While all three are — depending on who you’re asking — valid answers, this edition of “Ask the Coach” focuses on C) — a root cause, we suspect, of A) and B).
Q: How do you make thrusters less terrible?
By Coach Paul
Why do thrusters hurt? Physics tells us that they’re a tough movement because they require moving a substantial load over a large distance. Work equals force times distance: you’re moving weight the distance of a front squat plus the distance of a push press, and when you start adding up the reps you’re doing a large amount of work in a short time. Any breakdowns in efficiency mean you’re essentially doing more work, and thus making the thruster even more difficult. And more painful (both physically and mentally).
As mentioned above, when broken down into its basic components, the thruster is a front squat and push press combined into one fluid movement. So, many of the tips and cues from the front squat and push press are also applicable to the thruster.
In brief, during a thruster:
Let’s break that down a little more with three tips that will make your thrusters (a little) less painful.
Go (re-)read Coach Lance’s front squat post. Keeping in mind the importance of efficiency, we want to move the weight in vertical line from the bottom of the squat to the top of the press. That means keeping an upright torso through the squat and weight through the heels.
Keep the bar in a solid rack position through the squat — you want the bar sitting solidly on your shoulders. This will help with efficient momentum transfer from the squat into the press. If we start collapsing in the squat, or get forward and on our toes, the result is a poor setup for moving the bar overhead.
Tip 2: Avoid gripping too tight.
Remember, the shoulders carry the weight and the hands only control or maintain the bar on the shoulders.
Find a grip that works best for you. A fairly loose grip is common and helps with keeping the elbows up, the bar on the shoulders, the weight through the heels in the squat, an upright torso, and as an added bonus, it saves the grip if perhaps there are pull-ups in the workout. With a loose grip, as the press begins, roll the bar into the hands and fully grab while pressing overhead.
Some may feel more comfortable with the press if they have a fuller grip on the bar during the squat. If your mobility allows it, that’s great. But avoid gripping too tight: you’ll expend a lot of energy in the squat death gripping the bar, and you’re likely to tire out your arms.
Tip 3: Fully open your hips before pressing!
Remember, this is a thruster, so thrust the bar, don’t press it, from the top of your squat.
In other words, be sure take advantage of the power in your hips and legs and accelerate out of your squat. Letting Coach Steve yell “Use your hips!” at you a few more times never hurts either. Opening the hips fully and rapidly allows you to transfer momentum through your torso into the bar to start the press.
If we initiate the press early, we won’t benefit from the power of our hips and legs and we can fatigue prematurely. In terms of efficiency, let the stronger muscles generate the power to accelerate the bar off your chest and just use your arms to finish the press.
These 3 tips are basic keys to efficient thrusters – a good upright squat, solid rack position, and proper utilization of the power generated from our core.
In Part 2, we’ll look at some additional tips for maximizing efficiency when taking on thrusters during a workout — especially a workout involving lots and lots of thrusters. Stay tuned!