Do I Need A Weight Vest? (CrossFit Equipment Series)

With Murph coming up, athletes who have been doing workouts at our athlete track for a while start to eye the possibility of doing Murph as prescribed (Rxd)!

For those of us who don’t know how Murph was originally written:


1 Mile Run

100 Pull-Ups

200 Push-Ups

300 Air Squats

1 Mile Run

In a 20#/14# Weight Vest

Now we usually call Rx Murph doing the whole workout without a vest and you can perform the middle portion (the gymnastic movements) in any order you like. But, an old school workout involves doing this workout straight through with that weight vest.

Why was Murph programmed with a weight vest?

Because CrossFit grew quickly when it was introduced to soldiers at Camp Pendleton and a weight vest is a way to symbolically represent part of the load soldiers carry when they go into battle. For non-symbolic purposes, on top of it adding weight to your body, it makes it harder to breathe! This adds a level of mental toughness to the workout since you will have an uncomfortable 20# hug just bouncing on your chest the whole time you move for about an hour in the hot sun.

If you’re interested in getting your own weight vest for Murph and/or for exercise throughout the year, go ahead and keep reading!

What is a Weight Vest?

A weight vest is pretty much what the name suggests. These are vests that cover your torso from usually your belly button up to your t-shirt neck line that hold weight.

They can be divided into pouch weight vests and plate carriers:

A pouch weight vest is what you would typically see sold at a large box retailer like Dick’s Sporting Goods. These are usually made of a rough fabric that wicks sweat (like nylon, kevlar, or other composite materials) and have about 10-20 small pouches around the front and back of the carrier. Each of these pouches holds a small 1-2lb metal bar or sand bag and are individually sealed into their pouch with a velcro pouch. The vest is secured to the body with two rigid velcro straps that overlap around the belly button and secure it to the athlete. 

Plate carriers resemble the build of a bulletproof vest and are gonna be familiar to any of our veteran folks when adding weight to these vest (or so I’m told from Veteran CrossFitters that I have talked to, if I’m wrong let me know)! These are made of the same material as pouch weight vests but they do not of outside facing pouches to hold their weight. Instead there is just a nice female ended velcro pouch so an athlete can put any sort of patch they like to individualize the carrier. The actual weight comes in the form of 2 equal sized pentagonal or oval shaped steel plates that combine to give the vest a desired weight (these plates are usually sold separately from the vest by a weight manufacturer like Rogue Fitness). The front and back portions of the vest open up and have a cross hatch velcro set-up. Ya just open all of the velcro up, put the plate in, and then redo the velcro in the opposite order you opened it with. Once sealed, the plate itself will not move. The vest is secured to the body with more elastic straps that are anchored to the back and sandwiched between two pieces of velcro in the front. 

Which Weight Vest Is Better?

It all depends on what you plan to use it for and how “comfortable” you want to be during your workouts.

If you plan on using a vest to build your strength, a pouch weight vest is probably gonna be your best bet! You can always add or subtract weight with these and some vests go all the way up to 120lbs of optional load. 

If you’re more of an experienced athlete who just needs a standard implement to provide a desired stimulus to a workout, like using your vest for Murph, Ruck Runs, and other Hero WODs, a plate carrier is going to be the better route because they can be more comfortable over long workouts due to the weight being held more securely. The strap also being a little more elastic can make it slightly easier to breathe, which over the course of an hour can matter!

While pouch weight vests do have a lower entry level price, they both can total to about $150+ after taxes when their load out is all said and done on the purchase of a solid vest. The price usually determines how comfortable and durable the vest is. For instance the amount of padding in the shoulders increases as the price of the vest goes up as well as the reinforcement at weak points of the vest so that the wear of it bouncing takes longer to destroy the vest.

What Are Some Good Vests To Go For?

If you are interested in getting a weight vest, ask to try out a friend’s or our gym’s first (not all of the vests on the rack belong to the gym, so please ask a coach before using one). It’s an investment not only in equipment but in the efficacy of your training if you plan on doing more workouts with a weighted vest. 

Once you’ve done that and decided which one style to go for, here are some that I have tried and liked:

The Bear Complex Plate Carrier: A smaller plate carrier, it can give you some of the best bang for you buck for a vest that you will wear for CrossFit WODs. It sits snug on the body and it doesn’t have the stretchiest straps, making those end of WOD breaths a little tougher than others. But, the high quality clasps will make sure it stands up to the toughest WODs. 

The 5.11 Tactical Plate Carrier: The go to plate carrier ever since it was featured in the CrossFit Games version of Murph. Designed ofter military bulletproof vests, it has tons of sweat wicking padding that and plenty of elastic in its’ strap to allow for as comfortable of a WOD as possible. If you have a larger neck, however, this vest can start to put a little pressure on your throat on pull-ups and toes-to-bar.

The Go-Ruck Plate Carrier: The cheapest of the good plate carriers, The Go-Ruck Plate Carrier. It is smaller like the bear complex but lacks the elasticity of the 5.11 carrier, it has high quality materials and padding to allow for a slightly more comfortable workout.

Mir Weight Vest (Pro): The Mir is the beefiest pouch weight vest out there, giving you options that can hold up to 120lbs. While it is overkill for a long distance WOD, it can easily be lightened to perform Murph and then weighed down to what ever weight you will conceivably need for a future gymnastic strength day!

BOX Weighted Vest: Probably the most common pouch vest that I have seen in CrossFit gyms, this is a shorter weight vest that is efficient on space. If the surface of it isn’t made up of weight pouches, then you’re probably looking at the shoulder straps. This is probably the most comfortable of the pouch vests that I have used, just make sure it is tight on you, otherwise you will catch a metal brick to the chin.

Some Pro Tips For Murph:

If you do wear a weight vest, in Murph or any WOD, you can make the vest tight and keep it from moving as much or you can leave it looser and let yourself breathe better, but each rep will have that vest bouncing on your shoulders pretty hard. If you are thinking “I better get a vest so I can do Rx Murph!” don’t make that the only reason you make this purchase. Weight vest are an awesome tool to help improve gymnastic strength and add difficulty to cardio workouts. But, you can get an amazing WOD without it, especially during Murph!

If you’re going out on the hunt for a vest, we hope this gave you some background to help support your investment!

fill out this form to get started >>

Take the first step towards getting the results that you want!