The CrossFit thruster is an exercise that engages many muscle groups in one movement.
It requires you to get out of your comfort zone in order to generate the power needed to complete the exercise.
Let’s break down what a thruster is, how to perform it safely, and the benefits before giving you some workouts.
What’s A Thruster?
A Thruster is a combination of two movements – the front squat and push-press.
Depending on if you need to pick the bar up from the ground at every rep, this exercise may include a Power Clean.
The thruster is a compound exercise meaning that the movement involves more than one joint. This makes it a great exercise because you’re targeting the whole body with one movement.
Performing a thruster engages both upper and lower body muscles such as the quads, hamstrings, glutes, abs, back, shoulders, and even the triceps.
Typically done with a barbell, you can also use dumbbells, kettlebells, and even sandbags.
It depends on where you’re at and what equipment is available to you.
How To Do A Thruster
Doing a thruster in a correct and safe manner takes practice.
- Shoulder-width stance
- Bar rests on front rack (front of shoulders)
- Hands just outside the shoulders
- Full grip on the bar
- Elbows in front of the bar (elbows up)
(As you start to squat)
- Hips descend back and down
- Hips descend lower than knees
- Lumbar curve maintained
- Knees in line with toes
- Elbows stay off of knees
(As you start coming up from the squat)
- Hips and legs extend rapidly, then press (pressing the bar overhead)
- Heels down until hips and legs extend
- Bar moves over the middle of the foot
- Complete at full hip, knee and arm extension
Are There Benefits To Doing Thrusters?
Since the thruster is a multi-joint movement, it has many benefits such as:
Thrusters demand a lot metabolically and increase heart rate significantly. These factors improve your cardiovascular performance and endurance.
Strength and Power
The heavier you make the thruster, the more you tap into strength and power. Make sure you’re not going too heavy though. You want to be challenged not injured.
Being able to use equipment other than the barbell makes this exercise versatile. But it doesn’t really matter whether you use dumbbells or kettlebells because it’s still challenging.
Below are 11 thruster WODs in no particular order. Some are from past CrossFit games. Some are CrossFit benchmarks. Some are Hero WODs.
1. “Regionals 11.2” 2011 CrossFit Games Regionals WOD
Men: 155, 165, 175, 185, 195, 205, 215, 225, 235, 245, 255, 265, 275, 285, 295 lb
Women: 105, 115, 125, 130, 135, 140, 145, 150, 155, 160, 165, 170, 175, 180, 185 lb
Athletes will have 20 seconds to take the first barbell from the ground and then perform one thruster at a specified weight.
They will then have 10 seconds to transition to the next barbell where the same requirements apply. They may make only one thruster attempt in any 20 second period.
An attempt is defined by the barbell leaving the shoulders after the squat. If an athlete drops the barbell before an attempt is made, he or she may take the barbell from the floor again.
There will be 15 barbells. Athletes continue so long as they successfully perform the rep within the 20 seconds. Their result is the weight of their heaviest successful thruster.
If an athlete is not able to complete a successful thruster with the first barbell, they receive a DNF and are eliminated from the competition.
2. “Moose” Hero WOD
1,000m Row on your chosen rowing machine
Then 10 Rounds of:
- 7 Bar Facing Burpees
- 3 Thrusters (95/65 lb)
1,200m Run (with med ball (20/14 lb))
21-15-9 Reps For Time
- Thrusters (95/65 lbs)
4. “Open 15.5” 2015 CrossFit Games Open WOD
27-21-15-9 Reps for Time
- Row (calories)
- Thrusters (95/65 lbs)
5. “Coe” Hero WOD
10 Rounds For Time
- 10 Thrusters (95 lbs)
- 10 Ring Push-Ups
- 1,000 Meter Row
- 50 Thrusters (45/35 lb bar)
- 30 Pull-Ups
7. “Open 14.5” 2014 CrossFit Games Open WOD
21-18-15-12-9-6-3 Reps For Time
- Thrusters (95/65 lb)
- Bar Facing Burpees
8. “Dae Han” Hero WOD
3 Rounds For Time
- 800 Meter Run (with 45/35 lb Barbell)
- 3 Rope Climbs (15 ft)
- 12 Thrusters (135/95 lbs)
9. “True Grit”
- 2,000 meter Row
- After the first minute begin ‘Death by Thrusters’ (95/65 lbs)
With a running clock start the row. At the 1-minute mark get off the rower, do one thruster, and resume rowing until the 2-minute mark. Do two thrusters, row until the 3-minute mark, do three thrusters, etc. until the 2K row is complete – or until you can no longer continue.
15-10-5 Reps for Time
- Dumbbell Thrusters (10 lbs)
- Air Squats
11. “Omar” Hero WOD
- 10 Thrusters (95/65 lbs)
- 15 Bar-Facing Burpees
- 20 Thrusters (95/65 lbs)
- 25 Bar-Facing Burpees
- 30 Thrusters (95/65 lbs)
- 35 Bar-Facing Burpees
Keeping the following things in mind while doing a WOD with thrusters will help you avoid injuries:
As with the front squat:
- Keep the bar resting on your shoulders. Don’t carry it with your arms.
- Focus on keeping the elbows up. This will help you avoid leaning excessively forward. And when sitting in the squat, don’t let the elbows touch your legs.
- When coming up from the squat, drive through your heels. This will help you keep your heels down as described in the CrossFit how-to.
As with the press:
- Drive the bar up by activating the shoulders
- Fully extend the arms at the top position
- Make sure the bar is over the middle of the feet (not before your face)
When coming back down into the front squat, use the momentum of the bar to your advantage. If you “catch” the bar on your shoulders and pause there, the weight will feel heavier than it really is.
Also use your legs to your advantage as well. Drive up so your arms don’t feel like they’re doing all the work come pressing time.
Get a rhythm going. Find out where your “resting” (or pausing) place helps you keep going. Whether it’s the overhead position, bar on shoulders, or bar on the ground.
Thrusters require practice to get the technique down. Always focus on your form. It’s a skill that needs to be learned. Don’t rush the process.