What Muscles Do Kettlebell Thrusters Work

Daniel Brown
• Monday, 26 October, 2020
• 7 min read

Although kettlebellthrusters may look easy when performed correctly, it’s a more advanced kettle bell exercise and does require a certain amount of skill and conditioning. The kettle bell squat is already a huge multi-jointed exercise that requires muscle activation from the legs, hips, core and back.

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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. Driving a kettle bell 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, kettlebellthrusters require explosive strength from the bottom position in order to drive the kettle bell up and overhead.

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

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

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Care must be taken that kettle bell stays in the racked position throughout the movement and that the elbow does not wing out during the squat. Using the other hand with take pressure off the shoulder and keep the kettle bell in position, especially at the bottom of the squat movement.

The demands from this kettle bell exercise are high so be prepared for a challenging level of both strength and cardio. I thought it would be helpful to list a few KB thruster workouts that you can use to practice this full body exercise.

Two Arm Kettle bell Thrusters x 10 reps Rest 60 seconds and repeat 2-4 times Focus on great form at this stage and make sure you get down nice and deep with every squat.

A great combination workout that will hit every muscle in your body as well as challenging your cardio. Using an interval timer that beeps every 30 seconds is really helpful to stay motivated and on time for the changes.

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

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The kettle bell thruster is basically a squat and then an overhead press all performed in one fluid movement. Note, that using kettle bells or dumbbells (or any other type of equipment may alter the below steps somewhat, but the directions below can still generally apply to the thruster movement).

Coach’s Tip : It is important that you descend into the squat so that you can fully load the legs to be utilized for the concentric aspect of the lift. Coach’s Tip : For thrusters, the key is to burst up from the front squat at the start, so that you can gain as much vertical momentum as possible, saving the upper body from unnecessary effort (which will come in handling for heavier thrusters and/or higher volumes).

As you reach the top of the front squat, focus on extending the hips while simultaneously beginning to push the load up from the chest and into the overhead position using the shoulders, triceps, and upper traps. Coach’s Tip : Many lifters will try to press with the upper body too soon, forgetting to fully utilize the legs and power to assist in the movement.

If you are looking to perform thrusters in a cyclical manner, it is important that you pull the barbell downwards to the body so that it returns to the front rack position. The thruster utilizes some of the largest muscles of the body to promote high amounts of force.

Movements that have a full range of motion, are compound, and stress a great amount of muscle tissue are prime exercises to build into metabolic circuits, Maps, and Moms. The thruster has a wide array of variations, alternatives, and applications to strength, power, and fitness sports; allowing a coach to change loading and rep ranges to suit the individual demands (strength, cardiovascular fitness, etc) of the athlete.

kettlebell thrusters exercise skimble workout description step shoulders
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The thruster, as discussed below, can increase triceps and shoulder strength significantly when programmed with heavier loads. Strong quadriceps and glutes are needed to increase thruster strength, muscular hypertrophy, and performance.

The triceps assist the shoulders and legs in the thruster, and are primarily responsible for the lockout of the load overhead. Many lifers may find that their upper back and core strength is limited in the thruster under heavy loads and/or fatigue (during metabolic workouts), suggesting that they develop better squat patterning (more vertical torso) and leg strength to set a lifter at the moment.

Below are some reasons why strength, power, and fitness athletes can benefit from performing the thruster, either heavy, light, slow, or fast. Strength and power athletes can benefit from this compound exercise due to its application to general strength, sporting movements (clean, press, and squat), and it’s ability to increase rate of force development with heavy loads.

Lastly, increasing work capacity and basic fitness farther out from competition can increase a lifter’s ability to adapt and recover from harder training sessions to come in the future, making thrusters a great total body and dynamic movement to include in most athletes training toolbox. Since Olympic weightlifting is a strength-based sport, doping higher repetitions with lighter loads will generally not have as drastic of an impact (on sport specificity) on performance as doing loading in the 60-75% range of one’s clean and jerk max for 1-3 repetitions.

CrossFit and competitive functional fitness athletes know all too well the sport specific need to be efficient and strong at thrusters, wither with the barbell, dumbbell, and kettle bell. While general fitness and movement enthusiasts can benefit from thruster for all the same reason above, one of the most foundational benefits is the thruster is an all-inclusive movement that can be trained across a wide array of variations (barbell, dumbbell, kettle bell, unilateral, etc).

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The ability of a person to have coordinated total body movements throughout the full range of motion in a cyclical fashion is key to expression of strength, mobility, power, body awareness and control, endurance, stamina, and aerobic capacity. 4-6 sets of 2-5 repetitions, resting 2-3 minutes Coaches can use heavy thrusters as the primary strength movement of a day, with the limiting factor often being the upper body.

Additionally, thrusters can be used to offer submaximal volume to the lower body as well, and increase rate of force development out of the front squat (beneficial for weightlifters). More hypertrophy based thruster workouts will often challenge the upper body (triceps, shoulders) than the legs (however this may not always be the case).

Some lifters may want to train greater muscle endurance (for sport), in which higher repetition ranges and/or shorter rest periods are recommended. 2-3 sets of 12+ repetitions, resting 60-90 seconds between (this is highly sport specific) These can be done with light loads to increase muscular stamina and endurance and/or to specifically attack aerobic capacity (often, compound movements that also have the hands go overhead can elevate heart rate to a greater extent than other movements).

The push press is an upper body power and strength movement that is essentially a thruster without the full depth squat. In the push press, the lifter dips into a quarter squat, using some leg strength and power, exploding upwards to finish with the load overhead.

Both movements can be used to build power and athleticism, with the push press also being used when trying to limit lower body involvement (due to fatigue, injury, etc). The clean and push press is a combination movement that can hit may of the same muscle groups as the full thruster.

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While the wall ball lacks the ability to build muscle mass, strength, and challenge a lifter’s muscular endurance under heavy loads, the movement patterning is very similar to that of a thruster, making it a good swap for lifters looking to use lighter loads, and help teach the rhythmic nature of such a movement (without having to use a barbell). To reiterate, the wall ball in no way matches the muscular strength, hypertrophy, and power outputs of a heavier thruster, but can be used in the goal is heart rate training and minimize muscular fatigue in the upper body when compared to the thruster.

Kettle bell swings were introduced to the US by Russian fitness expert Pavel Tsatsouline at the turn of the 21st Century. Since their introduction, Russian kettle bells have become a familiar sight in many gyms and a popular choice for home workouts.

They also come in a wide range of weights, which means that you can use them at any stage of your fitness journey and can benefit whether you’re an experienced or novice user. But the question on many people’s lips is, “what musclesdokettlebell swings work ?”, and that’s what I want to answer in this post.

The two-handed swing uses the hamstrings, glutes, quads, hips, core, back, trapezium, shoulders, and forearms. The intensity means that you will feel the burn after a decent set, and with a good 30-minute workout you will be sweating profusely, your heart will be pumping faster, and oxygenated blood will be coursing through your veins.

As long as you maintain good form, you don’t have to use a heavy bell, especially for cardio training. He also advises having two additional, heavier, bells for progression and for use in some other types of kettle bell exercise.

kettlebell muscles swings worked exercises they work conventional swing workout during workouts
(Source: exercisewalls.blogspot.com)

As the kettle bell descends from the swing, gravity ensures that the bell will feel a lot heavier, especially as you reach the end of your set. As with any exercise, but perhaps more so with a full-body kettle swing workout, good form is vital to ensure the best results.

When performing the swing, all your weight should be placed on the heel and middle of the foot and should never transfer to the toes. You should also keep your neck and head in alignment with your back so ensure that you are always looking ahead at the horizon while performing this movement.

The height you raise the kettle bell will be determined by the amount of power you can muster from your hip thrust. The number of reps and sets you need to perform depends on your fitness level, what you’re trying to achieve, and the weight you’re using.

The length and frequency of your kettle bell workouts depends on the intensity and difficulty of the session. Kettle bell swings are a full body workout, and whether you are training increasing strength or stamina, or even to lose weight, research suggests that shorter sessions are more effective.

They utilize virtually every muscle in the body, and they are effective for weight loss as well as explosive strength training.

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1 kettlebellsworkouts.com - https://kettlebellsworkouts.com/kettlebell-workouts-for-mass/
2 www.onnit.com - https://www.onnit.com/academy/top-6-kettlebell-exercises-for-building-mass/
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5 www.bodybuilding.com - https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/kettlebells-for-bodybuilding-5-reasons-bells-rule-for-muscle-growth.html
6 betterme.world - https://betterme.world/articles/100-kettlebell-swings-a-day-weight-loss/
7 musclerig.com - https://musclerig.com/kettlebell-cardio-workouts
8 www.maletestosteronebooster.org - https://www.maletestosteronebooster.org/testosterone-training-tips/kettlebell-swings-increase-growth-hormone/
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