The Top 6 Rucking Workouts

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Rucking is blowing up.

If you’ve been paying attention to the “functional fitness” world at all for the last few years, this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to you. Heck, if you’re like me, you’ve probably grown so interested in rucking that you’ve decided to strap a pack on and get going!

Some days, though, even the most interesting walk, march, or hike doesn’t quite do it for you.

It’s on these days, where less…”traditional” rucking workouts might be in the cards!

Today, we’re going to discuss both “basic” rucking workouts as well as more advanced rucking workouts. By the end of the discussion, you’ll have no excuse not to join me on the “Monster Mile” (unless, ya know, you prefer something slightly more intense!)

How Did the “Basic” Rucking Workout Come About?

Rucking is a physical fitness endeavor (although you could use “activity” or “sport” to describe the practice) that involves walking, hiking, or doing various exercises with a weighted rucksack (or, for the uninitiated, a big, gnarly backpack).

Rucking originated with the classic ruck march. Just a bunch of tough soldiers marching with heavy loads over long distances. This army routine goes way back to the seventh century BC. All throughout the history of armies around the world, some form of marching under a heavy load was practiced.

However, when we’re talking about a dedicated “rucking workout” we’re generally discussing a bit more than marching under a heavy load. You can do various different workouts carrying a weighted ruck, from walking…fast to performing variations of classic Olympic weightlifting movements.

Best thing of all? You don’t even need to be in an army to do a rucking workout (this means you also don’t have an excuse not to do a rucking workout!) As civilians started to discover the benefits of this exercise, it became a popular fitness activity for anyone to enjoy.

Different rucking workouts

Some of the exercises you can do under a load are:

Walking with a weighted ruck (or even a weighted vest!) is great for beginners. You can start by walking a mile at a moderate pace and increase the distance slowly. You can also add some progress by adding more weight to your ruck, increasing the speed, or choosing a more demanding terrain for walking.

As mentioned, you can combine rucking and other exercises, including pull-ups, push-ups, and movements that you might normally see in CrossFit or other “functional fitness” types of workouts. Maybe you might want even want to try one of…

The 6 Best Rucking Workouts

Baltimore City FD Trio

rucking workout

Equipment: Ruck

This one really starts us off with a bang! A mile of “fast rucking” with a heavy ruck is just the start of this one!

(and then another two sets of these!)

Also, just in case it isn’t clear (my apologies!) you gotta do those 66 push-ups with your ruck on.

Those “basic” rucking workouts must seem pretty nice right about now!

One Zone Home WOD 82

Equipment: Ruck, jump rope

You have a lot of discretion with this one, although those double-unders are going to feel harder and harder as they get more and more numerous!

My advice? Try a couple of weights. Pick one that seems hard, but manageable…and drop 5 pounds from that. By the last set, this is going to feel heavier than the weight you wanted to use…

You can thank me later!

The Hammer+

Equipment: Ruck

With this one, you have the benefit of splitting up the reps with your partner however you want!

(I still have not idea how this one didn’t make our list of the all-time greatest partner workouts!)

The bad news? Before you get to your ruck(s) (and after you’re done playing with them) you have to take turns carrying each other…a quarter mile.

Now that is a great way of making a 30-pound ruck seem light!

SFC Will Lindsay

Equipment: Ruck

Excuse the terminology here on the run…you only need to run with your 45-pound ruck strapped on (not an additional sandbag, too).

Fortunately for you, that was the only mistake made when writing this one out…you still get to do 10 rounds of each of these exercises…

For 400 total reps!

Lucky for you, you get that mile-long ruck run to use any time you want!


Equipment: Ruck

No messing around here…after all, this one is named for D-Day.

To be honest, compared to some of the other rucking workouts on this list, the weights aren’t that high and the movements are not overly complicated. As such, and considering the significance of this workout’s name, try to go fast.

Really fast!

What the Ruck!?+

Equipment: Ruck

Well…to be fair, none of the initial movements are overly complicated.

…in theory, at least.

That 60-70-80-90-100 split would be hard enough using just bodyweight. In a 55-pound ruck…you may as well being tackling The Standard.

And that final 3-mile ruck run…have fun!

A Rucking Guide

One of these rucking workouts catch your eye and you want to give it a go? Hold your horses for just a second. We have a few “housekeeping” items to cover!

How to get started

First of all, you need a ruck. A regular backpack will be fine, but you can also find specially designed rucksacks that are perfect for these endeavors.

Here are some features your rucksack should have:

  • it should be comfortable
  • it should have proper lumbar support
  • durable shoulder straps that can endure the weight
  • hip strap and shoulder mid-strap to secure the load and keep it near your body

Next, you will need the load. The weight of your load will depend on your readiness. If you are just starting with this exercise, your load should be around 10% of your body weight.

You can put different kinds of loads in your rucksack:

You can also add some stuff that you will need during your exercise, such as a water bottle.

Depending on the rucking workout you’re doing, you will need other equipment as well. If you are doing a ruck march, proper boots should be on the list. However, if you’re primarily performing more of the “dynamic” movements discussed below, some ballistic trainers or similar shoes are probably more appropriate. 

As we mentioned, rucking is a pretty versatile activity, so you can use various other equipment (sandbags are very popular in rucking workouts) while carrying your weighted ruck.

Benefits of Rucking Workouts

There are numerous benefits of rucking. Adding a weighted ruck to your workout increases the load of any physical movement and thus increases the benefits of the workout itself.

Some of the benefits of a rucking workout are:

  • Improved strength, endurance, and general fitness: A study that compared loaded and unloaded training showed that loaded training results in significant increases in squat jump maximal force, push-ups, sit-ups, and estimated maximal oxygen uptake.
  • Increased calorie burn: Experts claim that “the cadets could burn thousands of calories during a three-hour ruck.”
  • Cardio fitness: Rucking workouts result in increased heart rate and is considered as a great cardio exercise.
  • Improves posture: Ruck marching requires a strong core to keep your back straight under the load. So gradually, it can improve your posture by keeping your back straight and pulling your shoulders back.
  • It’s a functional workout: Rucking prepares your body for real-life demands such as carrying or lifting heavy weights. It’s especially beneficial in military training, preparing soldiers for physical activities under heavy equipment.
  • It’s simple and can be done practically anywhere: You don’t need a lot for a rucking workout. You can ruck with your backpack anywhere outside and have all the benefits of the exercise. Or, if you’re short on time and don’t feel like going anywhere, you can easily hit a 10-minute, full body WOD down in the basement, the garage, or out in the backyard.

  • It doesn’t require special equipment: You can use a regular backpack (although something specifically designed for rucking will almost always be better!) and use a variety of items to load it.
  • It’s easy to increase the intensity: Progressive overload with rucking workouts is simple: you can do it by increasing the weight of the load, or, in the case of walking, you can also increase distance or speed. For the really adventurous souls, one of the rucking workouts outlined above should be plenty intense enough!

Ruck Around and Find Out!

Many of you readers are probably excited about the prospect of slapping 20 pounds worth of (unread) textbooks into your backpack and doing a few laps around your local park.

Others are staring down the “What the Ruck!?+” workout above and are just itching to do a high-volume WOD combined with a fast ruck run.

Whichever camp you fall into, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll find your level of relative intensity that is sufficient enough to smoke you…

…but will still leave you coming back for more!

Once you’re finished here, be sure to check out our list of the Top 8 Rucking Cities in America. Meanwhile, I’ll be doing my best to tackle this bad boy!

Photo of author


Tom, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC, DPA, CAPM has been CrossFitting for over 10 years. He has participated in a number of team and individual CrossFit competitions across Europe and the United States. He was the 2012 Chick-fil-A Race Series champion (North Georgia Circuit) and has put together a few gnarly garage and basement gyms in his time!

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