What are the effects of rucking on body transformation?
There aren’t many jobs where your life depends on your physical fitness.
For most people, working out is something that’s done for fun or because of the myriad health and aesthetic benefits on offer.
However, in the military, fitness is not optional.
To join any branch of the military, you need to pass a basic fitness test and then build and maintain an even higher level of fitness so you can operate in a variety of demanding environments.
While fitness demands and expectations vary from service to service, it’s safe to say that the military takes physical training seriously and uses a range of tools and methods to get the results they want.
- Distance running
- Bodyweight training, e.g., push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, and squats
- Strength training with weights, e.g., trap bar deadlifts
- Unarmed combat
Another form of military fitness training that’s gaining popularity in the civilian world is rucking.
In simple terms, rucking means walking while carrying weight, usually in the form of a heavy backpack.
This article reveals how rucking can transform your body, how to do it, and what makes rucking such an awesome workout.
So, What is Rucking Anyway?
Getting fit, losing weight, and building muscle can often seem complicated.
Rucking is the antidote to all that complexity!
To enjoy all the benefits of rucking, all you need to do is load up a backpack with some weight, put it on, and head out for a walk.
That’s it – hardly brain surgery, right?!
But, despite this simplicity, rucking is an effective and rewarding workout with plenty of benefits.
In the military, rucking is both a form of training and a means of transporting men and equipment over long distances.
While much of the military is mechanized, in some scenarios, soldiers need to carry their equipment and supplies and walk to their destination.
This may be necessary to avoid detection by the enemy or just because the terrain is unsuitable for mechanized transport.
While you probably won’t find yourself rucking into battle anytime soon, this essential military skill has a lot of fitness benefits to offer and could be a useful body transformation tool.
5 Ways That Rucking Can Transform Your Body
Not sure if rucking is the right workout for you?
Consider these effects and then decide!
Burn calories and lose weight
Walking with a hefty weight on your back increases muscle engagement which, in turn, increases the demand on your heart, lungs, and circulatory system.
All this work means that rucking burns a lot of calories.
Your actual caloric expenditure while rucking depends on your weight, the amount of weight you carry, how far, and how fast you walk.
However, you should have no problem burning 600 calories or more per hour.
If your goal is losing weight and burning fat, rucking can help.
Stronger, more muscular legs
Walking doesn’t put a great deal of stress on your legs.
As such, while walking is a fantastic weight loss workout, it is NOT a particularly effective way to build muscle or strength.
That all changes when you put some weight on your back and start rucking.
Putting even 10% of your body weight on your back means your legs must work harder than usual.
Increases in muscular demand trigger adaptations like strength increases and muscle growth.
Rucking strengthens all of your lower body muscles, including your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
Improve your aerobic fitness
Aerobic fitness is your ability to take in, transport, and utilize oxygen and is usually expressed as your VO2 max.
Most people assume that running, cycling, swimming, air bikes, rowing machines, etc., are the best way to build aerobic fitness.
However, any physical activity that increases your heart rate can improve your VO2 max, and that includes rucking.
Providing you do it for long enough and often enough, rucking can build aerobic fitness as effectively as any other type of cardio training.
Improve your core strength and posture
Carrying a heavy load on your back forces you to stabilize the weight with your core.
The core is the collective term for the muscles that encircle your midsection, including your:
- rectus abdominis,
- transverse abdominis, and
- erector spinae
Also, for both comfort and efficiency, you’ll need to keep your torso upright as you ruck.
Leaning forward makes it harder to breathe.
As such, rucking can help improve your posture, too!
A stronger core and better posture can help lower your risk of back pain and also make you look slimmer and younger.
Less stress and better sleep
Too much stress and too little sleep can undermine your body transformation efforts.
Stress causes muscle catabolism or breakdown, promotes fat gain, and robs you of the energy you need to work out.
Sleep is when your body recovers and adapts to your workouts, and not getting enough will make your workouts less effective.
Rucking is an excellent stress-busting, sleep-enhancing workout, so as well as directly driving your body transformation, it’ll help you get better results from your training.
Rucking Pros and Cons
Like any workout, there are pros and cons to rucking.
Weigh up these advantages and disadvantages to determine if rucking deserves a place in your workout schedule.
When you run, your feet hit the floor with force equal to about eight times your body weight.
This puts a lot of stress on all your weight-bearing joints.
Rucking is a low-impact activity which means it’s a little more joint-friendly than running.
You don’t ruck at a gym, so you can do it almost anywhere and anytime.
The key to a successful body transformation is consistency, and with the freedom to ruck whenever and wherever you want, you have fewer excuses for not working out.
Workouts don’t come much more straightforward than rucking.
Just grab a backpack, load it up with whatever weights you like, and go for a walk.
Compared to many popular workouts, rucking is about as simple as exercise can be!
Rucking burns a ton of calories per hour.
If fat loss and calorie burning are your goals, rucking is a great way to do it.
Even 30 minutes of rucking will burn as many as 300 calories, or about double what you would expect to burn during a regular walk.
See How Many Calories Are Burned Rucking in a One-Hour Workout for more information.
You can scale (modify) rucking to suit your current fitness level.
Walking a mile with a light pack of just 10 pounds is a good place to start for beginners.
Add weight and distance as you get fitter and stronger.
Work up to 3-5 miles with 40-50 pounds.
Rucking can be hard on your feet
While rucking is a joint-friendly low-impact workout, walking with extra weight puts quite a lot of stress on your feet and ankles.
If you have foot issues such as fallen arches, they may worsen if you do a lot of rucking.
This problem could be mitigated by wearing supportive, shock-absorbing hiking shoes or boots.
It’s probably not a good idea to do rucking in minimalist cross-training shoes.
Rucking can cause shoulder pain
Carrying a heavy pack puts stress on your shoulders.
This can be uncomfortable, especially if you are lightly muscled.
If possible, choose a well-padded pack with a waist belt so you can spread the load and avoid unnecessary pain.
You need a rucksack
It goes without saying that rucking requires a backpack and weights.
Your backpack must also be comfortable, or it may rub or make your back or shoulders ache.
You also need weights for your backpack, although these can be anything, including heavy books, sealed water bottles, bricks, sandbags, or weight plates.
Alternatively, you can skip the backpack altogether and wear a weighted vest.
While weighted vests can be expensive, most are adjustable and comfortable, so they’re ideal for rucking.
However, you’ll probably be able to load more weight into a backpack.
You may look kind of weird!
While you won’t look out of place rucking in the countryside, you’ll probably look a little odd if you ruck in a more urban environment, especially if your backpack is large and heavily loaded.
So, expect to get a few curious looks if you decide to ruck around your local neighborhood.
Pro Tips for Better Rucking Workouts
Use these tips to make your rucking workouts more effective and enjoyable!
Take care putting your rucksack on and taking it off
Shouldering a heavy pack is an acquired skill.
You’ll need to use your arms, legs, and back to swing your pack up onto your shoulders.
Make sure you brace your core and avoid rounding your lower back.
Try to use your legs more than your back and upper body just as you should be doing when deadlifting!
If you are working with a cumbersome backpack, consider asking for help or putting your pack on a table or bench and slipping the straps over your shoulders from there.
Dress in layers
You’ll soon start to heat up with rucking, so dress in layers to avoid overheating.
Tops with hoods and long zips are ideal, as they allow you to vent and stay cool.
Urban rucking is a good workout, but you’ll get better results if you head off-road and into the countryside.
Rucking over uneven terrain and up and downhill makes your workout more challenging and interesting.
This might not be practical on busy weekdays, but it’s worth the extra effort if you’ve got the time on weekends.
Start slow, light, and easy
Rucking is harder than it sounds, even if you are used to doing a lot of walking.
Be conservative with your speed, distance, and weight, and make your first few rucks easy to complete.
Increase the difficulty gradually as you get used to the demands of walking with weight on your back.
Look after your feet!
Rucking can be hard on your feet.
Blisters and calluses are not uncommon.
Look after your feet by keeping your toenails short, powdering your feet to reduce sweating, wearing good quality shoes and socks, and putting surgical tape on any potential hot spots, e.g., your heels.
Decompress your spine afterward
Walking with a rucksack on your back will compress your spine.
This is nothing to worry about, as your spine will naturally recover in time.
However, you can speed up the process by hanging from a power tower, tree branch, or pull-up bar for 30-60 seconds and letting gravity stretch your back.
Rucking Body Transformation Results – Wrapping Up
Rucking is the antidote to all those high-tech, indoor, complicated workouts.
Just strap on your backpack and go for a walk; it really IS that simple!
But, despite this simplicity, rucking is a very effective workout with many benefits, including fat burning, improved cardiovascular fitness, and muscle building.
Rucking might not be a mainstream workout (YET), but its popularity is growing.
And if it’s good enough for the military, where fitness can be the difference between success and failure, it’s good enough for you, too!
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