What Is Rucking? Fitness Experts Explain 2024’s Hot New Outdoor Workout

Weights + walking = three times the calorie burn

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what is rucking: woman wearing weighted backpack
Go Ruck / Facebook

From the right fitness leggings to the latest post-workout recovery tools, we like to think we’re prepped for any new workout we hear about. But when we saw people all over TikTok slipping on weighted vests then hitting the open trail, we were perplexed—what’s the use of just going on a walk, and does a weighted vest make a difference? Turns out it’s all part of the new outdoor workout called rucking. Experts say rucking is a great way to get the benefits of an outdoor run without the risk of high-impact injury but with some extra-added benefits, thanks to weights. We got the details on rucking, and how to start slowly and set yourself up for success.

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Meet the Expert

Emily McCarthy is the head of community and co-founder, with her husband Jason, of the company GORUCK, an American brand with roots in intelligence and special forces. A former Central Intelligence Agency officer who served her country on the frontlines of the global war on terrorism following 9/11, McCarthy’s first assignment was to Chad where she met with Sudanese rebel leaders to discuss the Darfur Peace Agreement. She makes her home in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband, their three children and chocolate Labrador Retriever.

What Is Rucking?

“Rucking is walking with weight on your back,” says Emily McCarthy, co-founder of GORUCK sporting goods outfitter. (Note: It’s also doing pull-ups, squats or any other Sporty Spice workout you feel like, as long as you’re strapped with weight.) The physical fitness training of covering ground quickly while carrying a weighted pack has its roots in armed forces training; though a boot camp-type workout can be intimidating, McCarthy says that rucking is accessible to everyone. “While it does have military roots, the level of difficulty is completely up to you,” she says, recommending that newbies “start light, figure out what feels right and gradually increase the weight over time.”

“Rucking is active resistance training at its core,” McCarthy says. “It builds muscle and strength in your back and shoulders while improving your cardio journey. You can also burn up to three times more calories than walking when rucking, depending on how much weight you’re carrying and for how long you’re rucking.” The rucking enthusiast says it’s the added weight that sets rucking apart from walking, hiking uphill or jogging. “While all three use similar muscles, rucking is the only activity that adds an extra layer of resistance to the workout,” she says.

what is rucking: pink packpack on an exercisign women

Benefits of Rucking

In one popular TikTok post, fitness coach Tay Jopling says that rucking is one of her favorite workouts that “takes a normal walking routine to the next level.” According to Jopling, the workout provides:

  • exercise that’s lower impact than running that still yields a high calorie burn
  • improvement in all-around endurance and work capacity
  • heart rate elevation that’s superior to walking without weights
  • an enjoyable couple’s workout (she wears a 20-pound vest, while Jopling’s husband’s is loaded with 35 pounds)

Rucking booster McCarthy says the pastime’s potential for family and communal connection is another plus. “At the end of the day, most of us live busy lives. We wake up, get ready for work, spend 9 hours in the office, and then come home to our families,” she says. “And while getting up at the crack of dawn for a full body workout sounds ideal, most won’t commit to that. But what most people can do is commit to throwing on a weighted backpack and pushing the kids around the neighborhood in a stroller for their evening 30-minute walk. Dad can do it, mom can do it, and when the kids are old enough–they can too. People are seeing results like weight loss, a mental health boost, stronger muscles and more.”

what is rucking green backpack

Tips for Getting Started

McCarthy says to start with light weights—anywhere from 10 to 15 pounds. “Try out the walk for a short distance and see how you feel afterward. You don’t want to start with too much weight, as it can be strenuous and potentially lead to a quick injury,” she advises.
“You can start by simply throwing anything in a backpack and going out for a walk. If you find that it’s something that you’re benefiting from, you can always pick up a weighted vest or rucker bag from GORUCK which is designed to evenly distribute the weight plates across your back for optimal performance. After some time with the 10 to 15 pounds, you’ll find that carrying an extra 20 to 30 pounds becomes rather manageable.” We’re seeing that word “rather” as a big if, but sure, color us intrigued. See below if you’re ready to invest in some official rucking equipment.

dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...