
Dip belts are a very commonly used form of weight training. They are named for the dip exercise, one of the few and best known methods of adding resistance to it. It is also commonly used to add resistant to pull-ups and knee/leg raises in hanging from a pull-up bar. Unlike most weighted clothing, dip belts are not affixed to the body, but rather the weighted suspends semi-secured to the usually leather belt, suspending from the back and generally kept up by resting on the gluteus.
As such, it is only useful in strength training movements, and not for dynamic movements, making it only pseudo-clothing. Dip belts are also used for added weight in squatting exercises, for people who want to work their quadriceps muscles with more weight without compressing their spine or straining their back muscles or hands. Due to the dangling length, these belt squats are usually done elevated, where the suspended weight will dip much lower than the feet, allowing a sufficient range of motion. How far below the feet it goes can determine the range of motion of the exercise, similar to limitations like squatting in a power rack for working heavy resistance near the top of the movement.
Different from dip belts, weighted belts are affixed to the body and do not use suspended weights or swing. They are useful, like weighted vests, in having weight close to the core and mimic very well the additional weight one might have from body fat stored in the abdomen and lower back. The advantage over other core weights is the flexibility that is freed up by not constraining the upper body, the disadvantage being limited core flexion. There tends to be some overlap in certain larger weighted vests and the region covered by certain larger weighted belts near the upper abdominal muscles.
Weight vests are becoming a very popular form, adding weight around the entire core to for the most part simulate the fat storage areas of the human body. It is very useful for adding weight to limb-centric movements, and for handling great weights. Due to the large area available, it can also handle more weight.
If well-affixed, it is the safest most natural means of mimicking added body mass without unbalancing the body's muscles. They can be used to add resistance to almost any whole-body movement. Most common is use in pull-ups, dips, pushups (normal and handstand), squats and single leg squats.
One problem with some weighted vests is that due to tightness in the shoulder girdle, in movements like pull-ups or high range of motion pushups, the vest can be shearing, either damaging the person or in some cases, the vest itself being slowly torn away. This can also be seen as an advantage, however, in those who wish to limit their range of motion due to lack of strength or flexibility, to avoid injury. The limitations of front and back bending of the core is for example, contrasted by ergonomic construction to encourage good posture in modern weighted vests such as the x-vest, hyper vest or gamebreakers pro suit. Another problem with some weighted vests is the constriction of breathing and overheating due to the use of heavy, non-breathing materials such as nylon and neoprene. The latest developments in weighted vest products offer comfortable weight vests with cool wicking fabric that allow full range and direction of movement, chest expansion for breathing, open sides connected with lacing, and low profile design allowing a vest to be worn under clothing or football pads, unlike traditional vests made of nylon or neoprene.
While heavy weight vests are not helpful in limb extension in movements such as kicks, it can still be beneficial to train with a weight vest. As kicks are done balancing on one leg, this added weight on the leg will teach better balance and handling of forces during kicks. This is notable in jump kicks, though obviously these would only be done after great experience, with very low weights in a controlled manner.
Sometimes, weights are added draped over or tied to the neck. As weighted vests often have weight placed here, they effectively have the same benefits. Advantages to neck weights and more upper-body-centric weighted vests is that they allow easier spinal flexion (contracting abdominals or stretching extensor spinae) and extension (contracting extensor spinae, stretching abdominals). This makes them prime for adding resistance to these movements, and takes out the requirement of using the arms to anchor weight to the upper body to add resistance.
Head weights are generally uncommon, most often used in slow controlled strength movements for the neck. Wearing helmets such as in firefighting and football could be considered a form of head weight, even though light and not worn for such purposes. Generally, as they often inhibit range of motion, the weight is more protective than a risk. Added weight is only a risk if it can torque the neck into bad ranges of motion.
When standing erect, the lowering of a weighted head can aid in attaining static flexibility, though it should be done in a controlled manner with hands spotting. Bringing the head back up to the base position would add to stabilization of the neck through building those muscles. The added weight on top of the head is not a risk at all with wearing head weights in a neutral posture: many people can support their entire body weight on top of their head, in moves like the headstand and headspin found in bboying and yoga.
Laying perpendicular to the ground, flexion of the neck opposite the ground will build active strength of movement centred around the base of the neck, lessening at it goes out further.
Suspended upside down (such as in gravity boots), head weights have a danger of overextending the spine. The muscles utilized in flexing the head in any direction are uniform, and contain a more active flexibility component than in lying on the ground, as the intensity would be most resistance at the 90 degrees of flexion, which most people can't reach even with assistance. This makes it more difficult to over-flex the neck, while lengthening it (albeit, perhaps forcefully) at the same time.
A major limitation in head weights is that they do not train the strength needed to either torque the neck (twisting it) or to resist it's twisting. This makes them rather inadequate for being a sole method of training in preparation for the forces encounter in headspins and the neck locks found in wrestling. This strength is built either in practice or in complicated isometric movements where one tries to turn their head against their hand's resistance, or use their hands to turn their neck and resist it with neck muscles. To do this solely with resisting gravity, it would require leveraged forces extending either above the head, in front or back, or to the sides (depending on position and what is being targeted), and still be very complicated to enact due to deciding where and the helmet apparatus would be attached as to not place too much stress on any part of the delicate head, and to best simulate where such pressures would be felt in the movements being trained for.
Using weighted backpacks is a very common form of weight. It is like clothing when properly affixed, although some backpacks require tension in the pectorals or being held on the arms to keep from sliding off if not properly affixed.
Simpler to put on and remove than weighted vests, it simulates how humans carry things, like young or injured comrades or camping supplies, rather than the storage of body fat. For most exercises, like pull-ups or pushups, it is just as effective as a weighted vest in adding resistance from gravity. Limitations in flexibility forward or backward or to the side in arms may or may not be present depending on the pack as they vary greatly.
A standard form of military and fire fighter training is to be able to carry around a backpack. Part of SWAT training is to be able to do pull-ups wearing a heavy pack.
Distributed Weights / Integrated Weight Systems
Using neoprene or other synthetic fibers to hold weights in place over large muscle groups is a relatively new form of weight system. The significant improvement over traditional weights is that it distributes the mass of the weight over areas of the body that can easily support it. The reduces the likelihood of muscle and/or tendon strain common with ankle and wrist weights that pull the limbs.
Common integrated weight systems can apply weight to the biceps, forearms, thighs and calves and may be used with weighted vests. Frequently they can be hidden under regular clothing allowing the individual to enhance their daily routine with additional calorie burn.
Upper body weighted clothing
Upper arm weights are another method of adding weight close to the core beyond that of a weighted vest, or to add resistance to the shoulders with less danger to the elbows than wrist weights or the added biceps/triceps strain. A problem with these is similar to thigh weights in that those with large biceps, triceps, or fat around the region may experience tightness, and the tightness required can be straining in exercises that involve elbow extension, making it more suitable for leg and core movements.
Wrist weights are used in place of holding dumbbells (or to supplement them) or other hand-held weights as a way of adding leveraged resistance to the movement of the arms. Like ankle weights, practicing explosive movements is not advised, and if done, should be approached gradually, with acceleration before full extension, and also reduced gradually, to avoid overextension injuries. Wrist weights are advantageous in that they do not require a strong grip or wrist extension for added arm resistance like held hand weights do. A disadvantage is that the tightness required to stop movements could possibly increase the damage in those with carpal tunnel syndrome
Weighted gloves serve a similar purpose to wrist weights. Generally, they are worn to prepare for boxing in some fashion. Their advantage, beyond a slight increase in distance for leverage, is the lack of strain on the wrist from having weight isolated there, and better simulating sparring gloves. They are generally not very heavy, and since they limit the grip anyway, unless being used to practice specific striking fists, light dumbbells are more common.
Sensory integration therapy
, a popular therapy for children with autism
and other developmental disabilities, often employs weighted belts and weighted blankets, under the theory that behavioral problems such as inattentiveness and stereotypy
are due to over- or under-sensitivity to sensory input, and that weighted belts and weighted blankets provide priopriocetive feedback that has a calming effect. Only a limited amount of scientific research is available on this treatment; on balance the research indicates that the treatment is very effective for the weighted belt.
Weighted clothing in culture
A full weighted clothing suit which also limits range of motion in the joints is used as a simulation for the difficulty of living in the elderly, who have weakened muscles and joint flexibility. Weighted clothing could also be used to simulate the difficulty many obese people have with living. Ironically enough, these implements can be used as a training method to help fit people become even fitter.
Training in body armour is a common thing done where it is required as part of performance, such as in SWAT, the military, and firefighters. Medieval reenactments of combat in full plate also often include training in these heavy implements, as to be prepared for it. Training in these implements is a good form of general fitness as well. Risks need to be observed as not only do the movements generate more heat than ones without armour, but also contain the heat a lot better which can lead to heat stroke.
Weighted clothing in fiction
- In the Kurt Vonnegut short story Harrison Bergeron, physically strong individuals are weighted down with weights of varying heaviness in accordance to the individuals' strength. This is done to handicap them and make them physically "equal" to a normal person. While this would certainly limit speed and the weight you can lift in addition to yourself and your weighted clothing, it would also greatly increase your mass, which can increase the power from the momentum behind strikes.
Manga and Anime
- In Dragon Ball and the start of Dragon Ball Z, many of the characters wear weighted clothing as a form of training to increase their strength. Master Roshi wears a heavy-weighted turtle shell on his back, as do Goku and Kuririn during their time training with him, though they don't seem to continue doing it after. While this method of training is unknown in reality, it simulates training wearing heavy backpacks, and is far more sensible due to the round shape which would make rolling easier and deflects blows easier. In the world tournament Goku goes up against Tien Shinhan, to which he throws off his clothes which were weighted, he then gains in speed and power. In DBZ Goku and Piccolo hide weights in their gis. Removing the clothing visibly increased their power levels on Raditz' power level scanner. Later in the series, the characters use gravity-multiplying machines to train. By increasing their bodyweights, they no longer require cumbersome weighted clothing to train properly, as bodyweight movements suffice.
- In Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin's master Hiko Seijuro wears a white coat (modelled after Spawn) containing weighted springs that constrict the garment and require a person's muscles to work from being crushed. The resistance it provides is more due to the tensile force of the springs rather than their weight, though they would contribute somewhat. Upon removing it, the strength built through wearing it can be used against opponents. A suit like this would be dangerous and hard to design in real life, though there is something that attempts a similar idea. This is not technically a weighted clothing, but a form of resistance clothing as it uses a force other than gravity to resist the movements. It will remain here until clothing like this has its own article.
- In Naruto, the taijutsu expert Rock Lee uses stone-weighted clothing. He wears extremely dense ankle weights, and rarely removes them. He later wears weighted sandals, a weighted belt, and wrist weights for training.
- In The Prince of Tennis, Sadaharu Inui uses various weighted clothing to exercise his body while reading and taking notes.
- In Hajime No Ippo, the Osaka brawler boxer named Sendo Takeshi adds ankle weight to his training routine in order to build up greater lower body strength. The effects of this addition do not show themselves until his second Japanese title defense when the training results in increased weight shifting and dashing power.
- In Beyblade, Kai Hiwatari wears wrist weights all day and during bey blade battles, keeping them as an emergency reserve (much like Rock Lee) for added power and speed to unleash the power of his beast when they are removed.
- In Hunter X Hunter, before seeing Killua, Gon, Kurapika and Leorio wear weighted slippers and clothing during their stay at the gatekeeper's house.
- In Samurai Jack a native tribe of monkeys have immense jumping ability required by Jack. He trains with massive rocks tied to his ankles until the day he can jump a very small amount (less than 1mm). The tribe unbind him, and upon jumping he leaps an enourmous distance into the air. As a fictional example, a similar regime in reality would probably cause long term joint damage.
- In Kung Fu Hustle, the Tailor wears brass rings used in Hung Gar training. However, his rings are also used as weapons.
- In the non-fiction documentary The Smashing Machine, Mixed Martial Arts fighter Mark Kerr runs up and down stairs wearing a weighted vest as part of his training.
- In Drunken Master, Jackie Chan wears weights on his wrist while doing 5 hour's horse stance as his punishment.