by Todd Schemper, PT, DPT, OCS
Several months ago, my brother Tyler mentioned that he wanted to do a ruck event. I had no idea what this all involved, but told him that I would do it with him if he signed up. This spring he texted me that he was signing us up, along with our younger brother Troy, for the GoRuck Tough event in Des Moines in June. This is when I began learning about rucking.
I have been a runner, cyclist, and triathlete for many years. My weight lifting has been focused on the strength needed for those types of events. My experience carrying heavy weights, pressing weight-filled and wet backpacks overhead, and squatting with weight for multiple workouts during an all-night strength/endurance event was extremely limited.
The word ruck means to carry weight or gear from one place to another. Rucking is literally going for a walk or hike with a weighted backpack. This can be done with a light backpack of 10 lbs. or up to 50 lbs. or more if training for an event.
The benefits of rucking are similar to walking, but with some increased value. You will end up burning more calories than just walking, due to carrying extra weight. There will be strengthening that happens by supporting a weighted pack. This will help strengthen your abdominals, back, and hips. Overall, rucking will aid in cardiovascular fitness due to the increased demand on your body while walking or hiking with weight on your back.
If you are interested in adding rucking to your fitness routine, you will need a few items. I recommend a good new pair of comfortable walking, running, or hiking shoes. A good foundation goes a long way to avoid foot pain and blisters. To carry weight, you will need a sturdy backpack or ruck sack. A hiking back pack will work to carry 15-20 lbs. If you are going to carry 30 or more lbs., using a backpack designed for rucking may be better. These backpacks are more durable and will support the extra weight. Some companies make back packs that have compartments built into them that hold 20-30 lb. weight plates. Other ways to increase the weight of your backpack is to add hiking gear, water bladders, ankle weights, smaller dumbbells or other household items that will get your pack to the desired weight.
The training that I did for my ruck event include both rucking and weight lifting. The ruck training included hiking or walking for 2-6 miles with 25-35 lbs. of weight on my back. The weight lifting included increasing demand with deadlifting, squatting, lunging, bench pressing, and overhead pressing, to increase my strength and simulate the activity challenge associated with the ruck event.
The ruck event that my brothers and I participated in included rucking with 45-50 lbs. for 13+ miles. During the 11 hours we were out on the (Gray’s Lake and downtown Des Moines) course, we participated in four interval workout sessions with our backpacks as our weight. We also completed military type tactical challenges that required us to run and drop down on the ground, as well as run out of the lake and crawl up the beach with our packs. Throughout the night our cadre leader was giving us history lessons about D-Day during our rest breaks. I am glad I trained hard for the event, but between the weight, walking, night without sleep, and multiple workouts, it was not quite enough training to make it through the event without some pain and discomfort.
You don’t need to sign up for a ruck event to get started with rucking or to experience the benefit of adding this activity to your fitness routine. I recommend getting a good backpack and start doing some walking or hiking carrying a little extra weight. I actually had a client of mine sign up for a ruck event after I told him about my experience. You never know, you might get hooked and find yourself committing to the sport.
If you do plan to get involved with ruck activity, we recommend consulting with a physical therapist before getting started. Physical therapists are movement experts that can help you understand your body and help you learn specific exercises that will help you be proactive with avoiding injury.
I enjoyed my through the night ruck event a few months ago. It was hard, but I definitely felt a sense of accomplishment with completing the challenge. I told my bother Tyler I would do one again, if I did it with him and Troy and I had a good backpack that would survive the challenge. I would probably push the weights a little harder with training. Until then, I will keep deadlifting, lunging, and overhead pressing, with more weight than I was doing in the past.
If you’re thinking about doing an event like this in the future and need help getting in shape, we can help! Contact us online or call 866-588-0230 to set up a free consult.