What Got Me Into Rucking?
Personally, I started my rucking journey as I was extremely fed up with my progress with bodybuilding. I was working out and gaining muscle like I have never seen before. I ate whatever was in front of me and worked out really hard. I did my deadlifts, squats, bench press, and everything else. I had transformed to what the kids call a “meat head”. I went from 136 lbs to 176 lbs in no time.
However with all the muscle building, I never focused on my cardiovascular health. While I was gaining muscle, I also gained a lot of fat. I was big and felt way less flexible. I then switched to a cutting phase (trying to lose fat while maintaining as much muscle mass). I noticed that I was constantly tracking calories, cutting carbs, and doing much more HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts and began to lose weight.
The journey was difficult and unsuccessful as I was working out all week to ruin it with a crazy binge eating session which I hilariously called a “cheat meal”. The calories I would eat in that session would ruin my work for the entire week. I would then workout and do much more cardio the following day to compensate.
The lifestyle was exhausting and the results were horrible as I gained more weight than when I had started.
I do realize what my mistakes were during my journey, but I realized that I did not really enjoy bodybuilding and knew I had to find an alternative. I tried different things like spinning, crossfit, and calisthenics. I was not able to stick to any of them because of previous injuries and I simply didn’t enjoy them. If I learned anything from all this is if you do not enjoy your workouts, it will be hard to stick to them. You should enjoy the the process, and not just the final result.
I came across rucking as I was frustrated and looking for a different way of exercising. I came across it and realized how easy it was to start, I gave it a try and haven’t stopped ever since!
Before you get into your ruck, learn more about the best exercises for rucking to help you better prepare yourself for the challenge ahead.
How To Prepare For a Ruck
Ruck March Prep Checklist
|1||Plan a Route|
|2||Pick the right Shoes|
|3||Pick the right Socks|
|5||Choose the Right Rucksack|
|6||Follow A Program|
1. Plan a Route
Planning your routes makes your rucks allows you to stick to a plan and makes your workout program more organized. Most apps or smart watches can also track this information for you. If you do not have a smartwatch, you can just go to plotaroute.com on your phone and plan your route, you can even access older routes that you’ve been on before. Super helpful tool to help you prepare and track your progress. Here’s a tutorial video.
2. Pick the right Shoes
If it is your first time rucking, do not wear your brand new boots. This is because you wont have fully broken into your boots just yet. What you should do is wear your new rucking boots for half or quarter of the distance and just put on your everyday boots right after. That way, you will slowly break into your new boots and do your rucks without any painful blisters and will avoid you slowing down your progress when you’re first starting out.
When buying new boots, make sure they have the following qualities:
- Breathability – To avoid blisters and discomfort, your feet need to be dry. Breathable shoes will help direct the moisture and heat away from your foot.
- Water Resistant or Waterproof
- Durability – Durable material (most common materials are synthetic suede & cordura.
There are lots of different options out there, If you’re still unsure as to which boots you should consider, here’s a summarized list of recommended boots.
3. Pick the right Socks
This is simple. Merino Wool is always the way to go. If you do not have them before you start, that’s fine. Just make sure to wear socks that have good compression and are long enough to avoid any friction between your foot and leg with the boot. However, when you get more into it and start increasing your distances, it is best to use socks made from Merino Wool. Here’s a few recommendations for some rucking socks.
Tip: Be sure to have an extra pair of socks with you if you’re planning on going on a long ruck.
Hydration is key! You are bound to break a sweat when rucking. One thing I would recommend is to get a hydration bladder, although a lot of rucksacks nowadays do come with one. Hands-free hydration is such a blessing when you’re in the zone, nothing more annoying than having to put your entire rucksack down just to pull out your water bottle and then having to strap on the rucksack all over again.
5. Choose the Right Rucksack
There are lots of different rucksack out there. If you’re just starting out, I would not worry too much about the rucksack. A simple backpack should do it. One thing to keep in mind is that most backpacks are either frameless or have an internal frame. This means that when you start rucking for longer distances, you will start getting the back sweats as there is no space between your back and the back of the backpack. Following this guide, you may want to consider upgrading your backpack to a rucksack when the distance and time are much longer than when you first started.
6. Follow A Program
It’s tough to stick to a workout program that you’re starting out without having a program or a planned approach. The plan below is what I followed to get me started. You can certainly tailor these numbers to what you think is realistic given your abilities.
Keep in mind those were the numbers I tried my best to stick to, at times I could not really stick to the planned distance but I never quit. One thing to consider is that different terrains, weather, and inclines/declines will speed up or slow down your ruck. As for the weight, I used books, heavy water dumbbells, and whatever I could find laying around. Although I did eventually switch to rucking plates as the they don’t have any pointy edges that will rub against your back.
TIP: Always keep the heavier weight closer to your back, this will ensure proper weight distribution.
|Rucks per Week||Distance||Duration||% of BW|
|Week 1||2- 3||2.0 miles||1 hour||15%|
|Week 2||2 – 3||2.5 miles||1 hour 30 mins||15% – 20%|
|Week 3||2 -3||2.5 miles||2 hours||20%|
|Week 4||2 – 3||3.0 miles||2 hours 20 mins||20 – 25%|
|Week 5+||2 – 3||3.5 miles||2 hours 45 mins||20%-25%|
*BW = Bodyweight
Remember to always assess how you’re feeling during and after the workout. If you feel like 2 miles is too much on the first go, reduce it to a mile or a mile and a half. If you feel like 15% of your body weight is too much to start with, consider reducing the weight to 10%. Check out our post on what to put in a rucksack for weight for everyday items to get you started on the program quickly.
Learn more about how many calories you burn while rucking.
What to Do During the Ruck
Maintaining proper posture is extremely important. When the rucksack is worn correctly, you’d be surprised how much support the rucksack provides. Here’s a great instructional video from the Lake District National Park on how to wear a rucksack properly.
Key takeaways from this video:
- Back length of the rucksack – It should cover your back while also making sure that the help belt is centred and wrapped around your hip bone.
- Hip Belt – Make sure this is fastened tightly. Remember, you want your hips to carry 80% of the weight carried on your hip belt so that your legs are carrying most of the weight.
- Tighten shoulder straps so that it fits you comfortably.
Post Rucking Checklist
It is extremely tempting to throw down your rucksack and just collapse on the couch and not move for an entire day. As tempting as that sounds, you may find yourself regretting doing that a day or two later, thanks to Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). According to Elaine Choung-Hee Lee, an assistant professor of Molecular Biology and Applied Genetics, University of Connecticut DOMS is post-workout soreness that is heightened a day or 2 after working out.
So how does one recover from DOMS?
Post Ruck Checklist
|Hydration||Low levels of electrolytes cause further muscle soreness, replenish them to aid recovery.|
|Massage||Your muscles are damaged and inflamed after an intense workout, a massage will help ease inflammation, reduce pain, and improve blood flow.|
|Nutrition||Protein and Carbohydrates. Protein will increase the amino acids needed for the process of protein synthesis to recover damaged muscle tissue. Carbohydrates will help increase your glycogen stores after they’ve been depleted after intense exercise.|
|Sleep||The body needs time to repair and restore energy.|
|Stretching||Stretching helps contracted and tensed muscles release back to their natural position, and will improve flexibility.|
Our article on what to do before and after rucking focuses on the essentials of prepping and recovering from a ruck. While it is often overlooked, it is important to approach rucking comprehensively to ensure longevity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Rucking Build Muscle? What Muscles does Rucking Work?
Yes. Rucking is a comprehensive sport that works out a number of muscles simultaneously.
|Quadriceps||When rucking with the correct posture, and wearing the rucksack correctly. The hip belt is situated around the hip bone. This ensures that the majority of the weight of the rucksack is carried using your legs. Plus, the walking movement naturally activates your quads when walking forward. It’s responsible for pushing your leg forward.|
|Hamstrings||Hamstrings are responsible for pulling the quads back when walking forward. Since the quads are pushing through more weight than usual, the same goes for your hamstrings.|
|Calves||This is worked more or less depending on the terrain and incline or decline of your path. The more inclined your path is, the more you work your calves|
|Glutes||Your glutes are activated during a ruck to support your torso and when properly activated, they alleviate lower back pain.|
|Abs||Your abs are activated and worked during a ruck as they work on maintaining your posture while carrying your rucksack. It’s purpose is to stabilize your entire body. The more weight in your rucksack, the harder your abs have to work to stabilize your body.|
|Shoulders (Deltoids)||When lifting and putting on your rucksack, you are using your shoulders. If you’re on a long ruck, you will be putting your rucksack on multiple times. Learn how to avoid shoulder pain when rucking.|
What are the Best Boots For Rucking?
This is a great question as their are tons of boots out there made for rucking. Brands aside, the main things you need to consider are
- Waterproofing – Make sure the outsole of the boot is made from rubber and has deep treads. An example of this is the Altama Foxhound SR 8″ Boots.
- Durable material – Lots of boots are made from Cordura. This is a type of fabric that is common with military outwear, backpacks, rucksacks and more. The scale goes from 210D – 1,000D (D=Denier). The boots you buy do not have to be 1,000D , instead look for a Boot that encompasses all the qualities that work for you. If you live in a city that rains a lot, then you may want to consider boots that are waterproof.
- Breathability – There’s nothing more uncomfortable than having your feet sweat and hot when you are in the middle of a ruck. Make sure your boots have some sort of mesh or small outlets to direct the moisture and heat away from your foot.
If you are still unsure and would like to see some more options, here’s out top picks for our favorite rucking boots.
Is Rucking Good For You?
Yes! Rucking is great for you. Rucking is a form of Low Intense Steady State training (LISS). This is when you are performing an exercise that is repetitive at a steady pace and where your heart is elevated to approximately 50% – 60% of your Maximum Heart Rate. According to sports medicine specialist working at the Washington Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, LISS style training is good because:
- It improves your cardiovascular system
- Low risk of injury – Especially if you have bad knees!
- Aids in weight loss
- Helps to avoid physical and mental fatigue
- Improves blood circulation
- Easy to start – Low barrier of entry
How Do I Start Rucking?
- Plan your route
How Do I Protect my Feet when Rucking?
- Band aid – Prevent blisters by covering areas on your foot you know are prone to blisters
- Vaseline – use Vaseline on areas that are prone to blisters
- Wear Good Socks – Socks made from merino wool are made to prevent your feet from sweating as they push out the heat and moisture away from your foot
- Change your socks for long rucking sessions
- Keep your feet dry – Waterproof or water resistant boots are a good start!
- Keep your toe nails short
If you’re looking to ruck on a budget, check out our post on rucking on a budget for cheap alternatives to add to your rucking gear.