A common feature of CrossFit workouts, thrusters are often included as part of the CrossFit games. A complex or combination of two exercises performed simultaneously -- the front squat and the overhead press -- thrusters can be done for low repetitions with heavy weights to develop strength, or light weights for high repetitions to develop cardiovascular and muscular endurance. The weight used and number of reps performed varies according to the Workout of the Day or WOD being performed, with typical weights being between 45 and 135 pounds.
Preparation and Considerations
Thrusters involve a large number of major muscles as well as several minor ones. To ensure your body is adequately prepared for the total-body demands of thrusters, warm up by performing some light cardio, dynamic mobility and stretching exercises for your upper body and lower body, and some practice reps using an empty barbell or wooden pole.
A typical Olympic barbell, as is often used for thrusters, weighs 45 pounds, which may prove too heavy for some exercisers. To scale the exercise down to a more manageable level of difficulty, perform this exercise using a lighter training barbell or, alternatively, a broom handle, wooden dowel or similar. Thrusters can also be performed using a medicine ball, sandbag, dumbbells or kettlebells for variety.
Getting into Position
Although there is nothing to stop you starting a thruster with your barbell resting in a shoulder-high squat rack, CrossFit purists often prefer to lift the bar from the floor to shoulder-height themselves using a movement called a clean. This is also how thrusters are performed in the CrossFit Games.
With your barbell on the floor, stand with your toes under the bar and about hip-width apart. Grasp the bar firmly with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Straighten your arms, lower your hips below shoulder-height, lift your chest, pull your shoulders down and back, and brace your core.
Explosively stand up and, as the weight approaches your hips, pull with your arms and dip your knees to catch the bar in front of your collarbone. Once the bar is in position, pause and ready yourself to perform a set of thrusters.
Having cleaned the bar from the floor or walked back out of a squat rack, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your torso upright. Push your hips back, bend your knees and then squat down until your hip crease passes your knees. Stand up quickly and use this momentum to help you push the bar up and overhead to full lockout. Lower the bar back to your shoulders and repeat.
To develop total-body strength, perform one to five thrusters using a heavy weight. For building muscle, do sets of six to 12. Sets of 13 to 20 or more repetitions will improve your muscular endurance. Two to five sets of thrusters is generally sufficient for most exercisers.
For safety, keep your torso as upright as you can, do not round your lower back, do not let your knees drop in or out of neutral and keep your knees behind your toes. Keep a firm grip ion the bar and all times, and refrain from using a false or thumb-less grip. Also, take care not to drop the weight on yourself -- avoid working to failure with this exercise.
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