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    5 Great Rucking Workouts for Every Fitness Goal

    With all of the benefits of rucking, it has quickly become a mainstream fitness trend worth repeating.  A rucking workout is cardio for the man that hates cardio, while building strength and injury proofing the body – that’s hard to beat considering it’s a free workout. 

    Rucking Workouts by A Brother Abroad
    Rucking has been my weekend way to de-stress for quite a while, and I highly recommend it…but wait a while before rucking in Chuck Taylors…

    Unfortunately, as millions of veterans can tell you, walking for miles on miles for an extended period can get boring after a while.  It can also be difficult figuring out how to step up the intensity of your rucking workout or make it a full body workout, for the sake of productivity.

    Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.  As a long term traveler, and former Marine, I’ve had plenty of experience with rucking as a fitness tool, and tweaking it to become a full body workout.

    Read on to get 5 simple and effective rucking workouts, for every kind of fitness goal.


    1. The Beginner Rucking Workout
    2. Interval Rucking
    3. Gold Standard Rucking (for increasing intensity)
    4. Rucking for the Leg Burn (for building strong legs and lower body)
    5. Rucking + Full Body Calisthenics (for a full body workout)
    6. Special Operations Prep Workouts
    7. Ruck Club Workouts

    The Beginner Rucking Workout

    The beginner rucking plan focuses on going low (intensity) and slow.  This promotes progression and development in new ruckers at moderate pace, to avoid injury and increase comfort as they ease into rucking

    For Beginner Ruckers: Be sure to read through the Rucking Tips to ensure you’re rucking safely and efficiently.

    Benefit: Allows you to ease into rucking gradually and comfortably, avoiding injuries from going “too fast too soon”

    How to do it:

    Simply start with 10%-20% of your bodyweight and walk at a comfortable pace (no clock) for 2-4 miles to feel out rucking.

    When and How to progress:

    After your first week, consider progressing when the experience feels “easy enough”

    Progress by adding either 5-10lbs or 1 or 2 miles, but never both in the same week.  But, don’t feel that you need to increase anything every week, just in the weeks you feel you’re not getting the workout you want.

    Interval Rucking

    Interval rucking is a good intermediate level workout/tool.  By rucking at different intensity (high/low, high/medium), the rucker can push their limits, getting their heart rate up and muscles burning, and then slowing down to a more comfortable “recovery range” for a period.  If you’re not at the “15 minutes per mile” standard, this is a good way to work your way up in a measured, methodical way

    How to Do It

    Plan out your intervals for “high” and “low”.  During “high” intervals, you’ll attempt to ruck faster than 15 minutes per mile (the gold standard) without running, and cruise at a quickly comfortable speed (~20 minutes per mile) during “low” intervals.

    Start with a half and half split of 10 minutes of the high intensity interval and 10 minutes of the low intensity interval.  Do this switch for as many intervals as you can during your entire ruck. 

    When to progress in Interval Rucking

    When you can maintain the 10/10 interval split for the entire ruck, and feel comfortable, progress.

    How to Progress in Interval Rucking

    There are a few options for increasing difficulty once you’ve successfully completed one “interval ruck”.  Pick only one method to increase difficulty each time you progress.

    Increase the time of the “high intensity” interval: Add 1-5 minutes to the high intensity interval.  For example, a 12 minutes fast rucking, and 10 minutes slow rucking split. 

    Decrease the time of the “low intensity” interval: Decrease your low intensity interval by 1-2 minutes.  For example, a 10 minutes of fast rucking and 8 minutes of slow rucking split.

    Add weight:  Maintain the same time split and add 5-10 lbs to your ruck, aiming to complete all intervals on time or faster.

    Add mileage: Add 1-2 miles, attempting to maintain the same “high intensity” and “low intensity” splits for the entire distance.

    Rucking + Full Body Calisthenics

    We all have goals…and limited schedules too.  If maintaining the same durable, lower body fitness is a priority for your upper body or you need to achieve a lower body and upper body workout in the same period, this workout is perfect.  Jumping right into upper body workouts while your cardiovascular system is taxed and your legs are recovering will bring in a whole different, very effective kind of burn.

    A daily workout of rucking to Santa Monica’s “New Muscle Beach” followed by upper body calisthenics was the highlight of my stay in LA. Seriously…

    How to Do It

    At predetermined times (~10 minutes) or distances (1/2 mile) stop and complete 2 rounds of all or part of the following circuit

    • 10 Push Ups
    • 10 Overhead Presses
    • 10 Ruck Swings (similar to kettlebell swings)
    • 10 High Pulls with ruck


    • 10 Turkish Get Ups with Ruck (each side)

    When to Progress

    When you reach the end and think “that was too easy” and wake up the next day not feeling like death

    How to Progress

    Add reps (for endurance) or add another round to the circuit (for strength)

    If you want to keep it very interesting, consider adding “high intensity interval training” to your rucks – quick, high intensity workouts. Crossfit workouts that require no gear, or just a weighted backpack, are perfect.  Checkout the links below for plenty of workouts to add to your rucking.

    Also consider purchasing a minimalist suspension trainer or make your own suspension trainer to keep in your ruck. This will allow for full upper body workouts anywhere, even without a pull up bar or dip bar

    Carrying a minimalist suspension trainer in your rucksack allows for full body workouts, in beautiful places along your ruck routes

    Checkout the Travel Fitness Plan for a set of muscle building upper body calisthenics workouts that’ll be the last workout plan you’ll ever need for travel.

    “Gold Standard Rucking”

    The “15 minutes per mile” standard.  It’s simple, effective, and painful if you go far enough.

    How to Do It:

    Just start walking…fast.  Use an app like Nike+ to maintain the appropriate pace.

    When and How to Progress

    Whenever you make the allotted time for a particular distance and feel comfortable, feel free to bump up weight (5-10lbs) or increase distance

    Rucking for the Burn

    Though rucking is a great workout, the limited range of motion that your legs travel can leave your muscles “untested”.  To add more of a strength development component across your legs’ full range of motion to your rucking, tweak it with this workout.

    How to Do It

    At predetermined times (~10 minutes) or distances (1/2 mile) stop and complete all or part of the following circuit

    • 25 squats with ruck
    • 50 walking lunges with ruck (25 each leg)

    When to Progress

    When you reach the end and think “that was too easy” and wake up the next day not feeling like death

    How to Progress

    Add reps (for endurance) or add another round to the circuit (for strength)

    Bonus 1: Special Operations Prep Rucking (The Stew Smith Plan)

    If you’re prepping for any kind of “cool guy course” (Rangers, MARSOC, SEALs, Green Berets, etc.), then you will need a much more methodical and intense workout program than recreational rucking.

    Rucking Workouts - Smith Special Ops Training

    On the other hand, if you’re a recreational rucker and really want to step it up, adopting one of these training programs is an excellent challenge.

    The most well structured, versatile, and well reviewed program is by far Stew Smith’s book “Army Special Ops: The Army Ranger and Special Forces Workout” for SOF prep.  The book and included program are cheap and simple – much cheaper than many other programs out there, and just as effective if you have the discipline to stick to it.

    Pick Stew Smith’s book Army Special Ops: The Army Ranger and Special Forces Workout on Amazon.

    Bonus 2: Rucking in a Ruck Club

    If you’ve been rucking for a cool minute and you’re looking for workouts, you are likely either hoping to kill off some of the boredom and monotony of walking for long distances, or trying to increase the intensity of your workouts.  Ruck clubs can help you solve both of those problems through companionship and competition.

    Ranging from free to cheap, ruck clubs will connect you with like minded individuals that will take the boredom out of your rucking workouts and add to your social circle.  If you’re hoping to step up the intensity of your workouts, just like having a gym partner, the friendly competition of a rucking partner from a rucking group gives you that extra drive to push a bit harder, while you do the same for them.

    In the end, no single workout is necessary to do something worthwhile for your health.  Just get out there, get that ruck on, and get moving.  The rest will happen as it needs to.

    Also consider using your ruck as a kettlebell. Adding 100 kettlebell swings a day to the end of your workout can have extraordinary effects on your fitness and your rucking.

    You now have a plan for getting out there to start rucking…but are you really ready?  Read these other great articles for tips on rucking efficiently and safely, tips on choosing the right backpack for rucking, and the best options for rucking weights

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      About A Brother Abroad


      Carlos is a nomad, slow traveler, and writer dedicated to helping others live abroad and travel better by using his 7+ years of experience living abroad and background as a management consultant and financial advisor to help other nomad and expats plot better paths for an international lifestyle. Click here to learn more about Carlos's story.