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The Best Outdoor Workouts, According to Military Vets


GoRuck‘s brand of military-inspired outdoor workouts are for everyone, says Daniel Skidmore, the company’s director of training. The 31-year-old Air Force veteran has his mom to prove it. “She rucks,” he says, laughing, “and she’s getting after it.”

To “ruck,” in armed service terminology, is to hike with a heavy-ass backpack. “You never know what’s going to come up in life,” Skidmore, known in the GoRuck community by the name Cadre DS, says. “To find that middle ground where you can have great endurance [and] be strong enough to do whatever the task requires is what it’s all about.”

The term “functional fitness” is thrown around willy-nilly these days. But GoRuck’s basic movements of picking things up and putting them down at various intervals is about as functional as functional can get. “You’re never going to overhead squat anything in real life, whereas we’re going to carry stuff all the time,” he says. “That is the baseline in what we’re doing.”

From his near bottomless well of outdoor workouts, Skidmore has adapted five for The Manual. They may not win you a silver star, but after finishing you’ll no doubt understand the meaning of sacrifice.

The Grinder


To ruck is to know — and to endure — discomfort. This basic workout will strengthen both your body and mind.

Targeted Muscles: Full body

Equipment Needed: A 30- to 45-pound pack like the Rucker 3.0 or (less comfortably) your old JanSport with a stack of encyclopedias

Sets: N/a

Execution: Like a Spanish penitent, shoulder your pack and get walking. Complete five miles and aim for 15-minute miles.

Read more: Best Full-Body Workouts

Brain Pain


When your body hurts, it’s hard to count to 10. Now count down from 50.

Targeted Muscles: Full body

Equipment Needed: Two dumbbells or kettlebells, or the GoRuck Sandbag

Sets: Five

Execution: Complete the set, then cut the reps to 40 of each exercise. Then 30, then 20, then 10.

  1. Push-ups, 50
  2. Lateral step or hop over weight, 50
  3. Shrugs, 50

9 Banger


This may just be the simplest As Many Rounds As Possible, or AMRAP, workout you ever do. That won’t make it any easier.

Targeted Muscles: Full body

Equipment Needed: Grab a weighted pack or the GoRuck Sandbag’s handles

Sets: As many as possible

Execution: For nine minutes and without rest, complete:

  1. Hang cleans, 15
  2. Overhead press, 15
  3. Front squats, 15

Incentive Training


Feeling distracted? A little blue? This funk-busting, lung-bursting grind will snap you back to reality.

Targeted Muscles: Full body

Equipment Needed: Weighted backpack or Rucker 3.0; dumbbell, kettlebell, or Sandbag

Sets: Ten

Execution: Take the long view on this one. You’ll be here for a bit.

  1. Burpees, five, while wearing backpack
  2. Turkish get-ups with weight, five
  3. 50-meter ruck for time

Kitchen Sink


For this AMRAP hybrid, you might need to write down a few notes, as your brain will have little oxygen left by the end.

Targeted Muscles: Full body

Equipment Needed: Weighted backpack or Rucker 3.0

Sets: Five

Execution: For three minutes on, one minute of rest, complete the AMRAP of:

  1. Squats with backpack, four
  2. Overhead press with backpack, four
  3. High pulls with backpack, four
  4. Push-ups with backpack, four

Read more: Best HIIT Workouts

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Jon Gugala
Features Writer
Jon Gugala is a freelance writer and photographer based in Nashville, Tenn. A former gear editor for Outside Magazine, his…
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