How to do Thrusters Correctly and Safely [Video & FAQs]

The thruster is an excellent combination exercise that trains a very high number of muscle groups simultaneously.

By combining a Squat and Overhead Press, the thruster has one of the longest ranges of motions possible in one exercise movement.

As a result, a lot of energy is expended and a lot of calories are burned, making this a great HIIT exercise for those looking to lose weight.

how to do thrusters correctly cover image



  • Combines two functional exercises to target multiple muscle groups at once
  • Improves the mobility of the hips, knees, thoracic spine, ankle and shoulder joints
  • Uses a large range of motion, thus burning a lot of energy and calories


  • Anterior and Medial Deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Core


  • Obtain two dumbbells and position them onto your shoulders
  • From this position set your feet shoulder width apart, and point your toes forward or out approximately 15-30 degrees
alex standing tall holding a dumbbell on each hand at his shoulders with a stance slightly wider than shoulder-width
  • Brace your core and engage your glutes
  • Begin squatting down by simultaneously bending at the hips and knees until you reach below parallel
  • Parallel refers to when your hip crease is in line with the top of your knee joint at the bottom of the squat position
  • Keep your torso as upright as possible
alex at the bottom of a squat holding two dumbbells up on his shoulders
  • Reverse the movement by driving your feet into the ground and extending your legs
  • Using the momentum from the ascent, begin pressing the weights directly overhead
  • Your elbows should lock out overhead shortly after your hips and knees completely lock out
  • Lower the weights back down to the starting position and repeat for the desired amount of time or repetitions
alex with two dumbbells pressed out overhead with a stance slightly wider than shoulder-width



Because this exercise combines two movements, it is important to use a weight that you can perform with good technique. Keep the weight light and learn how to do it correctly

Other common mistakes are similar to those seen on the Squat


Check out The WCT Best Workout Template For Busy Professionals to find a simple way to add the thruster and other great exercises into your routine.


Perform the thruster with a barbell using 70% of your bodyweight for 8 repetitions



Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM Certified Personal Trainers, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a resource dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals using time-efficient strategies. Their advice has been featured in My Fitness Pal, Prevention, Livestrong, Reader’s Digest, Bustle, The Active Times, and more. Learn more about them here.

2 thoughts on “How to do Thrusters Correctly and Safely [Video & FAQs]”

  1. I have a couple questions.

    I’m new to your site and it does seem very useful. Today is the first day that I’ve looked at it.

    I liked your presentation on using dumbbells for the thruster; do you have any thoughts on using the landmine device instead of a barbell for doing this exercise?

    I ask this because a few years ago I tried Crossfit near me and the barbell thruster seemed to be their main tool.

    My issue with that approach was that it seemed to be to easy to be sloppy with my form and I stopped going because of injury concerns.

    Do you have any thoughts, or are you even aware of, these two trainers’ approach to fitness; Pavel Tsatsouline (Power To The People) or Dragan Radovic (Fitness 4×4)?

    Tsatsouline’s book, Power To The People, advocates using only a deadlift & an overhead press 5 days per week. No other weight exercises. He believes that is sufficient for a minimalist program.

    Radovic advocates hundreds of dumbbell curls and presses on a daily basis. The dumbbells he uses are 45 pounds each but one would begin much lighter than that and progress over time.

    Finally are you still practicing medicine or are you doing this full time?

    1. thewhitecoattrainer

      Hi Mel,
      Thanks for your comment. I totally agree. Using a barbell for the thruster (and doing them quickly) is a surefire way to get injured from sloppy form. I havent seen it done with the landmine approach, but I could imagine that it wouldn’t allow your shoulders to move in a natural range of motion. I think the dumbbells would be superior.

      I have heard of Pavel and he seems to know what he is talking about. If you get really good at the DL and the OHP, you will be training a good amount of muscle groups so it’s definitely not a bad approach. Is it the most optimal? Probably not. But if you prefer minimalism, it’s definitely a good start.

      I haven’t heard of Radovic, but doing hundreds of DB curls every day doesn’t seem to be a good use of time.

      And yes, practicing medicine full time :).

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