Rucking is an exercise that has many benefits (we counted 23 benefits here). It’s functional fitness for people who want to save time, torch calories, gain muscle, and build good habits. Rucking is simple to start because it requires little equipment, and it can be done anywhere.
We asked some team members around GORUCK HQ for their best rucking tips. These 19 tips will keep you healthy and safe, and help you get the most out of your next rucking workout, and every one for years to come.
If you’re new to rucking, this article will help you get started. Also be sure to check out The Beginner’s Guide to Rucking.
Getting started: rucking tips to get you out the door
1. Load your ruck properly
Step one: put weight in your rucksack.
Rucking safely starts with how you load your weight. Keep the weight high up in the rucksack and close to your spine. This setup allows you to support the weight with an upright, healthy posture. If your shoulders roll forward and you lean too far forward, you’ll put more pressure on your back and neck.
So let's talk about posture...
2. Good posture
Don’t compensate for a heavy ruck with bad posture. You should be upright with your shoulders rolled backward (the opposite of hunching over a keyboard, like modern people are accustomed to). Stand tall, shoulders back, and head up. Keep your core engaged, too. Your neck and back will be glad you did, and your posture will improve over time.
If you find yourself leaning too far forward while rucking, lighten your load. Strength and progress come from consistency, not overloading weight and suffering through a ruck.
3. Short strides, frequent steps
Another simple rucking tip that pays off big time: take short, frequent steps. A long stride increases the stress on your joints and back. Rucking is most efficient and safe when you shuffle with shorter steps, landing on the middle of your foot instead of your heel. It's called the "Airborne Shuffle" because it mimics Army soldiers—loaded with equipment—walking fast to meet their objective.
4. Hydration and fuel for rucking
Proper hydration and good fueling begin the day before your ruck march. Especially when the weather is hot or cold, you must drink plenty of water and eat nutritious foods. While rucking, keep a hydration bladder in your rucksack and bring a few healthy snacks, especially if you’re gone for more than an hour.
Finally, don’t forget to hydrate after your ruck march. Drink plenty of fluids and eat a balanced meal to help your body recover and prepare for your next workout.
Hydration Tip: if you want to enjoy a post ruck beer with your Tribe, go for it. Just drink some water and have a salty snack. Tap here to read The Truth About Your Post Ruck Beer.
5. Ruck, don’t run
When you’re wearing a weighted rucksack, don’t run. Our deep dive on rucking vs. running gets into the details, but we recommend keeping these two exercises separate. Your back and joints will be better off without combining the pounding of running with the weight of rucking. Both exercises have their place, but keep them separate.
6. Safety first: rucking tips for everyone
There are a few things you can do to stay safe while rucking. Follow these safety rucking tips each time you load up your rucksack and head out the door...
- Always tell someone where you’re headed
- Bring enough water and fuel for changes of plan, or emergencies
- Bring your cell phone
- Wear something reflective (like these Reflective Ruck Bands)
- Stay aware of your surroundings: leave your earphones behind
- Keep your gear dry: if you’re rucking far from home, keep a rain cover handy so your extra shirts & socks and electronic devices don’t get caught in a heavy rain
Going farther: rucking tips to go the extra mile
7. Support your feet and ankles
A pair of athletic shoes will only take you so far with a rucksack. As you add weight and distance to your workouts, the risk of rolling an ankle increases. Your feet and ankles will be grateful for supportive footwear like our MACV-1™, the world’s best rucking boot.
When you're at the beach or tossing a football around the yard, go barefoot. A few minutes of light, barefoot exercise can help build durability in your feet and ankles.
8. Increase weight or distance by about 10% each week
Increasing your weight or distance by about 10% each week ensures your body adapts to increasing demands without risking injury. As your rucking confidence increases, you can safely add 5-10 pounds per week, or 1-2 miles. However you choose to progress, do it slowly. Rucking isn’t a race, so take your time and enjoy the sweat, sunshine, and community.
9. Don’t ruck with more than 1/3 of your bodyweight
1/3 of your bodyweight is a great goal to work up to over time, and it’s not necessary to exceed it. If you need a bigger challenge, increase speed or distance instead of weight. If you’ve got a big event coming up and feel the need to add more than 1/3 of your bodyweight (think military training or backcountry hunting), progress gradually (following the 10% rule) to make sure you stay healthy.
10. Wear a Padded Hip Belt
A padded hip belt will pull the bottom of your rucksack inward around your hips or belly and keep it in place, not allowing it to ride upward or sway side-to-side.
Padded Hip Belts allow you to rest (more of) your ruck’s weight on your hips with the added comfort of hip padding. When rucking long distances, having a Padded Hip Belt lets you rest your shoulders and back from time to time.
11. Upgrade your socks
Stay away from cotton socks. Synthetic socks and Merino Wool Socks fit the foot without sliding around, move sweat away from your skin, and dry quickly. That means no blisters. When your feet are happy, you can ruck longer and won’t have to skip workouts. Merino Wool Socks are the most durable and comfortable for rucking, and they absorb odor caused by bacteria, so your socks never develop a funk.
Sock Tip: It never hurts to keep an extra pair of socks in your rucksack, especially if you're expecting wet conditions.
12. Clothing matters
Just like your socks, the rest of your gear should be synthetic or merino wool-synthetic blends. These materials are breathable, quick-drying, abrasion resistant, and lightweight. Stay away from 100% cotton gear. You can check our men’s rucking apparel and women’s rucking apparel for the best rucking tops, pants, and accessories.
13. Maximize the benefits of rucking with a steady pace
The United States’ Army ruck march standard is 15 minutes per mile. We like that pace, too. Beginner ruckers should keep their pace under 20 minutes per mile, but 15 minutes per mile is a great goal. That’s where you’ll maximize the benefits of Active Resistance Training™ (building muscle and strength while improving cardio and endurance).
Reap the benefits: rucking tips to elevate your fitness, community, and life
14. Upgrade your rucksack + add a Ruck Plate®
A good rucksack will be comfortable, durable, and functional. Our rucksacks are the perfect combination of these three characteristics. They have padding and fabric everywhere you need it (and nowhere you don’t), ergonomic lumbar support, and come in a variety of sizes for different activities. They’re built to survive warzones and come with a Scars Lifetime Guarantee. Finally, our rucksacks are proven by thousands of GORUCK event participants every year to be the best in the world.
There’s nowhere our rucksacks can’t go, and there’s no tougher bag on the planet.
Check out these three rucksacks, boasting thousands of reviews:
- Our Rucker® line is the gym on your back. These bags are perfect for training, rucking, and GORUCK Events.
- GR1® has earned its GOAT status - The Greatest Of All Time - the hard way: one deployment, one event, one trip, one mile at a time. Its minimalist design lacks some of the training specific features of the Rucker, such as a dedicated Ruck Plate compartment, but it is more than comfortable bearing all the weight you want to throw in it, anywhere in the world.
- A Ruck Plate Carrier is the most streamlined and efficient way to add weight to your workouts.
If you choose a Rucker®, GR1®, or Ruck Plate Carrier, you might add a compact Ruck Plate®. These streamlined weights fit seamlessly into our rucksacks for superior stability and convenience.
15. Build rucking workouts to challenge yourself
Adding exercises like lunges, pushups, and bear crawls will elevate any ruck. Our rucking workouts guide will give you some ideas on how to build your own workout, but it can be as simple as adding some PT at the beginning, middle, or end of your ruck.
Rucking is all about sweat, getting outside, and community. Do some lunges while you wait for the crossing signal, challenge your friend to a plank-off before your ruck, or finish on the beach with some bear crawls.
16. Find a rucking event
There is a GORUCK Event for everyone, which means we have an event for YOU. The GORUCK Challenge has three difficulty levels, Star Course events are all about teamwork and navigation, and Selection is the world’s toughest endurance event. Sign up with a friend or make some when you get there. Just be ready to work hard.
17. Make some rucking friends
There’s an Official GORUCK Club in a city near you. These are fitness-oriented get-togethers where you sweat, smile, and get outside. Those are three things we can all use more of.
18. Get a cool patch
Patches add personality to your rucksack or sandbag. Check out our best-sellers here. You may want to get one for a friend, too.
19. Join Tribe ‘n Training
Our Tribe is united because we believe an active life is a healthy life. Come push boundaries (especially the ones you have in your own mind), get stronger one step and one rep at a time, and spend quality time with friends outside.
That’s Tribe ‘n Training.
Join thousands of ruckers from all over the world, and in neighborhoods near you. Tap here to get started.
Rucking tips: final thoughts
Rucking—like everything else that’s rewarding—is something that we all improve at over time. The more you do it, the stronger you get, and the more benefits you’ll reap. Take it one step at a time, and learn something about yourself along the way.
Here's the best of all the rucking tips: “humans are better than hardware, outside is better than inside, and together is better than alone.”
Carry that with you, and you’ll get the most out of every mile.