Everybody is Doing Thrusters but No One Knows How to Squat and Press

June 28, 2014

Happy Saturday guys,

 

This week was an absolutely crazy week for me. I did more sessions this week than I have ever done in a single 5 day period at SCLA. Thus, the blog is a little late.

 

As I spent all hours of the day, each day, in the gym this week I came to a powerful, and scary realization. Everyone is doing thrusters as a part of their workouts. 

 

For those who have not drank the Crossfit kool-aid, or work as fitness professionals, the Thruster is a fluid Squat-to-Overhead press that emphasizes speed and load over full ROM. 

 

The Thruster itself is an outstanding exercise. I utilize it in my group-exercise classes nearly every week, and will utilize it to burn out my clients after much of their skill work has been completed. It forces the body to dig into all three energy systems (if you do it as a part of a circuit), and challenges the entire posterior (back-side) chain of the body.

 

I mean, how can it be wrong if you are doing the movement of life (a squat), and the most important upper-body movement (overhead press)? The answer is...

 

It's not wrong, but is it right?

 

The Squat-

 

The squat is probably the most important lift in the gym to master and excel at due its immediate applicability in life. We will spend our entire lives getting up and down out of chairs, off the toilet, and squatting down to see if we still have that hidden beer in the back of the fridge.

 

Mastering the squat is like learning how to talk in complete sentences. You CAN live without it, but do you really want to?

 

The squat is best understood by breaking out a book like Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe, but for a quick reference see these bullet points.

 

  • A squat (especially with a barbell) should be focused on moving the body in such a way as to achieve a VERTICAL bar-path. Meaning, no horizontal shifting during the movement. No loopiness to the finish...etc.

  • Weight of the body should be centered on the midfoot, towards the heels, at all points of the movement. Do not rock to your toes.

  • Hips drive back and the chest stays upright. Achieve the upright chest by pinching your shoulder blades and getting your thoracic spine to extend!

  • Eyes lock forward. (I like to imagine staring through the wall as if looking down a long, long road)!

  • Drive through the heels at the bottom of the lift and DO NOT let the knees fall towards one another. Focus on pushing them away from each other as you leave the whole and drive towards the top.

  • At the top force a contraction of the glutes and return right back into the squat, always aiming to go parallel or below.

 

I could say so much more about the coaching points of the squat to be honest. Yet, I believe those are the key points to make sure we don't screw things up!

 

The overhead press is a move that has evolved so much from its inception. A true overhead press involves taking a dead-weight (no stretch reflex) and racking it at shoulder height (on you, not the "rack"). Once set you drive the weight with max force upwards towards full lockout. 

 

Everything from excessive layback to always push-pressing as made the standing military press a "interpreted" exercise. I'll be honest, I'm happy just to see someone doing it. In a day and age where everyone thinks that working their pecs 5 times a week gets them the upper body they want I am beyond stoked to see someone get under the rack and throw weight over their heads.

 

Once again please refer to a great book like Starting Strength for really detailed coaching cues for the Press. Here are my big 3.

  • Feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart, squeeze your glutes, and tighten those abs like you are in the boxing ring. Stay tight-lift right.

  • Vertical forearms. Never let that weight slide to a place where your create another angle at the elbow joint. Those forearms stay vertical from bottom to top. 

  • Breathe deep and hold as you begin press. Create thoracic extension by leaning back through your shoulders. Drive all the way to finish and shrug traps.

 

 

Ok, now we've covered the squat and the press seperately. What is wrong with the thruster than?

 

The thruster is an advanced move that requires previous mastery of the two base-lifts prior to its execution. Otherwise you are just doing shitty squats with wonky overhead presses. This means you are either injuring yourself, or missing progress altogether (who wants that?).

 

The thruster should be done only once you can squat and press until the cows come home (If you are from a small country town like I am you may only have a few hours). Think of it like this.

 

You want to do a backflip on your Huffy bike. You've never done a backflip in general, and never even gotten on your bike. Should you be trying that backflip?

 

So, guys. I know you wanna kill it out there. I know you want progress. I know you want to train harder and make the magic happen. Guess what? You will, but in due time. Greatness isn't an accident, and is actually the accumulation of plans and preparedness!

 

Master the press, master the squat. Only than, should you THRUST yourself into the next tier!

 

Till next time,

 

Kevin

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Kevin Mullins is an average guy doing above average things. He wakes up each day with the intent to put his best foot forward, to help others, and to have a little fun.

 

He is the author of the popular book Day by Day: The Personal Trainer's Blueprint to Achieving Ultimate Success, which is available on amazon.com now.

Kevin is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, Equinox Master instructor and trainer of ten years. He has over twenty thousand hours of experience under his belt. 

He has been featured on the PTDC, PTontheNET, was named a Men's Health Next Top Trainer in 2014 and 2015, contributes to NSCA PT quarterly, and speaks at a variety of conferences.

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