Rucking is a near full body exercise that is challenging, but easy to do. The Rucking name comes from the name rucksack, with a term applied to the pack and load a soldier carries. Rucking is a bit more than just walking. It’s the purposeful movement over terrain carrying a weighted load. The load itself varies based on the skill, experience, fitness level, and size of the individual. Rucks vary in length and intensity as well, all based on the above factors. Rucking is different from hiking and backpacking because you are attempting to condition your body, during a hike you are attempting to reach a destination.
Rucking is pretty big in the military. The goal is to prepare and accustom soldiers and Marines to carrying a heavy load over a long distance. A common challenge for combat troops is the day to day grind of loading up with ammo, weapons, food, body armor and more to go on patrol. Rucking prepares troops to move heavy loads over extended distances, and prepares the body to bear the load.
As a civilian rucking is going to improve your aerobic conditioning, and get your heart beating at about the same rate as jogging does. Even though you are wearing a heavy load the impact of rucking is much lower than jogging and running. It’s also going to improve your lower body strength and endurance significantly. You’ll get a significant workout going from the hips to the ankles, which will improve strength, as well as flexibility and endurance.
Wearing a heavy pack or weight vest is going to force you to exercise proper posture and form when moving. If you don’t use proper posture you’ll start to feel the pain of the load on your back and shoulders.
It’s also relaxing, and the slow pace and being outdoors is always nice. Crank some music, and put one foot in front of the other.
How To Ruck
You may be saying, what do you mean ‘How to ruck?’ You just explained it, put one foot in front of the other, over and over. While yes that is the core of rucking, there is a little more to it than that. When you ruck, you need to set a realistic distance and a realistic load. Based on the distance and load you should also set a time limit.
A good pace for fit beginners is 3 miles per hour. So, if it’s humping 3 miles give yourself a drop-dead time of 1 hour. This will force to keep your pace, or you’ll miss your goal. This is where you start sweating and get the heart pumping. This isn’t a run, and running on a hike is a good way to twist an ankle so avoid that.
Choosing a load is also a big choice to make. 35 pounds is a pretty common go to for an
already fit, but new rucker. The U.S. Forest Service’s Firefighter pack test calls for a 45 pound pack and that can be challenging. If you feel your rucksack is just too much drop ten pounds before the ruck. If at the end, you feel you could have carried more on the next ruck you’ll know. It’s better to go easy on the first ruck than hurt yourself and have to heal before you can hit the trails again.
What I like to do is to use a good sized plastic container, like a milk jug, and fill it with water. If I find the hump to be too difficult I can stop and dump that jug full of water and lighten my load. Pouring water out isn’t going to harm the environment, and isn’t something that’s going to cost any real money.
What to Pack?
In general, you want pack dense materials that are relatively balanced, and won’t poke you in the back as you move and groove. Sandbags work well, and it’s a cheap and effective method to make weight. You can easily squeeze 50 pounds of sandbags in a pack. I’ve also seen a lot of folks abandoning the pack in favor for a weight vest, which is premeasured and easy to wear.
Rucking is a fun, and even mentally relaxing means to condition your body in a functional way. The ability to move for long distances while carrying weight has long been a measurement of fitness. Rucking is going to strengthen you mentally too. That one foot in front of the other mentality will translate over into your real life. You’ll know you can keep pushing, you can keep moving, and that it’s not over, til it’s over.
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