Barbell Thruster – CrossFit Exercise Guide with Photos

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Muscles Targeted: The barbell thruster is an excellent and challenging total body exercise that engages multiple large muscle groups and is fantastic for building muscle mass and increasing strength. It primarily targets your quadriceps and deltoids, but there are several secondary muscles involved which include the hamstrings, gluteus maximus (butt muscles), triceps and even your core muscles.

Exercise Instructions:

1. Start in the standing position with your feet shoulder width apart. Lift the bar into the front rack position. The front rack position is achieved by grabbing the barbell with an overhand grip. Your hands should grip the bar just outside shoulder width apart. Clean the barbell up to your shoulders so that your palms face the ceiling and your elbows point toward the ground. You are now in the front rack position.

2. In the front rack position, squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground, keeping your knees over your ankles and your weight on your heels. Keep your back upright, elbows up and your eyes forward. Slowly bend your knees and lower your body down into a full squat position.



3. Once you are in the full squat position at the bottom of the movement, pause for a brief moment and explode back up to the standing position as you simultaneously press the barbell up over your head. When you are in the bottom squat position, make sure to drive with your heels as you begin to squat back up and then press the bar up overhead once you have fully extended your hips and knees.

4. If you are performing multiple repetitions with the barbell thruster, your momentum will be continuous throughout the duration of the set. From the top position, where the barbell is pressed overhead, you will immediately lower the weight back down as you go into the front squat position and then back up into a press overhead. Continue this motion until you have completed all of your repetitions.

Things To Avoid: Proper technique is extremely important with this exercise in order to get the most out of the movement and to be safe and stay injury free. There are several things that you will need to avoid in order to execute the barbell thruster correctly:

  • Keep your heels flat on the ground throughout the entire exercise. Resist the urge to raise up on your toes as you thrust upward and press the barbell overhead. Firmly planting your feet on the ground will maintain your balance and ensure you engage the correct muscles.
  • Do not pause after performing each repetition. The barbell thruster should be executed in one fluid motion throughout the entire set. Your tempo should be smooth and the motion continuous.
  • Do not depend completely on your deltoids to get the barbell above your head. Your legs will come into play in this part of the exercise and the momentum from squatting up and then into the press will help you get the barbell to the top position. Try to also keep your core muscles engaged throughout the entire movement.
  • Avoid hunching your shoulders or rounding your back as you squat down. Your chest should be out with your back flat, your shoulders back and your butt out.
  • Avoid letting your knees buckle in when squatting. Keep your feet pointed slightly out as you begin the squat. This will help position your knees so they are slightly pointed out also which will help protect your knees and also allow you to squat into a deeper position at the bottom of the exercise.

Reps and Sets: The weight you use is very important with the barbell thruster. Since this is an advanced and challenging exercise, make sure you always start out with a very light weight in order to get your technique down and to ensure your form is spot-on. You might even want to begin with just the barbell (no added plates) and perform 15-20 strict reps before adding any weight. Once you get into your working sets, focus on 8-12 reps for muscle hypertrophy (muscle building) and 4-6 reps per set for maximum strength gains.

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