Rucking for Beginners: A Complete Guide to Get Started 

 December 26, 2023

By  Keith Terrell

Ah, rucking, the alternative to the gym—no equipment needed, no membership fees, and a good old-fashioned workout in the fresh air. Imagine going hiking, only with a weighted backpack adding an extra challenge. If you're a beginner looking for the ultimate guide to getting started with rucking, look no further! 

To start rucking, you should invest in a sturdy and well-fitting backpack, a hydration bladder and some good quality socks. It’s also important to consider your body’s limitations when increasing the weight and distance of your hikes.

In this blog post, we'll cover everything from equipment selection and training tips to safety guidelines and nutrition recommendations. With our comprehensive advice, you'll be ready to tackle rucking like a pro in no time!

Introducing Rucking for Beginners

Rucking is an exciting endeavor that is not as difficult as it first seems. It draws on familiar activities such as walking, running or hiking and adds the challenge of carrying a weighted backpack. The added weight increases the intensity of the exercise and allows participants to get an increased cardiovascular workout without having to exert themselves too much.

Before beginners start rucking, however, they need to make sure they are using proper form and technique to avoid injury. This includes choosing the right weight and size of backpack and developing a strategy for distributing the weight in a way that does not put unnecessary strain on their back and joints Beginners should also take the right safety precautions, such as telling someone where they are going, drinking plenty of water, using sunscreen, and bringing snacks.If you follow these steps, new ruckers will be confident and ready for anything.

What is Rucking?

Rucking is a form of exercise that has become increasingly popular in recent years. It involves carrying a weighted backpack, also known as a “rucksack” or “ruck plate,” during various activities such as running, hiking, and walking. The aim of this type of workout is to build endurance and strength while exercising the whole body. Proponents of rucking point to the calorie burn and fitness gains they can get from it. In addition, anyone can do it without needing much equipment, as long as you can carry a heavy bag or weight plate.

Critics of rucking have claimed that backpacks are not useful for building strength or burning calories because of the low intensity of the exercise. However, research has shown that rucking can be just as effective at burning calories and building muscle when performed at the same intensity and duration as running or other forms of cardio exercise. Proponents also believe that rucking requires relatively little training before you start to see results, making it a good way for all fitness levels to achieve their goals.

Ultimately, there are pros and cons to rucking depending on each individual's goals and needs—but for those looking for an efficient high-intensity workout with little equipment, rucking could be just what they need. In our next section, we'll take a closer look at some of the potential benefits of rucking for beginners.

Benefits of Rucking for Beginners

One of the most attractive aspects of rucking for beginners is the potential it offers for physical and mental benefits. Of course, there are trade-offs and risks with any exercise, so you have to consider both sides when it comes to rucking. On one hand, this physically demanding activity can pose  health risks in the form of blisters, foot pain, and other problems that may arise from carrying weight for extended periods. Furthermore, injuries can occur if you are inexperienced or try to overexert yourself when your body is not ready.

However, when done correctly, with proper safety measures and under the guidance of professionals, rucking can be an excellent way to improve strength and fitness. Those who start rucking reap many benefits. Rucking builds leg strength, improves core stability, improves cardiovascular system and aerobic capacity, increases power output and endurance capacity—even for beginners. In addition to the physical benefits, backpackers also improve mental clarity and concentration, and stimulate creativity when they feel down or unmotivated. When you start rucking, it's important to weigh the pros and cons first before taking the first steps towards a stronger self.

Key Takeaway

Rucking has potential physical and mental benefits for those who do it correctly and with the right safety measures. Benefits include improved leg strength, core stability, cardio health/aerobic capacity, power output/endurance, mental clarity, creativity, and a connection with nature. However, this activity also carries risks such as blisters, foot pain, and injury, which should be considered when choosing this form of exercise.

Improved Strength and Fitness

Among the many benefits that rucking can offer beginners, one of the most attractive aspects is that they can improve overall strength and fitness. Rucking helps improve physical performance in a number of ways by increasing energy expenditure and muscular endurance compared to walking and running. It can also help build muscle mass as carrying a weighted backpack adds resistance for exercisers. In addition, the mid-body and upper body tension required during rucking promotes whole-body functional strength.

While it is true that rucking can have amazingly positive effects on physical performance and strength, many experts believe that prolonged use can lead to potential overuse injuries in the shoulders, lower back, and joints because the weight is carried for longer periods than necessary. This can be due to discomfort caused by improper form or technique, so it's best not to overdo it initially. Of course, monitoring your own wellbeing and maintaining good posture are key elements to practice to prevent stress and overuse—especially if you are just starting out.

Admittedly, excellent health sets in when the right balance is maintained between training intensity and regular rest days. Taking all of this into account, it is easy to say that rucking, when performed correctly and with the right amount of effort and structure, should undoubtedly lead to significantly improved strength and fitness gains for beginners.

Now that we’ve explored some of the many benefits of rucking for those who want to start - including improved strength, performance and ultimately better health - the question becomes which program is best for those who want to incorporate this activity into their daily routine We'll learn more about that and how to build an effective new routine in the next section.

Setting Up a Rucking Program for Beginners

As you move from improving strength and fitness to building a rucking program for beginners, it is important to consider both the pros and cons of this unique exercise. On the plus side, rucking can improve muscle strength, core muscles, and flexibility. It can also help improve body composition as you use up stored energy sources and your body and visceral fat during activities such as walking uphill or running up stairs. In addition, rucking puts less stress on your joints compared to running and the cardiovascular system becomes healthier overall. However, as rucking is still a form of exercise, there is risk of overdoing it and getting injuries such as lower back pain, shin splints, or joint irritation as many of these activities involve carrying heavy loads.

The best way to ensure safety when building a rucking program for beginners is to start slowly and increase the intensity and duration as the fitness level improves. You should also practice proper form so you don't injure yourself by using the wrong technique or lifting too much weight in the wrong way. Lastly, it can be beneficial to talk to an experienced trainer about suitable backpacks specifically designed for rucking; this way, you can ensure that you are investing in a safe product for the program.

In developing improved strength and fitness to setting up a safe rucking program for beginners, it is important to assess your own physical condition before beginning these exercises to protect yourself from injury along the way. Next, we will look at the correct equipment you will need for a ruck training program; such as shoes, bags, backpacks, etc.

Choosing the Right Equipment

The right equipment is essential for a good rucking experience. If you’re just starting out, it’s probably best to invest in a high-quality rucksack that is comfortable, supportive, lightweight and durable. Other necessary gear includes well-structured rucking shoes or boots; cotton or wool socks; weather-appropriate clothing; and an energy drink or snack. You should also have a mobile phone, flashlight, whistle, and first aid kit.

When it comes to the question of what weight to carry when rucking, there are two sides to the debate. Some say it's best to start with a light weight and increase the weight over time to give the body a chance to develop endurance. Others argue that you should start with heavier weights right away to get optimal results faster. Both approaches have their merits, but it really comes down to your goals and fitness level. If you want to get immediate benefits from strength training, it makes sense to train with heavier weights from the start; if you want to focus on improving your speed, it may make more sense to train with lighter weights. It's important to listen to your body when deciding which direction to take.

Once you've chosen the right equipment and determined your ideal load size, it's time for the fun part: finding exercises! Whether it’s push-ups, bodyweight squats, or ankle hops, coming up with a few exercises before your workout will make rucking more effective and fun. Once you've laid the foundation, you're ready for the next step in your rucking journey: incorporating exercises into your program.

Exercises to Include in Your Rucking Program

Once you've invested in the perfect rucking backpack and have familiarized yourself with your rucking weight, the next step is to put together a comprehensive program for your walk. Including exercises in your rucking plan will help you deepen your workout and strengthen your cardiovascular endurance.

When it comes to what kind of exercises you should include, there are two schools of thought. On the one hand, some advocate performing bodyweight exercises such as squats, push-ups, lunges, or sit-ups during walk breaks for maximum results. While this can certainly help sculpt your muscles and burn more calories, others argue that this strategy could make the experience too intense and counterproductive for leisure walks.

For those who prefer a less rigorous approach, side-stepping or lunging during exercise can still offer an effective workout without long breaks for focused physical activity. If you want to get an interval training effect from your stroll, walking at different speeds can strengthen muscles and increase intensity.

Whichever way you choose to build your program, the important thing is to incorporate the elements at your comfortable pace and give yourself plenty of breaks between workouts. As mentioned before, rucking isn't just about actively challenging yourself - it's also about spending quality time outdoors and listening to your body’s needs as you get used to the workout.

If your gear is in order and you’ve planned a routine that fits your lifestyle (and does not overwhelm you), it’s time to take full advantage of all that Mother Nature has to offer. Get ready; let’s get outside and explore what outdoor rucking has in store!

Outdoor Rucking Routines and Walks

Outdoor rucks can vary greatly depending on preference, location, intended goal, distance, etc. Nevertheless, outdoor training (especially rucking) offers many benefits while providing a unique strength training experience.

To find out what kind of routine works best for you, you should try several options and find out what suits you best. If you are new to the world of rucking, it can be incredibly helpful to have a trained professional as a guide to help you figure out where to start and how to progress safely.

One factor for consideration is where you will do your routine. Will you stay indoors or seek out an outdoor area like the park or forest trails? Decide between smooth paths with good levels of pavement or trails with lots of elevation changes and rocky terrain. Each environment brings its own challenges and ultimately more potential for developing strength and progress—as long as it's not too hard for your ability level.

Another factor to consider is whether to use interval training methods or steady-state cardio workouts. Interval training uses high-intensity exercises designed to push the body during short bursts followed by brief rest periods. Meanwhile, steady-state cardio workouts tend to offer more low-intensity activities that maintain an even pace throughout the entire exercise session—usually causing less stress compared to interval training options. Exercising in this fashion allows for a gradual easing into the movements without risking injury due to overtraining. When preparing for a long-distance walk or extended period of physical exertion, however, most people prefer utilizing interval-style routines since they build up speed quickly while being easier on the joints than steady-state cardio routines.

No matter what outdoor routine you pick, make sure that you wear proper outdoor shoes with good arch support. Ensure that your gear doesn't weigh down your shoulders by using well-fitting backpacks and belts when possible. Furthermore, consider drinking plenty of water as hydration is key for maintaining optimal performance during any strenuous workout.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best route to take when beginning to ruck?

The best route to take when beginning to ruck is to start small and increase your mileage gradually. Make sure to warm up for 10-15 minutes beforehand and cool down for 5-10 minutes afterwards. Begin by walking for 30 minutes around the neighborhood with a weighted backpack before slowly increasing the weight and distance of your walks. As you become more comfortable rucking, increase the load you carry while still maintaining proper form. It’s also important to set realistic goals that challenge yet don’t overwhelm you. Most importantly, stay safe and take breaks whenever necessary. Rucking can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and taking it slow will ensure that you reach your end goals safely and comfortably!

What benefits can I expect from rucking?

Rucking is a great way to get in shape, build strength, and improve health. It can give you a full-body workout as it works your core, legs, and upper body simultaneously.

In addition to the physical benefits of rucking, it also offers a range of mental health benefits. This type of exercise can be quite rewarding because you can challenge yourself at your own pace while exploring different areas. Rucking is also incredibly calming—it allows you to escape all of your worries and just focus on the task at hand. Plus, it's a fantastic way to meet new people and socialize.

By rucking, you can expect improved cardiovascular endurance, increased bone density, better posture and balance, stronger muscles and joints, greater flexibility, improved coordination and agility, and reduced risk of injury due to correct body mechanics. All these benefits lead to an overall healthier lifestyle!

What type of gear should I use for rucking?

When it comes to gear for rucking, there are a few essential items you should have on hand to get started.

Make sure you have the right backpack—ideally made from lightweight material with pockets and straps designed for carrying weight comfortably. It should also be adjustable to fit your body.

Next, wear comfortable clothes that wick away moisture and heat. Avoid denim or cotton t-shirts as these can stay wet and cause friction against the skin. Shoes should provide good arch support and cushioning, ideally with a sturdy sole, which is durable in different terrain.

You should also have plenty of water to stay hydrated during longer ruck sessions. A good quality water bottle or hydration pack will ensure you drink enough fluids throughout the day.

Lastly, consider investing in compression sleeves for your calves and/or ankles if you’re planning on doing faster paced rucking sessions. The extra support they provide will help protect your joints and muscles from the impact of every step you take while speed rucking.

By having all the necessary gear for rucking, you’ll be prepared both physically and mentally on every outing!

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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