7 Exercises to improve your rucking from Day One

The health benefits of rucking as an exercise are beyond question. What began as a fitness routine for the special forces has become a popular workout routine.

It burns more calories than going for a walk and it is definitely more fun than cardio. It’s also easier on the knees and joints than running.

With so many people getting into rucking it’s important to discuss how ordinary people can adapt to the workout.

This isn’t like hiking where you can just pick up your bag and take off. While it’s a great way to build endurance you definitely need to spend some time a week training for your ruck when you’re first starting out.

Let’s take a look at 7 different exercises you can use to get your body ready for a ruck and get better results.

What is a ruck workout?

As rucking is an exercise originating from the military, it can be grueling and physically demanding on the body. This is especially true if you aren’t properly prepared.

It’s not as simple as getting off your couch and going for a walk, even though it seems that way. While you will get some benefits from rucking that way, you won’t optimize your benefits.

Often, beginners will plan their ruck for weeks in advance, purchase their equipment and even sign up to a group, only to be unable to even pick up their pack.

You don’t want to be that person.

The mental challenge is half the battle of exercising and working out. Once you’re moving it’s easier to stay in motion.

So a ruck workout is any type of exercise that helps you carry that weight. This includes any workout that will help you carry more weight, walk farther, or pick up the pace.

What muscles does rucking workout?

Rucking targets three main groups of muscles. If you want to get the full benefits of rucking you’ll need to train your body to support the weight of your pack.

When you’re carrying the weight on your back you’re activating the muscles in your shoulders. Training can help you develop the proper posture and ruck for long distances.

If you’re doing it right, rucking will also activate your core abdominal muscles.

When you’re carrying that much weight you risk straining your lower back muscles. Again practicing proper posture is the only way to prevent this.

Generally, your weighted pack will come with a hip belt. So the majority of the weight rests on your legs, glutes, and quads.

With the right resistance training you can really take your rucking to the next level.

7 Exercises to form a rucking workout

Here are some exercises to help you increase your overall fitness and carry that extra weight on your ruck.

Remember, it isn’t always about the amount of weight you’re carrying but also how you’re dealing with it.


The first rucking workout you should try are squats.

While they will definitely build your quadricep muscles, the barbell squat is also a great exercise for your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and lower back muscles.

Many people mistakenly think rucking only requires upper body strength.

When you’re carrying weighted equipment you need to build these muscles so you can pick up your pace and add more weight to your rucksack.

How to exercise

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width distance apart
  • Hold the barbell about your shoulders
  • Posture is key so make sure your chest is up and your head is aligned straight
  • As you lower into the squat, maintain an upright torso, while bending the knees to move downwards
  • Use your upper legs to move upwards. This completes one rep

Another thing to remember is that the barbell itself weighs 45 lbs.

So if you are unable to start with that weight, you can always do the same motion while holding dumbbells in each hand, to build up your strength.

Remember, this is a journey of multiple steps (quite literally). Learn more about how squats will help you ruck and other squat exercises.

Walking Lunge

If you ever visit GORUCK events you’ll notice that most ruckers have huge glutes.

If you’re planning on carrying 20+ pounds of gear for miles on end you’ll need the strength and stability that comes from training your glutes.

One of the exercises you definitely need to include in your full body workout is the walking lunge.

How to exercise

  • Stand with your feet apart and take one step forward
  • Lower your body while activating your core muscles, and descend slowly so your rear knee comes close to the ground
  • Push the heel of your foot to raise yourself upwards and repeat the lunge with the other leg

Shoulder Shrugs

Walking with all that weight stuffed into your rucksack is no easy feat.

Most of the load of the pack will rest against your shoulders and trap. So you need to strengthen that muscle if you want to walk the distance.

If you want to use this as an opportunity to build your endurance you can use bands or barbells to add a few pounds.

How to exercise

  • Stand straight with your arms by your sides
  • Raise the dumbbells using your shoulders and not your biceps. You’re quite literally “shrugging” as if you were in a conversation
  • Hold it for a few minutes and lower slowly
  • Repeat as many sets as you want

Jump Squats

The benefits of rucking are increased if you have proper posture and are using the right muscle sets to carry your weight.

Ruck marching uses your quads, hamstrings and glutes.

You can target all three through jump squats. Jump squats also burn a lot of calories and pump up your heart rate. So even outside of your rucking they’re a great form of cardio.

How to exercise

  • Start with your legs apart and body balanced
  • Bend your knees and crouch downwards then jump when you move upwards
  • While you’re training make sure you land on your feet not your heels

Side Laterals

Once again, shoulder strength is the key to carrying all that heavy equipment while walking at a consistent pace. This workout will target your shoulder side lateral muscle.

How to exercise

  • Stand with your hands resting against each side
  • Then raise your dumbbells slowly


Once you get started rucking you’ll realize how important it is to have core strength. Because your abdominal muscle is the first place you’ll begin to feel a burn. And it’ll take everything in you to not throw your equipment to the side. If you want to build endurance a plank is your best bet to build body strength.

How to exercise

  • Keep your hips parallel to the ground and raise yourself using your core. If you feel a burn in your ab muscles that’s a good thing.
  • One of the keys to the plank is keeping your back straight
  • Hold the position as long as you can, trying to keep a steady breathing pattern throughout

Bicycle Crunch

It doesn’t matter how much weight you’re carrying. Go on a one mile ruck and you’ll notice a burn in your lower back. Even if it doesn’t cause injury it’ll leave you extremely sore. So you’ll go rucking once per week and spend the rest of the week rehabilitating.

How to exercise

  • Lift your right leg straight off the mat and pull the other knee into your chest
  • Then repeat with the other side


There are a lot of health benefits of rucking.

If you follow the right fitness routine you can go from a shorter one mile distance to walking 2 miles in a 4 week period. It will also help you increase your speed and avoid injuring your knees or joints.

So what are you waiting for?

Your rucking journey is out there, just waiting for you to begin.

Good luck!