Is Rucking Bad For Your Knees? (Explained)

Written by Bradley Page

The popularity of rucking has grown exponentially in recent years. However, one thing that beginners commonly hear is that rucking is bad for your knees. In this article we will look at what rucking is and whether ruck is actually bad for your knees?

When done correctly, rucking is not bad for your knees. However, people can experience knee issues when they ruck without adequate preparation or when overdoing it. Injuries can happen from carrying too much weight, existing injury, and even from rucking too frequently.

The following article will discuss everything you need to know about rucking, from the benefits of rucking to how you can prevent knee injury during this exercise.

What Is Rucking?

Rucking is a form of exercise that entails walking when carrying weights at several points on your body, including your hands or hips. It has grown in popularity because it provides many benefits while being relatively inexpensive and easy to do.

Rucking originated from the military as soldiers would walk with the load during long marches. It’s used to develop soldiers’ endurance and general fitness levels to help with more rigorous tasks such as fighting and combat training.

Military Ruck

However, civilians can perform rucks at any time or place without an official protocol for the number of miles walked or pounds carried on their backs. Some people believe that there are no rules for rucking – you only need some type of pack (which can be anything from a backpack to a specialist weighted pack) and make your way through town or across the countryside.

How Does Rucking Work?

A weighted pack is carried over long distances while wearing appropriate footwear and clothing. The weight will vary according to each person’s personal goals but generally ranges from 20% – 40% of body weight.

Some of the essentials you will need when rucking include:

  • Elastic load securement straps
  • Hydration system
  • Backpack
  • Weighted vest (optional)

What Are The Benefits Of Rucking?

If you’re looking for a way to get in shape that uses time and space efficiently, then rucking is one of the most efficient ways to do so. The following are the benefits of rucking:

  • Rucking strengthens the back and core muscles. It helps build the core and upper body muscles that are often neglected during other types of workouts.
  • It is a low-impact way to get your heart rate up and burn calories our heart rate up.
  • It helps to improve your cardiovascular fitness and can lower blood pressure.
  • It’s a great workout that can be done anywhere, anytime. You don’t need any special equipment or special skills to do it.
  • It increases endurance levels due to an increased level of cardio.
  • It will help you develop mental toughness by overcoming the challenges of carrying weight over long distances.
  • It’s an excellent opportunity to spend time outside with friends while getting some good exercise at the same time.
  • You’ll improve your balance, stability, and posture with regular rucking.

Recommended Reading: If you’re interested in low-impact exercise then you might be interested in our article on whether hiking is a low-impact exercise.

Group Rucking

How To Get Started With Rucking?

The Dos

  • Start by placing your shoulders back; chest lifted, stomach muscles tight. Hinge at the hips so that you can maintain a neutral spine throughout the walk or hike.
  • Keep one arm in front of the other for balance purposes and use both arms together with bent elbows if carrying weight over a long distance.
  • Find a weight that’s appropriate for your fitness level. It should feel light enough to start with but heavy enough to challenge you as it gets progressively heavier over time.
  • Start with a light load for your initial rucks, adding a couple of pounds with each ruck until you find a weight that challenges yet doesn’t discourage you from rucking the distance of your choice. This will vary depending on where you are training, how long distances are, and how much elevation is involved.
  • If you can, try to ruck at least once per week and go out somewhere new each time. If possible, try doing some hills if they’re available close by – this will help strengthen those all-important quadriceps muscles, which can be neglected while exclusively running or cycling.

The Don’ts

  • Do not allow either shoulder blade to jut forward while hiking as this will cause an asymmetrical load on your body which can lead to injury.
  • Do not overload yourself. While it will be tempting to carry more than those you’re rucking with, it’s far more important that you finish the ruck without injury.

Ways To Prevent Knee Injury While Rucking

Rucking often puts much stress on the body’s joints because more weight and pressure are being placed on them, leading to knee pain in some cases. To help prevent this from happening, consider doing the following:

Knee Injury

Invest In Quality Footwear

It is vital to invest in quality shoes that will provide better support for the feet and ankles when doing this exercise. You can even wear boots or other types of footwear with good arch support. You should also wear compression sleeves on either side of your thighs to increase blood flow (which in turn helps supply oxygenated blood) and reduce injury risk during workouts.

Take Breaks

Rest your knees by taking a short break every hour and if it becomes too painful, stop altogether. Periodic breaks will allow you some time off from the weight of the pack on your back and help stretch out tight muscles (especially hamstrings).

It is best to start with shorter distances when beginning rucking, so this doesn’t happen as often. Allow your body adequate time for recovery, which means cross-training or taking days off and staying active throughout the week.

Exercise The Right Way

Walk or jog in a straight line. Do not zigzag, as this will place uneven stress on your knee joints. By rucking, you are engaging your entire body – not just your legs. To neutralize that impact from all those steps, many people recommend ensuring proper foot placement and finding a good hiking pack with an adjustable waist belt; this will help take some of the weight off of their back.

The best way to do so is by using a strap or other contraption that allows them to lengthen or shorten the distance between themselves and their backpack (something like an over-the-shoulder sling).

Keep Good Posture

Do not lean forward with excess curvature at the waist. Try leaning more backward than you usually would while walking/running so that you are loading your hips evenly over each leg instead of placing all pressure onto one side. This also helps avoid excessive arching in the lower spine, which can lead to back pain later because there is less cushion between vertebrae disks

While it may be hard for most people to get their legs into a position to do squats while wearing a pack, it is imperative that you make an effort. When you squat, your weight will be evenly distributed across both of your hips rather than on just one side, which could lead to knee pain or injury

Know Your Limits

Pay attention to how much pressure you are putting on your knees and adjust accordingly. If it feels like too much, then swap out some weight from your backpack onto something else that will not strain your joints.

If adverse symptoms such as swelling, warmth, stiffness (especially when waking up), decreased range of motion continues for more than two weeks, seek medical advice immediately

Warm-up First

Remember to stretch and warm up gradually before any intense activity. If you fail to do so, it could lead to injuries or other problems. The best way to warm up is by moving your joints and muscles through a moderate range of motion at a slow pace for about five minutes each time.

Consult Your Doctor

Before you begin doing any form of exercise – including distance hiking while carrying a pack – it’s always essential to consult with your doctor first so they can make sure nothing else needs to change about your current fitness routine before starting something new.

What Are The Drawbacks Of Rucking?

The main drawback is that it can be hard on your body, especially if you’re not used to carrying a backpack in this manner. This may lead to knee pain or other joint pains due to added weight placed on certain parts of the body while walking, increasing susceptibility for injury during exercise.

This is why it is essential that you start with a light weight and increase it slowly to allow your body to build up strength to be able to handle that weight.

It’s also worth mentioning that if you are suffering from knee pain or have had surgery recently, rucking may not be for them since it requires constant bending and flexing at the knees, which would put more stress on those joints.

Final Thoughts

Rucking is a form of exercise that is effective for weight loss. It can also help you build muscle and improve your cardiovascular fitness, which will have long-term health benefits. If you’re concerned about the impact on your knees, it’s important to remember that proper rucking techniques will prevent injuries during this exercise.

The appropriate form includes bending from your hips and keeping your back straight, as well as using a pack that doesn’t bounce when you walk with it on. You should also make sure not to lock out your knees at any point during this exercise – instead, use a slight bend in your knee so that you can distribute the weight more evenly across them and keep pressure off of any trouble spots.

To prevent injury due to overuse or under-preparation, start small: for example, try walking up an incline every day for several weeks before taking on something like a military ruck march.

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Bradley Page

With several decades of experience as a backpacker and outdoor adventurer, Bradley is an open encyclopedia when it comes to gear, clothes, and other items that matter on the trail. He tested hundreds of shoes, pants, jackets, and backpacks in his long career and is always up to date with the new appearances in the niche. His experience makes him one of the authority figures in backpacking and he can help anyone to get prepared for a great adventure!