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 exercise.
The Kettlebell 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 the thruster 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 thruster in action:
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 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, the kettlebell thruster requires 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:
- Conditions over 600 muscles in one movement
- Great cardio exercise without moving your feet
- Burn lots of calories in a short amount of time
- Perfect for developing explosive movements for sports and combat
Kettlebell Thruster Muscles Worked
As mentioned the 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 Kettlebell 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 Thruster Exercise
I would suggest that everyone start off with the two arm variation of the kettlebell 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.
One Arm Kettlebell Thruster Exercise
The kettlebell thruster using one arm 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
3 Kettlebell Thruster Workouts
I thought it would be helpful to list a few kettlebell thruster workouts that you can use to practice this full body exercise.
- Two Arm Kettlebell Thruster x 10 reps
- 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.
- Two Handed Kettlebell Swings x 30 seconds
- Two Arm Kettlebell Thruster x 30 seconds
- 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.
- One Arm Kettlebell Thruster – left x 10 reps
- One Arm Kettlebell Thruster – right x 10 reps
- 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.
Conclusion of the Kettlebell Thruster Exercise
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 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…
The thruster conditions 100’s of muscles in one movement, especially the quads, glutes, core, and shoulders.
This always depends on your physical attributes and your goals. Kettlebell swings, goblet squats and the Turkish get up are great exercises.
The kettlebell thruster is basically a squat and then an overhead press all performed in one fluid movement.