Home Health What is Rucking? † Mark's Daily Apple

What is Rucking? † Mark’s Daily Apple

Two women walking with backpacksI’ve often said that walking is the human condition, but I’d like to modify that to make it more accurate: loaded walking — or rucking — is the human condition. Normal unloaded walking is an important part of being an active and competent person and lays the ideal foundation for a healthy fitness level. However, it can and should be increased by walking occasionally (or regularly) while carrying weight.

For example, when hunting-gathering hominids walked the 20 miles back from a successful hunt, they carried the 40-pound loin of the antelope on their shoulders — or the woven basket full of tubers, fruit, and honeycomb. When Roman legionaries marched 20 miles a day, they also carried a pack weighing 45 pounds. Then they set out to build a defensive fortress for two hours. When kids walked to school (before the ubiquity of miles of SUV-laden drop-off lines), they carried bags full of books.

Hell, the whole premise of mandatory bipedalism is that it makes you walk while carrying things — tools, building materials, materials for shelter, weapons, food, meat, fodder, and roots. These are all essential objects to be carried by bipedal people, and they all increase the pull of gravity that you then have to resist.

Why you should Rucken

Today we load our food into the trunks of cars and drive it home – or worse, have it delivered to your home. We drop our children off at school and pick them up again. We drive to manicured trailheads, walk for miles and leave our air-conditioned car ready to take us back home with a smoothie stop along the way. We park at campsites and complain about the 100 meter walk.

Now these aren’t “bad,” but they are new environments for the human genome that make us weaker and more vulnerable to stressors in general. As with anything, if we want to get better, stronger and healthier despite modern comforts, we have to impose arbitrary and artificial boundaries on ourselves. A great way to do that and mimic the ancestral taxed walking environment is to go rucking. Rucking is wearing a weighted backpack during walks and hikes. That is it. And when you ruck, you’re going to see some real benefits.

Rucking builds up grit.

It’s a total body workout that makes you stronger, fitter, faster and everything else, but many exercises do that. That’s right, almost all of them do. Rucking builds that elusive quality that I can only describe as grittiness or toughness. Because jerking is difficult

Jerking makes you stronger.

You move under extra weight – the oldest recipe in the book for getting stronger.

A rucking workout is a great way to improve cardio without increasing speed.

It’s a kind of low/high intensity workout. It’s a high intensity because you’re carrying more weight. It is a low intensity because you are moving at a walking pace. Uphill/downhill rucking, in particular, is a great cardio workout and, if done gently, easier on the joints than you might think.

How to ruck

If you’d stop reading now and just carry a heavy backpack on walks and hikes, you’d probably be fine. But there are some additional details and tips I can provide that you may find helpful.

1. Buy a backpack

You can ruck with any sturdy backpack filled with rocks, sandbags, books or weights. But if you’re really serious, I recommend a dedicated backpack. These are sturdy backpacks, called backpacks, designed to carry and distribute heavy loads over the body. They usually have their own weights that fit perfectly in the backpack so that the load is balanced and even.

The most famous brand is Go Ruck. It’s the only one I can recommend as it’s the only one I’ve ever tried, but I’m sure there are others you can use.

2. Start small – 5-10 pounds less than you think you can handle

You can always add more weight next time, but if you get into deep water with too much weight, you’ll have a bad time getting it back.

3. Choose the right route

A good rule is to start lugging a hiking or trekking route that you could do in your sleep. Choose one that is already easy for you to be unweighted and that you enjoy doing. Don’t think of it as a ‘workout’. Then you can make it harder.

4. Perfect your running and running technique

Any minor disruption to your running technique or gait will be magnified by the added weight, as will any damage to your joints or tension in your muscles.

Remember, rucking is loaded to walk† Do not run. Running regularly with 30-40 pounds on your back is a recipe for injury. It won’t happen to everyone, but it happens to enough people that it’s not worth trying your luck. It is much better to walk with weight and save running for unweighted trips.

5. Don’t overdo it

Jerking is training; it’s not an event. When you train for something, you don’t want to fail. You don’t want to leave everything lying on the field. Going out like this is for competition (or life and death situations). Training is to make you stronger so that when those serious situations arise, you can handle them. Leave some in the tank.

6. Gradually increase your weight

Remember to start small and once you feel comfortable, increase your weight.

  • Beginners: 10-15lb ruck along a route you’ve done comfortably many times before
  • Average: 20-30 pounds ruck along a route you’ve done comfortably many times before
  • Advanced: 30-50lb ruck along a route you’ve done comfortably many times before

7. Tackle Hills

I find that arguing uphill (then downhill) is an incredible workout. Surprisingly, it feels better and more productive than lugging around flat ground.

Rucking Alternatives

You don’t necessarily have to buy a backpack, or even not wear a backpack at all. There are other options for loaded hiking:

  • Carry a large tree branch or trunk over your shoulder: The best part about this is that they are usually free for taking walks and you don’t have to take them home. Just find a suitable branch or trunk and wear it as long as you want and then toss it on the ground when you’re done. This also works with large stones.
  • Bring a friend and a kettlebell: When one of you gets tired, drop it off. When the other gets tired, it’s your turn again. Continue until the walk is over.
  • Wear a weighted vest: This is a different type of weight distribution, where some of the weight is placed across the front of your body, which presents its own challenges.
  • Load a sandbag or duffel bag: You can fill it with sand or gravel and take it with you on your walks. Switch from shoulder to shoulder, hug it to your body, wear it like you’re carrying a bride over the threshold, or drape it over both shoulders. Just keep it there, however you can, and walk with it.
  • Use a normal backpack full of weights: This won’t be nearly as comfortable as a backpack. The straps dig into your shoulders, not as much load is distributed over the hips and the bag itself can break. But it is doing work when you’re in trouble.

If you want to kick it up a notch, load a loosely packed sandbag on top of your pack to take your training to the next level.

There are dozens of ways to weight your hikes, with the backpack being the most comfortable and approachable. But the point is, incorporate fraught walks into your schedule and watch your fitness skyrocket and your connection to our ancestral past solidify.

Watch out, everyone. I’d love to hear about your experiences with loaded hikes or rucks.

keto meal plan

About the author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather of the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the… New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet† His latest book is Keto for life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of numerous other books, including: The original blueprintwhich in 2009 had boosted the growth of the primal/paleo movement. After three decades of researching and educating people about why food is the most important part of achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that makes Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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