The Total Body Compound Exercise You Probably Aren’t Doing

The Total Body Compound Exercise You Probably Aren’t Doing

(Last Updated On: November 24, 2019)


Thusters are a total body compound exercise

When you’re short on time, the goal is to work as many muscle groups as you can at one time. A real time-saver, right? Most people don’t have hours to devote to working out. Compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups, especially those in the lower body, burn more calories and boost your heart rate more than most exercises, especially isolation movements. Therefore, you get more benefits than when you do a workout that emphasizes isolation exercises.  That’s why fitness trainers often recommend that clients do 75% compound exercises and only 25% isolation movements. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

There are so many reasons to love compound exercises, like the one you’re about to hear about. The American Council on Exercise points out that doing compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups at the same time have other fitness benefits. Such exercises improve how muscles work together as groups to coordinate their movement patterns. Therefore, compound exercises can improve functionality and sports performance. Dynamic, compound exercises also stretch the muscles you’re working and make them less tight. So, compound exercises, especially those that are more dynamic, improve flexibility too.

It’s likely that you already include a number of compound exercises in your workout routine, including squats, deadlifts, and bench press, but there’s a dynamic movement that you probably aren’t doing. It’s called the thruster. Are you familiar with it?

In case you’re not familiar with this exercise, here’s how to do it:

How to Do a Thruster Compound Exercise

·        Stand straight while holding a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level. Your palms should face each other and your feet should be shoulder-width apart.

·        Lower your body into a squat until the tops of your thighs are just below your knees.

·        Now move your body back to the standing position without pausing. As you approach the top of the movement, thrust the dumbbells overhead. Try to keep the movement as fluid as possible.

·        Bring the dumbbells back down to shoulder level, the position where you started.

·        Repeat.

·        Complete 10 repetitions and rest for 60 seconds. Do two more sets.


Variation: Use a barbell as opposed to dumbbells. You can even do the exercise with resistance bands or kettlebells.


Tips for Getting the Most Out of Thrusters

Avoid pausing at the bottom of a thruster. It should be one continuous movement. Also, start by using a pair of light dumbbells until you master the form. Even then, don’t go heavy.  This isn’t an exercise where you need heavy dumbbells or a heavy barbell to get benefits. Keep your core tight throughout the exercise for maximum benefits. Also, keep your body in a straight line. The thrust upward should come from your heels, not your toes.

Before attempting thrusters, build up baseline lower body strength with squats. By doing squats in isolation you’ll master squat form before adding the overhead movement. If you use a barbell to thrust instead of a dumbbell, use an overhand grip and keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Turn your knees out slowly and don’t let them lock when you do the exercise.

Benefits of Thrusters

One of the biggest advantages this exercise offers is it works many muscle groups at the same time. The more muscles you work with a single exercise, the greater the calorie burn and potential weight loss benefits. With thrusters, most of the muscles you’re trying to strengthen get in on the action, including shoulders, triceps, upper back, core muscles, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. You also get the benefits of a squat and overhead press in a single exercise.

Thrusters also improve multiple fitness capabilities. When you use a challenging weight, the movement helps boost strength in the upper and lower body. When you use a light weight and more repetitions, you’ll develop greater muscle endurance. In other words, your muscles will be able to sustain repeated contractions for a longer period.

Your muscles will also develop more staying power and stamina. One of the best ways to improve muscle endurance is to do a movement using lighter weights until you can’t complete another repetition. Higher reps and lighters weights are ideal for boosting muscle endurance. That’s why there’s no need to grab heavy dumbbells for thrusters.

Because you move the weights through space quickly when you do thrusters, this compound movement helps with power development too. Power is the ability to generate force at a rapid speed. Power capabilities can make you a better jumper and sprinter. In fact, thrusters are an ideal exercise if you play sports like volleyball. Because you’re working your upper and lower body together with thrusters, you improve how the muscles work together.

Thrusters Are a Core Blaster Too

Many compound exercises, including squats, work the all-important core muscles, the muscles that generate power, stabilize, and protect against lower back pain. However, thrusters are more effective for the core than most compound exercises, including squats, because you activate your core more to transition between a squat and the overhead press. Building a strong core can help your performance for a variety of lifts.

Enhance Upper Body Strength

The overhead press portion of a thruster works multiple muscle groups in your upper body, including your triceps, deltoids, pectoral muscles, and the trapezius muscles in your upper back. In fact, it’s one of the few exercises that work your upper body, lower body, and boost your heart rate at the same time. So, it’s a time efficient exercise that lets you get your heart rate up and target the major muscle groups without wasting a second.

The Bottom Line

Thrusters are a calorie burner and a movement that builds muscle endurance, strength and power. Using lighter weights build more muscle endurance while heavier weights boost strength. The thrust where you move the weights overhead builds power. At the same time, you’ll improve muscle efficiency and the ability of muscles to work together as a unit. Plus, this exercise conditions your heart too That’s a lot of benefit for a single exercise! So, get ready to sweat a little, but you’ll be rewarded with a variety of health and fitness benefits!



·        American Council on Exercise. “5 Benefits of Compound Exercises”

·        Front Physiol. 2017; 8: 1105. Published online 2017 Dec 22. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2017.01105.


Related Articles By Cathe:

Resistance Training: The Benefits of Compound Exercises Over Isolation Movements

Do You Need to Do Isolation Exercises?

5 Reasons You Should Do More Compound Exercises

Strength Training: Are You Focusing Too Much on Isolation Exercises?


Related Cathe Friedrich Workout DVDs:

STS Strength 90 Day Workout Program

All of Cathe’s Strength & Toning Workout DVDs
Total Body Workouts
Lower Body Workouts
Upper Body Workouts

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