The Thruster is a powerful movement that moves a weight through a large range of motion. This movement simply combines a front squat with a push press (overhead press). The thruster can be performed using dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, a medicine ball or a sandbag. Muscles engaged in this movement (the squat) include the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes; essentially all the major leg muscles. The power developed in your legs is then transferred into your upper body via the abdominal and lower back muscles, engaging the shoulders, upper back and triceps (push press).
The Thruster movement engages the entire body!
This movement begins from a standing position with the weight racked at your shoulders. You will perform a front squat where, depending on your level of flexibility, the goal is to reach full depth (the crease of your hip is below the top of your knee). As you stand from the squat, you will push the weight overhead, ending with your arms extended.
- (A) Hold the appropriate weights for your fitness level in the front squat position. Feet slightly wider than shoulder width, barbell (weight) rested across chest and shoulders, with hands, arms, and elbows underneath the weight. Elbows should be pointing out in front of you so that you are creating a platform with your shoulders that the barbell will rest on. If using a barbell, keep your hands shoulder width apart.
- (B) Perform a front squat by engaging your quadricep muscles and tightening your core for balance. Since you are holding the weight in a front loaded position, it is important to keep your back straight to support the weight. Do not arch or roll the back. Keep your head up, looking forward (never look down). Squat down and back up.
- (C) Complete the thruster move by doing a push press at the top of the squat movement. This is done by using your legs and arms simultaneously to push the weight over your head into a full lockout position, meaning your arms are completely straight over your head and supporting the weight. It is important to remember to use your legs to get the weight over your head, not just the arms. A slight jump out of the squat will give you momentum to power the weight over your head.
- (A) Come out of the move by slowly lowering the weight back down and placing it back on the floor. If doing continuous thrusters, lower the arms from locked out position back down to the original front squat position where the weight is resting across your shoulders and arms with your elbows pointed up and out. From there, perform another front squat to initiate the next thruster.
Thrusters can be performed using a variety of set and repetition patterns. High rep, light weight sets of thrusters are metabolically demanding and will elevate your heart rate, thus improving your cardiovascular fitness. Low rep, heavy weight sets will develop muscular strength and power. Performing thrusters with an unstable object such as dumbbells or a sandbag will help improve your balance and core strength and stability.
Tips & Injury Prevention:
- Use your hips and legs to help generate power to get the weight overhead.
- Keep your shoulders engaged (active) at the top of the lift and don’t leave the bar in front of you when it’s overhead; pull it back over your heels.
- Aim to keep your weight on your heels throughout the movement rather than on your toes, which can cause you to be imbalanced as well as slow down the movement of the exercise.
Thrusters are not recommended or suitable for beginners. The complex, coordinated nature of this exercise, combined with lifting a potentially heavy weight overhead, means that thrusters are a high-risk exercise more suited for those with experience. Also, depending on the weight used, thrusters can place a significant load on your lumbar spine. It is essential that thrusters are performed using perfect technique; never allowing your lower back to become rounded.
Until next time – cheers to health in life!