Ruck marching is simple and effective, a great way to work on endurance and muscle and also a useful skill if you ever want to start ultra-long hiking. Ruck marching is simple and it is lovely, it is painful and wonderful. All you need is a backpack (hiking pack properly fitted) and a pair of sturdy shoes and boots. Weigh down the pack with sand or supplies or water (which is a good one because you can drink it or dump it out if you get tired), put it on and start walking.
That’s all there is to it, just walking with a heavy pack on. Ideally you should start by walking and work up to moving at a near jog. Fill the pack up with all it (and you) can take and try to move as fast as you can for as long as you can. Work your way up to 10 kilometer rucks, move up to 20k’s and even marathon length marches.
This is great to work your legs (quads, glutes and calves), cardio as well as core and upper body (in supporting the weight). You build strength and endurance at the same time. There is something else this kind of workout builds as well and that is toughness. Moving with a hundred pounds uncomfortably on your back in heat or cold will make you tougher. You will find that after a time of ruck marching the pain of other workouts is more bearable.
So what specific activates is this good for? The obvious answer is hiking. If you’re planning an ultra long hike working out like this will help you get there. It will also help improve your running which is a foundation of many activities. The toughness you will build doing this will help you in life as well as in your other fitness endeavors. Ruck marching is something different and a great way to mix up a workout schedule.
A word of warning. This is an exercise that can mess you up long term if you do it wrong, so be sure to take it easy and take your time building up. Extensive ruck marching is one of the reasons that Infantry persons in the army end up with blown out knees after a few years. The added weight amplifies any errors in gait, so a rolled ankle can end up being a lot more damaging. Like any weighted exercise be sure to be aware of your form and posture. Know the difference between pain and injury.
That’s not to say you should avoid it, I really think that this is one of the best ways to mix up a cardio workout. It’s also probably the best way to prep for a long hike and will strengthen you up enough to face other workouts with ease.