What Is Rucking? 4 Steps To Get Started Rucking Today!

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There are all sorts of interesting workouts you can do, from Nordic walking to rebounding and rollerblading to HIITs. The list goes on and on, so long, in fact, that many of these types of workouts are often overlooked or not even discussed to the point that people are aware of them.

Rucking workouts are thought to be based on military training workouts and offer a low-impact way to increase the intensity of walking

But what is rucking? What is a ruck? Keep reading to find out!

We will cover: 

  • What Is Rucking? + What Is a Ruck?
  • Benefits of Rucking Workouts
  • How to Get Started Rucking
  • Rucking Workout Plan

Let’s get started!

A military person showing his rucksack.

What Is Rucking? + What Is a Ruck?

Rucking is essentially any form of walking with a weighted backpack. A rucksack is another word for a weighted backpack.

Therefore, backpacking can be considered a type of rucking workout because it involves hiking with a backpack stuffed with gear; however, rucking doesn’t have to take place on the trails. 

Any form of walking with a weighted pack can be considered rucking, even if you’re walking around a city, along the roads of your neighborhood, or even on a treadmill. In fact, when most people use the term rucking, they refer to walking with a pack in an urban environment.

Rucking is a verb, and ruck is a noun, so rucking is the act of going for a ruck. A ruck is just a walk with a weighted backpack.

Additionally, rucking can be considered a form of functional training, as we often carry weighted packs in everyday life, whether wearing a backpack filled with books to go to school or using a backpack as a form of travel luggage.

Two military backpacks.

Benefits of Rucking Workouts

There are several benefits of rucking workouts, including the following:

#1: It’s Easy to Get Started

With just a basic backpack, you can get started rucking. You don’t need to have a gym membership, access to marked trails, or even specialized gear aside from some sort of backpack and walking shoes.

This makes rucking an accessible form of fitness and a great way to start being active without needing to invest time or money into your new workout routine.

#2: Rucking is a Low-Impact Workout

Even though rucking adds additional weight to your back, so it is more difficult than bodyweight walking, it is still a low-impact form of exercise because one foot is always in contact with the ground. 

This makes it a great option for anyone who has joint problems, arthritis, or has lower bone density and cannot safely or comfortably run.

At the same time, rucking workouts are still a form of weight-bearing exercise, so you get the benefit of loading your bones and joints, which can help build bone density. 

Additionally, because you are carrying a weighted sack, you are also placing a load through your spine. This can help increase bone density in your spine and hips. 

Standard walking workouts without a rucksack are not as effective at building bone density in the spine because bone mineralization only happens when the bones are directly loaded and stressed. Without carrying a weighted backpack when you walk, the spine is only minimally loaded by your head and neck.

A person walking down the middle of the street with a backpack.

#3: It Increases Your Caloric Expenditure

Because you are carrying a weighted backpack, the metabolic cost, or the number of calories you burn per minute during a rucking workout, is higher than with regular walking using just your body weight. 

The additional weight of a rucksack requires your heart and muscles to work harder to support your movement. This will increase your heart rate more than walking at the same pace without a pack. Because the intensity of the rucking workout is higher, you will burn more calories.

Essentially, carrying a weighted rucksack when you walk is effectively like having a heavier body weight overall, and caloric expenditure increases with increased weight.

Note that the faster you walk, the longer you walk, the heavier your rucksack, and the heavier your body weight, the more calories you will burn in these workouts.

#4: It Can Improve Your Cardiovascular Fitness

Any form of aerobic exercise that increases your heart rate to at least 64% of your age-predicted maximum heart rate qualifies as moderate-intensity exercise and counts towards your exercise minutes per week necessary to satisfy the physical activity guidelines for adults.

Aiming to satisfy the guidelines for physical activity can help reduce your risk of lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, stroke, obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, because rucking workouts are more intense and physically demanding than walking at the same pace without a weighted backpack, going rucking can help improve your cardiovascular health and fitness even more than regular walking.

A person rucking.

#5: Rucking Gets You Outside

There are many benefits of getting outside and spending time in the fresh air. Time away from screens and technology can be good for your mind and may help reduce stress and anxiety. 

Fresh air and vitamin D from the sunshine can also improve your health.

Studies have even found that exercising outdoors helps improve mood more than performing the same workout in an indoor environment.

#6: Rucking Can Increase Your Strength

Your muscles have to work harder to support your walking stride when you are carrying additional weight. 

Rucking adds some amount of resistance training to your walking workouts and also requires more activation from your core muscles, postural muscles, and shoulders to help maintain proper posture in light of carrying a weighted backpack.

A person walking on a trail with a weighted backpack.

#7: Rucking Can Improve Your Posture 

Wearing a rucksack as you walk will help strengthen your spine, as well as your core muscles and muscles in your upper back, shoulders, and chest.

The weight on your back can also help you receive sensory feedback about your posture, helping improve the mind-body connection with your core and postural muscles. This can help increase the strength and endurance of these muscles, as well as your body awareness, potentially translating to better posture in everyday life.

How to Get Started Rucking

One of the benefits of rucking is that it’s quite easy to get started, and no special technique or gear is required for beginners. With that said, if you decide you want to do rucking in a more frequent or intensive capacity, working on your form and getting a comfortable pack can help.

#1: Find a Pack

Any sort of backpack will suffice as your rucksack, but it is best to choose a backpack that fits well and has adjustable straps. 

A strap that clips by your sternum and hips across your body will also help keep the shoulder straps in place and distribute the weight of the pack evenly across your shoulders and back.

A person rucking on a trail.

#2: Choose a Route

You can go rucking anywhere. It mostly takes place in urban environments rather than on trails, but there aren’t any official rules. Start with a relatively short, flat route when you are just beginning, and gradually increase the distance and difficulty of your course.

Ensure you are walking somewhere safe, preferably on roads with a sidewalk or designated walking path or lane.

#3: Gradually Increase the Weight

You can use any sort of weighted items in your rucksack. Examples include books, bags of dry beans, a bag of sugar or flour, sand-filled ankle weights, or “ruck plates.”

Depending on your current fitness level, start with a relatively light pack and gradually but progressively increase the weight of your rucksack as your fitness improves.

A good starting place for beginners is 5% of your body weight, and for fitter individuals who perform other types of exercise but are just getting started with rucking, 10% of your body weight should be workable. 

For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, a novice should start with no more than an 8-pound rucksack, while an advanced individual might carry up to 16 pounds. 

Do not exceed more than one-third of your body weight unless otherwise guided by a fitness professional or healthcare provider.

A person rucking on the road.

#4: Wear Good Walking Shoes

Particularly because you are loading your body with extra weight when you perform a rucking workout versus regular walking, it’s very important to have supportive walking shoes.

Rucking Workout Plan

  • Begin with 1-2 rucks per week, roughly 2 miles or 30 minutes each.
  • Each week, add another workout until you are doing 3 to 6 rucks per week, depending on your overall fitness plan.
  • Add five pounds to your rucksack weekly until you are at a comfortably challenging weight that is no more than 1/3 of your body weight.
  • Try to keep your pace under 20 minutes per mile (3 miles per hour).
  • Add distance, hills, and brisker intervals as your fitness improves.

Have fun!

If you are just starting out and would like to walk without additional weight before you take on a rucksack, try out our 30-Day Walking Challenge For Beginners!

A person hiking with a backpack.
  1. Rucking
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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