I Have Seen the Future of Rucking…and it is Good!

Article by Tom Eskey


“Rucking is very easy to get into.”

Earlier this year, I read those oh-so innocuous words on a previous 14er Tactical blog post. As someone who has been known to regularly strap up a weighted vest or ruck, I can confirm this phrase to be pretty much true.

Pretty much

However, in recent years, ruckers have really had to start thinking long and hard about what the “get into” part means to them.

Rucking isn’t just walking a reasonable distance with a reasonably heavy pack anymore.

Rucking has evolved.

Whether you’re into “normal” rucking….just doing it fast or if you’re considering diversifying the types of exercises and movements you do with your ruck, recent events in the world of fitness have provided some useful reference material.

CrossFit Goes Rucking

Anyone who has paid attention to the fitness world over the last decade or so has probably come into contact with CrossFit. Whether you’re a regular at your box or if you generally prefer to steer clear of cult members of all kinds (I joke, I kid!), you’re likely aware of the oftentimes “creative” workouts enthusiasts willingly put themselves through. 

As rucking has gone mainstream, it should come as no surprise that CrossFit has co-opted the activity.

Big time

While the 2019 CrossFit Games involved a “simple” rucking event where athletes were required to complete a 6,000-meter run, adding weight to their rucks every 1,500 meters, the ante has only upped from there.

The 2021 Rogue Invitational’s opening event involved athletes performing heavy sled pulls, rope climbs, and uphill sandbag carries…all while wearing 30-pound rucks (20-pound rucks for female competitors). Fast forward to the 2023 CrossFit Semifinals where the competition’s second workout involved burpees, pistol squats, and ring muscle-up complexes while athletes were, you guessed it, geared up in 20 and 10-pound rucks.

Truth be told, many of the dynamic exercises in the “functional fitness” realm are difficult enough on their own, yet alone with 20-pounds of love strapped to your back. However, for those looking to add completely new and demanding stimuli to their rucking regimen, the CrossFit world might be able to provide the answers you’re looking for.

Enter the GORUCK Games 

In a similar vein to the merger of rucking and CrossFit, the GORUCK Games event has emerged as the unofficial “Super Bowl” of the rucking world. A quick glance of previous year’s finalists essentially reveals a who’s who list of top athletes from disciplines such as HYROX and CrossFit.

Except the GORUCK Games take the rucking inclusions that these sports have recently adopted to the next level.

Beach runs, intense obstacles, weighted carries…all while wearing a ruck, of course.

(wrestling events between athletes are also regularly programmed where rucks aren’t used…yet!)

Although the GORUCK Games have not received the attention that major CrossFit Games events have, the event is much more “ruck heavy” (no pun intended!) than any CrossFit competition while likely ever be. Because of this, it probably serves as a better barometer of what rucking’s limits are as a legitimate sport.

How You’re Going to Get Involved

The athleticism on display at the GORUCK Games is, at times, arguably as impressive as any major CrossFit competition. However, where the event has truly shined is its showcasing of the plethora of different exercises and movements that can be performed with a ruck for those of all ability levels.

Don’t feel like doing 100 burpees? Try 20 burpees with a 30-poound ruck strapped to your back and let me know how you feel. 

You can make the same substitution the next time push-ups or pull-ups are programmed in your workout.

“But how about weighted movements?” you might ask?

Suitcase carries, squats, front squats, clean and jerks…heck, even devil’s presses! If you have a ruck, you have a lot of options…even if the CrossFit Games or GORUCK Games are slightly out of reach for you at the moment.

GORUCK regularly hosts events and challenges all around the world where enthusiasts can put their rucking skills to the test (in regard to both “traditional” rucking as well as more dynamic rucking movements and activities). Even more “casual” ruckers can emulate the 2019 CrossFit Games rucking event by participating in officially licensed and unlicensed “Ruck ‘N Run” events. 

Practical Considerations

If there is anything that high-level, ruck-infused competitions have taught us, it’s that “the sky’s the limit!” Nothing seems to be off the table and as the athleticism of participants continues to ascend to unfathomable levels, the challenge will surely rise along with them.

Regardless of what the top dogs might be pitted against, practical considerations should be kept in mind if you decide to create your own “Backyard Rucking Championship!” The most important of these? Use an appropriately sized and weighted ruck or tactical backpack.

Think more “compact and agile” and less “12-mile ruck march at Camp Rogers”.

Using a ruck or tactical backpack that can accommodate larger loads (because you’re going to get stronger) while still sitting tight and close to the body is ideal. The challenge of dynamic ruck exercises should be due to the poundage used and because of the movement itself, not because of poorly distributed weight in a ruck designed for other purposes.

Consider that we’re not (yet) watching those competing for the title of “The Fittest on Earth” performing heavy sandbag carries in rucks more appropriate for the 82nd. If you decide to…”diversify” your rucking activity, make sure you have the right equipment for the job.

Get Rucking…Whatever that Means to You

That statement from the beginning of the article…yeah, it still holds true.

Rucking is very easy to get into!

However, if you’re like most people who take up rucking, you don’t necessarily want it to remain easy.

Thankfully, as we’ve seen from our deep dive into the world of…”non-traditional rucking”, there are quite a few options to choose from. Many of these options would definitely be classified as being something other than “easy”.

For those who want even more challenge…well...the CrossFit Games aren’t going to stop using rucks anytime soon. What’s better, the GORUCK Games are just getting started. Start rucking now and hopefully we’ll see you competing in the finals sometime in the near future!


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