Rucking: A New Weighted Cardio and How to Do It Properly

Rucking is as old as any military. Soldiers worldwide bear weapons and equipment in their backpacks, pockets, and hands. Carrying gear is a necessity in wartime, but it's also incredible training in peacetime. Rucking is simply walking with a weighted rucksack to improve one's fitness. Enthusiasm for the sport is quickly growing.

Key takeaways:

What is rucking?

The beauty of rucking is its simplicity. All you do is load weight into your backpack, tie on your running shoes, and head outside. Any walker can be a “rucker” by starting with a small load and increasing the weight over time.

Rucking is a mainstay in military workouts around the world. The term "rucking" comes from marching with rucksacks, which first originated from the German word for back, "zurück."

Foot marches build discipline, physical fitness, endurance, and unit cohesiveness for soldiers. Some military ruck marches include jogging or carrying over 50 lbs of gear and weapons.

It’s also a requirement for structure and wildland firefighters. The United States National Forest Service requires all firefighters to pass an arduous Pack Test, which includes finishing a 3-mile flatland hike carrying a 45-pound pack in 45 minutes – not an easy feat.

Many search and rescue units throughout the U.S. also require their volunteers to carry weight over a certain distance to mimic ferrying gear into the backcountry and carrying injured victims out on a litter.

For many outdoor enthusiasts, rucking is a top way to prepare for rigorous outdoor adventures. For others, it's a way to cross train for cardio and strength-building fitness.

Whether training to be a firefighter, prepping for an athletic event, improving your fitness, or just wanting to exercise outside, rucking could be your new favorite workout.

Benefits of a rucking workout

The health advantages of rucking are numerous and holistic, impacting your physical, social, and mental well-being. With its multifaceted benefits, it’s an impressive way to stack biohacks, which saves workout time, improves your mental health, and increases time spent with friends and family.

Physical benefits

Physical benefits of rucking are endless. They include:

  • Great cardio. Rucking is a great cardio workout, depending on how fast you walk, how far you go, and how much you carry.
  • Improves posture. When performed correctly, it builds core muscles and trains you to walk upright.
  • Improves bone density. Weight-bearing exercises, like a rucking workout, improve bone density, critical for strong bones as you age.
  • Provides a functional workout. Rucking trains your muscles to work together for common, everyday tasks and reduces injuries during daily chores.
  • Builds muscle. Walking builds muscle, but walking with weight builds a greater number of muscles faster, like shoulder, abdominal, leg, and back muscles.
  • Burns calories. Rucking burns more calories by moving more weight than you usually carry when walking without a rucksack.
  • Increases endurance. Foot marching with weight increases your endurance also called ruck march capacity much faster than walking without weight.

Mental health benefits

Although rucking is a form of physical activity, there are some mental health benefits to it as well.

  • Improves depression and anxiety. Studies show that exercise has such a powerful impact on mental well-being that physicians should prescribe it for depression and anxiety.
  • Improved cognition. Outdoor activity improves cognitive and emotional health.
  • Builds relationships. Ruckers who walk with friends and family build relationships and stay motivated to exercise.
  • Provides solitude. A nature walk with weight is also a powerful way to retreat into the outdoors when you need time alone.

Risks of rucking

The risks of ruck marching are minimal as long as you know your body's limits, start with minimal weight, and progress slowly with adequate gear.

Injuries or illnesses from rucking may occur as a result of these six common mistakes:

  1. Increasing weight too quickly
  2. Walking too far with a weighted pack
  3. Using a poorly fitting rucking backpack or pair of shoes
  4. Loading weight incorrectly into your pack
  5. Inadequate hydration and sun protection in hot climates
  6. Inadequate nutrition for a strenuous workout

Like any exercise, knowing your body is key. Starting with too much weight or an improperly loaded pack may feel fine during the first quarter mile of a hike, but after a mile or two, you may be in too much pain to finish the route.

Tips for beginning ruckers

While rucking is simple, it still requires some learning and preparation. Starting right can keep you going strong.

Plan your route

Setting a distance and a course helps you start with the right route for your current fitness. You can also set a mileage that pushes your limit just enough to make you feel like you finished a great workout. It’s best to start with a flat route you’ve walked previously without weight. This way, you know your baseline walking fitness and can progress in an organized manner. Rucking apps and smart devices can help track your rucks.

Choose the right shoes

Good walking or running shoes are sufficient for new ruckers. As you carry more weight or walk more technical terrain, boots become necessary to relieve your feet of the extra burden and trail complexities.

If you have new shoes or boots, wear them only for the first mile or even less to avoid blisters. You can switch to older, worn-in shoes for the rest of the walk.

Choose the right socks

In general, cotton socks are frowned upon in the outdoor recreation industry. They hold too much moisture against your skin, increasing friction and blisters. Merino wool is an excellent choice, but other synthetic fabrics like polyester and silk also work well.

Carry water

Water bottles or hydration bladder packs can be considered part of your weight. Either are essential for staying hydrated, especially on long walks in the summer sun.

Use the right rucking backpack

Backpacks and rucksacks are interchangeable terms these days. The goal is to ruck with a pack that safely supports whatever weight you carry.

When you first start, carry at most 10–15% of your body weight. A less expensive and less sturdy rucksack can be adequate for this load.

After rucking for a few weeks, you'll be well acquainted with your pack, noticing where it's uncomfortable. If you significantly increase weight and distance, you'll want to purchase a sturdier pack with an internal frame to distribute the weight and reduce your risk of injury.

Be creative with weight

To keep rucking simple and inexpensive, use whatever household items you own to load your pack. Books, bags of beans or rice, small dumbbells, or water bottles all work just fine.

Notice your posture when you walk to know if you are carrying too much weight. If you are bent over too far, you’re bearing too much for your current fitness level or packed the weight improperly.

Load the weight correctly

One downside to a flimsy backpack is how the weight sinks to the bottom of the pack. Loading all the weight into the bottom pulls on your shoulders, lower back, and hips, greatly increasing your energy use and risk of injury.

When you carry larger loads, the weight should be packed into the middle back of your rucking backpack close to your body not at the bottom. It's easier to pack weight this way in a pack with an internal frame or various pockets where you distribute the weight.

In whatever pack you use, practice shifting the weight to get a good feel for the best way to carry it.

Ruck regularly, but not every day

Create a regular rucking plan for the best outcome, but don't ruck every day. Your body needs recovery days and cross-training to meet your fitness goals.

The best part of rucking may simply by getting outside. Training can be a discipline like any other necessary chore, but mixing up your workouts, getting outside, and training with friends can help you enjoy it more.



Leave a reply

Your email will not be published. All fields are required.