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3 Steps To Prevent Injuries When Rucking

Rucking, like running, is an endurance sport that causes a lot of overuse injuries if you don't properly plan your training. Let's dive into how you can prevent these injuries.

Members of the 2022 GORUCK Games
Photo from the 2022 GORUCK Games where Coach Joel competed.

Start Low, Build High:

Do you have any fitness background? Do you have any recent fitness background? Do you have a running background? If you don't have these things, then you need to ease into rucking. A sure-fire way to get injured is to start rucking for too long, too far, too fast, or with too much weight too quickly. If you have a reasonable running background, you might be able to start with longer periods (30-40 minutes) of rucking, but I would strongly suggest that you start with light weight; 10lbs and gradually build up. Every additional pound of weight you add puts hundreds, and up to thousands, of pounds of extra force on your muscles, joints, and ligaments over the course of a rucking session.

An army soldier rucking on a dirt path.
Photo from the 2024 Combat Cross Country event at Fort Liberty

Strength Train:

Specifically, you need to strength train your lower body and core. Obviously, full body strength training is simply beneficial overall, but rucking is far more about your lower body and core. Do things like weighted Squats, weighted Lunges, Pistol Squats (or assisted pistol squats), Lateral Lunges, Glute Bridges, and so on. These can be done with bodyweight or with weights - I would suggest a variation of both. Strength training will increase the overall strength of your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. For your core, don't complicate it. Choose 4 or 5 exercises and do them frequently. I would recommend exercises like Bicycles, Crunches, Russian Twists, Planks, Side Planks, and so on. You'll read a million different things about core training, but in reality, if you do exercises to strengthen your core through different ranges of motion, it will get stronger - so choose several exercises and do them regularly.

The 100lb mile challenge at the 2022 GORUCK Games

Space Out Your Rucking:

Are you training for Special Forces Assessment and Selection, Ranger School, or another military school or selection? If not, there aren't many good reasons to ruck more than 3 days per week. The easiest way to get injured in an endurance discipline is to do more than your body can handle. Carrying 30lbs+ of extra weight multiple times per week puts a lot of extra stress on your body. Even with strength training and proper progression over time to build up the strength safely, it's still easy to do more than is necessary to reach your goals. This is especially true as you increase the weight of your ruck. Ideally, ruck 2 days per week, with 2-3 days between rucking sessions, and build up the distance/time appropriately over time.

Keep these 3 keys in mind when ruck training, and you will be very UNLIKELY to encounter injuries.

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