A new form of exercise called ruffing is being used. It involves walking or hiking with a weighted backpack. The extra weight makes your walk more intense.

When you ruck, you will experience less pounding on the knees than running, which is a good thing. The cardiovascular exercise that builds strength and stamina is made more effective by the weight.

image of man and woman rucking with backpacks
Studio Firma/Stocksy United

Rucking is a form of exercise and the concept is simple: it’s walking or hiking a set distance while carrying a weight on your back. Rucking (also known as ruck marching) has military origins, and the name comes from the word rucksack — a durable backpack meant for carrying heavy loads.

“You don’t need a backpack to do this exercise, you just need a backpack. Load it with weight and go for a walk. You can choose the terrain, distance and intensity that will suit you.”

There is very little equipment. You just need a backpack, some weight, and a desire to move. Special groups meet up to ruck together. They provide a sense of camaraderie and challenge.


Rucking is when you wear a weighted backpack while walking or hiking.

Rucking evolved out of military training and dates back to the first iron-clad army, in the seventh century B.C. (1). The ability to march a certain distance carrying a load of equipment is central to almost all military units and is still a part of military training today (2).

In the armed forces, ruck marches involve carrying a load of standard military issue gear over a set distance. In basic training, Army rangers are required to carry a 35-pound (15.9 kg) rucksack over 12 miles (19.3 km) and maintain a pace of, at most, 15 minutes per mile (1.6 km) (3).

In the civilian world, the backpacks used for rucking tend to be lighter with more accommodating straps for comfort. The popularity of this activity has increased in recent years.


Military training began in 700 B.C. and evolved into ruffing.

Rucking improves strength, endurance, and general fitness. For example, a 2019 study found participants had lower ratings of perceived exertion after a 10-week load carrying program, while their muscular power and oxygen intake also improved (4).

Another study found that there may be some sex-specific differences in the cardiovascular response to a rucking training program, but for both men and women, this type of training improved muscle power and lowered ratings of perceived exertion (5).

Rucking has also been shown to improve muscle power in older people (6). This research implies rucking could offer an effective training program for preventing sarcopenia and other degenerative muscular conditions that lead to falls and injury in senior populations.

Walking with weight also increases the calorie burn of your normal walk. The added weight means you have more mass to move. Consequently, this increases the amount of energy needed to move at the same pace you would without the weight (6).


Rounding can lower your rate of perceived exertion. It has been shown to improve cardiovascular functioning.

It is best to start slowly if you are new to hiking. Start at a distance of 2 miles. Load your backpack with 10% of your body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, you would load your pack with 15 pounds.

You can use a dumbbell, kettlebell, sandbag, rocks, or even bottles of water. For the best comfort when carrying, secure the weight as best as you can so that it doesn’t move or bounce around. Keep your straps tight and the weight high on your back.

The military uses a target pace of 15 minutes per mile, but you can aim for 20 minutes per mile when you start.

Where to buy a rucksack

If you think you will be rucking frequently, you may want to consider investing in a weight that is specifically designed for this purpose.

  • GORUCK makes rucksacks and weight plates that are ergonomic and designed specifically for even distribution of weight.
  • The EMPACK by Evolved Motion comes with reservoirs you can fill with water or sand to create the weight you’d like, on the go.

Leave enough room in the pack to carry something. You are increasing the amount of energy you are burning. You will sweat more and produce more heat.

As your fitness increases, you can increase the amount of weight you carry, the speed you’re walking, or the distance you are rucking. However, to avoid overtraining, try to only increase one of these at a time.

If you want to increase strength, you should increase the load weight. If you want to increase endurance, you should add more distance.


If you are new to the activity, start slowly. Load your pack with 10% of your body weight. As your fitness improves, you can increase the weight you carry, the speed you walk, and the distance you travel.

According to the US Army, a 180-pound (81.6 kg) person rucking at a pace of 15 minutes per mile (1.6 km) can expect to burn the following calories (2):

35 pounds 50 pounds 70 pounds
6 km/ 3.7 miles 680 calories 735 calories 820 calories
12.8 km/ 8 miles 1360 calories 1475 calories 1635 calories
19.3 km/ 12 miles 2040 calories 2210 calories 2455 calories

Let’s compare that to running. A 180-pound person running at a pace of 6 miles per hour (which equates to a 10 minute mile) without weight will burn roughly 840 calories per hour (7). That equals about 140 calories per mile.

To cover the same ground as listed in the chart above, a 180-pound person running at the pace of 6 miles per hour would burn 518 calories over 3.7 miles, 1120 calories over 8 miles, and 1680 calories over 12 miles.

While your calories burn is dependent on your pace for running and rucking, and on the weight you carry when running, rucking burns more calories than running.


Running can burn more calories than ruffing. The weight of your pack and the speed you walk affect how many calories you burn.

Is rucking good for you?

Yes. It is a cardiovascular activity that builds strength and endurance. It is possible to add or decrease challenge.

Should I run with a rucksack?

Traditionally speaking, true ruck marching is walking at a fast pace, but not running. Running with a weighted backpack can put a lot of strain on your joints and takes away the low-impact appeal of rucking. If you want to run with weight, a weighted vest is a better option, because it will distribute the weight more evenly around your torso.

Can you ruck every day?

It is possible to ruck everyday, though it’s not ideal. In fact, one study recommended soldiers perform only one heavy load carriage task every 10–14 days (8). If you do choose to ruck more often you should work up to it over time.

It is recommended that you limit your rucking to 1–2 times a week because of the muscular demands on the lower body and shoulders. Overtraining and injury can be caused by repeating the same exercise every day.

Does rucking build muscle?

Yes. Rucking can build muscle in the lower extremities. Adding weight to your pack can increase the overload on your leg muscles to induce hypertrophy.

Is rucking better than running?

The joints of the lower body are less impacted by running than by ruffing. It may burn more calories if you pace yourself and carry a lot of weight. If you jog at a moderate pace and work up to 35 pounds in your backpack, you will burn more calories than if you run the same distance.

How long should you ruck for?

“Start with a manageable amount of time. If you haven’t exercised much in the past few months, start at 15 minutes and gradually work your way up.”

Does rucking build ab muscles?

“If you engage your core properly, it can. It doesn’t work the same way as doing crunches. The added weight and forward lean of your body is helped by the Abs.”

In particular, the transversus abdominus can help to keep your spine stable when the weight might otherwise pull you backward (9).

A great fitness routine that takes your walk and turns it into a challenge is ruffing. It is a high-energy activity that offers a high calories burn. It increases cardiovascular fitness and strength.

If you are looking for a cardiovascular challenge that is low impact, rucking might be a good fit for you. You can hit the trail with a pack and some weight.