The Foundation of Your Ruck Training (3 Exercises)


According to SELF magazine (whatever that is…) there is this crazy new fitness trend called walking with a rucksack on your back and apparently it’s all the rage with the kids these days.

Good thing for us here (yeah you), this is neither:

a.) new, nor
b.) a sweet trend

Unfortunately, though, it is something that you are required to do to perform your job well (assuming you’re in a unit that may have to walk from time to time).

I’ve also pointed out that it is a great way to build mental toughness.

Some of us, who long for the hurry up and wait suck that is the military, actually, pay good money to be submitted to this nonsense by completing GORUCK events (Actually kind of fun…).

So, let’s talk about a few ways to level up your rucking ability. They are actually pretty simple and you may be surprised to find out that they don’t involve more rucking (gasp).

The Back Squat

The back squat, in my humble opinion, is the number one exercise that EVERYONE should be doing no matter what their goals are.

Want to get stronger? Squat.

Want to get faster? Squat.

Want to survive thrive during long hours on the roads or trails (running or rucking)? Yep, squat.

The back squat is the ultimate functional movement and research has shown that it can not only improve your strength and power but it can also make you faster. In addition to this, the back squat is a great screen and fixer of a number of movement deficiencies.

Sure you could perform a number of separate poses, stretches, and mobility exercises, or you could just squat more while focusing on exceptional mechanics and the vast majority of your issues will likely go away.

**Disclaimer: That doesn’t mean load up a heavy barbell and start cranking out reps to fix your issues… Don’t be dumb.

So, are you squatting enough?

Probably not, so here is a quick overview of how to perform a proper back squat:

The Walking Lunge (Loaded & Unloaded)

In my experience, when intermediate level athletes begin to plateau on their major lifts (i.e. Squat & Deadlift) the weakest link is the glutes.

With that said, I’m a big fan of using the walking lunge step to solve that problem as well as a host of other issues you may be dealing with.

In additional to being a great exercise to build strength in the lower body you can perform a TON of reps, unloaded, and build the muscular endurance you’ll need to carry that heavy pack, over shitty terrain, for hours on end.

The lunge is great because it requires ZERO equipment and you can perform them fast (for conditioning) and you can crank up the volume for muscular endurance. If you have access to some typical gym equipment (Barbell, dumbbells, KBs, sandbags, and even your ruck) you can load them up and work on building some pretty incredible strength and stability that will do wonders for you rucking over rough terrain.

If you’ve never lunged before, check out this video for some pointers:

The Kettlebell Swing

My third favorite exercise for improving my rucking ability and yours is the kettlebell swing. When performed correctly you get an incredible activation of just about every muscle in your posterior chain (the “GO” muscles) and you build power and explosive hip extension.

If you’ve ever rucked and wound up with tight/sore hips and a destroyed lumbar (low back) then you probably need to work some swings into your current program.

Research has shown that kettlebell swings can be a great supplement to your strength training program and will help to Increase in Growth Hormone and Testosterone, two things that will make you bigger, stronger, and better.

To review the points of performance of the swing check out this video:

Let’s wrap it up…

For those of you that have followed me here from CrossFit Endurance, you know that I’m a big proponent of lower volume, higher intensity endurance training IN ADDITION TO a solid strength and conditioning program.

Without the S&C, the low volume stuff just doesn’t work. However, if you’re following a solid strength program you’ll be able to significantly reduce the amount of time you are rucking while still improving your long distance ruck times. I’ve done it (26 hours GORUCK Heavy – Longest training ruck = 90mins), tons of people I’ve trained have done it, and you can do it too.

The benefit of this is more time recovering and generally feeling better overall.

If you are looking to improve your ruck times, complete a ruck based selection, or kick ass at your next GORUCK event than these 3 exercises need to be the foundation of your strength training program. Once you’ve incorporated all of these then we can talk about increasing your rucking milage.


Lake, J., & Lauder, M. (2012). Kettlebell Swing Training Improves Maximal and Explosive Strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(8), 2228-2233.

Budnar, R., Duplanty, A., Hill, D., Mcfarlin, B., & Vingren, J. (2014). The Acute Hormonal Response to the Kettlebell Swing Exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(10), 2793-2800.

Otto, W., Coburn, J., Brown, L., & Spiering, B. (2012). Effects of Weightlifting vs. Kettlebell Training on Vertical Jump, Strength, and Body Composition. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(5), 1199-1202.

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2 thoughts on “The Foundation of Your Ruck Training (3 Exercises)”

  1. How many days per week do you recommend doing these exercises?

    How many sets/reps do you recommend as well?

    Thank you.

    1. I’d recommend you mix them into your routine, adding one to the end of your current workouts 3 days per week and see how that goes.

      Sets & reps really depend on your current conditioning.

      Start slow with something like 3 x 10 and increase as you get more comfortable with the movements and your body adapts to the stress. Cool?

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