fitness

Introducing 'rucking': the military-inspired workout trend that's not as scary as it sounds.

Image: iStock

The words ‘military-inspired’ exercise are enough to instil a sense of fear and dread in most of us.

For me, it brings an immediate sense of panic, envisioning scenes of Tough Mudder-style army crawling, barbed wire and a man with a crew cut yelling non-stop in my ear.

But if this simple exercise activity favoured by the US military is anything to go by, it could actually be doable. And all you need is a backpack and a friend.

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Referred to as rucking, the exercise involves walking with a weighted pack on your back and has been practised by soldiers in America since the American revolution. The name comes from “walking with a ruck sack” which is a military term for back pack. (Plus, we don’t think ‘backing’ is quite so catchy.)

This might be the first you’ve heard of rucking, but prepare to hear more: it’s been named as one of the top workout trends of 2015. (Post continues after gallery.)

According to personal trainer Blake Worrall-Thompson, rucking is a great way to take your walking work-out to the next level.

“A lot of people see walking as a fat loss tool. If you’re overweight it certainly is, but if you’re average (5-10 kilos over) then it’s not as effective,” he says. “The lighter you are, the harder you need to work to get results with working, and as you lose weight, you need to work even harder to lose those next few kilos.”

According to the Compendium of Physical Activities, walking with weights can actually help burning three times as many calories as walking without.

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“That said, any type of walking is definitely beneficial, particularly for your mind as well as your body. Rucking just takes it that little bit further, and doing it upstairs or up hills will also add another element,” he says.

The good news is that while soldiers would typically walk up to 40 kilometres carrying 90 kilograms on their backs, you don’t have to go to those extremes to reap the rewards and benefits of the exercise, which include improving stamina and relieving back pain.

“With any type of conditioning, it’s important to start cautiously,” Worrall-Thompson advises.

Image via iStock
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"The worst thing you can do is load up 10-15 kilograms and go for a 45 minute walk. If you go too hard too early and your body is not used to it, then your back could stiffen up and you'll do more harm than good."

"I'd recommend starting off with about 5 kilograms and walk for 20 minutes - building it up nice and slowly," he says.

As a general rule, using a weight of about 10% of your body weight is a good starting point if you're already quite fit. Worrall-Thompson believes you don't need to use any fancy equipment - just load up your backpack with whatever you like.

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If you do want to use weights, try wrapping them in bubble wrap to prevent them from moving around too much.

Rucking is also good news if you find you suffer from back problems when working out at the gym: it can actually relieve and even prevent back pain.

Rucking: finally an exercise that's hard to hate.

"If done properly, rucking can improve your posture and relieve pain by helping to keep your torso upright," says Worrall-Thompson. This means your back muscles don't have to work as hard, decreasing pressure.

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However the backpack has to be in the right position, on your shoulders and at the base of your neck, he advises.

An exercise that's cheap, gets you outdoors, increases stamina and burns calories three times as fast as normal walking? We think it's time to dig out our old hiking rucksacks (which, let's face it, we never actually used for hiking) and get rucked up.

Have you ever tried rucking? What exercise are you loving right now?

Would you try rucking?