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Rucking: The New Cardio For Guys Who Hate Running

Rucking: The New Cardio For Guys Who Hate Running

March 18, 2024

Rucking: The New Cardio For Guys Who Hate Running

By Ryan C. 


Rucking is a form of cardio that can burn three times the amount of calories than ordinary walking. 

Table of Contents


I’m right there with you. I detest cardio. More specifically, I can’t think of anything more torturous than running. I don’t care if it is outside, on the treadmill with a fan blowing on me, or jogging after the ice cream truck with the little bell down the street. Running does not agree with me. 

It’s strange, too. I come from a long line of runners. My dad coached track and cross country for decades. A couple of my brothers and sisters love to go out and run a few miles for fun. 

Yep. I just don’t get it either. 

But some sort of cardiovascular training is needed to improve upon a person’s endurance. I would like to brag that I can relate to the legendary wrestler Ric Flair and am a 60-minute man in the bedroom and that is how I get my cardio. However, I’d be lying. My wife would attest to that. 

I need to strengthen my cardio somehow so I don’t look winded walking out to my mailbox each day. 

What Is Rucking?

Man hiking with small backpack

You have already done some rucking before in your life, but you probably didn’t realize it. All it involves is strapping a backpack on your back with it containing some weight. In high school, you were doing this maybe a few days a week as you trudged back and forth to school or your classes. Who knew this was not only a perfect, different type of cardio exercise, but is also pretty good at building some muscle? 

Where Did Rucking Originate?

Man in military outfit walking in field

It may not surprise you that rucking really was made popular in the military. Soldiers would have to load up their backpacks and go for extremely long hikes to either get into the best shape possible or for military missions. With the extra weight they were carrying around, it would definitely provide a great workout, if it didn’t break you first. 

But if you go back even further, cavemen would kill their prey and carry it back to their habitat over their shoulders. It was a form of rucking, just without the backpacks. 


Physical Benefits of Rucking

There are numerous physical benefits associated with rucking, especially as it is almost a complete full-body workout. 

Body Weight Strength Training

You may have heard studies proclaiming that 30 minutes of cardio will burn more calories than 30 minutes of weight training. But they are not looking at the full picture as they are only focusing on that half hour of training. When considering strength training routine, especially as it includes cardio as well, you must look to see what it will do for you in the future as well. 

Rucking will burn calories and fat, but at the same time it will build muscle. As your fat shrinks away, your muscles from carrying around that extra weight on your back will become more noticeable. And the great thing about muscle is that it will continue to burn calories and fat even after you are through with your workout. Muscles act like a furnace and the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you will be burning. 

There are several weightlifting fanatics like myself who don’t eye cardio the same way as resistance training. Cardio can be monotonous and I have a tough time bringing the same intensity to it. But with rucking, you are getting the best of both worlds. And I am always interested in anything that can help me build larger leg muscles. If my legs can fit in those skinny jeans that guys seem to be wearing nowadays, then I am doing something horribly wrong. 

Burn Three Times as Many Calories as Walking

Most people will burn between 200 to 350 calories while walking at a decent pace for an hour. If you choose to do rucking with a backpack of weight, even a light load, you can burn three times as many calories while moving at that same pace.

Interestingly, this is about the same number of calories you can burn while running for an hour. However, I can’t think of anything worse than running for 60 minutes. Plus, there is always a greater risk of injury while running rather than walking. And by rucking, you are getting that strength training you need that long-distance running just will not provide. 

Combating Muscle and Bone Loss as You Age

If you are not actively strength training, you will be losing up to ten percent of your muscle mass every decade after the age of 30. By the time we reach 40 years old, we will start to lose bone density and mass as well, except if we are continuously performing resistance training exercises like rucking. 

If you don’t believe this, look at some of the older people in the gym who are there training with intensity. Then simply go to the nearest grocery store and compare people there who are similar in age. 

Two out of three people in the United States are overweight. Depending upon which study you are reading, America is in the top ten for obesity. It didn’t used to be like this. But now it’s ordinary for people to treat every meal like an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s sad. And a huge reason why our insurance premiums are so high.

If you compare the United States to European countries, we are a nation of gluttony. European obesity is three times lower than here in the States. We need to do better. Rucking could help with this with very almost no equipment needed. You just need to know when to stop eating and get on your feet now and then. 

Strengthens Your Back

There is a caveat when I say rucking will strengthen your back. You must have good posture while walking with the weighted backpack strapped on you. If you are bending at the waist or slouched over like Igor from Frankenstein, it may not feel so great. 

The number one cause of most back pain comes from having weak back muscles. If you are suffering from back pain and think it could be from weak muscles, gradually build those muscles up. Don’t strap 50 pounds on your back and go walking. Start with a ten-pound plate and build up from there. 


Psychological and Mental Health Benefits

Mental is just as important as physical health. Speaking for myself, if I miss a few days at the gym, my mental health starts to deteriorate. Some depression starts to creep up on me and my attitude sours. I avoid taking any sort of psych medication because it often makes me feel like a zombie. To feel better, I train. The endorphins start to fire and before I know it, I am back to my happy-go-lucky self! Exercise will improve your psychological health

(I am just speaking from my own experiences. You may have a totally different experience. Never get off medications without consulting a doctor first.) 

Rucking will have you feeling better. Plus, after a tough workout, you always sleep better. Improved sleep equals improved mental health. 


Additional Benefits

Man hiking with backpack

Accessibility and Convenience

While there are special rucking backpacks and even rucking weight plates a person can use, you really don’t need anything fancy. You could start today if you wanted. Just grab a backpack out of the closet, place some weight in there, and start walking. Be sure the weight you are placing in the backpack is not flopping around and smacking against your back. Or try using a backpack with a waist strap. Rucking is a good workout, but if you are injuring yourself in the process, it is definitely not worth it. It could be a good idea to place blankets around the weights to keep your spine safe. 

And while some people will go on rucking hikes, you don’t need to drive out to the woods or the mountains. Strap on your backpack and you can start walking your neighborhood. Once you get your endurance built up, you can start exploring other areas. 

Perhaps one of the best things about rucking is that it is totally free! You don’t have to spend money on a monthly membership or to buy fuel for your car to travel to the gym. You have everything at your fingertips and ready to go at a moment’s notice, rain or shine!

Social and Community Aspect

While this may be the first time you have heard about rucking, trust me, there is a whole community built around it. If you are in need of new friends, or people who will keep you honest and continually rucking, this community is worth its weight in gold. 

Have you ever heard the saying that you are who you hang out with? If you spend most of your time with negative people, you become negative yourself. If you are around positive individuals, in turn, it rubs off on you. By joining this community, you will become someone who sets goals and holds yourself accountable. Who knew that rucking could change your whole life for the better?


Conclusion: Embracing Rucking as Your Cardio Solution

In a world where the term "cardio" often conjures images of tedious treadmill runs or grueling sprints, discovering an alternative, outdoor activity to add into your fitness routine that not only torches calories but also builds muscle is nothing short of revolutionary. A rucking workout, often overlooked in favor of traditional cardio exercises, emerges as a game-changer for those who dread the monotony of running. By simply strapping on a weighted pack and hitting the pavement, individuals can unlock the wealth of physical and mental benefits of rucking.


Key Takeaways:

  • Efficient Cardio Alternative: Rucking offers a highly effective cardio workout that burns three times as many calories as walking, making it an ideal option for those who dislike traditional running or treadmill workouts.

  • Full-Body Workout: Unlike typical cardio exercises, rucking engages multiple muscle groups, providing both cardiovascular benefits and resistance training effects. This comprehensive approach leads to improved muscle tone and endurance.

  • Mental Health Benefits: Engaging in rucking not only enhances physical fitness but also promotes mental well-being by releasing endorphins, reducing stress, and improving sleep quality. Incorporating rucking into your routine can be a powerful tool for maintaining emotional balance and resilience.

  • Accessible and Cost-Effective: Rucking requires minimal equipment and can be done anywhere, making it a convenient and affordable option for individuals of all fitness levels. With just a weighted backpack and a pair of sturdy shoes, you can embark on a rucking journey that transforms both your body and mind.

  • Community Support: Joining the rucking community provides a source of motivation, accountability, and camaraderie. By connecting with like-minded individuals who share your fitness goals, you'll find encouragement and support to stay consistent and committed to your rucking regimen.

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