Strapped and Stressed: The True Impact of Rucking on Joints

Strapped and Stressed: The True Impact of Rucking on Joints


Rucking has gained prominence among those seeking more effective workouts. With a growing number of people striving to address back and knee pain, many are drawn to the seemingly low-impact calorie-burning rucking workout. In this article, we will delve into the fundamental elements of rucking and its significant shortcomings. We will explore why strapping a ruck sack on your back and engaging in a rucking workout may not be the wisest choice. We will also discuss alternative methods to achieve your desired results with greater efficiency and lower risk.  

Rucking, what is it?

For readers who have not heard of rucking yet, let's briefly define it. A ruck sack is essentially a weighted backpack, and rucking involves wearing said backpack while walking or jogging. Some people incorporate exercises such as squats and lunges while wearing the backpack, a practice commonly seen in the military. A simple Google search would leave you thinking that rucking is a "low-impact," "fat-burning," and "knee-friendly" exercise. So, let's examine these claims. In this discussion, we will primarily focus on the use of a ruck sack during walking, jogging, or running, as this is the most common application. 

While some individuals use the sack for CrossFit-style workouts, we have many articles discussing the fundamental issues with those already.  

Rucking workout

Low Impact? Better for Your Joints? 

I will discuss two ways in which adding a ruck sack to your workout may not lower the impact but actually increase it.  

Firstly, let's consider a simple mathematical equation. If I weigh 80 kg and add a 10 kg sack to my body, I now weigh 90 kg, which means there's an additional 10 kg of impact on my knees and all other joints with each step. This not only increases the impact directly but also causes further dysfunction of the body and exacerbates existing issues. For example, let's say a person has an anterior pelvic tilt dysfunction; adding more weight to this dysfunction will make an already compressed area of the body even more compressed and vulnerable. If you would like to learn more about anterior pelvic tilts, you can find additional information in the link below.

 Secondly, and more crucially, the ruck sack can impede your body's natural movement efficiency. This will lead to greater impact when your feet touch the ground. The human body has evolved over millions of years, and as a result of environmental pressures on our ancestors, we have developed specific biomechanical functions for walking and running. One of these functions is ribcage rotation. By strapping a ruck sack to your back, you limit your body's ability to rotate as it should. Incorrect gait mechanics result in increased impact and unnecessary shearing and twisting on other joints to compensate. 

 Rucking workout

Better Workout? 

Some individuals prefer rucking over simple walking or running, seeing it as a more effective way to build cardiovascular fitness, particularly if they experience pain or difficulty while running. While I can appreciate their perspective—adding weight to your back intensifies tasks, raises the heart rate, and burns more calories without the impact of running—a closer examination reveals certain limitations. The core issue lies in individuals dealing with various movement imbalances that contribute to their pain or discomfort. Merely avoiding these activities is a short-sighted approach and not a comprehensive solution. To truly address these challenges, individuals should focus on rectifying their movement imbalances. The ultimate goal should be to find ways to overcome these dysfunctions so they can run comfortably and without issue.

We need to weigh the pros and cons here to assess if it is truly worthwhile. To properly comprehend the negative effects that may arise from these activities, we must return to first principles. Did the human body evolve with a ruck sack strapped to its shoulders and ribs? How did the heart, lungs, and nervous system evolve? It may seem like a stretch, but these questions are vital. The human body adapts remarkably well to the pressures placed upon it. As an example, check out Chinese foot binding.  

 Rucking workout

Chinese foot binding, a good example of the body Adapting to imposed demands

 Before you decide to strap on a ruck sack next time, consider whether you want your ribs, shoulders, spine, etc., to adapt to this stimulus. Ruck sacking will make your movement less efficient from day-to-day, counteracting the desired outcome people are initially aiming for.  


  • Potentially burning more calories while wearing ruck sack  


  • The body will maladapt to having the Rucksack on leading to dysfunctional biomechanics, as a byproduct of this every function the human body does will be negatively effected 
  • Increased joint compression 
  • Decreased movement efficiency leading to more effort required for any task


It is evident after delving into the world of rucking, whilst it appears to offer an appealing workout approach, it will not deliver on its promises of being low-impact and joint-friendly. The additional weight of a ruck sack can increase the stress on your body, potentially leading to discomfort and injury. Moreover, it can disrupt the harmonious movement patterns that the human body has developed over millions of years. In light of these limitations, it is time to consider a more sustainable and efficient path to fitness and well-being. How can we achieve all the desired outcomes from rucking without the down sides? We need to learn to move well otherwise all activities will do damage to the body. The Functional Patterns 10-week course is designed to help you re-establish your body's natural movement patterns, address imbalances, and optimize your biomechanics. By focusing on the core principles of human movement, Functional Patterns offers you a chance regenerate and regain function of ALL your joints. 

If you want to delve deeper check out some of our other articles:

How to Fix an Anterior Pelvic Tilt 

What is Functional Training?

Knee Replacement Cost and Knee Replacement Alternatives to Consider

Arthritis Pain Relief: How can you Avoid the Ache?


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