Meet “rucking,” hiking’s beefed-up cousin.
All you need to do is strap on a backpack weighing around 10-35% of your body weight and take on nature’s trails. It’s as bare-bones as a workout can get, yet it packs some serious benefits.
This blend of cardio, strength, and endurance training is an underrated type of exercise, quietly burning calories and building muscle.
Below, we outline how to get started, an example rucking workout plan to follow, and things to consider.
- Rucking involves hiking with a weighted backpack.
- It’s a great way to make your hikes more challenging.
- Start with 10% of your bodyweight. Ensure your backpack is ergonomic and comfortable.
What is Rucking?
Rucking involves hiking with a weighted backpack. The weight usually ranges from 10% to 35% of your body weight, but it’s entirely up to you. Needless to say, the heavier the backpack, the harder your rucking workout will be.
Originally derived from military training, this fitness trend has marched its way into the mainstream in recent years.
If you always felt like you could relate to the tortoise more than the hare… rucking is for you.
Not only do you get to impersonate a tortoise with your backpack, but this activity is also not about speed. Rather than a sprint to the finish line, rucking is about embarking on a weighted walkabout, taking slow, calculated steps while carrying a loaded backpack.
Rucking Workout Plan for Beginners
We suggest starting with a backpack loaded with about 10% of your body weight. As you become more comfortable and your body adapts, gradually increase the weight until you’re toting around 20% to 25% of your body weight.
You may naturally want to adjust the weight of your backpack depending on the type of trail you’re doing too.
Below is a table to guide your first rucking month.
This plan slowly ups the ante each week, ensuring you can comfortably shoulder the added load without throwing in the towel.
|1||Twice a week||30 minutes||10% of body weight|
|2||Twice a week||45 minutes||10% of body weight|
|3||Three times a week||30 minutes||15% of body weight|
|4||Three times a week||45 minutes||15% of body weight|
Take it slow, allow your body to adjust, and most importantly, enjoy the journey.
Rucking Workout PDF
If you’d like to print this rucking workout off, simply click below to view a PDF version.
Rucking Workout Benefits
Burn More Calories
When compared to walking or hiking, rucking burns a significant amount of additional calories.
Think of it like this… your body is like a car, and the weight in your backpack is extra cargo. The more cargo you have, the more gas (or calories) you burn. It’s that simple.
So, by adding extra weight to your hikes, whether a weighted backpack or ankle weights, you’re asking more from your muscles and body, which means more calories get used.
If you’re not too fond of running or cycling, rucking offers an exhilarating alternative.
If you want to break a sweat and get the heart pumping… rucking won’t disappoint.
You also get the added benefit of toning your muscles while increasing your stamina too.
Being cooped up in a gym can sometimes feel like you’re a hamster on a wheel… same scenery, same routine, over and over.
Rucking lets you breathe in the fresh air and soak up the sunshine while exercising. Whether it’s a peaceful forest trail, a challenging mountain hike, or a breezy beach walk, rucking connects you with nature.
And outdoor exercise brings with it additional mental health benefits too.
Recruit Back, Shoulder, and Core Muscles
Rucking activates more of your muscles than regular walking or hiking. The added weight in the backpack is a constant resistance that your body must combat, and this means your back, shoulders and core have little opportunity to rest.
This extra weight helps to build strength and endurance in these muscles, akin to performing a long, drawn-out resistance workout.
It’s the ultimate example of increasing time under tension for strength training.
Despite its toughness, rucking plays nice with your joints.
It’s a low-impact exercise, meaning it’s less likely to leave your knees and ankles crying out for mercy compared to high-intensity workouts.
This makes rucking a fantastic option for those looking for a robust workout that won’t cause undue stress on their joints.
It also pairs really well with running training plans as a way to build strength for those that don’t like lifting weights.
If variety is the spice of life, rucking is the jalapeño of workouts.
Be it an urban landscape or a country trail, rain or shine, rucking is game for anything.
You can also mix it up with other exercises like lunges, squats, or push-ups during your ruck. It’s a workout that caters to your creativity and keeps your fitness routine from becoming, well, too routine.
You could even do some hill sprints with your backpack on too.
Functional Movement Patterns
Rucking doesn’t just make you fit… it makes you functional.
The action of carrying a weighted load for an extended duration is similar to many real-life situations. Whether it’s carrying groceries, holding your kiddo, or hauling your luggage, rucking enhances your ability to handle these tasks with ease.
Consider rucking as your unsung training partner for life’s practicalities.
Rucking Vs Regular Hiking
When it comes to calories burned, rucking stands head and shoulders above hiking.
The science behind this is pretty straightforward… the extra weight in rucking amps up the metabolic demand, thereby sending your calorie-burn rates through the roof.
Therefore, if fat loss or weight management is your primary goal, rucking might be your ideal trail companion.
The extra load in rucking cranks up the challenge, making it a more demanding activity.
If you’re looking for a workout that tests your grit and determination, rucking is your ticket to just that.
With hiking, you might spend hours traversing the trails, immersing yourself in nature’s beauty. In contrast, rucking is like a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout in the great outdoors.
The extra weight you’re carrying makes each minute more potent, providing a more intense workout in a shorter amount of time.
If you’re pressed for time but want a substantial workout, rucking offers a compact and efficient package.
Your choice between rucking and hiking should align with your fitness goals. If your aspiration is to boost strength, endurance, and cardiovascular health while relishing the serenity of nature, then rucking is a great option.
If, however, you seek a relaxed, low-intensity excursion that lets you soak up scenic views and serenade your senses with the music of nature, then hiking is your perfect trail buddy (if this sounds like you’re cup of tea, check out our guide on forest bathing).
Things to Consider
Choose your backpack wisely.
Look for one that’s designed for rucking… it should be durable, have ample padding, and offer an adjustable fit. Any mention of “ergonomic design” is a good starting point.
Don’t just toss random weights into your pack willy-nilly either; ensure they’re securely positioned to prevent shifting and potential injury… and also select weighted objects that won’t negatively impact the comfort of the bag.
You could also use a weighted vest.
When it comes to any sort of hiking/walking activity, footwear matters.
While rucking, your feet bear the brunt of the extra weight, so opt for supportive shoes that are up for the task. Look for rugged hiking boots or shoes with good traction, arch support, and cushioning.
Hydration and Nutrition
Carrying extra weight will likely have you sweating more and burning through your energy reserves faster. So, keep yourself well-hydrated and fuel up before and after your rucking sessions.
Listen to Your Body
Finally, listen to your body. While the aim is to challenge yourself, it’s important not to overdo it. If you feel sharp pain, severe discomfort, or excessive fatigue, it’s time to take a break.
Rucking, the act of walking with a weighted backpack, is a great activity that burns calories, improves cardiovascular fitness, offers outdoor exercise, and builds strength, all with low-impact movements.
While intense, it’s versatile and functional.
Compared to regular hiking, rucking is more challenging but beneficial for strength, endurance, and cardiovascular health. Proper gear, hydration, and a gradual approach are key to a safe and effective rucking experience.