Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredDumbbell
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypePush (Bilateral)
  • Experience LevelIntermediate
  • Secondary Muscles
    Abs, Calves, Glutes, Hamstrings, Lower Back, Shoulders, Traps, Triceps, Upper Back
Target Muscle Group


Quads Muscle Anatomy Diagram

Dumbbell Thruster Overview

The dumbbell thruster is a variation of the barbell thruster and a combination exercise that combines the movement patterns of the front squat with the movement of an overhead press.

For this reason, the dumbbell thruster works the muscles of the legs and the muscles of the shoulders.

Thrusters have been popularized by the sport of Crossfit. The movement has a lot of application in building strength, size, and explosiveness. However, it’s extremely technically demanding and should not be attempted until other exercises and variations have been mastered.

Dumbbell Thruster Instructions

  1. Assume a slightly wider than shoulder width stance and clean two dumbbells to your shoulders with a neutral grip.
  2. Inhale and complete a normal front squat with the dumbbells in place by simultaneously flexing the knees and hips together.
  3. Press your whole foot into the floor and extend the legs.
  4. As you return to the starting position, utilize your momentum from the front squat to propel the dumbbells upward into a push press.
  5. Exhale once the dumbbells gets to lockout and reverse the movement slowly while controlling them back to your shoulders.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Dumbbell Thruster Tips

  1. The dumbbell variation may be more shoulder “friendly” given the neutral grip but as always, let pain be your guide. Never push through something that’s inherently painful.
  2. Reach tall at the top and don’t worry about keeping the shoulders packed down and back.
  3. Allow the elbows to rotate and point outward at the top of the movement but tuck them tight to the ribcage at the bottom.
  4. Squeeze your glutes and brace your abs as you press. You shouldn’t be leaning back excessively as you press.
  5. Imagine you’re trying to look out a window at the top, your ears should be in line with your biceps.
  6. If your shoulders are bothering you during the movement, consider experimenting with a wider grip or utilizing some of the vertical pressing progressions listed on the site.
  7. If you find the weight falling forward in the bottom of the front squat, you may need to address a lack of ankle dorsiflexion by putting your feet on plates (or using squat shoes) or perhaps a lack of thoracic extension which you can address with a foam roller.