The standard burpee is rightly known as the king of bodyweight exercises, working multiple muscles groups as well as improving cardiovascular fitness. It is also, however, frightfully hard. Fortunately there is a slightly easier version of the burpee that will provide many of the same benefits without leaving you a broken mess on the floor of the gym. Meet the squat thrust.
Don’t be fooled into thinking squat thrusts are easy just because we’ve called them a beginner version of the burpee. You’re still going to be strengthening muscles all over the body and cranking up your heart rate. The lower-body muscles in particular – your quads, glutes and hamstrings – are called upon, and you’ll certainly feel a squat thrusts session in your core and shoulders the following day too.
The unweighted air squat and burpee are two of the best bodyweight exercises you can do, so it makes sense that combining elements of both creates a brilliantly effective move. The squat thrust is an explosive variation on the squat that adds more cardiovascular benefits and works as a stepping stone to (or mid-set step down from) the full burpee by omitting the jump.
Squat Thrust Benefits
Don’t be fooled into thinking squat thrusts are easy just because they’re two-thirds of a burpee. You’re still going to be strengthening muscles all over your body and cranking up your heart rate. The move calls upon your lower-body muscles in particular – your quads, glutes and hamstrings – and you’ll certainly feel the effects of a squat thrust session in your core and shoulders the following day too.
How To Do The Squat Thrust
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend down and place your hands on the floor. Kick your feet out behind you so that you end up in a top press-up position, then jump your feet back to your hands and stand up. At this point when doing a full burpee you’d explode into the air and throw your hands above your head, but this isn’t a full burpee, so you don’t have to do any of that. Instead drop down and do another squat thrust, and then another. Keep going for as many reps as possible in a minute, or whatever other interval you’re doing for a circuit.
Squat Thrust Variations
When you’ve got the squat thrust down, it’s time to take it up a notch with a full burpee. Drop down and perform the squat thrust as normal, but as you stand jump up and lift your hands above your head. Land softly and go straight into the next rep.
The next level up from the standard burpee involves doing a press-up at the bottom of each rep. Drop down and kick your feet back into a press-up position, perform a press-up, then come back up and jump, raising your hands above your head. The addition of the press-up will make your upper-body muscles, particularly the chest and triceps, work harder.
Squat thrust to dumbbell press
You don’t have to do press-ups to tax your upper body during a burpee if you don’t want to. Instead grab a set of light dumbbells, ideally with hexagonal weights so they will provide a stable base during the thrusting part of the exercise. Holding the dumbbells, drop down into a press-up position and perform your squat thrust, then when you stand back up press the weights straight up from your shoulders. This works the arms and shoulders, and if you really want to up the upper-body ante, you can always do a press-up during the exercise as well.
Workouts Which Feature The Squat Thrust
You may have mastered your squat thrust form, but unless you’re a fully trained PT it can be tricky to know when to deploy the move. Thankfully, we’ve asked lots of well-qualified PTs over the years for workouts and lo and behold, the squat thrust pops up time and time again.
The squat thrust features in this series of exclusive Joe Wicks workouts as well as in these cover model abs workouts. You’ll find the exercise features in two of these cardio workout challenges, and in the 10th of our 12 AMRAP workouts. Then the squat thrust is paired with the jump squat in this Third Space workout from trainers at the boutique gym – that’s a particularly spicy combo of leg exercises.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.