Rucking 101: Why It's the Perfect Workout for Busy Professionals

Discover the many benefits of rucking and how to do it safely. Plus, find out why it's the best workout for busy professionals with limited free time.

Rucking 101 Why It's the Perfect Workout for Busy Professionals

Sitting at your desk all day got you stiff as a board? Or maybe you don't have much room in your schedule to fit in some much-needed exercise. 

Well, rucking might be the solution you need right now. 

It's walking with purpose and weights. It transforms an ordinary stroll into an intense workout that will make you stronger and more capable overall. Keep reading to learn everyone you need to know about it.

TL;DR

Rucking is a military exercise that involves walking with a weighted backpack. It's an accessible and time-efficient strength and cardio workout that can:

  • Boost energy and focus
  • Improve joint health
  • Promote a healthy posture 

It can also be done almost anywhere and anytime, so it's great for busy pros. 

An Overview of Rucking

Rucking is walking or hiking with a heavy backpack (or a rucksack) for an extended period. The weights in the backpack can be anything from sandbags and rocks to weighted plates and other heavy objects. 

It's been a staple of military training workouts worldwide, where soldiers have to carry heavy packs containing weapons, ammunition, food, water, and more for many miles at a time. This helps improve their muscular strength and cardiorespiratory fitness. 

Recently, rucking has grown beyond its military roots and gained popularity as a fitness activity. It may seem easy, but that the simple act of walking or hiking becomes significantly more challenging when carrying a weighted pack.

The added resistance forces the muscles—especially the ones in the legs, hips, and back—to work extra hard with each step. This turns an ordinary walk into an intense cardio and full-body strength training workout.

The Gear

Rucking is a simple exercise that doesn't require any fancy equipment, and you can easily improvise the weights in your rucksack.

You only need:

  • Rucksack or Backpack: Choose one with a padded waist and chest straps for comfort and proper weight distribution. I recommend military-style rucksacks. They have a hip belt, which works well for rucking. A standard hiking backpack will work, too. 
  • Weights: Special rucking weights like sandbags and weighted vests are available, but as I said, you can also improvise here. I personally use regular burlap bags filled with sand and gravel. Nothing fancy. 
  • Proper Footwear: Unless you're okay with rolled ankles, proper footwear is a must for rucking and other activities that involve heavy loads. I've found tactical and hiking boots to be the best for this exercise. Trail running shoes can also work for a lighter weight.
  • Comfortable Clothing: Moisture-wicking shirts and pants will help regulate your body's temperature as you're rucking. Avoid cotton since it absorbs and retains moisture. 

The Form

Proper form is key when rucking to avoid injury. Your shoulders should be back and down, not rounded forward. Also, you should keep your chest up while rucking. 

Your backpack should sit high between your shoulder blades for support. Wearing it too low can tire you quickly and maybe even injure you. 

"Head up, eyes forward" is the motto when rucking. You need to be looking ahead as naturally as possible. You can't be craning your neck forward or down. 

You should also be taking smaller steps than usual to accommodate the load. Please don't over-stride; it won't make you any stronger.

Last but definitely not least, you have to prioritize foot care. Trim your toenails to prevent black toes, and make sure to put on moisture-wicking socks before going out for a ruck. 

Key Benefits of Rucking

Everyone is talking about rucking because of these impressive benefits:

Convenient and Accessible

Rucking is as convenient and accessible as can be. No gym membership and no elaborate equipment; just a basic backpack, some weights, and you're good to go. 

You can ruck anywhere—on hiking trails, in parks, or around your neighborhood—and you can fit a rucking workout into a busy schedule—before work, on lunch breaks, or in the evenings. 

Less Impact Than Running

Running is often cited as the best cardio exercise, but it can be really hard on the feet, knees, and hips. It can sideline even the most careful runners. 

In contrast, rucking is safer due to the slower walking pace. The gradual weight bearing helps build bone density while being gentle on the joints.

 Weighted walking can be done daily as a form of active resistance training, especially for those with desk jobs. The lower impact means most people can ruck well into older age.

Burns More Calories Than Walking

You can calculate approximately how many calories rucking will help you burn using a rucking calorie calculator, but generally speaking, it can burn up to 3x more calories than walking. 

Though rucking may not burn as many calories as running, it's close. Besides, it's better at burning fat and preserving muscles. It helps you avoid that skinny-fat look running can sometimes render. 

Adjustable for Any Fitness Level

The weight, distance, and pace can be dialed up or down to match your goals and current physical ability.

For beginner ruckers, a 10-pound load and 2-mile distance is suitable. Experienced ruckers may go for long treks of over 10 miles while carrying 50 pounds or more. 

Balances Your Body Composition

Ruck marching is an exercise that combines strength and endurance. Doing it correctly helps balance your body composition and turns you into a machine. 

If you're thin and wiry, rucking can help you with muscle development. If you're not happy with your body weight, heavy-load ruck workouts can help you trim that excess weight over time. 

Other Benefits

Here are a few other noteworthy benefits of rucking:

  • Can help you with blood sugar regulation, especially when done after eating. 
  • Prepares you for emergencies that require trekking several miles with a heavy load. 
  • Can be mixed with other exercises like squats, lunges, and planks. 
  • Improves your mental health, mood, and quality of sleep. 
  • Strengthens your back and shoulders, which improves your posture.
  • Can be done with anyone; even your dog will be glad to tag along.

Why Rucking Is Perfect for Busy Professionals

If you're struggling to work up a sweat and keep your body in shape, you're going to love rucking for the following reasons:

  • Time-Efficient: A mid-day rucking session can be a convenient way for professionals to fit some exercise into their schedule. Simply strap on a weighted rucksack and head out for a walk around your office building on your lunch break. 
  • Improves Energy and Focus: In addition to cardio benefits, rucking also improves your energy levels and mental clarity. You become more efficient at your job as a result.  
  • Releases Stress: Like any form of exercise, rucking helps release muscle tension and stimulate endorphins. This helps lower stress and improve work performance. 
  • Promotes Creativity: The combination of physical activity and being outdoors during rucking sessions can spark creativity and new ideas through improved blood flow and oxygenation. 

Best Practices for Safe and Effective Rucking

Just because rucking is a low-impact exercise doesn't mean it's completely risk-free. To avoid injuries and get the most out of rucking, adhere to these best practices: 

  • Load Your Ruck Properly:  Remember, the proper position for the rucksack should be high up and close to your spine. This short YouTube tutorial demonstrates the right form perfectly. 
  • Hydrate and Eat Nutritious Food: Proper hydration and fueling are crucial for rucking, especially if the weather is hotter or colder than usual. I recommend keeping a hydration bladder or even a small water bottle and some healthy snacks in your rucksack. 
  • Ruck, Don't Run: It can be tempting to combine rucking with running, but it's not always advised. With the added weight you're carrying, your back and joints will be better off without the constant pounding of running. So, keep the two exercises separate.
  • Increase Weight/Distance Regularly: I recommend increasing your weight or distance by around 10% every week. This will improve your progress without risking injury. How much weight one should start with will differ from one rucker to another, but it's recommended to start small and work your way up. 
  • Take Shorter Steps: You should avoid over-striding when you're rucking. A long stride will stress your joints and back. Rucking is safest and most efficient when you shuffle with shorter steps and land on the middle of your foot instead of your heel. This is known as the "airborne shuffle."

Ruck On

If you're a busy professional looking for an accessible and time-efficient workout to keep you in shape, look no further than rucking. Strapping some weight on your back and going for a walk may sound too simple, but it can deliver great results.

Not only will it improve your muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness, but it'll also increase your energy levels, mental clarity, and creativity.

So what are you waiting for? It's time to start rucking!