Members of the military love to hate ruck marching, from when they were in boot camp to the end of their careers. It makes our warfighters to be in great shape and prepared for whatever comes their way. Ruck marching has recently become popular for civilians and mainstream culture.
You find numerous type challenges out there from the Tough Ruck in Boston, MA, the Go Ruck challenges, to the Bataan Memorial Death March in New Mexico.
Those challenges are typically over 20 miles long and last all day.
What makes rucking so popular?
What is a ruck march?
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What is a Ruck March
The word ruck comes from the military term of “rucksack” or, in civilian terms, a backpack that is loaded with gear.
When I was in the Army a typical ruck would way anywhere from 50 to 100 lbs.
I remember while in Iraq I decided to weigh myself wearing all the gear that I typically have during operations. At the time I weighed 225lbs, 60 lbs body armor or Individual Body Armor (IBA as its officially called in the Army), and a 100 lbs rucksack. I weighed 385 lbs total. I did not even account for my weapon and helmet.
I am going to assume I weighed 400 lbs with all that gear.
Pretty heavy huh?
What’s funny is my body adapted to that weight. Our bodies are pretty resilient and can adapt very quickly to various conditions that we put our bodies through.
You don’t have to put that much weight into your ruck to gain any sort of benefits of rucking. You just put 30 to 50 lbs in your ruck and go for a nice “leisure walk”.
Benefits of Rucking…
Typically, if you speed walk, without a ruck for about 1 hour you burn anywhere from 300 to 400 calories. If you add a 50 lbs ruck you burn anywhere from 500 to 600 calories when you walk for an hour with a ruck.
You can use up a lot of calories for you go for more than an hour. In the military, during training, we not only ruck to our objective but we also assault our objective. Sometimes the instructors never told us how far we are going but the only thing we knew was what time to be ready to Ruck.
Usually, it would be around 4:00 am.
We sometimes ruck and get “ambushed” and we have to fight through the ambush, so we are spending a lot more calories when you add all these stressors.
I will go through some workouts to do, if you choose, while you ruck if you want to challenge yourself.
When we work out, at some point we get back pain. That is sometimes due to poor posture from sitting at our desks, cars, police cars, wearing a duty belt, IBAs, and various other things. Our backs eventually take a beating.
Stu McGill, Ph.D. professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and the author of Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance says, “when you hit the gym, if you lift with your back flexed it can cause a potentially-painful disc bulge, says, “People who have developed a disc bulge often lean forward when walking.
This makes your situation worse because your body has to fire your back muscles even harder to hold your torso up. That puts more stress on the disc bulge, says McGill. – Men’s Health Article BY MICHAEL EASTER DECEMBER 25, 2015
Dr. McGill also states that “Throwing a weighted backpack on and going for a walk actually helps hold your torso up, so your back muscles don’t have to work as hard.”
“The net effect is that less compression is put on your spine, and the flexed forward posture that inflames the disc is reduced,” says McGill. “And it can also work disc gel (a disc bulge is caused by extruded disc gel) back into the middle of your disc, reducing the bulge.” – Men’s Health Article BY MICHAEL EASTER DECEMBER 25, 2015
It’s Easy (And Inexpensive) To Do
All you are doing is going for a walk. You can pretty much ruck anywhere. You can throw a ruck on and walk with your family around the neighborhood.
Rucks are cheap to purchase and putting weight on them is easy. Like I stated before, you can use dumbbells, plates, and anything else you can think of to make it weigh more. In the military, all they use is extra clothing and shoes. I remember when I would pack my ruck it would weigh anywhere from 30 to 50 lbs.
That is just clothing and some survival gear!
It Gets You Out Of The Gym
The gym eventually gets boring, running gets old, and it’s always great to change up your routine.
Rucking gets you outside, gets you in the sun, gets you away from all the distractions of the gym. Sometimes it is nice to just go outside and take a walk.
Let’s face it, your average gym workout can become arduous. And once your routine becomes routine, you stop caring and your fitness plateaus. Outdoor exercise also throws something new at your brain.
Rucking Workout Plan (How to start)
#1 Choose Your Ruck
If you want an old-school military rucksack you can go any Army surplus store and check what they have. Below is a picture of what it looks like. There are many other types but just so you have an idea.
This rucksack has a metal frame in the back.
#2 Choose The Weight
If you’re a beginner I would recommend starting with 15 lbs. If you start heavy you risk burning out too soon. You need to build up your strength. Don’t stress out if you’re a couple pounds higher or lower than 15 lbs.
Stay on 15 lbs for a couple of weeks then gradually work your way to 35 lbs. I wouldn’t recommend going any higher than that. Your body begins to break down if you go higher than that.
#3 Load Your Ruck
For weight, you could throw a dumbbell, Olympic plates, sandbags, etc. in your pack. There are companies out there that sell fancy plates for rucking, just look online for them.
#4 Choose Your Boots/Shoes
An important part of rucking, probably the most important is your shoe selection. In the military, they issued me jungle boots to use. These days, I use more comfortable boots to ruck in. You will need to break your boots or shoes in. Start walking in them immediately after buying them. Wear them for a couple of days before putting on a pack and rucking.
The boots I wear are Solomon boots or 5.11 brand hiking shoes.
#5 Get A Good Pair Of Insoles
Your feet will thank you later. Insoles will help cushion your steps when you have weight on your back. Make sure you get your feet measured before buying insoles so you can make sure they fit in your new boots/shoes.
#6 DO NOT RUN!
You can walk at a fast pace. If you run, there is a risk that you could injure your lower back. I know what you’re probably thinking; you’ve seen soldiers on TV running with their rucks. Soldiers go through extreme physical training to handle all that weight.
Additionally, they are not really running, it’s more of a trot.
US Army Special Forces Ruck March
Below is straight out of the US Army Special Forces Ruck March training guide. Look them over.
(1) The weight of body must be kept directly over feet, and sole of shoe must be flat on the ground taking small steps at a steady pace.
(2) Knees must be locked on every step in order to rest muscles of the legs (especially when going uphill).
(3) When walking cross-country, step over and around obstacles; never step on them.
(4) When traveling up steep slopes, always traverse them; climb in zigzag pattern rather than straight up.
(5) When descending steep slopes, keep the back straight and knees bent to take up the shock of each step. Dig in with heels on each step.
(6) Practice walking as fast as you can with a rucksack. Do not run with a rucksack. When testing, you may have to trot to maintain time but try not to do this during training, it may injure you.
(7) A good rucksack pace is accomplished by continuous movement with short breaks (5 minutes) every 6 to 8 miles.
We went over some of the benefits of rucking and why you should add it to your cardio regiment. It will work you hard and it is something different. Your leg muscles will scream at you because you just introduced something new to them.
We also went over the number of calories you burn just by walking with a ruck. Remember, if you add a 50 lbs ruck you burn anywhere from 500 to 600 calories when you walk for an hour with a ruck.
Now that you have all you need to go ahead and Ruck!
-Detective Ayman Kafel
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I started rucking recently I have started upper back pain. Any suggestion? Is rucking only a cardio? I thought it is strength training too.
How much weight are you rucking? If you are new to rucking and are using heavy weight then you would experience some pain. You need to start light and work your way up. Same with miles, if you’re rucking a lot of miles and not used to it, it may lead to pain.
Do you stretch before you Ruck? That is also a factor.
Just like any exercise routine, you need to stretch both before and after.