How to Do a Thruster Correctly

How to Do a Thruster Correctly

If you’re a cross fitter, you might have a love-hate relationship with the following exercise: the Thruster. 

However, in the following article we set out the steps needed to perform the exercise correctly, and identify common errors.

What is a Thruster?

The Thruster is a combination of a Front Squat and the Push Press in one movement.

Specifically, it is a multi-joint global exercise with:

  • High metabolic and limbo-pelvic system demand;
  • High strength-speed production of the upper and lower limb.

Unlike the rack grip of the front squat, the Thruster requires a firm grip on the bar, and the elbows should be placed in a lower position to facilitate vertical thrust.

The athlete must move in a vertical movement pattern, which goes from the central area of the torso to the extremities, extending the hip first and then performing the press.

Thrusters as a magic exercise

Thrusters are an attractive exercise due to the achievement of intensity by means of

  • Heart rate;
  • Stimulation of hypertrophy;
  • Loss of fat percentage.

It’s a basic task for experienced athletes, but a correct teaching-learning process of the elements that make up exercise will provide effective and efficient exercise for any user.

Thruster with bar

Thrusters with bars are excellent for those who can execute them effectively, but not for most athletes:

“Train to perform Thrusters correctly”.

Technical restrictions, mobility, joint stability and analytical muscle activation generate a combination of complexities when executing the exercise.

Thruster: Correct Technique

Technical execution is a key component within the Thruster training process.

Specifically, the exercise consists of 4 phases that must be well differentiated:

1. Starting position

  1. Feet separated at shoulder height or slightly outside the shoulder line.
  2. Knees and hips in extension.
  3. Pelvic retroversion: respecting the normal lumbar physiological curvature.
  4. Abdominal bracing (global abdominal co-activation).
  5. Front rack position.
    • Slight external rotation of shoulders
    • Thumbs touch the lateral deltoid
    • High elbows (lower than the front squat).
  1. Head and neck vertically aligned.
  2. Looking straight ahead.

Starting position

2. Descent phase

  1. Hips bend and lower.
  2. Knees bend and lower (towards the foot line).
  3. The hips lower below the knee line.
  4. The lumbar curvature is maintained.
  5. The elbows maintain their position and offer resistance to the fall.
  6. The head and the gaze remain fixed and vertically aligned

 

Descent phase

3. Ascent phase

  1. The knees and hips are extended quickly and in a coordinated manner.
  2. The heels remain supported until the hips and knees are fully extended.
  3. At the point of maximum extension, the arms are extended to perform the press/push.
  4. The bar moves along the mid-foot line.
  5. Once the horizontal line of the shoulders has been crossed, the bar moves upwards and backwards.
  6. The neck is extended (moved away/apart) slightly to facilitate the vertical thrust.

Ascent phase

4. Block

  • The movement ends with a full extension of the hips, knees and arms.

Block

5. Restarting and phase chaining

  1. The neck is extended again to facilitate the lowering of the bar towards the shoulders.
  2. Bar lowers in front rack position: elbows are bent in front of the body.
  3. The next Thruster starts when the bar returns to the shoulders.

Restarting and phase chaining

Thruster Video

Parts of a Thruster

Performing a Thruster correctly is determined by the identification of and acting on the factors involved in the effectiveness and efficiency of the movement.

Specifically, two groups are: Front Squat and Push Press.

These movements are based on mobility, stability and analytical muscle activation.

In relation to the above, the search for optimisation of movement is essential for maintaining a high, stable and constant rhythm during the execution of the Thrusters.

So the key to training can be narrowed down to assessment and intervention on the following risk factors:

Front Squat

Movement based on developing a squat while holding (front rack grip) a bar on the shoulders (anterior deltoid)

Below are the critical elements that must be trained and constantly re-evaluated in order to perform a successful front squat:

Front Rack Position

The ideal positioning of the front rack depends largely on the individual (length of the limbs, previous injuries and mobility limitations). These factor are essential if the most comfortable and stable positioning is to be found.

  • Slight external rotation of shoulders.
  • Thumbs touch the lateral deltoid.
  • High elbows (lower than the front squat).

Front rack position

Chest Extension

  1. Limbo-Pelvic Activation and Control (Core)
  2. Mobility and Activation of the hip
  3. Ankle Dorsiflexion.
  4. Activation of the intrinsic musculature of the foot.

Chest extension

Push Press

Strength-speed movement based on a vertical push through a quadruple extension: ankle, knees, hips and shoulders

  1. Limbo-Pelvic Activation and Control
  2. Front Rack Position
  3. Shoulder Activation and Mobility.

Push press

Ignoring the above factors would result in a combination of problems, to which the speed, weight and repetitions to be executed during the training should be added.

Practice the technique

Having identified and corrected the above risk factors for the front squat and push press, the next step would be to improve the performance in these exercises in isolation but consistent with the objective.

As a general rule, the working ratio for the push press and front squat should be 1:2 and 1:3, that is, for each vertical push press, double or triple front squats should be performed.

Finally, it’s necessary to integrate and optimise the entire movement, resulting in Thrusters as a single and fluid movement.

The following is a progression in the teaching-learning process and the production of strength, speed and complexity, which should help guarantee the correct performing of Thrusters.

Difficulty

Common errors

Identifying errors during the execution of a movement during a movement acquisition process or during the development of training is a basic principle of sports training methodology and planning.

It’s therefore important to mention the most common errors during the execution of the Thruster with bar.
  • Difficulty in maintaining the front rack position.
  • Uncoordinated and not very fluid movement.
  • The torso moves forward during the descent phase.
  • Vertical thrust through exclusive use of the upper body.
  • Neck bending (head facing downwards).
  • Use of the suicide grip.
  • Anticipation of the descent phase.
  • Bar displacement outside the vertical line of the body.
  • No full extension of the limbs at the end of the movement.

Variants

The principle of variety in training or movement is one of the basic and essential principles of sports training.

It is therefore necessary to comment on the main variations of the Thruster and briefly discuss the characteristics of the movements.

All Barbell Thruster variants (KB, DB, Plate and Sandbag Thruster) are full-body, multi-joint movements designed to increase the strength and power of the hips and shoulders, as well as the overall physical condition of the whole body.

Nevertheless, each exercise is determined on the basis of

  • Execution complexity;
  • Strength production/capacity;
  • Demands of the limbo-pelvis-abdomen complex (Core); and
  • Teaching-learning ability.
KB ThrusterBarbell ThrusterDumbbell ThrusterPlate ThrusterSandbag Thruster
ComplexityHighHighMediumLowLow
Strength💪💪💪💪💪💪💪💪💪💪💪💪
Core Demands➕➕➕➕➕➕➕➕➕➕➕➕➕➕➕➕
Learning🧠🧠🧠🧠🧠🧠🧠🧠🧠🧠🧠🧠🧠🧠

KB Thruster

Dumbbell Thruster

Plate Thruster

Sandbag Thruster

Bibliography

  1. Bruno, B. (2015). Better than Thrusters. T-Nation.
  2. Burgener, S. (2019). Tips & Trick for more efficient Thrusters. Invictus.
  3. Crossfit © (2015). Guía del entrenamiento nivel I. Crossfit©.
  4. Dewar, M. (2017). 5 Drills to Improve your Front Rack Position This Week. Barbend.
  5. Eckert, R., & Snarr, R. L. (2014). Kettlebell thruster. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 36(4), 73-76.
  6. Soriano, M. A., Suchomel, T. J., & Comfort, P. (2019). Weightlifting overhead pressing derivatives: a review of the literature. Sports Medicine, 49(6), 867-885.

Related Entries

  • How to Correctly Perform a Push Jerk. Visit this link.
  • Everything You Need to Know About the Front Squat in this post.
  • If you want to find out the Best Supplements for CrossFit, click here.
Review of Thruster

What it is - 100%

Important aspects - 100%

Technique - 100%

Common errors - 100%

Variants - 100%

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HSN Evaluation: 5 /5
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About Ivan Sotelo
Ivan Sotelo
Iván Sotelo is a specialist in Physical-Sport Prevention and Rehabilitation, he has experience with professional football clubs. He writes articles in the HSN Blog and advice for workout routines.
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