From shouen action series like Dragon Ball and Naruto to sports anime like Hajime no Ippo, weighted clothing have been a classic anime trope to help characters gain speed, strength, and agility. Now by training weights I do not mean pumping iron in the gym, but wearable weights that you could use all day long.
These types of weights can be found in the real world at almost any fitness store, and come in a variety of weights. I have a set of 10 lbs ankle weights and 2.5 lbs wrist weights. While wrist and ankle weights are the most common type of weighted clothing, I have also seen weighted gloves, vests, shirts, and shorts. The amount of weight that each type can hold varies, with the vests being the heaviest, going up to 150 lbs. I’ve only used a 40 lbs one in the past.
And, yes, I know that real world weighted clothing pales in comparison to what you might see in anime.
In this scene we see Goku remove 100-120 kilos (220 lbs to 265 lbs) of weighted clothing (shirt, wrist bands, and boots). The amount of weight is more than a bit much, but if you really wanted to, you could replicate something close to that amount of wearable weights. FYI– it won’t come cheap, even with Amazon available items include:
Weighted vest- 150 lbs
Weights shorts- 45 lbs
Ankle weights 2x- 40 lbs
Wrist weights 2x- 20 lbs
Weighted gloves 2x- 4 lbs
Weighted shoes 2x- 6 lbs
Total- 265 lbs
But will wearing training weights make you stronger?
The simple answer is yes, but the reality is a bit more complex. First off, it depends on how you use the weights. If you use body weights like you would any other type of weight training, the results would be similar, but this is the boring stuff that most of you already know, not to mention that type of training is not seen as often in anime. The more interesting and more often used method of using body weights is to wear them all the time, only removing the weights during hard fights as seen in the Dragon Ball clip above.
Not unsurprisingly there is a lack of good scientific research into the topic, or at least research that is readily accessible. I say this because I only found 2 sources that weren’t directly connected to a company selling weighted clothing. However, given the number of weighted clothing items on sale online, I suspect that the academic research will catch up. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some conclusions that can be made. First, since this training method is most often used in fighting anime, we need to consider that there are other things beyond physical strength that are important to a martial artist. This includes strength, jumping ability, range of motion, speed, and endurance.
When it comes to basic strength training, training with weighted clothing will increase your strength, but it’s not any more or less effective than using traditional weights. The benefit of the weighted clothing occurs when you can’t hold the increased weight you are trying to lift. For example, let’s say that you were doing dumbbell squats, but have trouble holding more than 100lbs.
You could where a weighted vest to increase the amount of weight used during the exercise with having to hold more weight.
Using a weighted vest in conjunction with plyometric exercise (jump training) does result in an increased vertical leap when the vest is removed. This is due to the weight providing extra resistance, strengthening the muscles that are engaged when jumping vertically. While I did not find any studies looking into whether using weighted vests can improve horizontal jumping, I would imagine that they would have some degree of positive effect.
Studies have also shown that using weighted vests increases bone density as it does with standard weight training. This occurs due to the stress the extra weight places on the body. Our body doesn’t like stress and creates strengthens bone to better handle the extra stress.
Range of Motion
Using weight training of any kind will not improve the range of motion of your joints or your flexibility. However, certain types of weighted clothing could make your range of motion worse. It has more to do with the design of the clothing than the weight.
In this particular design you can see how large and bulky the vest is and it could reduce your ability to move your arms in certain directions. This is something that I can attest to as I have used one of the older heavier weighted vests for a time. Some of the newer weighted shirts are less bulky and do not restrict your movement as much.
What about the negatives?
If you only use the weighted vests during your workouts, there aren’t any negatives beyond what you would see with regular weight training. It might not be as effective as other training methods, but it won’t negatively impact you when used properly. The real negatives come in when you start wearing them all the time as seen in anime, which is a really bad idea.
Yes, constantly wearing weighted clothing 24/7 can damage your joints. The amount of damage depends on the amount of weight a person is wearing, and how long the person wears it. The easiest way to explain this is to go back to what I’ve said in several other posts about how the human body has a certain size that it is best adapted for, and that includes both height and weight. When you wear weighted vests, you are effectively increasing how much your body weighs, which is fine for a short period of time like a workout, but over a long period of time it can be detrimental. For example, if a 6ft 180lbs man who has a BMI of 24.4, which is considered healthy, decided to try and be Goku wearing 220lbs of weighted clothing, he would have a BMI of 54.3, which is considered morbidly obese.
Yes, the individual would not have the metabolic and cardiovascular problems of a truly obese person, but their musculoskeletal system would be under the same stress as a morbidly obese person. This includes joint damage due to the extreme stress the extra weight places on the body.
Decrease in Speed
Yes, you read it right, wearing weighted clothing all the time will not make you faster, even after you take off the weight. Now I know this sounds counter intuitive, but it goes back to your brain. When you start wearing weighted clothing all the time, your brain recognizes the weight and how your movement has changed. Over time it begins to think that you are actually heavier than you really are. This means that even after you take off the weight, your brain still thinks it’s 220 pounds heavier than you really are. This will throw off your speed and coordination for an extended period of time until the brain adapts back to the body’s normal weight.
FYI- I like to think this is why Lee misses some of his punches during his fight with Gaara.
Changes to Endurance
This one is a bit of a wash as I have seen some reports stating that training with body weights increases endurance, while others say that it decreases endurance.
Sadly, I have to call the use of weighted clothing (wearing it all the time, unless you are in a fight) in anime busted.
If you want to use weighted clothing, only use it for your workouts, and do not wear it all the time.