by Grace Lin
Thrusters! Love them or hate them, they are a staple in CrossFit. And with the Open coming up, you know they’re going to show up. They have been in every Open since it started in 2011.
In order to improve your thruster, you have to first identify what needs work. A thruster is a combination of a front squat and overhead press. Two primary movements will translate into your thruster ability: front squat and push press. If you struggle with one or both of these movements, then it is going to largely affect your thruster. Maybe you have a great front squat and push press, but thrusters still crush you. If that’s the case, then the transition between movements or breathing may be the limiting factor. Whatever is your limiting factor, here are some tips to improving your thruster.
Hip mobility. You MUST have a solid air squat to be efficient at thrusters. Building on that, you must also have a solid front squat too. So, if you have trouble keeping your heels down, knees out, or torso upright during an air squat, then working on hip mobility is going to be imperative. A weak air squat is magnified during a front squat, which is magnified even more during a thruster. Check out these posts on squat therapy and improving your front squat to help with hip mobility.
Front rack mobility. In order to perform thrusters efficiently, you need to be able to keep the bar on your shoulders with a full grip during the front squat. This is where many people will have issues. With a normal front squat, you can let the bar roll to your finger tips to keep the elbows high. However, since the bar going overhead with a thruster, a full grip is needed for the transition between front squat to overhead press. Many people with limited wrist and/or shoulder mobility are forced to expend extra energy keeping the bar on their shoulders, or worse hovering over their shoulders, during the thruster. Check out this post on tips for improving your front rack.
Overhead mobility. The end of a thruster occurs when the arms are extended overhead in a full lockout position with the bar over the midfoot. This is also a place to rest during a thruster. If a fully locked out overhead position is difficult for you to hold, then shoulder and overhead mobility is going to be key in improving your thrusters. You need to be comfortable holding weight overhead in a good position to improve your thruster game, especially since this becomes a resting position during high volume thrusters.
The transition. Many people may lose efficiency during the transition portion of the thruster. I’m talking about the portion when transitioning from front squat to overhead press. Some athletes aren’t aggressive enough in the drive up (not enough speed through the middle). Some perform the movements out of order, like pressing the bar up too early. During the thruster, the bar should be resting on your shoulders during the entire front squat. The transition begins during the second half of the thruster ascent. Once you pass parallel on the way up, you must drive up FAST. This creates power and momentum for the bar to “pop” off your shoulders before the punch overhead. The concept is the same as a push press. You’re generating power from your legs first (leg drive) and then your arms finish the move. The legs are much stronger than the arms, so use them as much as possible in your thrusters!
Keep these tips in mind the next time thrusters come up in class! And stay tuned for the next post on tips for cycling thrusters!