Weighted vest vs dip belt: one CLEAR winner

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Should I buy a weighted vest or a dip belt? A question almost as impactful and timeless as ‘what is the meaning of life’… Maybe I have over-sold this… 🙂

In all seriousness when deciding whether a weighted vest or a dip belt is the best option for you it’s worth remembering that BOTH are excellent tools – and the right one for ME may not be the right one for YOU

That said, for a general trainee interested in looking jacked and being pretty fit overall I think there is ONE clear winner.

Weighted vest vs dip belt: one clear winner

At a glance…

  • A weighted vest can be used for MORE exercises (including cardio) and is better for MOST people
  • Dip belts can be loaded heavier so suits those going very heavy on dips or pull-ups ONLY
  • A weight vest is MUCH more comfortable to wear when lifting
  • Bulldog Gear do an excellent 20kg weight vest here in the UK (which I bought)
  • Weighted vest vs backpack: Just don’t do it – please just buy the vest…!

Price: Weighted vests generally more expensive

In a straight shoot out the weighted vest is more expensive. I’ve recently bought a Bulldog 20kg weight vest which, at the time I bought it, was £125. It DID include 20kg of weight bricks. 

This compares to £35 for an equivalent, high quality dip belt.

Of course a dip belt needs weight – not an issue if you already have a home gym set up as you can sling it around any weight plate or other device (I use my Ironmaster Kettlebell) – but if you’re new to working out at home you will need to budget for weight plates if buying a dip belt.

Winner: Dip belt

Dip belts can be more heavily weighted

Weight vests will top out around 20kg for various ergonomic reasons, including:

  • Getting a fully laden vest on can be awkward
  • Adding too many chunky weights will limit mobility as the vest becomes bulky

A dip belt is similarly awkward and difficult to move around with, but as it hangs the weight between your legs it can be dropped to the floor quickly and easily where a vest needs to be lifted on overhead and strapped on.

Winner: Dip belt

Weight vests are more comfortable

A negative for the dip belt is that it can be very uncomfortable if you’re relatively lean – I find the chain (of my admittedly crude) dip belt digs in uncomfortably if I’m in a t-shirt. It’s less acute in a jumper.

When doing longer sets or workouts I ALWAYS reach for the weight vest over the dip belt. Bearing weight on your shoulders is such a fantastic way to carry it comfortably. It feels very natural and allows me to focus on the movement itself.

Fully loaded weighted vest @ 20kg
Weighted vest: Not too bulky – side angle here shows it fully loaded @ 20kg

While I can load the dip belt up with more weight I am nearly always looking forward to the moment the set finishes and I can drop the weight to the ground by releasing the carabiner.

By contrast my weight vest – even when loaded to 20kg – feels more natural on the body.

Winner: Weight vest

Dip belts are less controlled and stable

Dip belts swing a weight between your legs on a chain. A weight vest straps the load fairly evenly across your chest and back.

When chinning or dipping having a weight swinging around can unsettle the movement. I don’t like this as much as I prefer to try and perform reps quickly which can create a pendulum effect. The weight vest is superior here as the weight is locked to your core. If you’re a dynamic individual – so CrossFit orientated, kipping pull-ups or similar – then the weight vest is much more in keeping with training style.

Of course if you’re not doing dynamic or fast movements, or you need to load up HEAVY, then the pendulum swings the other way (if you excuse the pun…!)

Winner: Weight vest

Weighted vest can be used for MORE exercises

With the dip belt hanging between the legs it works well for dips and pull-ups / chin-ups, but not too much else.

A weight vest can be used for these (at admittedly lighter maximum weights), but also the following which a dip belt CAN NOT be used for:

  • Weighted press-ups
  • Running or biking
  • Hill or general sprints
  • HIIT workouts – both sprints and circuit training
  • Walking (walking with a weighted vest is surprisingly popular!)
  • Planks
  • Box jumps
  • Kipping or dynamic pull-up & chin ups 

So I would say a dip belt is better for heavy weighted chin-ups, pull-ups or dips where loading >20kg extra weight, but for virtually all other exercises it’s pretty much useless. The trade off is – of course – that a vest will set you back a few more pounds.

Winner: Weighted vest

Weighted vests vs backpack

Backpacks loaded with books or bottles of water are an alternative to both a weighted dip belt or a vest. The upshot is that you PROBABLY have a bag lying around, and you HOPEFULLY have access to water (drinkable or not) that you can use as ballast.

My Bulldog Gear 20kg Weight Vest - Hanging on an ATX barbell for the ‘gram...
My Bulldog Gear 20kg Weight Vest – Hanging on an ATX barbell for the ‘gram…

So.. A free solution? Unfortunately not.

While it may be free – it’s far from an acceptable solution! I used a weighted backup for a few weeks to perform weighted pushups and it was not enjoyable. Working out should be enjoyable. This was not.

My backpack was a general ‘school’ style backpack (Jansport type). When loaded with some bottles of water it flopped around on my back from side to side, the straps slipped off my shoulder or dug in and it was generally an uninspiring, flimsy mess.

Adding insult to injury when I tried a few chin-ups out of morbid curiosity the bag the bottles slopped to the bottom causing the whole thing to sag and then swing around. The straps didn’t raise the weight high enough on my back to transfer the load to my shoulders and core properly. It felt like a poor way to spend time and effort.

Honestly I am up for a cheap or free solution to almost anything – but this is just not good.

Top Tip… How to make your own dip belt!

So here is a not-quite-free, but quite cheap way to make your own dip belt. Simply head down to your local B&Q and pick up:

  • A length of chain long enough to go around your waist 1.5x
  • Two carabiners
  • Optional: A length of pipe insulation

Now put item 2 on both ends of item 1… Then if you want more comfort wrap your chain in the pipe insulation and use tape to hold in place.

Simply wrap around your wait and use the first carabiner to secure around you, then use the second to load the weight safely and hang between the legs.

All told that should be a fairly cheap solution – the ONLY issue is it is quite uncomfortable (even with the insulation) – so if you have budget, or you are planning to do weighted dips or chins often, a dedicated belt with the wider fabric belt will make it MUCH more comfortable.

Conclusion

A draw – 3 wins for a dip belt versus 3 wins for a weighted vest. That belies the truth which is that the choice between a dip belt or a vest will depend on what you intend to do as each can do things the other simply can’t.

So should you buy a weighted vest or a dip belt? Well if you want to do a wider variety of exercises including pushups, muscle ups, planks or even sprints then the weight vest is the clear winner. If you are only interested in  heavy (>20kg) dips, pull-ups and chin-ups then a dip belt is a more suitable and cost effective solution.