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Rucking Progression - RULES of Rucking (Army, SF / Ranger, USMC)

stew smith

Many people seeking jobs and training for challenging tactical schools (even events like Bataan or GoRuck) will realize they need to start preparing for rucking at some point. What is a Ruck? Great Question article tackled some of the training / pacing strategies that you should consider as you progress into rucking. But, what is a good way to go from Couch to 5km when that 5km requires rucking? Or if you are joining the Army and know you have to run 2 miles timed and perform several miles 6-12 miles with 40-50lbs while in training – how do you progress to that level of mileage without breaking?  The following list is the Rules of Rucking:

The Rules of Rucking

  1. You should not be rucking if you have not started walking. First, walk every day for 30 minutes. Then after a month or so, add weight or distance / speed if walking is getting easier.  See beginner running program
  2. If you do not have a ruck, consider starting out with a weight vest, then advancing to the military issue rucking gear (if joining the military).
  3. No matter what your starting point, progress by adding 5-10 lbs to your ruck or weight vest every few weeks or so.
  4. If you are not running yet – do not ruck. You really should have a running foundation prior to rucking, especially within the military as your rucks will be long and some will be a fast shuffle pace that resembles jogging (just with shorter / higher strides per minute stride cadence)
  5. If you do not lift weights or skip leg days regularly - do not ruck yet.  When carrying extra weight in addition to your own bodyweight, it will require your legs, hips, lower back and upper body to be strong especially when rucking 25-40% of your bodyweight.  Doing exercises like dead lift, squats, front squats and lunges with barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells or sandbags will help you build the tactical strength foundation needed when progressing into rucking.
  6. Do not ruck daily. You can progress into running daily over time, but your rucks should be limited to two a week - MAX, similar to heavy lifting leg days. In fact, our training groups preparing for Army / USMC / Spec Ops programs will ruck on leg days each week.
  7. When preparing for longer rucks 12+ miles in the military or difficult events like Bataan Death March Run/ Ruck or GoRuck Heavy you should consider progressing using a similar model to half-marathon or marathon training, but replace the long run with a ruck each week.
  8. Foot care – If you are going to be rucking for long distances in your future, you need to toughen up the feet. Do more barefoot walking on sand, wear two pairs of socks (one normal pair cotton / wool type and one thin polyester /rayon blend against the skin), place fitted inserts into your boots / shoes, and monitor your feet when you can, especially if they get wet.
  9. Patience – You need time to prepare properly for rucking. Unless you have a great foundation in strength and running already, it could be a longer journey before your body can handle rucking without serious injury. Even then, you should still progress with rucking logically and not jump into a 10-mile ruck on day 1. This process for a beginner preparing for tough military selections courses that require rucking (Army Ranger, SF, Marines, RECON, etc), this could take a year or more.
  10. Know that Rucking Sucks! – I compare rucking to treading water. Many people can swim but treading is a challenge for many lean athletes and if you do not realize that treading is difficult, it can be a shocker to you when tasked with treading drills in Navy, Air Force, RECON type selection programs. Same for rucking. Many people know they can run, “how much harder will rucking be?”  You will not know until you practice rucking (and treading) and get good at it just like any other skill in athletics. Once again, it takes time and with rucking. A regular workout can take hours or fill up an entire afternoon.  Be willing to invest that kind of time into your progressions each week building up to that level of rucking skill.

Rucking and running do go hand in hand. Consider rucking a more difficult way to walk and when you need to pick up the pace, you can adjust your cadence and increase your speed that resembles running.  Building up from the minimum standards of 15 minute mile pace (typical military) to competitive programs that require closer to 10 minute mile pace or faster with heavier weight and longer distances takes time as with any cardio activity.  Rucking is definitely a more difficult way to run / shuffle.  Be prepared for that difficulty or failure to perform and injury could prevent you from advancing in your military training programs.

More Options: Rucking Prep


Tactical Fitness or Tactical Strength training are good ways to build a foundation of all the elements of tactical fitness for candidate preparation you will need. Also the more specific Ranger / SF Training program builds you up with calisthenics, weight training, and challenging runs and rucks in order to prepare you for 5 mile runs and 12 mile rucks, log PT, pullups, pushups, situps, and more.  You should also consider the Army Ranger Flash Cards, there is a lot of information you are learn while you wait to attend schools – see

Tactical Fitness Series - Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, and Tactical Mobility is an ALL-encompassing program that focuses on lifting, calisthenics, run, ruck, swim, speed, agility, and flexibility / mobility. Many people focusing on USMC (OCS, RECON, MarSOC) Army Ranger / SF, Air Force Special Warfare, SWAT / Federal Law Enforcement, and Navy Special Warfare have done very well focusing on the Tactical Fitness Series and developing themselves into an all-round Tactical Athlete

Tactical Fitness - At the core of this program is the Tactical Fitness Test which measures 12 standards for your physical capacity, including: cardiovascular conditioning, strength, muscle coordination, and stamina. Tactical fitness means having the skills needed to save lives and extend the limits of your endurance whether you are in the military, police, firefighting professions, or just an everyday hero. Also featured in the Tactical Fitness Test called the Dirty Dozen.

Tactical Strength - Tactical Strength is the lifting program used by Stew Smith and his Military, Police, Fire Fighter fitness program called the Heroes of Tomorrow. It is designed to build strength in the upper body, legs, and core to prepare you better for any load bearing activity (rucking, boat carry, log PT, etc). The program also does not neglect cardiovascular activity and will end workouts with rucking or swimming (or other non impact options (row, bike, elliptical) if needed. The cardio workouts will be quick and fast focusing more on speed and agility than long slow distance. We also use the Tactical Strength Test to test elements of speed, agility, and strength / power.

Tactical Mobility is a comprehensive fitness guide for greater mobility, flexibility, and performance—designed for the men and women serving in military, special ops, law enforcement, emergency services. Tactical Mobility is a perfect fit for any fitness program as a stand alone "Mobility day" supplemented into your regular routine and will help you reach the pain free level of fitness. Gaining flexibility and mobility is the goal of the program and it will help with performance and help reduce injuries.

The Warrior Workout Series - If you are solid with making your own workouts, but need some ideas.  This three part series has 300 workouts (100 / book) to pick from focusing on all the elements of fitness and training programs. Each book is organized with periodization cycles in mind along with calisthenics only, weights / calisthenics mix, cardio options and more. Warrior Workout 1   -  Warrior Workout 2  -   Warrior Workout 3. 

Personalized Training Programs
There are many more options as well as personalized training programs member's only program and the new :

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