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Metabolic Training and The Thruster
By Blair Morrison   View more articles by this author
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November 24

When we talk about building functional strength while improving lean body mass, the conversation inevitably turns toward metabolic training, i.e. exercise circuits that successively tax the entire body.  These types of exercises are THE way to train if you want to improve strength and stamina in a single workout.  By simultaneously working lower body, upper body, and core musculature, an individual is required to pump and oxygenate so much more blood than he/she would be through more isolated exercise.  This means massive calorie expenditure and burning fat.

There are plenty of examples of total body exercises out there, utilizing bodyweight and external resistance alike.  Ball slams, burpees, kettlebell swings, and deadlifts are just a few.  When done correctly, they are tools with which to build a taxing, total body workout in less than thirty minutes. 

The focus of this article is the thruster, a particularly challenging exercise of the external resistance variety.  Essentially, it is a front squat (the bar being held in front of the neck) combined with an overhead press.  While keeping the elbows high and racking the bar on the front of the shoulders, push back on your heels and squat until your upper thigh and lower leg form a ninety-degree angle.  Immediately, you will feel the bar pulling you forward—an unfortunate effect of gravity.  Your core must work extremely hard to keep your spine straight and maintain balance.  At the bottom of the motion, the core is just as important.  As you engage your legs and butt to drive the bar upward, your core must stay tight to prevent wobbling and to maintain control of the weight.  During the upward drive, you will thrust the hips forward and rapidly press the bar overhead with your shoulders and triceps.

When done with appropriate weight, this is an extremely challenging exercise.  I suggest you start light and work up slowly doing sets in the twenty-repetition range.  One set of twenty should take you about a minute.  Rest exactly one minute between sets and try to finish five without breaking the pattern.

Once you’ve mastered the motion during a few practice workouts, combine it with other exercises to form a circuit.  An example could be 3 rounds of thrusters, pullups, and box jumps, decreasing the reps from 20 to 15 to 10 each with no scheduled rest. 

A workout like this will probably take you less than 10 minutes to complete, but at least 30 to recover.  And therein lies the beauty.

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