We all know how important hitting the gym is, but it is not always that easy to work a complete workout. This is where hybrid exercises come into play, offering exceptional results in a fraction of the time. The thruster muscles that are worked extend from the head to the toe, offering a full-body workout that also increases the heart rate, providing you with cardio benefits. Traditionally part of a CrossFit workout, all skill levels can participate in this exercise. You can change the weight level as you progress, starting with the lightest amount necessary and steadily increasing as you become used to it. Additionally, there are many variations that you can incorporate into your workouts to take things up a notch for a more intense experience. Now we will focus on what a thruster exercise is and which muscles it targets. We will also discuss how to do thrusters at home, how they differ from push presses, and if they burn fat. In addition, we’ll look at some of the variations and how to perform them for maximum results. Read on for everything you need to know about thrusters and how they could benefit you.
What Is A Thruster Exercise?
A thruster exercise is a combination exercise that joins a squat with an overhead press. It is often a featured part of the CrossFit routine. As a hybrid exercise it combines strength training with an increased heart rate, which can be beneficial for overweight people to lose weight and reduce their risk of cardiovascular-related risk factors. Because this exercise is a hybrid between strength training and cardio, it is also extremely beneficial to anyone who wishes to add it to their workout routines (5).
What Are The Thruster Muscles That Are Worked?
Because it is a combination of a squat and an overhead press, the thrusters will work all the muscles both exercises target. A shoulder press done correctly will target the shoulders and upper chest. The specific muscles isolated are the deltoids, trapezius, serratus anterior, and triceps brachii (4).
A squat will target your lower body muscles. The primary focus is on your glutes and quadriceps; however, you will also see a considerable benefit in the obliques, calves, hamstrings, and hip muscles (3).
The barbell thrusters muscles that are worked are extensive from the top of your body to the bottom, making this an efficient exercise to hit all these muscle groups at once. If you are in a hurry, a thruster might be the ideal workout to get the most out of your time at the gym. You can even perform this exercise at home with a pair of dumbbells, making it even more convenient.
How To Do A Thruster CrossFit?
Doing a CrossFit thruster is relatively straightforward.
- You will start standing with the weights at shoulder level, using either a barbell or dumbbells.
- While maintaining the straight-backed form, perform a squat while holding the weight.
- Return to the standing position, extending your arms with the weight into an overhead press.
- You will return to the starting position and repeat the process for the desired reps and sets (5).
It is critical to perform this maneuver correctly to prevent injury. When doing squats, there is an ideal form.
- Ensure your knees, toes, and hips all point forward.
- Your buttocks must remain above your knees.
- Your knees must never extend past your toes.
- Keep your chest lifted.
- Shoulders need to remain down and back.
- There should be no arching in the back, keeping it in a neutral position.
- Keep your shoulders, knees, and hips all even.
- Pull in your abdominal muscles.
Any deviation from this, especially during a thruster, can result in a critical injury. It is most important to maintain proper form throughout the exercise for all reps and sets (8).
What Is The Difference Between A Thruster And A Push Press?
A thruster and a push press look similar but are very different in terms of effects. As we mentioned, a thruster is a full squat leading into an overhead press. So, what exactly is a push press?
The steps to completing a push press are as follows:
- Place a barbell in a squat rack slightly below shoulder height.
- Grip the bar shoulder-width apart.
- Dipping under the bar, rest it on the front of your shoulders.
- Step away from the rack.
- Placing your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees while keeping your back straight.
- Swiftly press your feet into the floor, snapping your hips forward and pushing the weight straight overhead. Your elbows should be facing away from your body.
- Slowly lower the barbell back to your shoulders.
For this exercise the power comes from the hips (6).
The main difference between the two exercises is that the thruster requires a full squat, while the push press has only a slight bend of the legs to allow the hips to snap. More muscle groups are targeted with the thruster, allowing for a more thorough workout.
How Do You Do Thrusters At Home?
Thrusters can easily be performed at home using items at hand, whether you have your own weights or substitute with household goods. The Mayo Clinic suggests replacing free weights with soup cans if you have nothing else to use during strength training. At some point, however, these will become insufficient for the weight you need during your thrusters. If you have a medicine ball or kettlebells, you can also use these in place of dumbbells or a barbell (7).
Do Thrusters Burn Fat?
While you can focus on a single muscle group simultaneously, these exercises are ineffective for maximum calorie burn. Compound or hybrid exercises are ideal for targeting multiple muscle groups and improving overall fitness. These exercises benefit the three major fitness categories: flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular (1).
Cardiovascular exercise increases the heart’s ability to function like a pump. Thrusters are an excellent way to boost your cardiovascular health because of the amount of tissue involved in the exercise, requiring the heart to continuously pump blood to these muscles for optimal performance. In turn, this will also boost your fat burning as the number of calories used in the process increases with the amount of energy you expend (1).
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What Is A Hip Thruster?
A hip thruster is a variation of the thruster done while lying prone with the weight across your hips. This exercise has become quite popular as the hips are one of the most vital body parts for movement. They control our mobility and the movement of our bodies’ centers of gravity. Therefore, the muscles that control the hips’ actions should be considered some of the most vital muscles in the body (10).
You can perform the hip thruster with various equipment, including barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells. The weights are placed directly across the hips, providing resistance. There are also machines available to perform this exercise that take the discomfort from the pressure of the weights on the hips out of the exercise (10).
To complete the hip thruster, follow these steps:
- Lie face up on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Place the weight across the top of your hips.
- Press your hips upward against the weight.
- Lower your hips back to the floor.
- Repeat for your desired number of repetitions and sets.
The hip thruster muscles that are worked include the hip extensor muscles of the gluteal complex. These muscles are the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and gluteus medias (10).
What Is A Dumbbell Thruster?
Another variation that you can make to the thruster is the dumbbell thruster. Instead of using the traditional barbell, you will simply substitute it for a pair of dumbbells.
To complete this exercise, follow these steps:
- Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your toes angled slightly out.
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, keeping them just above the shoulders with the palms facing inward.
- Engaging your core, bend your knees to move into a squat position.
- While straightening your legs, simultaneously extend your arms overhead. One elbow should point to 1 o’clock and the other to 11 o’clock.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions and sets.
Because you have two independent weights, you must be mindful that you are moving your hands together, keeping the weights even. This can be a bit more of a challenge than using a barbell, but it is an alternative if you do not have one available. The dumbbell thrusters muscles that are worked will be the same as the traditional thrusters.
What Are Landmine Thrusters?
Landmine thrusters are also known as barbell jammers. They are an alternative thruster option that involves lifting the weight in front of you instead of directly overhead. This is an advanced move and is not recommended for beginners. In addition to a barbell you will need a way to hold it in place as you lift and lower it (2).
- Set up your barbell by placing one end in a corner, preventing unnecessary movement.
- Place a weight on the other end of the barbell, using a collar to prevent the weight from accidentally falling off.
- Stand with your feet greater than shoulder-width apart.
- Point your toes forward slightly outward with the weighted end of the barbell between both feet and under your center of gravity.
- Squat down by shifting your hips backward and downward, creating a hinge-like movement at your knees.
- Keep your core stable and spine straight.
- Lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Lift the weighted end of the barbell, firmly grasping it with both hands.
- Position the bar directly under your chin and in front of your chest while maintaining a neutral spine, depressed shoulders, and chest up and out.
- Push your feet down, driving your hips forward. This will extend your legs, starting the upward progress.
- As you reach a full standing position, rapidly push through your heels so that you extend and push the hips toward an upright position.
- Begin pressing the end of the barbell upward with both hands, stiffening your core to stabilize your spine.
- Continue pushing onto your toes as your hips and knees reach their full extension while you press the bar overhead. The bar’s movement should begin at your hips, traveling through your trunk and into your shoulders and arms.
- Roll up onto your toes to perform a triple extension.
- Return the weight slowly to the starting position and repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions and sets.
Once familiar with this exercise, you can increase the speed with which you perform the movement, to change it from a strength to a power-based activity. However, to do this you will need to start with lighter resistance and gradually progress with increasing weight and pace. If you do not master your technique before progressing, you could cause a critical injury to yourself (2).
The landmine thrusters muscles worked include the abs, buttocks, hip muscles, calves, thighs, shoulders, and triceps. It is an excellent full-body workout for those up to the challenge (2).
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The Bottom Line
Thrusters and their variations offer an excellent means to get a full-body workout. With all the thrusters muscles that are worked, almost none are missed from top to bottom. Additionally, this CrossFit workout boosts your cardio activity, making you burn more calories and, in turn, more fat. This means these exercises can be an excellent way to help with weight loss and build muscle strength and definition.
With the variations available, you can be sure to maximize your results when you hit the gym. You can also make some slight modifications to complete this excellent exercise in the comfort of your own home if you do not have the time to make it to the gym. Instead of taking the time to target each muscle group individually, you now know the secret to hitting them all at once.
Knowing this, when you go to the gym or set up your workouts at home, consider adding thrusters or a variation of them to your workout routine to take things up a notch and get the most out of your strength training. You will not be disappointed.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 5 Benefits of Compound Exercises (2016, acefitness.org)
- Barbell Jammers (n.d., acefitness.org)
- Health Benefits of Squats (2021, webmd.com)
- How to Do a Shoulder Press (2022, webmd.com)
- Hybrid exercise training (2022, health.harvard.edu)
- Push Press (n.d., acefitness.org)
- Strength training: Get Stronger, leaner, healthier (2021, mayoclinic.org)
- Strengthening your core: Right and wrong ways to do lunges, squats, and planks (2020, health.harvard.edu)
- Try This Total-body Workout on Workout Wednesday (2014, acefitness.org)
- Understanding the Barbell Hip Thrust (2019, acefitness.org)