What is Rucking?

What is Rucking? - A Complete Guide

By MuscleTech Strength Coach John Porter Jr.

Explore rucking, the ultimate guide to this fitness trend that combines walking with weight. Learn benefits, tips, and how to start. Perfect for all levels.

Full confession: I don’t like running. I’m not a fan. I’m not like others who get excited at the prospect of logging miles and miles running on a road or trail. I have nothing against those that look forward to running. I even have clients who are long distance runners, obstacle course racing athletes, and ultra running athletes. I can train you for it, but don’t ask me to join you unless I’m in a car or golf cart driving beside you or behind you.

But as a coach, I do understand the value of cardio and in particular the benefits of including cardio in your workout program. From mental and cardiovascular health to calorie burning and body composition, cardio is a must.

What do you do if you abhor running?

Elliptical? Sure.

Bike? That’s an option.

Rowing? That’s okay and all.

Airdyne/Assault Bike? Hell yes!!! (Only speaking for myself because I know my clients aren’t fans of that devilish device.)

But let’s just say you don’t have access to those cardio machines. What do you do?

I was presented with this challenge years ago when my clients came to me saying how bored they were with the usual machine choices. They were working, yes, but they wanted some variety to remain compliant with the program and so they could stay on track with their goals.

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Then, one day I was introduced to an activity called rucking through an acquaintance and also on social media (though not at the same time). I did some digging and found some really great information about it. I also gave it a shot first before programming it into my client’s programs. Let me tell you, it was (and still is) is a very exhilarating experience. The benefits of rucking heavily outweigh the drawbacks.

First let’s answer the obvious question: What is rucking?

In essence, rucking is a low-intensity exercise in which you add weight to your back (via a backpack or rucksack) and begin walking or hiking for a specific distance or time. Its origin is rooted within the military and how troops carry various forms of equipment in order to perform their duties. It’s even used within their testing and assessment protocols to gauge a person’s state of readiness for the rigors of military service.

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How does one ruck?

To perform a rucking exercise, simply add weight to a backpack, rucksack, or weight vest (anywhere from 15 to 40 pounds) before walking or hiking. One’s speed can be a brisk walk or even a light jog or shuffle.

What do I need to prepare for a ruck?

  • A durable backpack/rucksack that can support weight

  • Athletic/supportive footwear

  • Exercise clothing

Where can one perform rucking?

  • Preferably outside along the side of a safe road (on the sidewalk)

  • The local park

  • The track at a local school/college

  • The treadmill (if weather doesn’t agree)

What are some benefits of rucking?

  • It aids in building muscle through the overloading of the legs via the weighted sack or vest. It’s literally resistance training and walking combined.

  • It has less impact on the joints than running.

  • It’s highly accessible and requires little equipment.

  • It can help burn more calories than walking or hiking without weights and can rival the caloric burn of running without putting too much stress on your joints.

  • It can strengthen your core muscles.

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Here are some rules for rucking to ensure safety, thus maximizing your time and results.

  • Always consult with your physician before introducing any new activity to your routine. If you’ve never performed long walking or you don’t have a good aerobic foundation, rucking could cause problems that could impair your quality of life.

  • If you do meet the minimum standards prior to adding rucking, start slowly. Don’t go into rucking seven days a week for miles on end. It’s suggested that one should limit rucking to once or twice a week for 15 to 30 minutes. Start with a low weight (e.g., 15 to 20 pounds) and add 5 to 10 pounds every few weeks. Progressively overloading the body will help with getting you used to rucking and thus getting stronger. Based on your goals, you can gradually work up from there.

If this sounds like a good fit, time to grab your pack and ruck it out!

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