I tried the viral “Rucking” workout

YOU'VE probably heard how good walking can be for shedding a few pounds.

So what happens when you add a heavy backpack?

Daniella Gray prepares for her first “rucking”Photo credit: Daniella Gray
The training involves carrying a heavy backpack while walkingPhoto credit: Daniella Gray

Also known as rucking, the workout involves grabbing your backpack, loading it up with some heavy items like weights, books, tin cans, or whatever you have lying around, and heading outside.

As an avid hiker, I'm always looking for ways to make my walks more exciting and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.

I also enjoy strength training and now that the weather is getting better, I find it very appealing to be able to do it on the go rather than within the four walls of a gym.

“Rucking is growing in popularity due to its simplicity, accessibility and effectiveness,” says Joe Warner, personal trainer and editor-in-chief of the health and performance media website Unfiltered.

“Unlike other forms of exercise, it requires minimal equipment and can be done almost anywhere.

“The social aspect of this activity, which is often carried out in groups, adds to its attractiveness and promotes a sense of community and motivation.”

Here the experts explain the basics and I share my experiences as a beginner in rucking.

What is the rucking trend?

Rucking basically involves walking or hiking with a heavy backpack.

He was trained in the military, but the backpack doesn't have to be anything special – nor does it have to be anything special about what fits in it.

With over 19 million views on the rucking hashtag, it's no surprise that TikTok is recognizing how effective rucking is – especially for burning calories.

The world's “easiest” workout that burns 500 calories in just 30 minutes

“Rucking is a full-body workout and improves cardiovascular endurance, strength and conditioning,” says Tom Kolecki, personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach at BOX R.

“It primarily targets your leg, back and core muscles while also promoting better posture and increased bone density.”

Why is rucking good for you?

Rucking is a great form of exercise and anyone can try it.

It can benefit your health in so many ways. For example, it increases your heart rate, which in turn improves your cardiovascular endurance and reduces your risk of heart disease.

“Backpacking burns more calories than regular walking because of the extra weight, which helps with weight loss and fat reduction,” says Tom.

If you sit at a desk all day, rucking can also be a great exercise to improve your posture.

“The need to balance weight and maintain good form improves posture and reduces the risk of back pain,” he adds.

I tracked my backpack with my Apple Watch and covered a distance of 6.6 km, which took me one hour and nine minutes.

When I went out to get my backpack, it was a beautiful day and I loved combining strength training with being outdoors.

Compared to running, rucking is also a lower-impact workout, so you reduce your risk of injury while still getting an intense workout.

According to experts, 1,500 calories can be burned per hour – but most people manage between 300 and 600.Photo credit: Daniella Gray
Daniella says it's a great option because it's free and you can do it in your own timePhoto credit: Daniella Gray

How much weight do you need for rucking?

There are no hard and fast rules about how much weight you need for rucking, but Joe advises beginners to start with 10 percent of their body weight.

“Beginners can use items like water bottles, books or sandbags and gradually increase the weight as they gain strength,” he suggests.

“Start with a light weight and a short distance and gradually increase both as you feel more comfortable.”

That’s the beauty of rucking – you can adapt your workout to your fitness level and abilities.

I burned twice the number of calories I would normally burn on a walk.

Daniella Gray

In the future, on days when I feel energized and strong, I can fill my Built for Athletes backpack with heavier items, and on days when I'm taking it easy, I can reduce the weight.

I normally walk at a fast pace, but the extra weight forced me to slow down.

I also noticed that my breathing became noticeably faster when I walked uphill.

I burned a total of 419 calories, about twice the amount I would normally burn on a walk of this distance.

However, experts at Go Ruck say that some people can burn between 1,500 and 2,250 calories per hour.

Is it safe to march every day?

It's safe to go backpacking every day, but when you bring weights into the mix, injuries can occur.

For example, when I was hiking and felt my shoulders starting to hurt, I adjusted the straps of my backpack to minimize swinging back and forth and ensure I was comfortable enough to continue.

I felt like I could improve my posture.

The extra weight made my back feel a little hunched, so I may need to look into exercises to strengthen my shoulder and back muscles.

To maintain good posture, Joe recommends keeping your back straight and your shoulders back.

“Be careful of the terrain you choose, as uneven surfaces can increase the risk of falls and injuries,” he warns.

“Always warm up before starting and cool down afterwards to prevent muscle overload.

“And last but not least, stay hydrated and listen to your body. If you feel pain or discomfort, stop and think before you continue.”

How to lose weight safely

Losing weight should not be a drastic measure, but a long-term decision for a healthier lifestyle.

NHS tips that can be slowly adopted include:

  • Be active for 150 minutes per week – you can break this down into shorter sessions
  • Try to eat your 5 a day – 80g of fresh, canned or frozen fruit or vegetables counts as 1 serving
  • The goal is to lose 0.5 to 1 kg per week.
  • Read food labels – products with a stronger green color than yellow and red are often a healthier option
  • Replace sugary drinks with water – if you don’t like the taste, add lemon or lime slices for more flavor
  • Reduce your consumption of foods high in sugar and fat – start by replacing sugary cereals with whole grain alternatives
  • Share your weight loss plan with someone you trust – this person can motivate you when you are having a bad day.

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I really enjoyed my backpack. It was a great way to add variety to my daily routine and it definitely added more intensity and interest.

Also, my legs were pretty stiff the next day, which isn't usually the case with a normal hike/walk, so if I keep it up, backpacking might increase the strength of my leg muscles over time.

Since I usually train alone anyway, the loneliness didn't deter me.

In fact, it gave me the opportunity to listen to a podcast and enjoy the peace and quiet.

However, if you prefer to train in groups, you can join the Rucking community groups to meet new people or train with friends.

Rucking comes from a type of training in the militaryPhoto credit: Daniella Gray
According to her Apple Watch, Daniella covered 6.6 km in one hour and nine minutesPhoto credit: Daniella Gray