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Kettlebell Thruster: The Ultimate Full Body Exercise

By Greg Brookes
Kettlebell Thruster

When it comes to getting the heart rate racing and hitting almost every muscle in the body then you can’t get much better than the Kettlebell Thruster or squat thruster exercise.

The KB Thruster is a complex combination of a kettlebell squat and a kettlebell overhead press. The kettlebell squat should provide the momentum to drive the kettlebell up and into the top position.

Although kettlebell thrusters may look easy when performed correctly, it’s a more advanced kettlebell exercise and does require a certain amount of skill and conditioning.

Here’s a quick video of the two arm kettlebell thrusters exercise:

Kettlebell Thruster Benefits

The kettlebell thruster is a combination exercise that uses over 600 muscles in the body.

The kettlebell squat is already a huge multi-jointed exercise that requires muscle activation from the legs, hips, core and back.

Once you add the overhead press to the movement then you gain additional muscle activation from the shoulders, arms, upper back and even the chest.

Due to the large amount of muscle activation the thruster becomes very cardiovascular too. The more muscles used during an exercise the more oxygen is required to power the movement.

Driving a kettlebell overhead also requires additional work from the heart in order to pump the blood up and into the top hand.

So the kb thruster is not only a full body muscle conditioning exercise but also great for your cardio as well as being a big calorie burner.

Finally, kettlebell thrusters require explosive strength from the bottom position in order to drive the kettlebell up and overhead. So great for sports and martial arts too!

In summary, the thruster exercise benefits are:

  1. Conditions over 600 muscles in one movement
  2. Great cardio exercise without moving your feet
  3. Burn lots of calories in a short amount of time
  4. Perfect for developing explosive movements for sports and combat

Kettlebell Thrusters Muscles Worked

As mentioned the squat thruster hits almost every muscle in the body from head to toe.

Here are just a few of the key muscles used:

  • Hamstring muscles
  • Quadriceps muscles
  • Gluteus Muscles
  • Latissimus Dorsi Muscles
  • Triceps Muscles
  • Trapezius Muscles

The 2 Variations of the KB Thruster Exercise

There are 2 different variations of the thruster that you can use.

The first variation is the two handed variation which involves holding the kettlebell with both hands.

The second variation is more advanced and requires the kettlebell to be held in just one hand.

Let’s take a look at both variations of this kettlebell exercise:

Two Arm Kettlebell Goblet Thrusters Exercise

Kettlebell Two Handed Squat and Press Exercise
Kettlebell Two Handed Thruster Exercise

I would suggest that everyone start off with the two arm variation of the kb thruster.

You should be able to perform beautiful deep kettlebell squats before attempting this variation.

The kettlebell goblet squat would be the best place for all beginners to start.

It is important that you squat nice and deep with every repetition in order to fully activate your glute / buttock muscles.

Failure to squat so your thighs are parallel with the floor will result in more quad muscle activation than buttocks.

Once you can squat correctly you then just need to drive hard from the bottom position upwards and use your momentum to push the kettlebell overhead.

Try to avoid arching your lower back at the top position and brace your abs nice and tight.

Keep your chest up throughout the complete sequence of movements.

Related: 3 full-body kettlebell workouts in only 7 minutes

Single Arm Kettlebell Thruster Exercise

Kettlebell Thruster Exercise
Single Kettlebell Thruster Exercise

The single arm kb thruster is very similar to the two arm variation.

The only difference here is that the exercise is performed with one arm and the kettlebell is held in the racked position during the squatting phase.

Care must be taken that kettlebell stays in the racked position throughout the movement and that the elbow does not wing out during the squat.

If you find that during the exercise the shoulder is struggling to maintain the position of the kettlebell then the other hand can come across to help stabilise the kettlebell.

Using the other hand with take pressure off the shoulder and keep the kettlebell in position, especially at the bottom of the squat movement.

The one arm kettlebell thruster is best performed as one fluid movement.

Use the power of the legs to drive the kettlebell up and into the top position.

Maintain a strong grip throughout and control the kettlebell on the downward phase.

Learn more: 7 kettlebell squats you need to know

Double Kettlebell Thruster

Double kettlebell thruster
Double kettlebell thruster

Double kb thrusters are performed the same as the single arm thruster except you load both sides with a kettlebell.

Obviously, you should master both the two handed and single handed thruster variations above before attempting this variation.

The demands from this kettlebell exercise are high so be prepared for a challenging level of both strength and cardio.

3 Kettlebell Squat Thruster Workouts

I thought it would be helpful to list a few kb thruster workouts that you can use to practice this full body exercise.

Workout 1

  1. Two Arm Kettlebell Thrusters x 10 reps
  2. Rest 60 seconds and repeat 2-4 times

A simple workout that will condition the whole body and really get your heart rate up.

Perform the 10 two handed thrusters and then rest for 60 seconds before repeating.

Focus on great form at this stage and make sure you get down nice and deep with every squat.

Workout 2

  1. Two Handed Kettlebell Swings x 30 seconds
  2. Two Arm Kettlebell Thrusters x 30 seconds
  3. Rest 60 seconds and repeat 2-4 times

A great combination workout that will hit every muscle in your body as well as challenging your cardio.

Try to avoid putting the kettlebell down in between the kettlebell swings and kettlebell thrusters.

Using an interval timer that beeps every 30 seconds is really helpful to stay motivated and on time for the changes.

Workout 3

  1. One Arm Kettlebell Thruster – left x 10 reps
  2. One Arm Kettlebell Thruster – right x 10 reps
  3. Reduce by 2 reps every round

I really like this countdown workout because it’s motivational as well as challenging for your cardio.

Repeat 10 reps on each side and then 8 reps on each side, then 6, 4, and finally 2.

At the end of this kettlebell workout you will have completed 30 kettlebell thruster reps on each side.


The kettlebell thruster is one of the best all over full body kettlebell exercises.

Not only does it activate over 600 muscles per movement but it works your cardio very hard as well as developing explosive legs and hips.

Those new to the kb thruster should start with the two arm thruster variation before progressing on to the one arm kettlebell variation.

Care must be taken that the squatting part of the exercise is not neglected and that each repetition involves a proper deep squat.

You can use the 3 kettlebell workouts listed above to practice your technique.

Best of luck and enjoy the thrusters!

To see more posts about knee bend workouts, go here.

Do you love the kettlebell thruster as much as I do? Let me know your feedback below…

52 Kettlebell Exercises Download PDF


Which muscles are used in kettlebell thruster?

The thruster conditions 100’s of muscles in one movement, especially the quads, glutes, core, and shoulders.

Which is the best kettlebell exercise?

This always depends on your physical attributes and your goals. Kettlebell swings, goblet squats and the Turkish get up are great exercises.

How to do the kettlebell thruster with one arm?

The kettlebell thruster is basically a squat and then an overhead press all performed in one fluid movement.

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    1. Sukhy Avatar

      Brilliant article, everything things really well explained.

      You can’t beat kettlebell training if done right with strict form. The kettlebell thruster is a killer exercise if combined right with swings and for overall conditioning.

      Every other day I only do maximum 20 minutes or less after warming for 5 minutes of kettlebell training at 54 I feel great.

      Keep up the brilliant articles. Really helpful and great motivation to try different things as part your varied training.

      Looking forward to trying out some of the stuff you recommend.

    2. Rich Avatar

      Greg. I have been incorporating KBs into my training for the past 4-5 years. My daughters (14/16) have recently started training, eldest playing sport at representative level. I needed something to guide them in the ‘way of the KB’ and found your website. Thank you very much for making this available, it is instructive and easy to follow. This has made a great difference to our family training. Kind regards, Rich.

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        That sounds great, thanks Rich.