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What is rucking and why you should be doing it

by Tobias 5 minutes read

Last updated: 12 Aug, 2022

Rucking is a very simple exercise; it is simply walking with a weighted bag on your back. The name is a contraction of the word “rucksack” which is another word for a backpack.

Rucking has a long history in the military extending all the way back to Ancient Rome where legionnaires would have to carry an early bag on a pole called a “fulca” which could weigh up to 50lbs. Since then there hasn’t been a single generation of soldier that hasn’t needed to practice rucking to a high level to ensure they are fit enough to carry everything they need during a mission.

Today we are looking at the myriad of health benefits that rucking brings to the average person

Rucking burns tons of calories

Rucking will use up a massive amount of calories when compared to walking without a load. If a 200lb person walks for 1 hour they will burn approximately 273 calories. If that same person walked for 1 hour whilst carrying between 20-40lbs they would burn 773 calories! That's about 3 times as many calories!

Rucking strengthens your heart

Rucking elevates your heart rate further than just regular walking and has an effect on your heart that is comparable to jogging. Extended periods of elevated heart rates have been proven to increase your cardiovascular capabilities which can make everyday activities that bit easier.

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Rucking can improve your posture

As long as you don’t start off with too heavy a weight or try to go too far straight away, rucking can strengthen your back and help your posture. The weight of the backpack actually pulls your shoulders and back into proper alignment and puts you into proper posture. As you ruck more and more, you’ll be training your body to stay in that optimal position even when you’re not rucking.

Rucking outside could improve your mood

Though it is technically possible to ruck inside on a treadmill, it’s really not advisable, not only because the extra weight could put strain on the treadmill but you would also be missing other benefits of being out in the great outdoors. According to a series of studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Virtually all of the participants reported enjoying outside activity more than inside and scored significantly higher on psychological tests measuring vitality and energy, and lower in anger and depression.

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Rucking is useful

For a lot of people, carrying a heavy load for an extended time isn’t something that comes up a lot in their day to day life, but that isn’t to say rucking isn’t a transferable skill. Imagine walking with a friend who twists their ankle, or even being out with a tired child, these are times that would be made a lot easier knowing that your body is strong enough to handle the strain put on it.

What you need to go rucking

If you want to start rucking, you will need a durable rucksack, comfortable and strong footwear, and weights.

  • Backpack: To start off you need a strong rucksack with cushioned shoulder straps so you can add weight to it without risking breaking the bag or yourself. I would strongly recommend you get a bag that has a hip belt as during a ruck about 70-80% of the weight should rest on your hips, not your shoulders.

  • Weights: These can be anything, you can buy specific weights for rucking but these definitely aren’t necessary. You can add any form of weight, including bricks, sandbags, water bottles, really anything. As a beginner start with weights equalling about ten percent of your bodyweight.

  • Footwear: This is actually the most important bit of kit you need. You need sturdy and supportive footwear. Find shoes or boots that will support your feet from chafing, help protect your joints, prevent blisters, and remain comfortable over long distances.I would suggest against running shoes as these often tilt to the front and can actually cause injury when walking.

Beginner’s rucking routine

This is very simple, put 10% of your body weight into a bag and walk 1 mile. The next time you do this, after a couple of days rest, walk 2 miles. Depending on your goals and fitness level you can up the weight OR the distance, never both at the same time. It isn’t wise to go above 50lbs, weight provides diminishing returns, anything over 40lbs increases risk of injury and gives limited additional benefit.

You can also measure your pace and see how quickly you can finish your ruck but fight the temptation to run. It can very quickly lead to injuries which will hamper your progress in the long term.

One final thing, get a group together, or perhaps listen to music or a podcast. This is self-improvement not self imposed torture. Enjoy it. Pretty soon you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

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