Rucking For Strength

A soldier rucking on his own - Rucking for Strength
Photo Credit: The U.S Army

Rucking has been proven to increase strength. Talk to any regular rucker and they’ll tell you. It is the main reason why rucking is a main pillar of military training.

Over the years, infantry soldiers have been carrying more and more weight and the sizes of our infantry soldiers have been growing, the correlation here is rather significant and interesting (source).

With that said, in this post , we’ll explore how rucking increases strength and what you can do to further increase your strength through rucking.

How does Rucking Increase Strength?

In the beginning, it’s hard to differentiate between whether you’re growing muscle or gaining strength because your muscles are being stimulated and that alone may be sufficient enough to grow the muscle.

As you progress in the world of rucking and begin to increase the weight, you will be using muscle tissue to continuously carry the weight. However, a big part of increasing your strength is activating your Central Nervous System (CNS).

The CNS is somewhat considered to be the source of energy and power your body produces. Upon its stimulation, it starts to utilize more and more muscle fibres. Thats how rucking increases strength. When your CNS is continuously capable of recruiting more and more muscle fibres (source).

If you’re trying to break your rucking weight record (equivalent to your 1 rep max in the world of powerlifting) it is highly recommended that you warm up. So if your maximum weight that you can carry is 100 lbs, you should probably walk around carrying 50 – 80 lbs prior to lifting that 100 lbs to slowly wake up your CNS (source).

How Can You Improve Strength Beyond Rucking?

man demonstrating how to do a deadlift
Photo Credit: North Carolina National Guard

The two closest sports to rucking that focuses on strength are strongmen training and powerlifting. Their workouts and training sessions are primarily focused on gaining strength and lifting heavier weight.

With that said, ruckers can steal a workout or two increase their strength. Compound exercises (workouts that require the use of 2 or more muscles to complete the movement. For example, when doing the bench press, you’re workout out your chest, shoulders, and triceps).

The main workouts to increase your strength are:

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Asymmetrical sandbag carries
  • Planks
  • Shoulder press (or sandbag military press)

If you feel like going the extra mile, consider using a weighted vest in your workouts. Weighted vests helps add more resistance to the workout while will aid in increasing your strength. You can also use a weighted vest for rucking. Many people choose to go that route due to previous injuries or to put less load on their back, learn more.

Learn more about the best exercises for rucking.

Difference Between Strength and Building Muscle From Rucking

There’s a common misconception that muscle training or weight lifting is the same as strength training. While they both involve carrying weight as a form of resistance, its the intention and execution of workouts that differentiates them.

Weight training or muscle training is more focused on hypertrophy. This is where your working out and carrying the weight to grow the muscle. While a muscle can grow bigger (through the process of protein synthesis), it doesnt equate to being stronger.

Strength training specializes in the use of resistance training to induce muscular contraction. This builds strength, anaerobic endurance, the size of skeletal muscles and bone density (source). Strength training typically involves less repetitions and more weight as opposed to weightlifting / body building where it’s more focused on higher repetitions and less weight. Body building is about volume.

Final Thoughts on Rucking for Strength

A meta-analysis study published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that Substantial training and the ability to carry more weight (in this case, ruck with more weight and gain strength) was present when the resistance training is progressive and combined with aerobic training was done at least 3 times a week (source).

Strength workouts along with progressively increasing weight has been shown to increase the weight in your rucks. Rucking is a sport similar to strongman and powerlifting in that you rely on your central nervous system to lift heavier weight and train similarly in order to lift more weight.

In short, Rucking is a sports that is focused on strength. This is especially true when paired with strength based workouts.

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