Rucking 101

Rucking is the foundation of Special Forces training. Green Berets are well versed in shouldering heavy rucks through cities, mountains, jungles and deserts, in war and in peace -- alone when they must, together whenever possible.Tactical athletes, like soldiers and police officers, know well that rucking can sharpen fitness, along with helping save your life. Success on the battlefield is often determined by how quickly a soldier can move with essential gear on his back, and SWAT officers need to be able to kick down doors and tackle bad guys clad in 50 pounds of protective gear.

Rucking is basically walking with a loaded backpack. “Ruck”, short for “rucksack”, is military slang for a backpack. This is a cheap, simple exercise that burns calories and builds aerobic endurance due to the added weight.

Why does Rucking work?

The additional weight in the back pack challenges your endurance – and makes the biggest muscles of your body – in the legs and back – work that much harder. Your heart rate will be up and therefore more calories are burned. How fast should you be going? The US Army standard requirement for pace is 15 minutes per mile, but that’s just a good yardstick. More weight or more speed will bump up the calorie burn, and the exertion. And it’s still a great workout even if you go slower.

What’s the most weight you should ruck?

50 lbs (for considerable distances) is considered “expert” level. Much beyond that and you are going to get more of a deleterious effect than intended. If you’re going to use a lot of weight, just getting the pack in place (and off again) properly is an opportunity for an injury, especially when you are fatigued – so be careful. A light to moderate weight with a faster pace is probably a better option than more weight, and will be easier on the joints.

Don’t have rucking weight plates? Here’s some other ideas:
  • Bricks (Use up to 3. Tape the edges so they don’t damage your backpack.)
  • Water bottles (Full, in case that isn’t clear)
  • Standard barbell plates
  • Sand bags
  • Rocks (conveniently shaped ones, at least)

Just remember, an oddly shaped object is going to be painful to ruck – it’s going to become very uncomfortable quickly.

How do I progress with Rucking?

There are three ways to progress:

  • Carry more weight
  • Carry it faster
  • Carry it for further distance

Go conservative – don’t try to add more than 10% at a time – in weight, speed, or distance. In the long run, slow and steady wins the race.

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