Rucking: What It Is, Benefits, & How To Do It
Updated: Jan 5
What in the World is Rucking?
Rucking is a form of exercise with roots in military training. Very simply, it’s walking a set distance while carrying a weight in a backpack. Rucking (also known as ruck marching) comes from from the word “ruck sack,” which is a durable backpack meant for carrying equipment.
Rucking is an often underrated and underutilized form of low impact exercise that can be used to improve strength, cardiovascular capacity, caloric burn, balance and bone density.
Cool Things about Rucking:
Easily accessible and ideal for all age groups and ability levels.
A great activity to build camaraderie, community and a shared desire to challenge yourself
Requires very little special equipment
Isn’t as complex as progressive strength plan or marathon prep
As it’s popularity increases, you can find groups across the country that welcome traveling and new members to join them under their ruck!
(Keep reading for an upcoming beginner rucking opportunity here in Memphis!)
What are the Benefits of Rucking?
Rucking improves strength, endurance and general fitness levels across multiple domains. Several research studies show that participants in a 10-week load carrying program decreased their rate of perceived exertion (how hard they were working to move the load across distance) while their muscle power and oxygen intake also improved.
Rucking has also been shown to improve muscle power, endurance and strength in older adults. This is significant because as we age, it becomes more and more crucial to fight sarcopenia (muscle wasting associated with aging), osteopenia, and osteoporosis.
Another benefit is improved balance which will help decrease risk for falls and injury that often come with aging.
Rucking is a great way to meet the recommended guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week which improves brain function - including memory, cognition, sleep and stress management.
Walking with weight also increases calorie burn compared to an unloaded walk. The added weight means you are moving more mass, which increases the amount of energy you require to move at the same pace you would without the weight.
OK… I’m Intrigued….How to Get Started With Rucking?
As with any new sport, movement or program, the best way is to start slowly and progress based on tolerance and ability.
If you're new to exercising or haven’t walked/hiked much, it would be beneficial to start with shorter distances and less weight. A good starting point would be to carry 3-5% of your bodyweight for 1 mile or 20 minutes, whichever is shorter.
(The weight you're carrying should include the water you need to carry to stay hydrated when you’re out on foot.)
If you have been walking as a regular part of your fitness routine ( at least 3x/week 3-5 miles per week) you can start with a little heavier load initially but the distance would decrease. Start with carrying 5-10% of your bodyweight for 1 mile or 20 minutes, whichever is shorter.
If you have been walking and weight training as a regular part of your fitness routine (at least 4-6x/week,) you can start with a heavier load and slightly longer distance. Start by carrying 10 - 15% of your bodyweight for 1-2 miles at 18 min/mile pace.
Equipment - What do I need for this?
You're in luck, rucking doesn't require much to get started!
Here are some basics:
Rucksack (Backpack) A ruck is simply a backpack! Now, before you go reaching for the first bag you have, there are a couple of things to look for in a good rucking bag.
Try to include the following:
- Wide Straps: thinner straps will not be comfortable and not distribute weight across the upper back and shoulders as well as a wider/padded strap.
- Hydration Station: whatever backpack you choose should have a pocket for a hydration bladder or water bottle. If your hands get tired, you will want somewhere to keep it.
Since the main premise of rucking is carrying a weight from point A to B, having a weight that's appropriate for your abilities is important. Your weight can be anything from a book, to a dumbbell, to a brick wrapped in a towel.
It's important to keep the weight as high up as possible in the bag- Using a rolled up beach towel and/or yoga block at the bottom of the bag is a great way to raise the weight up higher in the bag.
You don’t need any special shoes to ruck! -Sometimes you'll see military members with tall, heavy boots when they are walking under load. That is mostly related to uniform standards and protection for their feet against hazards associated with different jobs.
Fitness rucking can be done in comfortable shoes that you would wear on a normal walk or run. In general, wearing open toed shoes or shoes that don’t have a back could lead to hot spots and blisters.
OK… I’m in….How do I get started? What if I don’t want to go by myself?
You’re in luck! Our resident “Rucker” Dr. Jessica is going to be putting on a FREE 8-week series of “Community Rucks” starting on October 1st here in Memphis.
These local Saturday morning rucks will be designed to introduce the activity, foster community in the 901, and provide some education and a plan on how to incorporate rucking into your fitness plan.
Each session will last an hour - We'll cover some tips and tricks to be as successful as possible with this new fitness endeavor before embarking together on a one mile group Ruck around Sea Isle Park.
The pace will be appropriate for all skill levels, and you can attend as many or as few sessions as you would like!
Click here to see the Facebook Event and let us know you're coming!
Start getting your gear together, and we'll see you on October 1st!
Click here to learn more about our mission to help Memphis overcome pain & injury and stay active.