The ruck march (or “rucking”) is a staple of military training. All United States Army infantry recruits must complete hours-long ruck marches. In other branches of the military, special operations forces complete grueling selection events where the ruck march is the principal tool.
And there’s good reason for this popularity of rucking in the military.
Rucking has numerous benefits: it builds strength, stamina, and character. If you want to be strong, have great endurance, and build mental toughness—but you’re short on time—pick up a rucksack and start walking.
What is a Ruck March?
The ruck march is used by different militaries all over the world. It’s one course in a series of tests Army recruits must complete to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB), a special skills badge awarded to Infantrymen who have demonstrated a mastery of critical tasks, including the ruck march, physical fitness assessment, land navigation, weapons navigation, and other individual tasks.
Simply put, a ruck march is walking with weight on your back. It has practical applications in military training, and functional fitness advantages for anyone who values efficiency. Rucking is the whole fitness package: it adds muscle where it’s needed, burns calories, and makes people better at everything else (because it’s a full body workout).
If you want to include this military staple in your training, start with our beginner’s guide to rucking.
Army Ruck March Standards
With any fitness program, having goals is a good idea. Ruck marches are no different. In the United States Army, candidates must complete a 12-mile march within 3 hours to earn the EIB. While the terrain tends to be level and the route is well-marked, participants will carry at least 35 pounds, and up to 100 pounds of gear. They’ll also carry a rifle.
The chosen weight for the ruck march depends on leadership decisions. In combat situations, soldiers may need to haul more than their ‘Fighting Load’ (gear needed to bring the fight to the enemy). The ‘Approach March Load’ or ‘Emergency Approach Load’ are much heavier but give soldiers versatility on the battlefield. Recruits should plan on carrying at least 35 pounds but shouldn’t be surprised by heavier ruck marches.
Army recruits are not expected to meet the physical demands of heavy, weighted walking right away. All infantry skills—including strength and durability—result from progressive training. Weight and volume are gradually increased to ensure recruits adapt without getting hurt.
If you’re new to rucking, don’t aim for the Army’s standard right away. Spend time getting comfortable with weight on your back and keep your pace between 15 and 20 minutes per mile. As your confidence increases, add weight (about 5 pounds per week) and distance.
If your goal is serving in the United States Army or any special operations community, or to attend GORUCK Selection (the world’s toughest endurance event), prepare accordingly. Build up to 10+ mile ruck marches, moving at the Army’s standard of 15 minutes per mile. Remember, though, rucking should always be complemented by other exercises if your goals are this big.
Prepare for Ruck Marching
Any well-rounded fitness plan will prepare you for ruck marching, but a few specific exercises should be included. Because rucking is a strength, cardio, and endurance exercise, variety in your training will help get you ready.
Here are the best exercises to prepare for military ruck marches, or to help incorporate rucking into your training:
- Rucking: start with 1-2 rucks per week, and always make sure to take rest days between hard efforts. You don’t need much gear. Just find some weight and go for a walk. The best part of rucking is that it’s Active Resistance Training™, meaning it builds strength and muscle while improving cardio and endurance.
- Running: running leads to more injuries than rucking, but it’s still a useful cardio exercise that will improve your rucking endurance. Get proper running shoes and increase volume gradually.
- Leg exercises: Squats and lunges can be performed while wearing a rucksack, making them a GORUCK favorite for leg strengthening exercises.
- Core exercises: planks with a rucksack and American twists will both strengthen your core, and rucking itself is a great core exercise. These (and other core exercises like leg levers and situps) will prepare your abdominal muscles for the rigors of rucking.
- Grip exercises: grip strength is important when preparing for rucking events (like military training or The GORUCK Challenge) because you’ll often need to carry gear. Weapons, gurneys, and obstacle courses will test the grip strength of Army Infantry recruits, and GORUCK Challenge cadre always find something heavy for your team to haul around.
Rucking fitness is all about consistency. You’ll need to get comfortable under a rucksack, but make sure to cross train and take plenty of rest days. Tribe ‘n Training, GORUCK’s massive rucking community, is great for accountability.
Rucking Gear: What You’ll Need
Even just one ruck per week can have a large impact on fitness and health. You’ll need just a couple things to get started...
- A rucksack. This can be any bag that will hold weight on your back. Start with what you’ve got, and when you’re ready to upgrade check out the most comfortable rucksack ever built.
- Something heavy, but not too heavy. Start light and add about 5 pounds each week to your rucksack, stopping around 40-50 pounds. Wrap a dumbbell in a towel or use schoolbooks to get an appropriate weight. For the most comfortable ride use Ruck Plates®.
That’s about it. GORUCK accessories (like sturdy boots, performance socks, and hydration bladders) can make any ruck march more enjoyable, but you don’t need these things to get going. When you’ve decided to make rucking a consistent feature in your training, we recommend starting with the world’s best rucking boots.
Military recruits will often haul gear weighing up to 70+ pounds on ruck marches, but we recommend keeping your rucking weight to less than 1/3 of your bodyweight.
Why Everyone Should Ruck
The ruck march trains your heart and lungs, makes you strong as an ox, and gets you outside for a dose of Vitamin D. It’s a simple, free workout that burns 3X more calories than walking and improves posture.
Best of all, rucking is social fitness. It brings people together for accountability and support. It’s scalable so everyone can participate, and it can be done anywhere.
We like that, and you will too.
Questions about Rucking
What is a good 3-mile ruck time?
A good three-mile ruck time is however long you just did it in. But if you want to match the United States Army’s standard, aim for 45 minutes for a three-mile ruck.
Is a ruck march hard?
The ruck march is a standard military training tool. It’s not supposed to be easy or comfortable, but it has unique strength and endurance benefits. So yeah, it’s hard. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. Tap here to read about the benefits of rucking.
Do you run when rucking?
In military training, you will run short distances while wearing a rucksack. We don’t recommend anyone runs while wearing a rucksack in training, though. Alternatively, ruck shuffling (or the “Airborne Shuffle”) increases your tempo and heart rate without the injury concerns of running with a rucksack. Lean forward slightly, take faster and shorter steps, and land on the middle of your foot (instead of heel striking). While it only feels like a slow jog, the cardio and mental toughness benefits are exceptional.