Fitness specialist George Pou noticed many of the baseball players he trained wore special garments — weighted vests — to increase the effects of their workouts. Although the vest did help improve strength and cardiovascular conditioning, occasionally athletes complained of neck, back and shoulder strain.
"My wife Julie said, 'George, we have got to come up with something you can wear around your waist,'" Pou says. "The next thing I knew, she came home with these big old shorts and was cutting holes in them and sticking weights in."
After two years of trial and error, the Weight Pants are a reality. Constructed of sturdy nylon flag fabric, the patented garment, which resembles cargo shorts, features 12 pockets. Each pocket holds a sandbag weight so people can work out using as much (12 pounds maximum) or as little weight as their fitness levels and workout goals allow. A padded waistband eases pressure around the midsection, and a wide nylon belt fastened with a plastic buckle reminiscent of those on hiking backpacks makes the wearers feel they're strapping themselves in for something serious.
"(Weight Pants) were designed to help athletes, but it turned out that everybody wanted them," says George, who holds a degree in kinesiology from Tulane University and has been in the fitness industry for more than 30 years.
"You burn more calories in less time," Julie Pou says. "They make any exercise more efficient, and you'll get quicker results. A lot of people say (the Weight Pants) have reshaped their thighs and bottom, and they are great for women who are concerned about bone density. Several doctors as well as physical therapists have used the weight pants and say that they are great for people with joint issues"
Weight Pants can be used by just about anybody — athletes wear them while running up stadium stairs, and older men and women can wear them while walking through Audubon Park.
"I have had people lose 60-plus pounds in the (Weight Pants). One 47-year-old lady lost 32 pounds. She walks three or four miles in them every day, and she says her legs have never been this solid," George says.
Tavis Piattoly, who holds a master's degree in exercise science and is a dietitian and director of health and fitness at Elmwood Fitness Center, cautions people to start slowly if they choose to work out wearing Weight Pants. "It's all about a progression," Piattoly says. "Start slow, with one or two pounds. The biggest concern (when wearing the Weight Pants) is joint injuries — they may increase your risk because you're adding resistance, and your body might not be prepared for it."
Piattoly adds that he prefers his clients exercise using handheld dumbbells or ankle weights because he believes weighted garments decrease efficiency of movement and may increase rates of injury. However, he says the Weight Pants could be useful for people who are not physically able to perform lower-body exercises like squats and lunges.
George agrees people should consult their doctors before working out in the Weight Pants, especially if they have histories of joint or knee problems. "I tell people to build into it slowly," he says. "A lot of them have gotten into such good shape, they will wear them around the house vacuuming just to burn extra calories while doing their daily activities."