Best Dumbbell Thruster Workouts and Technique Tips

The Dumbbell Thruster is a challenging full body exercise and a great tool to use when building stamina and strength.

They are versatile highly, lending themselves well to both longer, engine building workouts and shorter, power and strength enhancing sessions.

Benefits of The Dumbbell Thruster

Dumbbell Thrusters combine a loaded squat with full overhead extension in the form of a push press. They enable your body to work all the way through full range of motion, meaning you can get a lot done in a short space of time.

They are not a high skill exercise, making them a good choice if you want to push hard without worrying about injury or technical failure (when you get too exhausted to perform an exercise with proper form).

Dumbbell Thrusters are a unilateral exercise, in this case working each arm separately but simultaneously.

They will bring all the benefits of unilateral training, helping you to identify and destroy muscular imbalances and weaknesses, maximise coordination and test your body in a new way.  

They can also be easily added into workouts outside in a park or on a beach, just as effortlessly added to sessions in the gym. Don’t have dumbbells? Then substitute in rocks, bags, water bottles or whatever else you can use as a load.

Muscles Worked by The Dumbbell Thruster

In short, almost everything. Dumbbell Thrusters require full body muscular coordination. The Squat portion of the exercise will work the glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. The Push Press activates the lats, delts, triceps, biceps and the core balances and stabilises the movement at all times.

How to do The Dumbbell Thruster

This technique video from Rogue is a good introduction to the technique of Dumbbell Thrusters.

  1. Start by standing with two dumbbells in the front rack position. Feet shoulder width apart. Hands in a neutral grip position with the dumbbells touching your shoulders
  2. Inhale and brace your glutes, core and grip
  3. Break at the hips first. Bend your knees and descend into the squat position. Make sure that the hips break parallel and go lower that the knees
  4. Descend as low as your mobility will allow then explode upwards. Press the floor away from you and propel your body upwards. As you reach the full standing position again, press the dumbbells upwards with your arms. Make sure to activate your lats
  5. Exhale during the pressing phase of the movement
  6. After you fully extend your arms, lower the dumbbells once again to the starting position on your shoulders. That’s one rep.
  7. Repeat

Training Tips for Dumbbell Thrusters

Momentum is exceptionally important for Dumbbell thrusters. As you stand up from the squat section of the exercise, use the upward momentum to help the upward press of the dumbbells. This will enable you to make the movement more efficient.

Maintain a strong, upright position during the squat. Don’t dip forward. Warming up the movement properly should work here. However, if you have any mobility issues then dedicate time to focus on improving them as this, in turn, will also improve the efficiency of your Dumbbell Thrusters.

A tight core is essential at all times. Make sure to think about and control your movement well at all times. This will make it much easier to control your core.

Punch your head. A correctly performed Shoulder Press with a barbell requires you to “punch” your head forward through the space between your arms as the barbell passes over the top of the head. This makes the weight easier to propel upwards and activates your shoulders and upper back.

Although it is not essential with the Dumbbell Thruster, it is a beneficial way to avoid as much fatigue and make both shorter heavier sets and longer lighter sets more energy efficient.

Dumbbell Thruster Variations

You can also perform the Dumbbell Thruster with a single arm and Dumbbell in its unilateral variation.

Anothergood variation is the Alternating Dumbbell Thruster, where you switch between different arms as you progress through the reps.

Notes for the Dumbbell Thrusters Workouts

AMRAP stands for “as many rounds and reps as possible”.

Your score is the number or total number of rounds and reps when the clock strikes zero.

Dumbbell Thruster Workouts

WORKOUT 16

8 Rounds for Time and Reps

1 minute of:

  • 200 foot Shuttle Run
  • Max Dumbbell Thrusters (2×50/35 lb)

Rest 1 minute

There are two scores to this workout:

Score 1: Total run time across all 8 sets.

Score 2: Total thrusters completed across all 8 sets.

Scaling

Scale dumbbell loading as needed.

Movement Standards

Shuttle Run: One hand and foot must touch the line on each of the turns. A 10 second penalty will be added for each line you do not touch. You must stay within a 4′ wide lane for each of your runs. A 10 second penalty will be added each time you go outside of the 4′ wide line.

Dumbbell Thruster: This is a standard thruster. Hip crease must pass below the knee at the bottom and full extension of the knee, hip and arm must be met with the dumbbells in line with your ear in profile.

WOROUT 15

27-21-15-9 Reps for Time

  • Calorie Row
  • Dumbbell Thrusters (2×50/35 lb)

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written. Athlete must complete 27 calorie Row and 27 Dumbbell Thrusters before moving on to 21 calorie Row and 21 Dumbbell Thrusters and so on.

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of the Dumbbell Thrusters is completed.

Scaling

Scale dumbbell loading as needed.

Movement Standards

Row: Judge may reset the monitor. Hands must stay on the handles until you reach the prescribed calorie mark.

Thruster: Hip crease must pass below knee with Dumbbells on your shoulders. At the top of each rep your arms, hips and knees must be fully extended in a straight line.

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WORKOUT 14

4 Rounds for Time

  • 15 Dumbbell Thrusters (2×40/20 lb)
  • 50 metre Dumbbell Overhead Walking Lunges (2×40/20 lb)

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written for 4 rounds.

Score is the time on the clock when the last round of Walking Lunges is completed.

Scaling

Switch to a lighter weight on both the Dumbbell Thrusters and the Dumbbell Overhead Walking Lunges.

Change the Dumbbell Overhead Walking Lunges to Front Rack Walking Lunges or simply Walking Lunges.

WORKOUT 13

For Time, Fast and Heavy

  • 21 Dumbbell Thrusters
  • 400 metre Run
  • 18 Dumbbell Thrusters
  • 400 metre Run
  • 15 Dumbbell Thrusters
  • 400 metre Run

Typically, most workouts prescribe a weight, but in this case, the weight is athlete’s choice.

The athlete should choose a dumbbell that is heavy but that they can still move fast. Score is dumbbell weight used and total time to complete.

Scaling

As stated, pick dumbbells that are relatively heavy for you yet still allow you to complete each round of thrusters in very few sets. This workout should be treated like a sprint, so run hard and try to avoid resting until it is over.

Intermediate athletes can perform this workout as prescribed, just with lighter dumbbells. Newer athletes can reduce the reps and shorten the runs.

Beginner Option

For time, fast and heavy:

  • 15 dumbbell thrusters
  • Run 200 metres
  • 12 dumbbell thrusters
  • Run 200 metres
  • 9 dumbbell thrusters
  • Run 200 metres

WORKOUT 12

5 Rounds for Time

  • 7 Bar Muscle-Ups
  • 7 Dumbbell Squat Clean Thrusters (2×70/50 lb)

Scaling

Switch the Muscle Ups to Pull Ups, Banded Pull Ups or Ring Rows depending on your fitness level.

Reduce the weight of the Dumbbell Thrusters or scale them to air squats.

Top athletes to learn from…

WORKOUT 11

5 Rounds for Time

  • 11 Deadlifts (275/205 lb)
  • 14 Single Arm Dumbbell Thrusters (50/35 lb)

Every 2 minutes:

  • 150 foot Sled Push

Time Cap: 20 minutes

Scaling

Reduce the weight for both the deadlifts and the Single Arm Dumbbell Thrusters.

Scale the sled push to a 150 foot run.

WORKOUT 10

AMRAP in 11 minutes

  • 11 Burpee Box Step Overs*
  • 11 Dumbbell Thrusters (35/20 lb)

*Add 1 Rep Each Round

Scaling

Change the Burpee Box Step Overs to Burpee Box Step Ups, or simple Burpees.

Lower the weight for the Dumbbell Thrusters.

WORKOUT 9

2-4-6-8-10-12-14-16 Reps For Time

  • 100 metre Shuttle Sprint
  • Dumbbell Thrusters (2×65/45 lb)

Start with 2 Shuttle Sprints and 2 Dumbbell Thrusters, then increase this to 4 of each, then 6, etc. Work until the round of 16 is completed.

Scaling

Reduce the total number of rounds (i.e. work until the set of 10 or 12).

Lower the weight on the Dumbbell Thrusters.

Learn how to build better shoulder strength

WORKOUT 8

5 Rounds For Time

  • 11 One Arm Dumbbell Power Snatches (50/35 lb)
  • 12 One Arm Dumbbell Thrusters (50/35 lb)
  • 11 Weighted Pull Ups (50/35 lb dumbbell)

Alternate arms on each One Arm Power Snatch and Dumbbell Thruster.

Scaling

Reduce the weight of the Dumbbell used throughout the workout.

WORKOUT 7

15-10-5 Reps for Time

  • Dumbbell Thrusters (2×10 lb)
  • Air Squats
  • Burpees

Scaling

Reduce the weight of the Dumbbell Thruster.

WORKOUT 6

AMRAP in 10 minutes

  • 8 Toes to Bar
  • 8 Dumbbell Thrusters (35/25 lb)
  • 12 Dumbbell Walking Lunges (35/25 lb)

Scaling

Swap Toes to Bar for Knees to Elbows.

Lower the weight for the Dumbbell Thrusters and the Dumbbell Walking Lunges.

WORKOUT 5

For Time

  • 30 Devil Presses (2×50/35 lb)
  • 60 Dumbbell Thrusters (2×50/35 lb)
  • 90 Burpees

Scaling

Adjust the dumbbell weight to a level that allows the athlete to average between 8-15 Dumbbell Thrusters every time.

Cut the Burpees in half to 45 in total.

WORKOUT 4

AMRAP in 15 minutes

  • 1 Dumbbell Hang Squat Clean (2×50/35 lb)
  • 1 Dumbbell Thruster (2×50/35 lb)
  • 30 Double Unders
  • 2 Dumbbell Hang Squat Cleans (2×50/35 lb)
  • 2 Dumbbell Thruster (2×50/35 lb)
  • 30 Double Unders
  • Etc…

Continue with this pattern, adding one Dumbbell Hang Squat Clean and one Dumbbell Thruster each round.

On a 15-minute clock, perform as many rounds and repetitions as possible (AMRAP) of the prescribed work in the order written.

Athlete must complete 1 Dumbbell Hang Squat Clean, 1 Dumbbell Thruster, and 30 Double Unders for the first round. Continue with this pattern, adding 1 Dumbbell Hang Squat Clean and 1 Dumbbell Thruster each round, and the same number of reps for Double Unders.

Score is the total number of rounds and repetitions completed before the 15-minute clock stops.

Scaling

Swap Double Unders for Single Unders.

Reduce the weight of the dumbbells for the Dumbbell Hang Squat Cleans and the Dumbbell Thrusters.

Workout Tips

Keep your pace steady and controlled. If possible, try to use the skipping portion of each round to regain composure and control of your breathing.

WORKOUT 3

For Time

  • 400 metre Run
  • 21 Dumbbell Thrusters (50/35 lb)
  • 21 Pull Ups
  • 400 metre Run
  • 15 Dumbbell Thrusters (50/35 lb)
  • 15 Pull Ups
  • 400 metre Run
  • 9 Dumbbell Thrusters (50/35 lb)
  • 9 Pull Ups
  • 400 metre Run

Scaling

Change the Pull Ups to Ring Rows.

WORKOUT 2

AMRAP in 30 minutes

  • 20 metre Right Arm Kettlebell Farmer’s Carry (70/53 lb)
  • 10 Dumbbell Thrusters (2×50/40 lb)
  • 20 metre Left Arm Kettlebell Farmer’s Carry (70/53 lb)
  • 10 Pull Ups
  • 5 Wall Walks

Perform as many rounds as possible of the work prescribed in 30 minutes.

10 metres are equal to 10 points or reps.

Each round as a whole consists of a total of 65 points or reps.

Scaling

Lower the weight for each load.

Change the Pull Ups to Ring Rows.

WORKOUT 1

For Time (with a Partner)

Buy-In:

  • 2,000 metres on the Ski Erg

Then, 15 Rounds of:

  • 12 Dumbbell Thrusters (2×50/35 lb)
  • 10 Stone Over Shoulders (100/70 lb)

Cash-Out:

  • 3,000 metres on the Assault Bike

*Every 7 minutes, perform 22 Burpees (each)

Time Cap: 40 minutes

With a running clock, as fast as possible perform the prescribed work in the order written.

Athletes must finish the 2,000 metre Ski Erg before moving on to the 15 rounds of Dumbbell Thrusters and Stone Over Shoulders.

If you don’t have a Stone, use a Dead Ball, Sandbag, or other odd object. After the 15 rounds, athletes must complete the 3,000 metre bike.

Score is the time on the clock when the bike is completed.

Scaling

Use a lighter object for the Stone Over Shoulders.

Swap to a lighter weight for the Dumbbell Thrusters.

Half the distances of the Ski Erg and the Assault Bike.

Find the right bar to build bigger biceps

Dumbbell Thruster Workouts

The above workouts will test and improve your strength, power, stamina and skill through a wide variety of different settings.

When programming Dumbbell Thrusters into your own training, use the following as a rough guide to help you achieve your intended goal.

  • Strength – Heavy weights. Sets of 5 and under
  • Muscle Growth – Not as heavy but still challenging and difficult by the last few reps in every set. Sets of 8 – 12
  • Conditioning – Lighter weights. Longer sets with a much higher volume. Or perform them through fatigued conditions.

As a general tool, Dumbbell Thrusters are a great way to improve your general strength and conditioning. Skills that are easily transferable into outdoor fitness activities such as climbing, kayaking, SUP and Trail Running.

Want to add more uncommon exercises into your training and reap the rewards?

Why not try the Trap Bar Deadlift, Bulgarian Split Squat or Inverted Burpee.

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