If a friend invited you to go out rucking, would you know which supplies to grab, where to go or how to get started? No? Well, you’re not the only one. Despite being an age-old form of exercise, rucking is only just starting to enter the mainstream. You’ve probably seen it a thousand times in the movies, but you’ve never equated it with personal fitness.
So, what is rucking and why is it so popular with fitness fanatics looking for the next big challenge? The first thing to know about rucking is its simplicity. You don’t need special equipment, fancy clothes or even a gym membership. All you need is an ordinary rucksack and something heavy to put inside it. Then, you go out walking.
This guide to walking with a weighted backpack, or ‘rucking’, explains the benefits and gives advice on getting started.
The Benefits of Rucking for Health and Fitness
There’s a good reason militaries around the world and throughout history have turned to rucking as a way to train soldiers. It’s a fast, inexpensive method of pushing the body to become stronger via progressive overload. In other words, it takes walking to a whole new level. Some of the benefits include:
- Increased Cardiovascular Fitness & Muscular Strength
- Weight Loss
- Improved Posture
- Easy Way to Exercise
- More Time Spent Outdoors
Increase Cardiovascular and Muscular Strength
Rucking benefits extend further than just a caloric burn for weight loss. Walking with a weighted backpack is also beneficial for muscular and cardiovascular health. The added resistance forces legs, glutes, back, core and shoulders into a constant state of activity.
Keeping the weight balanced requires all muscle groups. It’s a strength workout as much as a cardio session. Strength and durability are increased in the legs and across the muscles used to keep the spine erect which include the abs, upper and lower back and shoulders.
Burn Calories Without Getting on the Treadmill
If you’ve got a rocky relationship with cardio, rucking might be your new best friend. It burns calories at roughly the same rate as jogging. So, it can be used as an effective alternative to outdoor running and indoor running on treadmills.
Many experts believe rucking is less stressful on the body than outdoor running. Unlike running, there is no impact felt in the calves or knees. One foot stays on the ground at all times. The extra weight burns three times as many calories as weightless walking, but it feels significantly less intense and uncomfortable.
Improve Years of Poor Posture
The prevalence of desk work, in which people spend hours hunched in front of computer screens, is leading to massive increases in back problems across the western world. While rucking isn’t a magic cure, it can alleviate pain caused by poor posture.
The weight of the backpack pulls the shoulders back while walking. This is their natural, healthy alignment, stacked on top of the spine, rather than hunched forward. The more you exercise in this way, the better your posture will be even when you’re not rucking.
It’s Really Easy to Get Started
The most immediate benefit of walking with a weighted backpack, particularly for fitness and weight loss, is its simplicity. Unlike many other forms of exercise, which require memberships, bands, bars, gloves and fancy sneakers, rucking is something you can start right now.
Beginners are advised to start with 10% of their bodyweight but this can be made up of pretty much anything – water bottles, weight plates, dumbbells, rocks, books, etc. If it fits in your rucksack and you can carry it, it’s suitable for rucking.
A Reason to Spend Time Outdoors
There’s no doubt spending time outdoors is good for health. Countless studies have found strong links between health, happiness and exposure to daylight. So, whether you’re out rucking for weight loss or stronger muscles, you’re also going to benefit from the fresh air.
Spending time outdoors decreases stress, accelerates weight loss, strengthens the immune system, enhances cognitive performance, prevents depression and much more. You’ll also get a healthy dose of vitamin D which is good for mood and hormone regulation.
Just About Anybody Can Do It
Finally, it’s worth noting how sociable rucking can be. Though some prefer to walk alone, others head out with friends, colleagues or fellow rucking enthusiasts. Even if you have a completely different level of fitness to your friend, you can maintain the same pace and intensity by tailoring the weight to suit.
Two or more rucking partners can exercise together, at the same speed, but with different weights and still, get a great workout. The best part is, you’re not supposed to be jogging or running. So, if you want to have an hour-long conversation about your favorite television show, feel free. Often, chatting with a friend enhances the experience.
Depending on your level of commitment, you could buy a rucksack that’s specially designed for rucking, with a hip belt, sternum strap and lots of pouches and pockets. It’s not essential the first or second time, but will be much needed later on – especially on those long distance marches.
The most sophisticated rucking backpacks are designed for military fitness. If you’re out rucking for weight loss, however, you don’t need lots of compartments. Look for broad straps that can be pulled tight against the shoulders. If you can, pick a pack with a chest strap for better weight distribution. Ideally, your pack should be made out of canvas because it’s a very strong, durable material.
So, Are You Ready to Go Out Rucking?
If you’re completely new to rucking, but you’re keen to get out there and give it a try, don’t worry too much about not having the right equipment. You can think about buying better rucking boots and a rucksack later. The first experience should make it clear how simple, easy and effective this form of exercise can be.
So, grab a backpack or rucksack, find some weights – you can use all kinds of items from around your home – and try it for a mile or two. Yes, it’s tougher than walking. You’re going to be out of breath, and it will feel like a workout by the end but, at the same time, you can also chat with friends, enjoy being out in nature, listen to a podcast or even do a little orienteering.
If years of gym-based cardio have you hating the word ‘workout,’ perhaps it’s time to try something new. Rucking: it’s one of the oldest and most effective forms of exercise around.