Thinking through the Thruster


The thruster is an Olympic weight lifting movement that combines a front squat with a push press.  To complete a thruster, the athlete holds the barbell in a front rack position to complete the front squat and then immediately presses the barbell overhead just as with a push press. Thrusters can be performed with not only a barbell, but also with a kettlebell, dumbbells, medicine balls, or anything else that allows the athlete to complete the movement progression with additional weight. Athletes will feel the upper body and lower body activated as they complete the thruster.

Watch the video clip below for a full explanation of technique, tips and tricks for performing the movement with efficiency, as well as precautions for staying safe.


  1. Thumbs Width Grip: To find a correct grip, place your hands about thumbs’ width off the smooth part of the knurling, or rougher patterned part, of the bar. Often you’ll see athletes put their hands too close together on the bar, which causes them to set up incorrectly with the athlete’s upper back slightly hunched forward. Keep hands a bit further apart with thumbs’ width from the knurling and you will be able to maintain a better position throughout the movement.

  2. Set up in a Front Rack Position: Whenever you do a push press, you want to start the movement with a front-rack position, meaning the bar is placed on the front of your shoulders. You should have your elbows beneath and slightly in front of the bar to create the best possible pressing position with your arms.

  3. Douchebag Shoulders: Whenever you do a movement with a front-rack position, meaning the bar is placed on the front of your shoulders, you want your shoulders to round forward. This actually creates a shelf on which the barbell can rest without causing pain or strain on the clavicle bones near the neck. Rolling the shoulders forward (douchebag shoulders) also prevents the bar from sliding down the chest altogether while you squat, and relieves strain on the wrists.

  4. Remember the Basics: As you perform the front squat, keep the basics of the air squat in mind: keep your feet about hips’ width apart; ensure toes are straight forward or possibly slightly angled out, depending on your mobility; keep your weight in the heels with your butt back; stay focused on moving the knees directly out over the feet; and maintain an upright chest. All of these are essential to perform the squat without injury.

  5. Look Straight Ahead: As athletes focus on keeping proper form, it’s common to see them look down at their legs or toward the ground. However, this actually pulls you forward and throws you out of position, especially since the weight is in front of your body. Focus on keeping eyes forward to keep the rest of your body in proper alignment.

  6. Keep the Ribcage Down: To prevent your torso from breaking open as you move out of the squat and press upward, focus on tightening your butt and abs. This will help keep your ribcage locked down so that you are in a safe position while pressing upward. If you allow your ribcage to open up and you lean back, the press portion of the movement will not be as efficient nor work the muscle groups as well as it should. Instead, it will look as though you’re doing a standing bench press and risk tweaking your back.

  7. Biceps to Ear: As you press the barbell up, focus on keeping your biceps toward your ears so that the bar is directly overhead. To achieve this, tuck your chin as you push upward, so that the bar can travel in a straight line instead of having to move up and around your head. Once the barbell passes your head on its way to the top, punch your head forward. This will help keep your ribcage locked down and ensures the bar is traveling in a straight line.

Moving into Additional Reps:

  1. Smooth Downward Motion: As you move from your completed thruster into the next rep, you will feel yourself moving downward into the squat at the same time as you lower the bar back into a proper front rack position. This may take coordination and practice to link reps together.

  2. Start and Stop for Beginners: If you’re just starting out with the thruster and cannot make a smooth transition between reps, simply lower the bar back into a front rack position while standing and then move down into your squat to start the next thruster rep. Over time you will improve your rhythm and comfort level with the thruster to be able to move smoothly between reps.

QUESTIONS: Ready to get started, or curious to learn more about how Fierce Play can help you meet your health and wellness goals? Contact us for more information. Also feel free to check out more of our videos series to learn how to perform the basics with solid form and efficiency.


Fierce Play’s Barbell Olympic Lifting Series focuses on proper technique, as well as tips & tricks, to master some of the foundational movements that will be integrated into many of the workouts you will perform. Start your next workout with the confidence and skills to do the movement safely and effectively.