Weighted Dip Belt vs Weight Vest. Which is best?
Which is the Better Option, the Dipping Belt or the Weight Vest?
This depends on what you intend to use it for. Generally for static strength, calisthenics exercises like pull ups, dips and muscle ups, the dipping belt is better as you can add more weight and it does not restrict upper body movements. Whereas the vest is a better option for dynamic movements such as increasing the intensity of cardio drills, push ups and explosive exercises like box jumps.
This article goes into more depth about practical considerations when choosing your equipment such as:
Value for money
Which option is best for certain exercises
Which one easier to use?
Whats the more comfortable option? (Does one size fit all?)
What is the better option if you have had back injuries?
Which is better for building strength and muscle?
Any alternatives? Other practical concerns?
All Things Being Equal is One More Difficult Then The Other?
If you were to do a pull up of an additional 40 KG with a weighted vest and 40 KG with a dipping belt, the vest would feel marginally less taxing. This is because the weighted vest is centred around your body mass and evenly distributed around your upper body.
The vest take any stabilisation or balance of the external weight, out of the equation. It more accurately simulates adding more body mass to your frame.
With the dipping belt the weight is more concentrated on one anchor point around your hips and there is an element of stability with the weight hanging from your body as opposed to being wrapped around it.
The fact the vest makes the pull up slightly less taxing does not necessarily make it the better training tool, particularly for pull ups and dips. There are other considerations such as the comfort of the equipment and which is better for maintaining a progressive overload, that are discussed further in this article.
The difference between how much you can lift with either equipment is subtle but noticeable, and its something to bear in mind if switch between a belt or a vest over the course of your training regime.
If you ever get the opportunity to try the difference between the two, you will be able to tell either in terms of the number or reps you can perform or your one rep max.
Which Equipment is Best for Which Exercise?
There is a clear distinction between which equipment is best for certain exercises. Generally any big compound movement that needs to be scaled with more weight, the the dip belt is the best option.
This means that the dip belt is a better option for:
These three exercises are major staples of calisthenics and all are perfect for hypertrophy and maintaining a progressive overload for strength and muscle gains.
The weight vest is more is more of a generalist tool and definitely more versatile. You can do all three of the calisthenics staples but there are many exercises that you can do with a vest, that aren't possible with a dip belt. This due to the fact that the weight is centred around the body making it more secure during dynamic motion.
For example a weight vest can be used to make the following exercises more challenging.
Agility based coordination drills
Kipping pull ups and muscle ups
The weight vest clearly more suitable for a wider array of exercises, however the dip belt is more of a specialist tool and it’s far more comfortable and easy to use when doing pull ups, dips and muscle ups.
A note for caution if you plan on using a vest to increase the intensity of your running is that adding weight can be very hard on your joints, particularly if your running on hard surfaces.
I would restrict this type of training to hill sprints on grass or sand, or perhaps consider using the weight vest for cycling as this is a non-weight baring (on your joints) form of cardio and can add significant challenge to up hill courses.
Best Value for Money
On average a dipping belt is much cheaper then a vest. Of course this is because the vest comes with the additional weight built into it so buying a vest can be more cost effective if you don't own any weight plates to use with a dip belt.
There is also a wider variety of exercises you can do with a vest, from weighted calisthenics to weighted hill sprints.
The dip belt does have the advantage of allowing you to add a practically unlimited amount of weight to it for pull ups and dips whereas the weighted vest has a limited capacity of weight you can add to it (usually around 30 KG or 66 lbs).
Therefore if you are training for strength then it probable at some point you may exceed the weight capacity of the vest which would render it less value for money then the dipping belt which you can easily scale up with more weight plates.
In terms of which is superior value for money it depends more on your intended use.
In terms of progressional strength and muscle building potential, the dipping belt is far superior and significantly cheaper then the vest, particularly if you already have weight plates at home or use them at the gym.
If you want to use weighted resistance for a wide variety of training, for example strength and endurance conditioning or weighted running then the vest is the more versatile option and may represent the best value for money for you.
Which One is Easier to Use?
Adding external weight to your own body weight can be a tricky business. If you are using a relatively low weight then using a vest is a viable option for a variety of exercises.
However if you are loading up your vest or using it at its full capacity, it is remarkably difficult to put it on by yourself. Lifting up 30 KG+ (66 lbs +) over your head and onto your body is more challenging then lifting a barbell over your head because the vest is not structurally solid and therefore feels like lifting a sandbag.
Putting a weighted vest on and taking it off can be difficult, impractical and tiring to do between sets or different exercises. This is why they tend to be limited to 30 KG/66 lbs.
Also the weight on a vest is distributed evenly in several different pouches. This makes it slightly more time consuming to add or subtract weight. Whereas with a dipping belt the whole process is much easier.
You just thread the chain through any standard weight plate with the belt around your hips and attach the chain to the other side of the belt with a carabina clip. This is very easy and takes far less time the adjusting a vest and makes it very useful if you are practising drop sets and you are changing the weight frequently.
With the belt you also know exactly how much weight you are lifting with each plate that you add, but with the vest it can be more difficult to know the exact weight at all times as the weight is divided up and distributed into many smaller weights, sometimes with an inexact numerical value.
Which is More Comfortable?
This can depend on the type of exercise you are doing, but on balance the dipping belt is far more comfortable to wear during workouts then a weighted vest.
When you wear a dip belt correctly, the pressure is distributed round your hips as the weight hangs down below you. The additional weight is thus supported by your legs before you grab hold of the equipment and start the exercise.
In my personal experience this is more comfortable, and it doesn't interfere with or hinder you during upper body exercises.
The weight vest is obviously supported by your upper body and the pressure is felt predominately on your shoulders. Most decent weight vests, pad out the shoulder section of the vest to negate any discomfort as much as possible.
During upper body compound movements (in particular dips and muscle ups) I find the weight vest tends to get more uncomfortable with the more reps that you do. This is mainly in terms of the friction of the material rubbing against my shoulders as I go through the range of motion of an exercise.
With dips and in particular muscle ups there is a good deal of shoulder mobility required to do the exercises with a full range of motion. The weight vest can impede this action and chafe against your shoulders.
Dipping belts simply don't get in the way of your upper body as hips and legs aren't an integral part of the motion, and therefore the belt is well suited for pull ups and dipping far more comfortably.
Does One Size Fit All?
In my experience both vests and belts are able accommodate different physical frames. You can adjust your weight vest with velcro straps for the perfect fit.
There is occasionally an issue of the vests shoulder pads causing friction/digging into trapezius muscle at the top of the shoulder if you have a particularly pronounced shoulder muscles.
If you suspect this maybe an issue for you then the belt is the safer bet. dipping belts are very easily adjusted and fit around your hips comfortably.
Which One is More Comfortable for Your Back?
Anyone who has previously had a back injury or discomfort that tries weighted calisthenics generally prefers the dipping belt.
The vest weight rests on your upper body; predominately your shoulders. This means the upper body and the spine can passively support the added external weight. But if there is already injury or discomfort there, then the additional weight can irritate or even exacerbate old injuries, particularly if you are using a heavier weight.
The dipping belt sits around your hips, therefore the weight is carried by your lower body and does not put any pressure your spine or back muscles. The muscles, joints and skeletal structure of the lower body are well suited to handle the sort of weight range you would typically use in a weighted calisthenics work out.
Anyone who is concerned about niggling back pain, I would recommend the dipping belt, particularly if your focus is on building strength and muscle with the static, compound strength exercises such as dips and pull ups.
Which is Better for Maintaining a Progressive Overload?
Both the dipping belt and the weight vest are adjustable in terms of how much weight you want to add. This allows you to add more weight to increase the resistance and maintain a progressive overload to build size and strength.
With the weighted vest however there is a limit to how much weight you can add. Most reasonably priced weight vests on the market tend to have a limit of around 30 KG (66 lbs) . There is of more expensive options to go even heavier then the typical 30 KG limit, however there are practical problems associated with putting on and taking off a heavy vest.
If your goal is to gain strength and muscle then you may exceed the 30 KG limit of the vests resistance without any scope to increase it.
However with the dipping belt the weight is more practical in this aspect as you can carry on adding heavier weight plates either at the gym or at home without restriction.
The dipping belt can comfortably hold more weight then you could ever pull up or dip. All the world records for heaviest pull ups, dips and muscle ups are set with a dipping belt and not a weighted vest.
The dipping belt also has the advantage that you can add or take away weights without fuss which makes it easier to do drop sets which are great for muscle building.
You can adjust the weight of the weight vest but you have to take out the little weights that are stored in each compartment. This can be tricky and time consuming, particularly whilst wearing the vest during a work out, in between sets.
Which is more portable?
A 30 KG+ weighted vest is not necessarily the most practical, of equipment to take to the gym/calisthenics park or wherever you want to use it.
Carrying a 30 KG vest is different to carrying a 30 KG barbell as the vest tends to 'dead weight' like a sandbag and can be hard to carry with you. The dipping belt is light and portable, you can easily put it in your gym bag and take it around with you.
Of course you need the weight plates or kettle bell to attach to the belt, but if you are headed to the gym anyway then this isn't a problem.
Any other issues?
Hygiene can potentially be an issue with the vest. Obviously, as the vest goes around your body it is in contact with your skin/workout clothes. An added layer combined with an intense workout can really bring on a sweat, particularly in a hot or humid climate.
This sweat can then be absorbed into the material of the vest and over time, inevitably begin to smell.
Generally advice from various manufactures seems to be, to hand wash with soap and not to machine wash to clean it. Also many vests are made from material that hinders sweat transfer so this may only be an occasional minor inconvenience .
Alternatives to a vest or belt
A good cost effective alternative to these two options is a comfortable back pack with something to weigh it down.
Weight plates and dumbbells obviously work well as do sand bags or heavy books. This can be a versatile, economical substitute to an expensive weight vest and it can be effective with a similar range of exercises.
The drawback is that if you are loading up a significant weight in the back pack then you have to counter the feeling of being pulled backwards with exercises such as pull ups or dips.
The weight is obviously concentrated behind you whereas the vest distributes the weight more evenly around your upper body so that you are more balanced.
So if you attempt any cross fit, kipping style exercises or you are doing explosive exercises such as box jumps then a weighted back pack is not the most appropriate choice.
However I do still think a backpack can be a good starting point in weighted calisthenics and its a good, basic way to scale up exercises without spending a lot of money.
Another alternative is ankle weights. These are obviously limited in their weight capacity (typically to around 4.5 KG (10 lbs) so there is less potential for progression.
Rather then being a versatile option they are far more suited to specialist use for specific exercises, particularly gymnastic exercises such as 'skin the cat' or l-sits, therefore they can be very effective for core training and developing a six pack.
So which option is best for you?
The dipping belt is more specialised then the weight vest. It is by far the better option when it comes to increasing size and strength when training pull ups and dips.
The fact it hangs from you hips and doesn't rest over your upper body like the vest makes it much more comfortable and less restrictive for these exercises too.
The mechanism of threading a chain through weight plates and securing it with a carabina makes the belt very easy to adjust the weight, which is particularly useful if you are increasing the weight over the course of the workout or practising drop sets.
The belt is also a much more cost effective option as they are very reasonably priced and much cheaper then a decent weight vest.
The vest is a decent option if you want to scale your push ups by adding more weight. It can be used for more exercises then the belt and offers an option to add more resistance to cardio, in the form of hill runs.
If you are a cross-fitter who likes to practice kipping exercises then the vest will remain stable throughout there exercise. (Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend adding weight to kipping movements for the sake your your joints and connective tissue)
Lower body exercises such as pistol squats and box jumps can be practised with a weighted vest, with great results. The vest offers the option of increasing the intensity of lower leg workouts for functional strength, which can otherwise be difficult with just a calisthenics, bodyweight approach.
In terms of functionality there is a quite a big difference between a vest and a belt so this often tends to be the deciding factor.
Personally I prefer the dipping belt as it has helped me scale my calisthenics workouts for muscle and strength gains. I have never have any problems with comfort (even whilst using weights of 70 KG (154 lbs) and its far easier to put on and use then a weight vest.
Because I want to preserve my joints I don't use a vest for any cardio and just prefer increasing the intensity in others ways (sprints and uphill runs). However I do like how you can really increase your power with push ups and do explosive box jumps with a vest.
On balance I'd choose the belt every time but there is always space for a vest if you want the complete calisthenics equipment arsenal.
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