How to Improve Your Thruster (Part 2) - Cycling

by Grace Lin

In the last post, we talked about how to improve your thrusters by identifying your limiting factor(s).  Maybe it’s various mobility limitations (hip, front rack, overhead), or possibly it’s the transition between the front squat and overhead press.  In this post, we will go over tips on how to cycle thrusters efficiently.  The ability to cycle thrusters efficiently is crucial in maintaining stamina during high volume thruster workouts.  Increased efficiency results in larger sets and less fatigue during those sets.  So, here are some tips on how to cycle thrusters efficiently.

Keep the bar on your shoulders.  Pretty self-explanatory here - don’t get sloppy elbows!  They don’t need to be high like a front squat, but they do need to remain in front of the bar to create a shelf the bar can sit on.  The lower that bar sits on your shoulders, the more energy you are expending to hold the bar up or resist it from sliding down even more.  Once the bar slides down your shoulders, the thruster will own you.  

Pull the bar down and lead with the elbows.  Actively pulling the bar down helps get the bar in the correct position on the shoulders, rather than letting it fall on the shoulders.  Take advantage of gravity here, and help that bar a bit by pulling it down – this also increases the speed of your thrusters.  Additionally, if you don’t pull the bar down, you may be resisting the weight on the way down which will burn out your triceps.

Keep the order of operations.  The order of operations for the thruster is front squat and then shoulder press.  One very common fault in the thruster is pressing too early, which leads to shoulder burnout.  Be patient in the press; use the power generated from your legs to drive the bar off the shoulders and then finish the second half of the press with an arm punch.  The first half of that press should come from the momentum generated by the legs.  Another common fault is squatting too early on the way down.  Don’t start to squat until you feel that bar touch your shoulders.

Breathe.  Maintaining a good breathing pattern is always important in any movement.  In the thruster, pause in the overhead position to take a breath.  When it comes to high volume, light weight thrusters, I like to take two breaths per thruster.  I take a breath at the top and another at the bottom.  Everyone is different, so figure out what works for you!

Squat clean the first rep.  I’ll keep it short here – it saves time!

Know your limits.  Find different rep schemes that work for you, both physically and mentally.  These will be dependent on the thruster weight and your own capacity.  Many people like descending rep schemes, like 8-7-6, and some prefer even sets, like 3 sets of 7.  For some people, quick sets with short rests work best, but be warned, this ONLY works if you are strict with your rest time.

So, now you’re ready to tackle all the thrusters, right?!  Hopefully these tips will help you the next time thrusters come up in a workout.  Try testing these out and see what works for you!