The Sport of Rucking

Rucking Explained is: RUCK•ING [VERB] carrying a weighted pack on your back.  It implies action, energy, and purpose.

Rucking is the foundation of Special Forces training.  Green Berets are well versed in shouldering heavy rucks through cities, mountains, jungles and deserts, in war and in peace – alone when they must, together whenever possible.  Rucking requires strength, endurance, and character – and builds it, too.

Note: Hiking is rucking in the mountains, urban hiking is simply called rucking. Rucking can be done at any weight.

What is Rucking?
A Cliff note version of what rucking and rucking events are:
Most rucking events have a set weight you have to wear.  For example: Bataan Death March Memorial Marathon the weight is 35lb; however, at Burden Op it is 20lb for women and 25lb for men.  So, make sure to pay attention to that.

Some events like Bataan are just running races with weight on your back.  Most others are like Burden Op or GORUCK are team building events designed to break you down as an individual but then build you up as a team to overcome many physical and mental challenges.  From map reading to carrying a heavy log you will have to set your own ego and personal pain aside to help your team achieve its end goal.

Most of these events the normal weekend warrior can do just fine, but what adds the extra difficulty is the weighted ruck on you back. Rucking can burn up to 3x more calories than normal and it makes your body work much harder than before. It also makes your body engage new body parts.  An example of this would be your Trapezius Muscle aka trap. They are being constantly pulled and smashed down when rucking. Now where do most of us carry our stress? In the traps/shoulders.  They are normally high and tight and not used is being pushed down and forced to move like this. Another part of the body that benefits from rucking is the abs because rucks makes your body work harder to stay up right. Again, it’s that constant force being applied that the body isn’t used to.

 

How to Set up Your Ruck?
Training with a ruck is a lot of things at once but also very simple.
Confused yet?
I was at first too!

So, let’s get the basics out of the way.  What do you use for a ruck?
I have my two favorites which are the 5.11 24 Hour Rush and the GORUCK Rucker. Both have their pros and cons (read here), but the down and dirty truth is it just needs to be a strong pack that you can move with.  You do not want a pack that will not sway or move in an undesirable way.  The ruck should essentially be a part of your body, but that will take time and patience.

You do not want a normal backpack or a hiking bag (unless hiking is what you’re doing but in regard to this blog it’s for running and rucking events).  You want to pack just needed items into your bag, because every ounce will add up… trust me I used to be the guy who had everything, but at the same time I always had the heaviest bag.  When you are packing your bag you want the weight to be as high up as you can.  Don’t just drop weight in the bag and let it sit in the bottom or you are, “going to have a bad time.” (south park anyone? .. no. ok moving on)

Reasons for this:
1. The weight is going to sit low and throw off your center of balance, which can cause your body to work harder than before and increase your chances for injury.
2. The ruck will sway more which can cause a friction burn or rip your shirt.
3.  Remember your school days with all the books?  Remember how that felt?  Horrible right? We don’t want that.

A few ideas on how to pack your ruck are:
1. get that weight up as high as you can
– throw a yoga block under it or use a Mollie board and strap you weight up higher
2. ideas for weights to use are Ruck plates, Sand bags, Plate weights, and my old school favorite of bricks (the average brick weighs 4­-6 lbs. just make sure you tape and bubble wrap around them to protect your back and bag)

How to Train with Your Ruck?
It’s quite simple – Just go. Do it.
Done read the next blog…

Ok, so it’s not quite that easy, but at the same time it is.

1st – Be patient it doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned runner, or if you are former military and rucking isn’t new to you.  As a seasoned runner running with a ruck will work different parts of your body, throw off your form, as well as it will SLOW you down.  For the Military, and former military, badasses most of this may sound odd or different, just note that I am not military, nor do I pretend to be.  I am a runner who feel in love with rucking.  My way is not easier or harder than your way, it’s just different.

So, I say to everyone, be patient start off with 10-15lbs. of weight and only go for 1-2 miles at a time to get used to it.  If you are training for an event then start each session with a 10-15 pushups, squats, and lunges (even if you must go to your knees for the pushups that’s ok) to add a bit extra.

2nd – Slowly increase your weight… when its starts to get less tiring, or you feel like you can do more, then do so.  Only increase your distance, speed, time or weight approx. 10% a week until you hit your goal weight.  Doing more than this could greatly increase your chance of injury.

3rd – You have hit your goal weight and you can confidently finish a good 5 miles.  Now what? Well now it is time to work on hills and speed.  This is where a running program and rucking start to blend. But you must pay attention to your heart rate and your speed.  Do not be discouraged that you cannot hit your normal running paces, start slow, and remember you are carrying extra weight. Rucking is really a turtle’s race, you will win if you are patient.

4th – The nitty gritty of form. Your first instinct is one of 2 things – to stand up straight and slightly back letting the ruck pull you backwards or to lean too far forward. I’m guessing you can tell from the way that started out those are both bad.  Let’s break down number one – if you stand straight up and run you are letting our heels, knees, and lower back take all the force of the ruck and your shoulders are being pulled back.  With every step it is like a slight torque.  I promise you cannot keep that up. Then, number two, when your leaning far forward you again are placing a lot of stress on your low back, and hips as well as you are most likely scooting your feet causing more work and friction then needed.

So what do you do?
Strap that bag as high as you can on you back and get it adjusted so that you have as little movement as possible. Lean slightly forward, land on the balls of your feet or mid foot, and try to strike right below your hips.  Try to avoid reaching and pulling and also be sure to PICK UP YOUR FEET, don’t drag or scoot them along because you will end up with and injury.

Examples of Rucking Workouts:

Beginners Treadmill Workout

Start with a weight you are Comfortable with.

Pick a speed you can run on a treadmill at easily

Warm up

Walk for a bit then slowly increase to your jogging/running pace (I recommend for starters start at a 4-mph pace)

One you are warmed up Run at your chosen pace for 1 mile and 1%grade

Mile 2: run with your ruck for 1 mile try to not slow down at all at your chosen pace

Mile 3: drop the ruck and run 1 miles without it. Again, don’t slowdown or speed up the treadmill

Continue for the next 3 miles (so 3 miles with ruck 3 miles without.)

Do this at least once a week and if you feel good then slowly increase your speed OR weight. I don’t suggest you raise both at the same time.

 

Advanced Treadmill Workout

Ok Ready this one on is going to Burn!  It’s a great speed workout because with running and Rucking you need to get your legs used to a faster turn over if you are planning to do more than just surviving with your ruck.

After you warm up (by this point you should know how to warm up to what fits your best.)

Pick your Rucking pace and go .5 less so if your normal pace is 6 then set it to 5.5 and always run at a 1% incline

Mile 1: Hold the pace for one full mile.

Mile 2: For every .1 of a mile increase your pace by .1 (so if you start at a 4.0 then you should be ending at 4.9)

Mile 3: Hold your starting pace for .3 or until your heart race feels normal for that speed again. Increase this time .2 for every. 1

Mile 4: Return to the starting pace and follow mile 2 again

Mile 5: Hold your starting pace for .1 then increase to .9 higher and everyone .1 decrease by .1

Mile 6: Follow mile 2

Mile 7: Cool down.

 

Beginners Road/Trail Training

Pick a relatively easy path or trail that doesn’t have too many hills.  Load your ruck up, and as easy as it sounds, set a time limit or distance and just go!  Remember what I said above and stay jogging and pick up your feet or you will fall as you get tired.  Always start off the 1st mile slow to warm up.  Remember this is a great time to adjust your bag.  This is just time on your feet getting your body used to the weight of the ruck.

 

Advanced Road/Trail Training

Like I said in the treadmill training this is the advanced so it’s going to burn, but it is also a little simpler.  This isn’t rocket science.  Find yourself more aggressive hilly terrain and/or just a long nothing in your way trail.  Know your trail – on the Hills try to power hike them as fast as you can and pump your arms (yes it helps) and work on the downhills those are your money makers.  Again, PICK UP YOUR FEET!  Try not to jump or leave the ground, don’t reach with your legs, and stay striking right below our hips.

 

Falling advice: You will eventually fall so if you can wear gloves, especially if you feel yourself tripping a lot.  As odd as it sounds – FALL!  Fall in the grass with your ruck on, fall onto your bed, playground sand, couch, etc. – try to figure out how to fall without hurting yourself so you’ll be ready when it happens.  Don’t lock your arms out and be carefully using your hands to break your fall.  Try to roll to your back if you can – by rolling across your body and saving your face you should be able to recover quickly.

by: Ambassador David
@Fat2Podium

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