It's been a while. So much has been happening that I have neglected to send any mail to my faithful subscribers. The site has been updated a few times, head on over and check out the blog for updates.

We've had a new addition to our household recently, a lovely baby girl. This has kept me rather busy. But now I'm back on track and ready to share some information with you.

The following article is on the powerclean thruster, an exercise I consider to be one of the most complete and effective strength and power exercises I can think of. So here it is...

Powerclean thrusters are, in my opinion, one of the most complete and effective strength and conditioning exercises a person can do. So what is a powerclean thruster? First of all the term is one that I invented because I couldn’t find evidence of the exercise anywhere else. This exercise is a combination of two exercises that are, in their own right, very effective on their own. The exercise is simply a powerclean followed by a thruster.

The powerclean is an abbreviated version of the clean that you see in Olympic weight lifting. During the Olympic clean and jerk you see the lifter power the bar up then throw themselves right under it and stand ready for the jerk portion. The powerclean is the same movement without ‘catching’ the bar in a full squat. There is simply a small dip at the knees before standing.

The thruster involves holding the bar as if you are starting an overhead press then squatting deep and powering up while using the momentum to thrust the bar overhead in the standing position.

Powerclean thrusters involve a combination of these two exercises. Simply perform a powerclean then straight into a thruster. That’s one rep. Let the bar down, lean forward back to the starting position and repeat.

Why So Effective?

This exercise is so effective because it involves many different movement patterns. You begin with a deadlift, into a shrug, then a partial upright row and into a quarter squat position. The second part of the movement involves a deep front squat, power up to standing position while performing an overhead press or push press.

All major movements are covered in powerclean thrusters. However this is not the only reason for their effectiveness. There are several other reasons why this exercise works so well. These are listed below…

  • A major movement such as this involves extremely high metabolic demands. This means that the neuroendocrine response is huge. Hormones are stimulated such as growth hormone, testosterone among others. Also stimulated is the burning of a large number of calories. This is evident in the high cardiovascular demand.

  • Strength and power are both developed during powerclean thrusters. This has been discussed elsewhere on this site, so I will only briefly cover it here. When you lift a weight at a given speed you are stimulating strength gains for lifting at ‘that’ speed and anything slower. Most athletic movements involve rapid motion, which requires a high output of force in a short period of time. This exercise is a strength movement in that it involves considerable loads and a power exercise in that the movement needs to be performed rapidly. This makes powerclean thrusters an extremely effective athletic movement.

  • Sequential muscle activation is very high during this exercise. Exercises that involve one plane of movement such as most isolation exercises only stimulate the contraction of a single muscle or small group of muscles. Powerclean thrusters stimulate the sequential contraction of multiple muscle groups, simulating large motor skills required in many activities.

  • Finally, this is an exercise that can form the core of a strength and power program, with all other exercises being auxiliary to this one. The reason has been discussed above.

Putting it Into Practice

Now for the fun part, putting this exercise into a program. Powerclean thrusters can be incorporated into an effective strength and conditioning program as a core component. The nature of the exercise is such that it can be used for many different outcomes. High repetitions can be utilised with lighter weight for a highly metabolically demanding workout. Low reps can be used for major strength and power conditioning and so on.

Lets look at a few simple guidelines first before putting this great exercise into practice…

  • First of all powerclean thrusters should form the core of the workout it is involved in. This means that few other exercises need be included.

  • Work from lighter sets to heavier sets while reducing reps. For example you might want to begin with sets of five reps until the weight becomes significant, then continue adding more weight while decreasing reps until you get to a single rep.

  • Learn the exercise thoroughly before using it. The powerclean thruster is a highly complex movement pattern, hence it takes skill to perform safely. Begin with an unweighted bar and work on the movement until it perfected. Then begin adding weight gradually until you get used to performing it with increased weight.

A Sample Program

The following is a sample program incorporating the powerclean thruster. This program is basic in nature and serves simply to illustrate what can be done and where it fits best. Note that it is included quite frequently throughout the rotation, this is keeping in line with the principle of greasing the groove. Read about this principle elsewhere on this site. It is covered frequently.

Lets assume that we are training a team sport athlete such as a water polo, rugby or American football player for this example. It can also be used for non-athletes.

Another thing to note is to keep periodisation in mind when creating strength and conditioning programs. People can’t adapt indefinitely if the stimulus is simply increased linearly. This example is just here as a snapshot example of what part of what a meso-cycle might look like coming up to peak season.

Day One

Warm-up with back squats beginning with 20% of max for 10 reps then 30%, 40% and 50% for 8, 6 and 4 reps respectively. Then perform overhead presses using the same guidelines.

Powerclean thrusters for 5-5-5-4-3-2-1 reps

With the following percentages: 60%, 65%, 65%, 70%, 80%, 85% and 90%

Day Two

Auxiliary strength and power work. Be sure to perform a relevant warm-up.

Back squat for 5 x 5 reps working from 60% to 80%

Bent over row for 3 x 5 working from 60% to 80%

Incline bench press for 3 x 5 working from 60% to 80%

Day Three

Lower body plyometrics and medicine ball throws.

Day Four

Repeat day one and add triple broad jumps after each set.

Day Five

Repeat day one but begin with three sets of three heavy front squats.

Day Six

Warm up thoroughly then work on single reps of powerclean thrusters. Complete 8-10 sets. Each single-rep set should be followed immediately by two squat jumps.

Day Seven


Note that this program involves highly frequent sessions with little rest days. This is ok to do because the nature of each session is low volume and should involve very little fatigue and rapid recovery. Remember though that cumulative overtraining can occur if not periodised correctly.

That concludes our article on powerclean thrusters. Remember that the program example is simply used to illustrate how it might be incorporated into a strength and conditioning program. There are literally endless possibilities.

The powerclean thruster has been utilised on many athletes I have personally trained to great effect. Some of the results I initially witnessed truly amazed me. The best results came from moderately conditioned athletes that had a foundation of performing squats and other athletic compound movements.

See you next time.

Chris Lyons.
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