Monday, November 10, 2014

Thrusters, Beyond The Basics

The Thruster is a quintessential Crossfit movement.  We are going to take a look at standards and ways to increase speed and efficiency.

1. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, your lower back tight and extended.  A somewhat wider stance will lessen the range of motion somewhat and potentially save your quads, some.  Make sure if you use a wider stance that you can still safely get below parallel.

2. Your throughout the squat portion your elbows should be in the front rack position with the the barbell racked on your shoulders with your hands just outside of shoulder width.  Once you come out of the squat and extend your hips the elbows begin to transition under the bar, ultimately coming directly under the bar at the top of the movement.

3. Keep your chest up, back muscles tight and your head in a neutral position, looking straight ahead.,

4. Lower your hips descend into a below-parallel squat.

5. From the bottom position, utilize your stretch reflex (Stretch shortening cycle) to help you explode back to the start position as hard as you can, aggressively extend your hips, knees and ankles (Triple Extension) to build momentum to simultaneously press the bar over your head.

6. Finish in a standing, fully extended, position.  As the barbell raises above your head, stick your head through the arms (as in any overhead movement, press, push press, push jerk, etc.), finish with the barbell over and slightly behind your head, ears to biceps, with your shoulders stacked over your hips and your hips stacked over your ankles. Really concentrate on full-extension, a powerful opening of the hips, transferring that power through your torso to your shoulders, ultimately to the bar, using that power to jump the bar up.

7. Smoothly lower the barbell, in one continuous motion and descend into another squat to begin the next repetition.  To speed the repetitions actively pull the bar down to your shoulders.

Thruster Efficiency and Speed

Clean into Your First Rep
Always clean into your first rep.  This is allowed in most competitions(Check your specific rules). This eliminates you having to pick the bar up to your shoulders, and then having to do a negative(eccentric movement) down to your squat position. Consider a 'short' clean (a clean wherein the bar is pulled only so high as to be able to be received just a few inches above the bottom of your squat.)

As in the Front Squat stay back and Drive Through your Heels
Just like in the front squat you want to stay back and drive up through your heels.  Being too far forward will cause you to lose your balance and generate lateral/forward momentum on the bar.  The idea is to keep the barbell moving straight up and down inline with your base of support (mid-foot/back 2/3 of the foot).  Any lateral or forward movement will cause your body to rock forward and back, leading to a very inefficient movement pattern.  Keep that bar path in a straight line over th back 2/3 of your foot.

Use you hips and legs, NOT your arms
 Engage your hips and generate power to move the bar up.  Try to build momentum through rapid extension of your hips as you come up out of the bottom of the squat.

You can lift much more with your legs than your arms.

As in the front squat keep your elbows up
If your elbows are down during the squat, then all the weight from the bar will be pulling you down, and rotating your torso forward making it much harder to stand up. Keep your elbows high, your back tight and your chest up to create a solid upright base for the bar.

As the bar settles into rack position loosen your fingers and let the bar rest into your shoulders. Keeping too much of a grip on the bar can wear out your forearms and contribute to forward leaning. As the bar rises off of the shoulders tighten your grip to maintain stability at the top.

As you rise up your elbow position may drop into a partial rack (1/2 rack or 1/4 rack) to facilitate press.

Ensure that he bar lands on your shoulders
If the bar is not solidly on your shoulders through the squat and extension you are bleeding power.
When the bar is supported in your hands you are recruiting muscles from the forearms, arms, shoulders and back.  These are relatively small muscles and will tire quickly.

When you have the bar at the top think to yourself how it will come down.  You want the bar to come down and land on the deltoids with your elbows up.  Your arms and hands are just there to guide the bar into it's correct position on the shoulders.  One way to ensure this happens is to keep your elbows in front and high, not down and out, as you guide(or pull) the bar to your shoulder.

Actively pull the bar back down
Actively pull the bar down to your shoulders and let the weight of the bar take you down into your squat. You want to preserve and use as much stored energy from the bar coming down from the top in your rebound out of the bottom of the squat.

Maintain Continuous and Fluid Movement 
In one sense the thruster is a combination of a front squat into a press.  In another it is a different movement because it is one fluid movement from the bottom of the squat to the overhead position and back again. As you actively pull the bar down form the top your body should already be moving down into your front squat position.

Thrusters have a tendency to bring you to the red-line and potentially gas you out faster than any other movement.   Don't forget to breath, and incorporate your breathing into a steady rhythm.

Try to breath on each thruster.

There are several options for breathing.  But above all else try to resist putting the bar down to breath. Better than putting the bar down is to breath in your front rack position at the top.  The problem with this is that each time you do it you will be breaking up the continuous flow of the thruster from the top smoothly into the bottom of the squat.  You want to preserve and use as much stored energy from the bar coming down from the top in your rebound out of the bottom of the squat.

The next option would be to inhale on the way down, and exhale at the the top of the press.  At moderate weights this is feasible without too much loss of core tightness.  As you breath out imagine you are breathing out through a too small straw in order to maintain pressurization.

The third option is to breath and/or briefly rest at the top of the thruster when the arms are fully locked out.  Pause for an extra second when the bar is overhead. Take a breath there, before actively pulling your bar down. This will be faster than bringing the bar to the shoulders in rack position where you may be tempted to take more then one second to breathe and you will have lost the bars momentum on the downstroke.

Rest and Pacing
Many of us like to speed through thrusters, but too fast or getting out of rhythm will cause you to lose your breathing cycle and become rapidly gassed out.  Find a rhythm that allows you to both breath and maintain good position. Use as much stored energy from the overhead position to drive you into the bottom of the squat and rebound out of the bottom.

Look at Rich Froning in 14.5, he keeps a steady almost methodical pace, taking short pauses when the bar was overhead.  Rich Froning in 14.5

Wear your weightlifting shoes if you have them!
These will help you maintain a more upright posture and help to avoid rolling forward, which presents problems not only in the squat but as you begin to propel the bar overhead.

Ground to Overhead
When the workout includes ground to overheads (GTO) most athletes think either clean and jerk or snatch.  The snatch requires a powerful 2nd pull every time and may tend to wear you out faster than the other possibilities.  The clean tends to have a pause upon receipt of the bar in rack position. Consider using the thruster.

Any thoughts or comments on this post?  Please post in the comments section!

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