What is Rucking?

Rucking is the action of walking with weight on your back. Walking with a weighted rucksack (aka backpack) is a low impact exercise based on military training workouts.

What are some of the benefits of rucking?

  • It's extremely simple, and requires minimal gear
  • Burns up to 3x more calories than walking
  • Gets you outside (away from screens)
  • Builds muscle and strength
  • Improves cardio and endurance

Hiking is rucking in the mountains and urban hiking is simply called rucking.You've probably even spent time rucking - traveling, bringing books to school, or on your commute to work. Carrying weight is a necessary part of life, and as it turns out, humans are naturally good at it, too.

Most of us don't spend enough time being active. With more than 75% of Americans failing to meet the recommended physical activity guidelines, the message is clear - we need to spend more time outside moving around and less time inside on a phone or computer screen.

The goal is to move more. The solution is as simple as putting weight on your back and going for a walk.

As a Veteran owned company with special forces roots, GORUCK is the Rucking Company.

Our military background has led us to build the highest quality rucks and lead thousands of rucking events. We've spent over a decade improving, testing, and producing our own gear, specifically made for rucking.

Needless to say, we know rucking. In this article, we'll take a deep dive into rucking and explore all it has to offer.

You’ve got questions - we’ve got your back.

Rucking Benefits

The physical and mental health benefits of rucking are incredible. Adding weight to your daily movement elevates your heart at a rate that is similar to jogging.

Anyone can start rucking. Just grab a rucksack, add weight and workout anytime, anywhere you want. Rucking is also an activity that gets you outside and around people enjoying the real world, not the virtual one we all spend too much time in these days.

Complete Training System

Rucking combines strength training and cardio. Bringing both types of exercises together provides a fuller range of benefits to improve your health.

The rucksack is a complete gym on your back - you can switch from rucking to Ruck PT exercises in an instant, for a full body workout anytime you choose. This allows you to challenge yourself without significant impact to your joints.

Ruck training is the ultimate full body exercise, and a great way to build muscle in your back (traps, lats), core / abs, legs (quads, hamstrings, calves), glutes, and stabilizer muscles groups.

man rucking on road
man lifting backpack overhead while lunging

Improved Health

To travel, to get around town, and to workout — movement is necessary. As we get older, finding a safe and effective way to move becomes essential for injury prevention, mobility, and overall health.

The cardio benefits from rucking help to reduce blood pressure and inflammation, improve sleep quality and brain function, and strengthen bone density, which can help treat or prevent osteoporosis. The best way to stop and even reverse bone loss - according to Dr. Robert Wermers, a bone disease specialist with the Mayo Clinic - is to do “aerobic walking where you’re bearing weight.” i.e., rucking.

Not only is rucking easier on your knees than most other sports or fitness activities, but it also improves your posture as the weight of the rucksack pulls your shoulders into proper alignment while moving.

One of the leading experts on back pain, Dr. Stuart McGill, sat down with GORUCK Founder Jason Mccarthy to discuss the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle and how rucking is used as a safe and scalable exercise to prevent back pain and improve resilience.

Dr. McGill is Professor Emeritus after 32 years at the University of Waterloo where he had a laboratory/clinic that explored low back pain, rehabilitation and performance enhancement. He is the author of Back Mechanic, as well as over 240 medical and scientific journal papers.

Functional

You don't need a personal trainer, thousand dollar machines, or even a gym membership. Rucking can be done anywhere, requires minimal equipment, and scales as you progress.

Whether it's a regular everyday task or a life-threatening emergency, rucking prepares you for every scenario. Carrying weight over distance is a fundamental skill that you can use every single day.

If you're traveling out of town, commuting to work, meeting friends in town or walking the dog, rucking is one of the easiest ways to add fitness into your daily life.

Social Fitness

The best part about rucking is the people. Social fitness appeals to most people for accountability and support. Rucking allows you to grab some friends, get outdoors and move.

Being outside is a basic need we all have as human beings, as is being part of a community. You might even be surrounded by a community of people who love rucking, also known as Ruck Clubs.

One of the many unique benefits of rucking is the ability to scale with weight, which allows you to ruck at the same pace as anyone else and challenge yourself with an outdoor workout. This is not possible with other movement exercises, which leave you out of breath, unable to talk to your workout partner, and require you to move at the exact same pace in order to exercise together.

“Rucking is very much a social fitness phenomenon for me because it really didn’t need to happen, however the popularization of ruck clubs and people putting weight into backpacks and going together for mileage under the principle of “go fast, go alone; go far, go together” blows my mind. I love it. These days, I will strap 30lbs into my bag, stuff in a hydration bladder full of water, and just go alone or with whomever wants to do miles with me.”

- George Yanez, Washington D.C. Ruck Club member

Rucking vs. Running

Our bodies were not built to sit at a desk for hours on end, slouching over a keyboard, staring at a computer, phone or TV.

We need to stay active to reverse the effects of our daily routines. Walking, rucking, and running are all great ways to accomplish that goal, but they are not all created equal.

Walking is a low impact exercise and can very easily added into day-to-day life, but pales in comparison to the cardio benefits from an elevated heart rate while running.

On the other hand, running is not for everyone, and the impact and strain on the body makes us more prone to injury. “Runner’s knee” is a reality, and a problem for millions of us. Avoiding the damage running does to your body is one of the main reasons people get into rucking.

Rucking has a similar impact to that of walking but with a cardio result similar to jogging. In fact, you can even burn about as many calories rucking as jogging.

Rucking is also better at building muscles like the traps, lats, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and abs, to name a few. When the rucksack is used for a Rucking Workout (Ruck PT), it becomes a complete gym on your back and works all muscle groups.

rucking vs. running chart

How to Start Rucking

1. Get a Rucksack (backpack)
man wearing rucksack

Don’t overthink it, this is easy. Get yourself a pack.

If you are new to rucking, don't worry about which type of pack you use. There are rucksacks made specifically for rucking, but the important part is that you get started, so grab any backpack you can find laying around.

2. Add Weight
ruck plate sliding into rucker rucksack

Now that you have your bag, you need to put some weight in it.

Grab a weight and wrap it in a towel for cushion, and put it in the bag. Anything will work as your weight - dumbbells, bricks, books, you can even fill the bag with potting soil, just add weight.

When in doubt, start with 10-20 pounds.

3. Walk
guy and girl rucking down street together

Put your pack on and start walking. It's that easy. Start at a comfortable pace and keep an upright posture. Over time, you can increase the weight, speed, and distance.

(Tip: start light and if your pack allows, keep the weight high and stable next to your back.)


Rucking Tips

three guys rucking in forest
Maintain Good Posture

Stand up straight with an open chest while rucking, and keep your core engaged. This will strengthen your muscle groups and enforce good posture practice.

If you feel that you might break form, either due to weight or time under the weight, you need to either decrease the weight or decrease the distance.

Add Rucking Into Daily Life

Whether you're traveling, taking the dog for a walk, commuting to work, mowing the lawn, or getting the kids outside to burn some energy, add weight and make it a rucking activity. You can even start a Ruck Meeting on your next video call.

guy and girl rucking while pushing a stroller
Active Recovery

Get plenty of sleep, stretch after your rucking workouts, and stay hydrated. This simple advice will make a big difference as you progress in rucking.

If you want to get creative, use your pack for a Ruck PT to make the workout even more challenging and strengthen opposing muscle groups.

Rucking Workouts

A rucking workout brings together the cardio benefits from weighted walking with the muscle building benefits of ruck PT (Physical Training).

When rucking and ruck PT are combined, The backpack becomes a complete gym on your back, a true functional fitness workout.

Any bodyweight exercise can be scaled with ruck PT, such as push ups, squats, thrusters, and pull ups. The key is to get creative with your exercises.

Here are just a few example of what is possible with ruck PT:

Ruck Thruster
Ruck Squat
American Twist with Ruck
Ruck Pull Through

Additional Ruck PT Movements

weighted ruck swing
Ruck Swings
overhead press with ruck
Ruck Overhead Press
high pull with ruck
Ruck High Pull
suitcase carry with ruck
Ruck Suitcase Carry
rucksack deadlift
Ruck Bent Over Row
bear crawl with rucksack
Ruck Bear Crawl
rucksack lunge
Ruck Lunges
ruck pushup
Ruck Pushups

If you're new to rucking workouts, we recommend starting at a pace and weight you are comfortable with, so you can get familiar with carrying weight.

Aim for one to two rucking sessions per week. Start with a light weight, and increase the distance, speed, and weight as your fitness level improves. If you haven't consistenly rucked before, your muscles, ligaments, and joints all need time to become accustomed to the weight and movement.

man doing sandbag row  workout while wearing a weight vest

RUCKING WORKOUT PLANS
For those who are looking for a little more intensity and variety in their rucking workouts, we recommend joining the GORUCK Tribe + Training Program.

We believe an active life is a healthy life, and this unites us. Get stronger one rep at a time with daily workouts and a community of people doing the work together.

"If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together."


Rucking Backpacks

When you are ready to invest in rucking and upgrade to something more purpose oriented, there are a few things you should consider when selecting your next rucksack.

katie knight and josh bridges rucking

MADE FOR RUCKING

To keep your movement focused on your core and not your lower back you want a pack that allows the weight to ride high on your back and as secure and close to your back as possible.

Some rucksacks like the GORUCK Rucker are built with this in mind, and have a sleeve built into the back of the pack that allows you to add weight securely.

FITS LIKE A GLOVE

You will be spending a lot of time with a rucksack strapped to your back so you want to make sure you have one that fits your frame comfortably and is not too big or limits your movement while rucking.

Also, take a look at the straps; they should be wide and well padded to ensure comfort and good distribution of the weight across more of your shoulders.

josh bridges wearing a rucksack
20LB ruck plate sliding into Rucker

INTEGRATED WEIGHT COMPARTMENT

When adding weight to your pack are bricks or traditional weights still working for you or are you considering a pack that can hold a Ruck Plate?

GORUCK Ruck Plates are iron weights made specifically to fit in the sleeves of each GORUCK pack. They are a great streamlined way to add secure weight that doesn't shift around while you are rucking.

EXTREMELY DURABLE MATERIALS

Your rucksack should be well built, durable heavy duty materials and stitching so it can hold up to the weight and abuse Rucking and Ruck PT movements.

Are you looking for a pack that is exclusively for Rucking, or do you want to be able to do Ruck PT as well? If so, ensure it has multiple padded handles, so you can maneuver the pack easily and grab with both hands.  

girl lifting Rucker overhead
two guys fixing a backpack

LIFETIME WARRANTY

Your pack is only as good as the promise behind it. Make sure your pack is backed by a Lifetime Guarantee.

man putting ruck plate into rucksack
rucksack for rucking workout
ruck push up

Rucking Testimonials

man before and after rucking for weight loss
Steve: before and after rucking

"I did not start rucking until I was in my late 40s and desperately needed to change my lifestyle. I was obese, and presenting a host of related medical problems. The simpleness of rucking appealed to me. Throw on a ruck and walk.

This may sound cliché, but rucking saved my life. I was late 40s, somewhere north of 340 pounds, pre-diabetic, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and all the rest. Through cycling and GORUCK, I lost the weight, built-up strength, and finished my first Tough at 51. The goal of finishing that Tough is what kept me going. My ruck club helped mentally, as it’s a lot harder to DFQ when you’re alone. I lost almost 150 pounds, and am in the best shape of my life. All my medical problems vanished. My doctor says I’m healthier than he’s ever seen me in 20 years."

~ Steve Ries

woman before and after rucking for weight loss

"I found GORUCK through the obstacle racing community on Facebook. Many OCR enthusiasts were also doing GORUCK events and I decided to check them out online. I was immediately drawn to the mental and physical challenge to completing them, so I signed up for a Light, then a Challenge (now Tough).

After losing about 100 pounds, I found that keeping them off was far more difficult. I learned that training and fueling for athletic goals was much more fun and motivating than just dieting and exercising. Rucking is something that appealed to me because it’s more about endurance than athleticism. It’s also great for building core strength and bone density, both helpful in my 50s and beyond. Last but definitely not least, it’s something I can do with my active friends."

- Jamie Gold

group of ruckers at wrigley field

"I ruck to heal my heart. Shortly after turning 40 I woke up one morning with chest pains and one ER visit later I end up with three stents in my chest. I was never an athlete and lived a decidedly unhealthy lifestyle, but rucking has helped me change all of that. I tried running but was never really able to go too far. My cardiologist loves the changes and I am in better shape than I ever was."

- Patrick M.

girl with rucksack looking at city

"I started rucking because I wanted to strengthen my body, but found that I was also strengthening my mind. I still ruck to stay in shape, but it also helps me to clear my mind of bad distractions and focus on my goals. I can't get enough!"

- Stephanie M.

"As a mom it is great to get a more intense workout on while walking to the park. Without a doubt pushing me and seeing increased definition in my lower body and total body fat percentage."

- Amber D.

"Rucking has become a significant part of my life as I have successfully introduced it to my weight loss program. I have lost 80 lbs. and it’s largely due to the rucking!"

- J. Chapman

girl rucking down muddy trail

"Throwing on a ruck and going for a walk has become my favorite form of exercise. Two years ago if you told me I would be rucking that far with anywhere from 30-50 pounds on my back I would have called you crazy. I was active duty at one time and swore I would never put on another ruck. But my strength and endurance have significantly improved and in the past three months I've lost 13 pounds by increasing my distances. Physically and mentally, rucking is very challenging but the lessons I've learned about how much my body can do and what my mind can push me to do have been invaluable."

-Tina S.

man wearing rucksack while smiling with son

"As a busy dad, my time with my kids is very important to me! After reading about GORUCK and signing up for an event, the training began. I didn't want to lose my precious time with the kids so they also started to train! As you can imagine, it has been awesome! My kids and I are all in! We ruck every chance we get and have enjoyed every mile we've put in. I roll with my 50# ruck, my 9 year old daughter with her 10# ruck and my 7 year old with 5#. My kids are ready to ruck!"

- Matt R.


Rucking Experts Discussion Panel

Five experts in their respective fields sat down at Sandlot Jax to take a deep dive into all things rucking:

Jason McCarthy // Founder of GORUCK & Sandlot JAX, Former US Special Forces

Dr. Kelly Starrett // Co-Founder, The Ready State & Author of The Supple Leopard

Melissa Urban // Co-Founder & CEO, Whole30

Richard Rice // Senior Advisor, GORUCK & Former US Special Forces (Human Performance in Four Decades of War)

Michael Easter // Author of The Comfort Crisis & Contributing Editor, Men’s Health


Rucking FAQ

How often should I ruck?

Start with 1-2 rucks per week, depending on your current fitness activity level, and work up to 3-4 rucks per week max. Generally speaking, we do not advise rucking every day. Give your body time to recover after rucking.

How fast should I ruck?

Go at your own pace, you can ruck however fast or slow you'd like. If you'd like to set benchmark goals and you're just getting started with rucking, aim for 17-20 minutes per mile.

The Army minimum standard is 15 minutes per mile, which is a great goal pace to meet (or exceed) over time as you progress in rucking.

How much weight do I ruck?

Start with 10 - 25 pounds, depending on your current fitness activity level and bodyweight. When in doubt, aim for lighter weight and longer distance on your first few rucks. If you can't maintain good posture for the entire ruck, lower the weight and build up over time.

Work your way up in increments of 5 pounds each week, or as you see fit. Listen to your body, stretch, hydrate, and adjust as necessary.

Can I carry too much weight?

A good rule of thumb is to not carry more than ⅓ of your bodyweight.

In 1950, Colonel S.L.A. Marshall published a book called The Soldier’s Load and the Mobility of a Nation, which is still widely regarded as the reference of choice on the matter. In this book, Marshall details at great length how and why soldiers are required to carry too much weight, which was as relevant then as it is to today’s combat loads in excess of 100 lbs.

Marshall contends that based on past studies on the loads carried by armies throughout history, the soldier should be limited to ⅓ of his bodyweight.

In our experience, we've found the ⅓ rule to be true, and a great goal to work up to over time, and not exceed. Remember, if you need a bigger challenge you can always increase speed and distance rucked, too.

If you do need to go above ⅓ of your bodyweight, such as for military training or backcountry hunting, make sure you’re ready for it and that you progress safely.

What is a ruck march?

The military ruck march, otherwise known as a loaded march or forced foot march, is part of army training for different militaries all over the world. The ruck march is one course in a series of tests under U.S. Army regulations in order to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB).

The EIB is a special skills badge awarded to recognize Infantrymen who have demonstrated a mastery of critical tasks, including the ruck march, physical fitness assessment, land navigation, weapons navigation, and other individual tasks.

The ruck march requires the candidate to complete a 12-mile march within 3 hours while carrying a rifle and 35 lb minimum load that add up to the Army ruck weight standards, for a total of up to 70 lbs.

Does rucking build muscle?

Absolutely, rucking builds muscle in your back (traps, lats), core / abs, legs (quads, hamstrings, calves), glutes, and stabilizer muscles groups.

When paired with a Ruck PT workout, rucking becomes the ultimate full body exercise.

Is rucking bad for me?

Rucking actually improves knee joint and back health – it is significantly safer than running and even lifting weights, due to the low stress nature of the movement. As with any weighted exercise, incorrect form and bad technique can cause injury.

Rucking injuries are more common in the military during forced foot marches, in which the soldier rucks at weights, distances, and speeds far beyond what is recommended (100 lbs+).

It's important to start with a manageable weight, at a safe pace, and give your body time to recover. Patience is key to achieving all the health benefits of rucking.

Can I lose weight from rucking?

Yes, rucking is one of the safest and most efficient ways to burn calories and lose weight.

Also known as Active Resistance Training (ART), which is part active cardio and part strength training, rucking will burn significantly more calories than walking. With the added benefits of permanent metabolic gains from stronger muscles at a fraction of the cost to your knees, and plenty of benefit to your heart.

Check out the Rucking Calorie Calculator to get an estimate of calories burned while rucking.


More on Rucking

Rucking Gear

What is a Rucksack?

three waxed canvas rucksacks

Rucking Workouts

girl throwing sandbag

Rucking Events

two people finishing a goruck event

Blog Articles

girl throwing a sandbag to another girl

Article: Incorporating Rucking Into Your Training

Michael Easter and his dog  in front of a sunset

Article: A Deep Dive Into Rucking by Michael Easter

Article: The Case for Rucking Meetings

Michael Easter rucking a pack with Antlers

Article: Why Humans Were Born to Ruck by Michael Easter

What is GORUCK?