Rucking, which is the practice of walking with a heavy backpack on your back, is a great way to combine strength and cardiovascular training without stepping foot in a gym.
When Jessica Flores was in her 40s, she began experiencing shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling in her legs, and a rapid heartbeat. When she ended up in the hospital, doctors told her she had congestive heart failure and that she needed to change her diet and start exercising.
Knee injuries made running difficult, but in 2019, she signed up for a 5K anyway. That’s when she realized the option of walking the race with a heavy backpack, known as “rucking.” “It changed my life,” Flores said.
She bought a backpack and a 20-pound weight and started walking around the neighborhood. She came third in the rucking race and, by the end of that year, she had completed a marathon in seven hours and lost more than 100 pounds.
“My weight loss and physical activity completely reversed the congestive heart failure,” says Flores.
Although it’s experiencing a surge in popularity, with wellness gurus and influencers jumping on the trend, rucking isn’t new — and it’s not complicated. If you can hike, you can hike with a backpack. You can incorporate it into daily activities or use the weight to intensify movements such as lunges and push-ups.
See how to get started
The term “rucking” originated in the Army from the word “rucksack”, or backpack. Carlos Grider, who runs the travel website A Brother Abroad, was introduced to rucking by Marines and now incorporates it into his civilian life.
“Instead of going to a gym, I walk to the supermarket and come home with everything I need for a week under my belt,” he said.
Any walking over a long period of time can build cardiovascular endurance, but rucking is a low-impact way to increase strength and bone density, says Jennifer Earl-Boehm, associate professor of rehabilitation sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
There are few large studies on rucking, but smaller studies suggest that walking with a heavy backpack develops muscular endurance, endurance, and strength. A 150-pound person burns about 430 calories per hour running at a moderate pace, but can burn about 100 calories more in the same time by walking 4 miles per hour at a gentle incline while carrying a 20-pound backpack.
It’s possible to practice rucking on a treadmill, but experts say it kind of defeats the purpose. At its core, sport is about getting outdoors, which in itself is linked to improved cognitive function, brain activity, blood pressure, mental health and sleep.
HOW TO BEGIN?
The main piece of gear for rucking is something almost everyone has stored somewhere: a backpack.
“If you have anything that weighs anything in your house, put it in your backpack and just go for a walk. It could be books, it could be water bottles, it could be soup cans,” said Michael Easter, who teaches journalism at the University of California. from Las Vegas and wrote “The Comfort Crisis”, which helped popularize rucking.
Any sturdy, comfortable backpack will do. Once you get serious, you can invest in a rucking-specific backpack with weight plates from a company like Goruck or 5.11 Tactical, which have straps designed to use the backpack like a kettlebell (spherical weight) or dumbbell to create a full-body workout, says Grider.
For footwear, Earl-Boehm recommends a shoe with heel cushioning. If you ruck on trails, choose a hiking or trail shoe with ankle support along with lightweight wool socks.
THE FIRST STEPS
If you don’t hike regularly, you can start with an empty backpack or just use light weights. If you’re used to walking for exercise, you can start rucking for 30 minutes on level ground at a brisk pace two to three days a week, says Rob Shaul, founder of the Mountain Tactical Institute, which develops training plans for athletes. mountain and military.
Use a load that feels a little challenging—about 10 to 25 pounds for most women, or 15 to 40 pounds for men.
But go slowly. In a study of ROTC cadets [grupo de programas de treinamento para oficiais das Forças Armadas dos Estados Unidos]Earl-Boehm found that fatigue and impact on the body when rucking were related to ankle strength.
That’s why she recommends incorporating ankle-strengthening exercises into your routine. If you are rucking in steep and rocky terrain, you can add trekking poles. Or join a rucking club to learn the ropes and find a community to motivate you.
INCREASING DISTANCE OR WEIGHT
After about two weeks, Shaul suggests increasing the load by 2 or 4 kg, but maintaining the 30 minutes. Then, if that feels manageable, increase to 45 minutes after another two weeks. Two weeks later, try for 60 minutes with the same weight.
A good pace to aim for is 15 minutes or less per mile, he added. Want to increase your speed? Try swinging your arms.
THE COMPLETE RUCKING TRAINING
Once you’re comfortable with rucking, try more intense elements. Grider has created a variety of workouts to build strength and increase your heart rate. Here are three of his favorites. Try each of the three additions to make your ruck more challenging.
CONDITIONING OF UPPER LIMBS
Every five to 10 minutes while rucking:
■ Do 10 push-ups (using your backpack if possible)
■ Do 10 overhead shoulder presses with the backpack (start by holding the backpack at chest height and lift overhead until your arms are straight)
■ Do 10 backpack swings (similar to kettlebell swings, the spherical weight)
STRENGTHENING THE LOWER LIMBS
If you want to strengthen your upper body even more while rucking, add squats. At a predetermined time (about every 10 minutes) or distance (about every half kilometer), stop and do walking squats for about 50 to 100 meters.
The best way to increase speed while rucking is to add interval training. Alternate between low and high speeds at five- to 10-minute intervals throughout the half-hour rucking.
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