Special forces around the world have a secret weapon for training soldiers for strength and endurance. Rucking has its roots in the word “ruck,” the military slang for a backpack. It helps prepare soldiers to be on the move for long periods of time while carrying all of their essential gear.
At its most basic, rucking is walking with weight. It’s a simple, inexpensive, and effective workout that burns calories and builds strength while reducing the risk of injury. Your legs, back, and core are activated by carrying weight during a timed march, which also helps you increase your endurance.
PICK YOUR GEAR
Footwear. This is the most important component to rucking. You need to pick your footwear based on the terrain you will be covering and ensure your feet have the proper support.
Attire. Dress for the weather and the environment you plan to ruck. The heat, cold and rain can have a drastic affect on your body, so dress accordingly. Equally so, if you are going into the woods, be sure to be prepared for bugs and wildlife.
Rucksack. To start, any old backpack will do. However as your weight, pace and distance evolve, you should to look into backpacks that can handle the added weight while offering proper support for you back and core.
Tools. Avoid high-tech distractions by going off-grid. Track your pace using a reliable watch with a turning bezel that can indicate elapsed time - we recommend the 41mm Black Pilot’s Navigator for its durability and extreme accuracy. For orientation, consider a compass (like our Clip-On Compass) that can be worn on your watch band or attached to your pack. Both are easy to read, easy to use and have clear nighttime visibility with their glow-in-the-dark features.
PICK YOUR ROUTE
Setting your route is setting your goal. Like most things start low and go slow. Start with a mile and work your way up. Failing at anything can be your biggest obstacle to continuing. If you are too ambitious out of the gate, not only will you not want to try it again, but you run the risk of injuring yourself and having to take time off to heal. For beginners, it’s typically recommended to start with a distance under 5 miles. Remember to calculate in your terrain and incline as these can impact your overall endurance.
PICK YOUR DURATION
The average person can walk a mile in 15-25 minutes without any weight, which is a great place to start – but that isn’t the goal of rucking. The key to rucking is to push your pace. A brisk walk or a march is recommended for the best results. Equally important to note, running with a weight pack is never recommended as the added weight can have drastically negative affects on your joints, leading to injury.
Use the turning bezel of your dive watch or pilot's watch to time your ruck. Start by positioning the bezel pip to the current position of the minute hand, then use the bezel markings to easily determine your preferred workout time. Either keep the bezel in its current position to show the elapsed time of your ruck, or set the pip to mark the end of your workout to keep you incentivized while on the trail.
PICK YOUR WEIGHT
Start with 10 per cent of your body weight in your pack as a baseline, working your way progressively up from there. While 30% of your body weight is considered by some to be expert level, the military considers 45% as acceptable for non-contact road marches – giving you a lofty goal to work towards.
Don’t have rucking weight plates? Here’s some other ideas:
‣ Barbell plates
‣ Bricks (tape the edges to minimize damage to your pack)
‣ Full water bottles
‣ Sand bags (store-bought or homemade)
‣ A ballistic plate carrier or weighted fitness vest
Just remember, an oddly shaped object is going to be painful to ruck and will become very uncomfortable quickly.
*This option typically has only a 50% completion rate and requires intense training.
READY, SET, RUCK
Once you’re comfortable, start to experiment with weight, time, and distance to vary your workout and continue to build strength, endurance, and character. Over time, you’ll find yourself rucking further, faster, and with more weight – and in the process burning more calories and building more strength.
Interested in learning more and mastering rucking? Check out these resources: