How to Boost Your Leg Workout with a Ruck or Swim

A recruit with Mike Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, conducts swim qualification aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.
A recruit with Mike Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, conducts swim qualification aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., Feb. 28, 2022. (Cpl. Daniel Johnson/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The leg workout of the week starts with a warm-up mixed with jogging, calisthenics and dynamic stretches. Much of the workout consists of running speed intervals and leg/core exercises. The end of the workout consists of a cooldown from the intervals and resistance training, but prepares you for the final longer cardio option of rucking or swimming. Here is how it looks:

Warm-up: Squat Half Pyramid 1-10 (stop at 10) with 100-meter jogs/dynamic stretches in-between + one-mile easy run.

The warm-up is a classic way to loosen the legs for more running, repetitions of calisthenics and load-bearing activities of this workout.

Repeat five times.

  • Run 400 meters fast/jog 400 meters easy
  • Squats 30
  • Lunges 15/leg
  • Farmer's walks 100 meters or a fireman's carry if you have a partner 100 meters (50 meters each)
  • Kettlebell Romanian deadlift 10

The fast run does not have to be a sprint, but a faster-than-goal pace is the challenge. For instance, if you can run a mile in seven minutes, shoot for a faster pace (in the six-minute to 6:30 range for a mile) for the 400 meters. And make the easy 400 meters a jog pace in the 7:30 to eight-minute range for a mile. After the fast/easy run, go into the calisthenics, load-bearing options and Romanian deadlifts using a kettlebell, dumbbell or barbell. Repeat the circuit five times as best you can, working hard to maintain the pace you set for your fast/easy runs.

Cooldown -- the Reverse Pyramid 9-1 with squats/stretches in-between: After the leg reps and running intervals, start at nine squats, stretch, eight squats (or toe touches), stretch, seven squats, stretch ... Continue down to one squat for 45 total squats as your cooldown/stretch. If you prefer, you can mix in toe touches in place of squats on some of the sets of the cooldown reverse pyramid.

30-40 minutes of rucking or swimming: Choose between rucking and swimming. You can even do both if you are able and prefer to improve your cardio with both activities. Depending on your future training, you will see these two events multiple times a week (Marine Recon, SEAL, SWCC, Air Force Special Warfare, Army Ranger/Special Forces).

Swim workout: Warm up with a typical military fitness test swim of 500 yards or 500 meters. This provides an opportunity to assess your testing abilities and make any future tests psychologically easier by enabling you to say for the swim event, "A 500-yard swim; that is just my warm-up." This has a powerful effect on reducing pre-test anxiety and allows you to hit your pace, as needed.

  • Warm-up swim 500 meters (no fins)
  • Swim 2,000 meters (with fins for time)
  • 10-minute tread (no hands)

Swimming with fins is a typical timed distance when preparing for military diving or rescue swimming training. Getting your legs, hips and ankles used to swim with big scuba fins is necessary for completing these problematic training programs; your preparation matters specifically for this event.

If you ruck for your final cardio activity, getting used to the load-bearing of carrying a backpack and other equipment is something your preparation training needs regularly. Usually, 1-2 times a week at least is recommended. We especially like to top off leg days with rucking and swimming with fins.

The list above can be broken up into different sessions, if needed, to complete it. Do not forget to stretch, foam-roll and massage, as needed, after the ruck/swim portions as part of your total cooldown.

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