How to Do Thrusters: Variations, Benefits and Common Mistakes

Thrusters are a type of exercise that combines squatting and pushing weights overhead. Many Americans, about forty-five million, regularly do resistance training, which includes thrusters. These exercises need strength in your legs, core, and shoulders. However, around thirty-six percent of injuries from resistance training happen in the shoulders. Check out our guide to learn how to do thrusters safely, with different versions for different fitness levels.

Key takeaways:

Thrusters are amazing for building strength in your body. They’re a full-body exercise, working many muscles at once, which is fantastic when you’re short on time. However, Doing thrusters incorrectly can lead to shoulder injuries, joint problems, or back pain. Our guide is here to help you learn the best technique for safe thruster workouts. We've included various ways to do thrusters that suit different fitness levels, so you can start today with confidence and safety.

Is thruster exercise effective?

Thrusters can improve strength, mobility, and endurance. This contributes to bone density, joint support, and metabolism. They involve lower and upper body muscle engagement, specifically the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals, triceps, and shoulders.

Exercises that work the entire body are beneficial because they can avoid overuse injuries and muscular imbalances. One study in particular shows that multi-joint resistance exercises increased muscle thickness slightly more than single-joint exercises.

High-intensity exercises like thrusters may encourage calorie expenditure, supporting weight loss and body composition. With their versatility and accessibility, thrusters can be done with or without weights, barbells, kettlebells, or dumbbells.

Benefits of thrusters

Here is a list of health benefits that thrusters offer:

  • Full-body workout. This promotes overall fitness, strength, endurance, and mobility.
  • Functional movement. The motion of a squat resembles everyday movements such as sitting and standing. Whilst the shoulder press can mimic carrying heavy bags.
  • Increased muscle mass. Better strength, bone density, joint support, and metabolism all contribute to improved overall health, well-being, and longevity.
  • Improved cardiovascular health. High-intensity exercises increase the heart rate, which supports health and reduces the likelihood of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Improved confidence. It takes physical and mental strength to perform thrusters. This can empower individuals to believe they can conquer the challenges ahead.

How to do thrusters: possible variations

Here are three possible variations of thrusters you can incorporate in your next workout routine.

Dumbbell thruster

Woman doing Dumbbell thruster exercise
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart; your ankles, hips, and shoulders are stacked.
  2. Hold your dumbbells in front of your shoulders, palms facing inward, elbows tight into the sides.
  3. Squat, tracking knees over ankles, hinging your body weight forwards, and sending the hips back while lowering them.
  4. Come back to stand, re-aligning the spine and pressing the dumbbells overhead into a shoulder press. Maintain core and shoulder stability.
  5. Lower your arms, bringing dumbbells back in front of your shoulders as you repeat. Repeat eight repetitions.

Barbell thruster

Woman doing Barbell thruster exercise
  1. Adjust the barbell slightly below shoulder height and put the desired weight on the bar (if you are a newbie, start without extra weights).
  2. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Grip onto the bar, wrapping fingers around the bar and thumbs underneath. Slightly wider than the shoulders.
  3. Step under the bar, hinging back with the hips, placing the barbell onto your shoulders, elbows facing forward.
  4. With the bar, take a couple of steps back. Lower your body into a squat, hinging the hips back and maintaining core stability and a neutral spine. Hold for a moment.
  5. Press down into your feet, engaging your lower body to come back up to stand. Press the barbell overhead into a shoulder press, extending your arms.
  6. Slowly lower and bend your arms back to your starting position. Repeat eight repetitions.

Split squat thruster

Woman doing Split squat thruster exercise
  1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, with ankles, hips, and shoulders stacked.
  2. Hold your dumbbells in each hand, palms facing towards your body. Bend your elbows, facing them forward. Bring your dumbbells to shoulder height.
  3. Take a big step back with your left leg, standing on the ball of the foot (the heel is lifted).
  4. Bend both knees, lowering down so the back knee nearly touches the floor. Keep dumbbells at shoulder height.
  5. Extend your legs, coming back up to stand. Simultaneously fully extend arms over head.
  6. Repeat eight repetitions on one side. Switch to your second side, making sure you step back with your right leg.

Common mistakes

  • Overarching the back. You must make sure your abdominals are engaged to prevent this. Gently draw your belly button to lower the spine while sending your tailbone down.
  • Poor squatting technique. Dropping knees inside or outside your ankles puts excessive stress on the knee and ankle joints. Always ensure your ankles, knees, and hips are tracking in line with each other.
  • Too heavy, too soon. It’s crucial to have perfect form before adding extra weight. Start light and work your way up. You will reduce the likelihood of injuries.
  • Rushing through. If you speed through your thrusters, you are not likely using resistance or a full range of motion. Maintain a mind-body connection for muscle engagement without rushing.

Final thoughts

Thrusters are a great compound exercise to effectively work the full body. The strength, stability, and mobility gained may positively impact physical fitness and mental strength. With different variations to choose from, you don’t have to be a gymgoer to experience the benefits. If you are doing thrusters from home, some equipment is advised, such as dumbbells or a kettlebell.

While there are many advantages to thrusters, like increased shoulder and lower body strength, improper technique can lead to injury. Poor form overstretches muscles and joints, which probably forces your body to make up for it elsewhere in the body. It's the key to perfect form.

Remember to start light and increase your load as you improve. Always listen to your body and rest whenever you need to.

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