How to Work Out with a Plate Carrier

Plate carriers can be a great alternative to weight vests when it comes to maxing out your workout potential, but you need to incorporate them into your workout safely and effectively. A plate carrier has to fit right, offer a balanced load, and stay out of your way – if not, you risk damaging your gear or hurting yourself due to improper movement and joint strain.

Learn how to use plate carriers for weighted workouts with our tips. 

What Makes a Good Plate Carrier for Workouts

Here are the features to look for in a plate carrier weight vest:

  • Even weight distribution, preferably through back yoke shoulder pads
  • Adjustable waist and tensional bands
  • Hook-and-loop fasteners to maintain plate placement
  • Elastic to secure the straps
  • One-handed quick-release system

Weight Vests V.  Plate Carriers

Plate carriers tend to be more versatile than traditional weight vests. They're designed for ballistic protection and often offer MOLLE compatibility for a range of loadouts – but they may also inhibit mobility. Your choice should be based on your personal fit preferences and whether you plan to use your PC for purposes other than training. 

Our TacTec™ Plate Carrier is the perfect tactical alternative to traditional weight vests, but you can also work out with other kinds of plate carriers and tactical vests. Here's how.

Getting the Right Fit for Weighted Workouts

A good plate carrier for workouts fits snugly – it shouldn't move around when you rotate, jump or bend. Follow these steps to properly adjust your plate carrier before each workout:

  1. Center the front plate on your torso. The back will even itself out.
  2. Adjust the shoulder straps evenly.
  3. Tighten the side straps, but not so much that you restrict breathing.
  4. Raise your arms, and bend and rotate at the waist. If the plate carrier rubs against your skin, it's too loose.
  5. Test the fit by doing a few burpees. If it stays secure and doesn't cause discomfort or throw off your balance, you're good to go.

Learn more about how to fit a plate carrier from 5.11.

How to Exercise With a Plate Carrier

The military's adage, "Train as you fight" is 100-percent right – you'll get more mileage on your day job if you work out with the same kit you wear when you're on the beat, outside the wire or working undercover. That said, using a weighted PC can be a great way for anyone to enhance their PT, not just for professionals.

WARNING:Working out with a weighted vest is not for beginners. If you can't do an exercise properly without weights, doing it with weights is a recipe for disaster. There's always risk associated with trying new exercises, so talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness program. Don't learn the hard way.

When you're ready to start, watch our video on how to properly install plates so they're balanced and secure. Then, before ever working out or running with your weighted plate carrier, wear it around the house to get used to the way it feels and how it affects your mobility. 

Once you get used to wearing the weighted PC, you can use it to enhance traditional body-weight exercises:

  • Planks
  • Pull-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Pushups
  • Lunges
  • Squats or Iron Mikes
  • Thrusters
  • Burpees

How NOT to Exercise With a Plate Carrier: The Big List of Dont's

  • DON'T add a weighted plate carrier and dive into your regular workout on Day 1 – start slowly. 
  • DON'T rely on the plate carrier for good posture. If you can't maintain good form and proper technique with the added weight, don't use it – you could risk serious injury.
  • DON'T wear your plate carrier so tight that it restricts your breathing, or so loose that it moves around and throws off your balance.
  • DON'T neglect to stretch before and after every workout with a plate carrier so your muscles can reset and recover. Allow yourself extra cool-down time, too.

When you add a weighted plate carrier into your workout routine, you have the potential to build your strength even more quickly. The safest way to add weight is slowly and steadily, using a quality plate carrier that's built for high performance without compromising mobility.

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