Why “Rucking” Should Replace Your Aerobic Workout

You can achieve the same benefits of running in less time, while also building muscle, when you swap out your current aerobic workout with rucking.

Most people have never heard of rucking, but it’s been used by the military to train soldiers since the American Revolution. Soldiers march on rugged terrain with their rucksacks (military term for a backpack), which are made heavy by the gear inside. The weighted backpack gives a great aerobic workout while simultaneously providing a solid strength training workout.

It sounds deceptively simple: just wear a weighted backpack and walk your way to being in great shape. While it sounds too good to be true, it actually isn’t. You can take advantage of this military training technique to build muscle and endurance in less time than you would be going to the gym.

The Benefits of Rucking

Rucking is a way to exercise in a highly efficient manner, as it targets several key areas of fitness at the same time. You can transform your body with rucking in many ways, including:

  • building up your muscles, particularly your shoulders, core, and back
  • shedding fat as you burn three times as many calories as you could walking without the backpack and get the same benefits of running and jogging (with less risk of injury)
  • improving your overall posture as you strengthen your back muscles
  • relieving and preventing back pain
  • strengthening your hip and posture stability, making you less injury prone in general

Rucking effectively allows you to combine aerobic training and strength training while slicing your workout to a fraction of the time. The more you go rucking, the more you can notice its impact on the rest of your health. Your posture as you sit at your office desk is better. Your stamina is improved during your other workouts. Your pesky back pain decreases or vanishes entirely. Rucking provides lasting benefits affecting many areas of your health.



Beyond the health benefits, rucking offers an equipment free strength training workout that you can do in any location. Go rucking as you walk the dog around the neighborhood, as you hike the nearby park, or even as you go grocery shopping (though admittedly you will probably get some weird looks if you go rucking outside of generally accepted workout areas).


How to Pack Your Rucksack

You can use any normal backpack as a rucksack. Specially designed rucksacks can be purchased online, but you really only need these if you plan on consistently rucking with weight on the higher end of the spectrum.

When packing weight into your rucksack, start off with around 10% of your bodyweight. Rucking engages underused muscle groups, so you will want to begin with a lower amount of weight and slowly increase it as you build these muscles. You should be cautious about exceeding 35 pounds once you make rucking a regular part of your workout routine. Too much weight too often can be harsh on your muscles and joints.

Nearly anything can be used for rucksack weight, such as dumbbells or bricks. Wrap these in towels to stabilize them and reduce them moving around too much in your rucksack.

As you place the weight in your rucksack, try to keep is as high up as possible. This helps ensure the weight better engages your upper back and shoulders. You can put yoga blocks or other sturdy materials in the bottom of the rucksack to ensure the weight stays high.

Remember to treat rucking like any other workout, so be sure to pack enough water. Pack for the elements as well, throwing in sunscreen for a hot summer’s day or mosquito repellant for a walk in the woods. Toss in a first aid kit to be even better prepared.

How to Properly Go Rucking

Just start walking. Really, rucking is pretty simple. You can adjust the straps of your rucksack to help the weight stay up high. Beyond that, just be sure to stay aware of your posture and movement. Keep your shoulders back and core engaged as you walk.

Rucking along hilly areas and steep hiking trails can be a good way to get even more in shape in less time. As you go rucking, make sure you do not run as it puts a heavy strain on your joints. The fastest you move should be a brisk walk.

When you get tired, be careful to not lean forward as you walk. This places unnecessary stress on your knees and can lead to more blisters on your feet. Maintaining good posture is important to ensure the effectiveness and safety of your workout.

Because the rucksack does not feel too heavy at first, it is easy to overdo it by walking too fast or too far the first few times out. Remember that you are likely using muscle groups your body isn’t used to engaging for very long. Keep the distance short on your first few trips, aiming for around two to four miles. Soldiers in great shape may ruck for up to 25 miles with a rucksack weighing up to 200-pounds, but you need a long period of time to work up to anything close to that point.

Rucking is a great way to get the benefits of a traditional aerobic workout while also engaging in strength training. Swap out running or jogging with rucking and you’ll be amazed at how great, and strong, you feel once you start this highly efficient workout program.

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11 thoughts on “Why “Rucking” Should Replace Your Aerobic Workout”

      1. I have read a bunch of content on rucking and this is the best summary that has touched almost everything in its explicit, for some one who wanted to understand it first time , this would be absolute best.. It has all the facts..

        Thank you so much for educating us, been rucking for a while now and it has become my way of life now, even around the house doing my everyday things like standing in the kitchen cooking cleaning up sorting out things I have my 15 KGS pack just on my back and feel like a massage machine working on me all the time, I get carried away in doing more work as I don’t want to let it to, it feels good and for those who don’t know, I used to skip things picking things down now bending my back is the easiest thing to do…I can go in my compound and pick every leaf dropped down on windy day and still love it…bend a thousand times imagine the sweat I get by doing just that…and when you bend all the accumulated tiredness is released and you feel renewed this this you can do all day long

        Its a beautiful healthy tool and I thank you, everyone for it, everyone that contributed to making it available online for us learn about and change our lives, Thank you GOD and thank you Universe.

        1. i will second that. great summary. Well done maye. I will attest also to the stability and posture benefits along with elimination of my minor lower back issues- as a late 40s guy. Its also great training for hiking – duh – and also skiing. After a buildup it is readily possible to train for shorter sessions than a hike with, say twice the weight. For me a 45minute ruck up and down 160 metres of rise 5degree gradient on sealed path 5 days a week with 28 kg (built up over a year from 12kg) translated to a 10 hour hike with 11kg and translated to being able to ski two full days on blue and black runs before leg fatigue – at end of second day. You are also spot on about soreness in new places. It took me a few months at 12kg till something wasn’t sore. Then steady progress in distance, rise and weight has not seen any soreness.

  1. I started rucking years ago, after many years of running and weight training, etc. I didn’t even know it was called rucking, it just came to me as a nice way to mix weights with walking. I stop and do the weights and body work too, along with some hills with the ruck sack on, then I take it off and run some hills also. At 52 I feel fantastic and am a huge fan of rucking.

  2. Russ Zosimus McFall

    I only recently started to do this, but was more of a prep for a summer backpacking trip so I wanted to get used to carrying it with weight, I think I have about 50 lbs in the backpack, but it’s also made for these types of hikes to the weight is distributed evenly but mostly it sits on my hips. Today It was a 7 mile roundabout in New Braunfels. Started before sunrise around 5:15 and was done just before 8 am so good people!

  3. I can testify. I am up to 50 pound rucking with a Goruck Rucker and ruck plates. Just in the past couple months of moderate rucking 4x a week I’m down one full kilt size. And my hips and back are much much stronger and not as “achy” as they used to be. I’m fixing to increase the ruck weight as soon as I get some more plates.

  4. I have lifted weight consistently for almost 20 years now. The benefit of the consistency has been the great for my strength and muscle mass, but it has always been at the expense of my physique. Don’t misunderstand, I am neither a huge man nor a fat man, but at an average of 190lbs I never looked as strong as I was. Cardio, of all types, was something I could never tolerate with any consistency.

    Well after taking up rucking at the start of this summer, that has finally changed. I have decreased my time lifting down to two days a week and increased my days rucking to 5. I ruck 3 miles on my lunch break M-F in about 45 minutes, and I have never been so shredded in my life. In my mid 30’s I look bigger than I ever have yet am almost 20 lbs lighter.

    Best cardio for guys who like picking things up and putting them down.

  5. I’ve been doing this for years. Didn’t know what it was called. At 19 I did an outward bound summer program. I was pretty out of shape when I started. We hiked everyday with 40-50 pound packs. Up and down mountains. At the end we were suppose to run a 8-9 mile course at 9k feet with a good 1500 ft of vertical on the course. I have always hated running. My endurance had always been bad. And I had been an All-State soccer player. I thought no way was I going to finish.

    I ended up cruising the course. Felt amazing. And… The course got mismarked. I ended up running 13 miles on a trail with zero running before hand. Just rucking for a month. Unbelievable the endurance I built in a month.

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