If lockdown taught me one thing about my fitness, it’s that I REALLY prefer to workout in a group. But if it taught me another thing, it’s that you can get pretty creative with very little equipment. I have a pretty good gym setup at home, but I actually got the most bang for my buck from my ruck. A ruck is a pack that’s used for rucking workouts. But before I continue my ode to the ruck, you might be wondering, “what is rucking?”.
To borrow from the creators of my favorite rucksack, “rucking is simply walking with weight.” But unlike farmers’ walks and other types of carries we do at the gym, rucking involves carrying weight in a backpack (or sometimes, with a vest).
Rucking for fitness is hardly a new phenomenon. It’s been a cornerstone of military Special Forces training for ages. That said, it’s become more popular among the masses in recent years.
So, should you give rucking a try? In this post, I’ll share some reasons why you might want to add it to your routine, as well as some tips for getting started.
Benefits of Rucking
Why did I ruck so much during lockdown, when I had plenty of fitness equipment at home and work?
Well, partly because it’s so simple. It doesn’t get much easier than strapping a pack on your back and walking out the door.
You can ruck pretty much anywhere, at any time, with just about anyone. I racked (rucked?) up the miles last Spring wth my hyperactive pointer puppy, with gym friends also bored in lockdown, and even with my kids!
Simplicity aside, rucking has some other great health benefits:
- Gets you out in the fresh air and sunshine, which is awesome for mental health and can also help if you’re having trouble sleeping.
- Torches some serious calories–up to 3x more than walking without weight, by some estimates. Your calorie burn will depend on how much weight you carry, how fast you go, and the difficulty of your terrain, among other factors.
- Is often lower impact on the joints than running (as long as you ease into it–more on that in a sec).
- Builds muscle in the core, back, shoulders, glutes, and legs.
Wondering where this workout has been all your life? We hear you! The good news is, it’s easy to get started.
How to Start Rucking
According to GoRuck, getting started with rucking is as simple as buying a rucksack, putting weight in it, and walking.
Let’s go into these steps in a bit more detail, shall we?
Buy a Rucksack
If you’re new to rucking, you might wonder if you need to purchase a rucksack at all. And the answer is, not necessarily.
I would recommend investing in a pack if you plan to ruck often, simply because rucksacks are designed for comfort and safety.
My GoRuck pack has a special pocket to keep the weight close to my body, as well as a chest strap to distribute the weight across the shoulders. It also has really sturdy shoulder straps to stand up to long workouts with added weight.
A weight vest is a suitable alternative if you have one, but you can also try rucking with a regular backpack. A couple of tips for safety and comfort:
- Check for loose or fraying straps, as well as faulty strap adjustors (those plastic dinguses that allow you to adjust the straps and keep them in place).
- Fill the bottom of the pack with yoga blocks or something similar to keep the weight higher up your body. This will make for happier shoulders and upper back
- Surround your weight with towels or blankets to keep it from bouncing.
Again, I would definitely recommend investing in a pack if you try out rucking and decide you want to do it regularly. But loading up a regular backpack can at least give you a taste for rucking before you spend money on specialty equipment.
Whether you purchase a pack designed for rucking or DIY, it’s always best to start out light.
My pack came with a 20-pound weighted plate, which definitely feels challenging a couple of miles in! A 10-pound plate could be a better option for those just getting started with a fitness routine.
You can start adding more weight when your rucking workouts feel easier, as long as you’re not having any pain.
Walk With It
Once you’re loaded up with weight, you walk!
It’s best to start with a short workout if you’re new to rucking and you haven’t been working out much. You might try one mile or even 800 meters to start, and then increase your distance gradually once you see how it feels.
Keep in mind that your rucking workouts will probably be slower than regular walks. Twenty minutes per mile is a good guideline for beginners.
You can and will get a great workout just by walking with your ruck.
But you can also do some other cool things with it!
Some of my favorite gym rat movements with a ruck include:
- Devil’s Press
- Russian Twists
- Russian Swings
- Sumo Deadlift High Pull
- Shoulder Press
- Plank Pull Through (avoid this one on rough terrain to keep your pack in good shape).
- Front Squat
- Ground to Overhead
I like to mix it up with some fun and challenging circuit workouts when I’m traveling, such as a 45-minute ruck with 20 ground to overhead every 5 minutes.
What is Rucking and Should You Be Doing It?
Rucking is an awesome full-body workout that involves very little equipment! It’s a great addition to any fitness routine.
Need a little help getting started, or a few rucking buddies? Two Six Ruck Club meets on Mondays at 5:15 p.m. at the gym. It’s totally free and suitable for new and experienced ruckers alike!
Hope you can join us soon!