Rucking for Speed & Distance

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  • #43713

    If a person has developed an adequate aerobic base and ligament/tendon strength, etc., how would you think about programming ruck/hike training for speed?

    Rucking is a notoriously injury-prone activity. If a candidate needed to avoid injury and wanted to drive his pace down over the course of months, how would you program weekly/monthly rucks w/r/t weight (fluctuating, constant, or increasing?), pace, and mileage? First reflex is to mirror running plans, but with fewer weekly sessions: focus on total mileage w/ one sub-AT ruck per week, with one session every 1-2wks at high-intensity (e.g., 4x10min @ “race pace”).

    Thanks for any input.

Posted In: Tactical

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    Drew on #43715

    To be super reductionist here, there are basically two ways of approaching this: top-down and/or bottom-up.

    For an athlete that has the endurance but not the speed, I’d use a top-down approach where all variables are staying fixed except for SPEED. An example session here might be:
    Week 1- 3x 1-mile repeats @ 11:00/mile with a 35# ruck
    Week 2- 3x 1-mile repeats @ 10:45/mile with a 35# ruck
    You’d continue that progression until you hit whatever your goal pace was, then increase the weight or interval duration and repeat that process

    For an athlete that has the speed but not the endurance, I’d use a bottom-up approach where all variables are staying fixed except for DURATION. An example session here might be:
    Week 1- 3x 800m repeats @ 10:00/mile with a 35# ruck
    Week 2- 3x 900m repeats @ 10:00/mile with a 35# ruck
    Same rules as above in terms of the progression…once that athlete can hold their goal pace for the appropriate duration, you’d increase weight and repeat the process.

    The next layer of this would be the use of autoregulation to drive the progression. In the case of this type of endurance training, I let the athlete’s results determine the following session’s prescription. For example, if my Top-Down athlete from above has a tough time maintaining speed once we get to a certain pace, I’ll just hold that constant for a week or two until he’s able to push through that plateau.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about traditional endurance metrics (V02, AT, LT, etc.) with a ruck on. In my experience, the best approach is to go by feel, minimize the number of variables, and let the athlete dictate what the progression looks like.


    mdqs on #43744

    Drew, thanks for the quick feedback. Would the workouts you described above be supplemental (i.e., performed occasionally as the high-intensity component of a higher-mileage plan) or the entirety of your rucking workload prescription (performed consistently, e.g. 1-3x/wk) for an athlete prepping for selection, esp AFSPECWAR / A&S?

    Also, do you have any personal stances / empirically-grounded beliefs about intensity/frequency w/r/t rucking as it pertains to injury prevention and performance? People almost universally say not to train with >45# and not to ruck >1x/wk, but I can’t square that with the fact that hikers and backcountry hunters move heavy weight frequently, and yet we aren’t talking about how they’re constantly injured. Do any guys in your populations continue to ruck as a training modality once they’re on team, and if so, anything that seems to set some apart w/r/t injury/performance, be it some strength:BW benchmarks, consistent recovery work, general height/weight parameters..?

    Sorry for the barrage of questions — huge fan of your work, heard you first on PJ Medcast with Doc Rush. Thanks again.


    mdqs on #44447

    Hi Drew,

    Circling back to get clarity on the above points. Thanks again for your time and input.

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