Does Rucking Build Muscle? Here’s What the Research Says 

 May 19, 2023

By  Keith Terrell

When it comes to shaping up and getting fit, there are a plethora of workout options out there. From classic bodybuilding and weightlifting to more modern CrossFit and HIIT, there's something for everyone. But what about the lesser known form of exercise known as rucking? 

Yes, rucking can help you build muscle, depending on the intensity and duration of your workouts. It is important to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise routine to ensure that it is right for you.

You may have seen people wearing weighted backpacks walking around town -well, that type of activity is called rucking, and it’s actually gaining popularity as fitness buffs look for new ways to get fit. But what is rucking? Does it really build muscle mass? Let's dive into the research and find out.

What is Rucking?

Rucking is a type of resistance exercise that involves wearing an external load while walking for an extended period of time. This can be done with a backpack designed for rucking, weight vest, or sandbags. It is thought to be an effective way to build muscle and strength. While the concept of rucking is simple, its potential benefits as a functional activity are not fully understood.

Proponents of rucking point to its ability to improve power and muscular endurance at the same time as burning calories and building muscle mass. It also has the advantage of being widely accessible with minimal specialized equipment. They also argue that rucking can strengthen muscles not normally targeted during traditional gym exercises such as squats and deadlifts, making it important for balance and overall fitness levels.

On the other hand, opponents contend that while rucking may burn intensely in the moment, there is little evidence to suggest that it increases muscle mass more effectively than other forms of physical activity such as running or weightlifting. Furthermore, according to some health experts, overloading joints with heavy weights worn on the back can cause injury if done improperly or without proper medical supervision.

Ultimately, it appears that both sides have valid points about the merits of rucking. Ultimately, further research needs to be done into whether it can be an effective form of strength training and physical activity for individuals looking to build muscle and increase overall strength. But even then, it's clear that proper technique is essential for minimizing the risk of injury when doing any kind of load-bearing exercise like rucking. With this in mind, let us look at what the scientific literature has to say about whether rucking does indeed build muscle –– we’ll take a closer examination in the next section.

  • A 2015 study found that one session of recreational long distance walking was enough to increase strength and muscle mass in the lower body.
  • according to a 2018 study, high intensity rucking (walk/jog) moderately affects anaerobic endurance capacity.
  • A 2018 systematic review concluded that walking with a weighted backpack can elevate oxygen consumption by as much as 25% more than usual walking.

Key Points

Rucking is a form of resistance exercise that is thought to be an effective way to build muscle and strength. It is accessible and can target muscles not usually worked in traditional gym exercises. However, there is some debate as to its effectiveness versus other forms of physical activity like running or weightlifting and some health experts say it should be done with proper medical supervision to avoid injury. Further research is needed into whether rucking can be an effective form of strength training and physical activity for individuals looking to build muscle and increase overall strength.

Does Rucking Build Muscle?

Rucking is a form of exercise which combines walking with carrying a weighted backpack or bag. A variety of research studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of this type of workout in building muscle. On one hand, some studies suggest that any type of physical activity can lead to increased muscle mass, whether it be an endurance exercise such as running or rucking, or strength-training exercises such as lifting weights. On the other hand, more intense and varied exercises are associated with greater muscle gains than others.

In one study conducted by researchers at the University of Montana in 2019, a group of young adults participated in different types of physical activity - including rucking - for a period of eight weeks. Subjects who performed rucking workouts experienced statistically significant increases in their lower and upper body strength compared to those who only participated in regular aerobic exercise. Additionally, participants who engaged more often in rucking activities showed greater improvements in their strength scores than those who did not. This suggests that moderate intensity rucking may provide benefits to muscular strength development when combined with other forms of physical activity.

Regardless of whether you believe rucking is an effective way to build muscle or not, what is clear from the evidence is that it is more beneficial when part of a training program that consists of other types of physical activities. Altogether, these studies show us that there are many factors which can influence our individual progress and results during a workout routine - from the intensity and duration of each session to how often we perform them - so it’s important to consider all these elements when deciding how best to achieve our fitness goals. Ultimately, how and when to use rucking and other exercises depends on our individual needs and preferences. Moving forward, we will take a look at some other factors that influence muscle development in order for you to create a program tailored specifically for you.

Factors That Influence Muscle Development

When examining the argument of whether or not rucking builds muscle, there are several factors that influence muscle development. The first is the intensity of the workout and how hard an individual is pushing themselves when rucking. If one is not pushing themselves to their maximum effort, it is unlikely that they will experience a significant increase in muscle mass. It also depends on the frequency of one's rucking workouts. Frequency plays a role in muscle development because it allows for more time to break down and reconstruct the muscles in order to build them up stronger and larger than before. Other factors associated with muscle growth from rucking include versatility of exercises, good form/technique, adequate rest and recovery periods, and proper nutrition for fueling the body during exercise.

Furthermore, an important factor to consider when debating this topic is if one’s goal is to specifically gain lean muscle mass which requires consistent resistance training along with appropriate nutrition and dietary intake. This type of specific training for muscle growth often involves heavier weightlifting or powerlifting techniques with slower movements rather than fast-paced movements like those used when rucking.

Regardless of the various aspects that can contribute to muscle building from rucking, it is clear that if done correctly and frequently with appropriate intensity levels then there is potential for modest levels of gains in both strength and muscular size. To explore this topic further, let us move on to discussing the intensity of ruck activities and what effect they have on one’s overall muscle development goals.

Intensity of Ruck Activities

When it comes to the intensity of rucking activities, one must consider how much weight is being used and how often one partakes in such activities. Adding significant load to a ruck can increase the difficulty exponentially, leading to increased muscle growth. In fact, increasing intensity has been linked with higher levels of muscular gains (Nati et al., 2017). According to Carl Valle of Science and Sports Training, "frequent exposure to heavy overloading may create stronger muscles" (Valle, 2019). For optimal results, he suggests incorporating weighted rucking with traditional strength exercises like squats and lunges.

However, this does not mean that every ruck activity should be completed with heavy loads; certain weight limits should be observed due to fatigue and injury concerns. Those who perform long-duration rucking events are at greater risk for injuries due to the extreme physical strain that comes from carrying a substantial amount of weight for long periods of time (Panno et al., 2020). In addition, excessive loading may lead to fatigue and poor form which can lead exacerbate existing injuries or cause new ones (Heitz et al., 2016). Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that the load you are carrying is appropriate for your level of experience and comfort.

In conclusion, how intense a ruck activity should be depends largely on the individual’s goals and needs; however, caution should be taken when deciding how much weight to use and how often ruck activities are performed in order to avoid injury or fatigue. With all these considerations in mind, it becomes clear why understanding muscle recruitment during ruck activities is so important for achieving desired results.

Muscle Groups Worked During Ruck Activities

When it comes to the type of muscle groups rucking activities target, research has demonstrated that rucking involves several of the major muscles in the body. Rucking typically targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles during single-leg squatting motions. Additionally, core muscles like the rectus abdominis and latissimus dorsi are often engaged during forward swinging motions.

The urgent intensity of walking or running with a weight on your back in comparison to regular walking or running can provide benefits for muscle strength development. Traditional exercises such as weight lifting are defined by their high load and low velocities—meaning they require a significant amount of force but with little range of motion. In contrast, an increased velocity during rucking activities creates more reactive forces that can markedly increase muscle strength at higher velocities. This effect is known as “ballistic action” and is commonly found in dynamic sporting activities such as sprinting, throwing, and jumping.

While there is evidence to support ballistic movements as contributors to muscle growth, debates arise when comparisons are made between rucking and traditional exercises such as weight lifting. Some argue that traditional exercises stimulate more muscle growth than rucking because of the greater overload forces present in weight training programs while other researchers have found that greater hypertrophy (muscle growth) may be achieved through lower relative loads with higher velocities consistent with that found in ballistic exercise activities such as those associated with rucking. While a definitive answer to this debate remains unresolved, it is clear that both methods serve their purpose and offer different types of benefits depending on the goal of the exerciser.

The debate aside, one thing we can all agree on is that the intensity associated with ruck activities can certainly help to build muscle strength across several major muscle groups in addition to helping increase power and speed—benefits which will be discussed further in the following section.

Benefits of Rucking For Muscle Development

Rucking offers numerous benefits for muscle development. This activity has been found to work various muscles in the body, from legs and glutes to the upper body and core. Research has suggested that it has the potential to do more than just build strength; it has been linked with a decrease in body fat and an overall increase in fitness.

Rucking can be a great way to target both your lower and upper body at once—targeting multiple muscle groups with one exercise. For those looking to increase their muscular strength or definition, Ruck activities could help them reach their goals even faster. Studies have shown that rucking can raise your resting metabolic rate, boosting the number of calories used while you're inactive — helping with some weight loss goals as well.

It is important however to remember that when rucking for muscular development one should still take necessary precautions by not pushing too hard, too fast. Overtraining can quickly lead to muscle pain and fatigue which can adversely affect physical performance. Start slow; keep the load light during your first few times out, and gradually increase intensity levels from there. Additionally, make sure to adhere to proper form when performing Ruck activities to ensure safety and maximum results.

Like any other form of exercise, Rucking is not without potential dangers or issues if done incorrectly. However if done right it has the potential to bring about greater physical gains than many may expect. As such, it may be a viable option for people interested in toning and building up their muscle mass—or potentially replacing traditional strength training sessions on days they are unable or do not have access to a gym or weights equipment. With its clear benefits for developing muscle and general fitness, it’s no surprise that rucking has become increasingly popular among athletes and general fitness enthusiasts alike over the years.

For those looking to take their workouts up a notch and ramp up their cardiovascular health as well as boost fat loss while still developing muscles effectively, combining Ruck activities with cardio exercises such as running or biking can provide a more comprehensive approach to good health - one which could eventually prove more beneficial than relying only on traditional weight lifting or aerobic exercise routines alone.

Increased Cardio and Fat Loss

While rucking offers many benefits for muscle development, the impact of carrying a weighted pack on cardiovascular health may be its most impressive advantage. This is because rucking can help you burn fat quickly and efficiently, all while improving your overall cardio health.

A 2017 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that long- duration rucking exercises led to an increase in both aerobic capacity and VO2 max. Further research found that participants experienced notable increases in their maximal oxygen uptake after just 8 weeks of regular rucking workouts.

The benefits of increased cardio are not limited to improved fat burning either. Long-term results include lower cholesterol levels, controlled blood sugar levels, and improved heart rates. In addition, better cardiovascular health leads to greater endurance during physical activities like running, biking and swimming. Ultimately, this means that by engaging in a regular routine of rucking you will become a healthier and more resilient athlete.

As we can see from these findings, carrying a ruck sack isn't just good for building muscle; it can also help you to better manage your fitness and health goals in the longer term. In our next section we will look at how you can use different weights when rucking to maximize your results.

Building Muscle With Rucksack Weight

Rucking, or carrying a weighted pack on the back, is a popular activity that can provide added resistance and a total body workout. As rucking with added weight also takes cardio benefits to a new level, many people are interested in how it can be used for building muscle. In this section, we’ll explore whether rucksack weight can also help build muscle while discussing evidence from recent research and studies.

The good news is that there is some evidence that suggests rucking with weights does provide an effective stimulus for muscle growth. One study found that when rucksacks were loaded with 25 percent of the volunteer's total bodyweight for more than 10 miles, they had increased arm girth after one week of rucking. Subjects that carried heavier loads or walked further distances experienced greater gains in their upper body muscles. Tests showed significant increases in bench press performance as well.

What’s interesting is that some of the gains are comparable to those seen from lower-body exercises like squats and deadlifts even though the arms don’t do the brunt of the work during a rucking session. This could be due to the increased levels of metabolic stress caused by high intensity intervals and long bouts of walking with the added weight on your back. Added lean muscle mass may be developed through this type of training as well.

However, studies indicate that overall strength and size increase are most likely not going to be as significant with just weights compared to weightlifting or barbell training. If you are looking to pack on serious size and strength, then traditional methods such as lifting weights should be implemented into your routine over pure rucking workouts. This will add an additional component to your training session which should help boost muscle growth even more efficiently.

In conclusion, when it comes to building muscle with rucksack weight, there is evidence to suggest that it can provide a viable form of exercise for those wanting to challenge themselves physically and potentially build some lean muscle at the same time. However, if you’re looking for serious gains in terms of size and strength then supplementing traditional lifting techniques alongside your current program may be beneficial for best results.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does rucking compare to other forms of exercise for building muscle?

Rucking is an effective and efficient way to build muscle when compared to other forms of exercise. The research suggests that rucking recruits a high number of muscles groups in the upper and lower body, while also providing an intense physical challenge. Studies have shown that rucking increases lean muscle mass and can strengthen the core and arms. Rucking is particularly beneficial because it provides a low-impact way to build muscle since no running or jumping is involved. Furthermore, research has found that rucking can help improve muscular endurance, strength, and motor coordination when performed consistently over time.

How much weight should I carry while rucking to maximize muscle gains?

The amount of weight you should carry while rucking to maximize muscle gains can depend on your fitness level. Research suggests that beginners should start with a lower weight, such as 10-20% of their body weight, as they develop coordination and strength for the activity. As your coordination and strength improve, you can gradually increase the weight. However, it's important to listen to your body and not overdo it - don't push yourself beyond what is comfortable. Having good form while rucking can also help maximize muscle gains. Keeping your back straight and maintaining an upright posture helps to engage your core muscles and ensure proper form as you move through each step. Additionally, focusing on engaging the correct muscles when carrying a heavy load will help you gain the most benefit from the activity. Set realistic goals and experiment with different loads - this will enable you to find the right combination of weight and intensity that works for you.

What types of muscles does rucking target specifically?

Rucking is an effective form of exercise and has the potential to target all muscle groups, but it is particularly good at targeting muscles in the lower body. Specifically, glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and hip flexors are all areas that can benefit from rucking. Other muscles such as abs and lats can also be targeted during a rucking workout.

For example, when performing the traditional ruck march you engage your core muscles while carrying a backpack full of weight. Similarly, the uphill or power strides rucks are great for strengthening the leg muscles as it involves quick and powerful strides with the back loaded with weight. This can provide a great workout for your core and glutes.

When done correctly, rucking can also improve balance since you'll be carrying unstable loads while walking on different terrains. Balance exercises and functional movements develop an essential motor skill for athletes but can also help prevent injuries from occurring in daily life activities.

Overall, rucking is great for strengthening all muscle groups while specifically targeting the lower body muscles like glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves and hip flexors. It’s also good for improving balance and stamina.

About the author

Keith is a one bag traveler and the owner of Backpacks Global. His go to backpack is the Osprey FarPoint 40.

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