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February 12, 2023 6 min read

A squat thrust is a physical exercise that combines elements of a squat and a push-up. It involves starting in a standing position, then squatting down and placing the hands on the ground, kicking the feet back into a push-up position, then returning to the squat position, and finally standing back up. It is a full-body exercise that works several muscles and can improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, and balance.

A squat thrust is an excellent cardio and strength training exercise. It’s a calisthenic workout as it requires little to no gym equipment, using body weight instead. Squat thrust is a great warm-up exercise that hits a wide range of muscle groups. Such an exercise is usually performed quickly to boost its effectiveness.

Are squat thrusters the same as burpees?

No, squat thrusts are a component of burpees, an extremely effective exercise for shedding fat, strengthening endurance, and working the whole body. Burpees have gained a reputation as one of the toughest WODs due to their difficulty.

Both squat thrusts and burpees are compound bodyweight exercises, but they differ in their movement patterns. The burpee includes a push-up while in a plank position as well as a jump between each repetition, making it a more challenging exercise. If you are not yet confident with the burpee, it is advisable to practice squat thrusts first.

A Bit of History

In 1939, Royal H. Burpee, who was working toward a Ph.D. in applied physiology at Columbia University's Teacher's College, created the exercise that has come to bear his name as part of his doctoral work. Burpee was committed to deciphering a basic and essential idea: the means of assessing a person's physical fitness level.

Muscles Worked in Squat Thrusts

While squat thrusts might seem to be lower body exercise, with just your body weight, you can perform squat thrusts that target both your upper body and lower body muscles. Doing these at a high intensity will push up your heart rate and create a high need for oxygen. All of this can be done without equipment and in a space of only 6ft x 3ft.

Lower-body muscles – Image from Shutterstock

The primary muscle groups that work during squat thrusts include:

  1. Quadriceps: extend the knees and support the body.

  2. Hamstrings: flex the knees and assist in hip extension.

  3. Gluteus maximus and minimus: extend the hips and support the body.

  4. Abdominals: Stabilizes the spine and supports the body.

  5. Triceps: Extending the elbow joint during squat thrusts, helping to push the body back into the starting position.

How to do Squat Thrusts

The steps to perform a squat thrust are as follows:

Starting position: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your arms by your sides.

Here's how to do it:

  1. Squat down and place your hands on the floor in front of you, as if you were about to do a push-up.

  2. Kick your feet back, so that you are in a push-up or plank position with your arms extended and your body in a straight line from head to heels.

  3. Quickly bring your feet back up to the squatting position, then stand up and repeat.

  4. That completes one rep.

Start with 2 to 3 sets of squat thrusts, doing 12 to 20 reps each set. If you are a beginner, base your number of sets and reps on your ability to keep proper form during each one.

Proper Form for Squat Thrusts

It's important to keep your body in a straight line during the exercise and to use your core to control your movements. Squat thrusts can be done quickly for a cardio workout or done more slowly for increased strength and endurance.

However, proper form and technique are essential for optimizing the benefits squat thrusts offer.

Let's take it from the start.

  • At the beginning of your movement, have your feet slightly wider than your shoulders and your knees slightly bent.

  • Your shoulders should be lined up with your hips, and keep your chin slightly tucked in to keep your head and neck in a neutral position.

  • Secure your feet to the ground by firmly gripping the floor with your toes. Balance the weight of your body evenly across both feet.

  • Tighten your shoulders and hips, and brace your core. Pull your ribcage down and maintain a slightly tucked pelvis.

  • Your arms should remain long by your sides, with a slight bend in your elbows.

  • When you place your hands on the floor, keep them slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

  • Avoid arching your upper back and lifting your hips too high, and don’t let your hips drop while you are in the plank position. Brace your core throughout to avoid that.

  • When rising back to the starting position, press your feet onto the floor and focus on applying pressure with the middle of your foot and your heel while keeping your toes active.

  • As you begin to rise, squeeze your glute muscles and keep your chest high while you straighten your knees and thrust your hips forward.

  • As you finish each repetition, squeeze your quads and glutes while maintaining a neutral spine.

  • At the end of each rep, your shoulders should finish directly over your hips.

Squat Thrust – Image from Shutterstock

Benefits of Squat Thrusts

The many benefits that squat thrusts offer make them a valuable tool for your workout plan, whether you want to build strength or meet cardio fitness goals.

Total Body Workout

This exercise is a great way to get a full-body workout in a short amount of time. It targets your chest, shoulders, triceps, abs, hamstrings, glutes, and quads. You'll feel the most work in your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. If you're limited in time, this is a great exercise to do.


If you don't have access to any workout equipment at home or at the gym, squat thrusts are a great way to get in a quick and effective workout and build body strength. People new to the exercise can do the squat thrust without any gear, while those with more experience can add weights like kettlebells or dumbbells to make it more challenging. You can take your workout with you wherever you go, even if you're on vacation and don't have access to a gym.

Great Calorie Burner

The squat thrust is a great exercise for weight loss, especially if you can do them quickly to get the most out of it. This type of workout stimulates your body's post-exercise oxygen consumption, allowing you to continue burning calories even after the workout is over.

Knee Strength

Squat thrusts are an effective way to tone the hamstrings, which is great for knee health. The hamstrings give the knee stability and help to distribute the workload throughout the body. Keeping your knees healthy is essential for weightlifting and cardio activities like rowing or stepping.

Hip Mobility

Having limited hip mobility can be a hindrance while weight training, like doing deadlifts, so it's important to incorporate squat thrusts into your routine. Doing so increases the range of motion, which will prevent back pain because it helps to avoid strain on the lower back and keeps the knees safe from injury. Squat thrusters can also improve hip strength for when you do barbell hip thrusts.


The squat thrust is an effective, full-body exercise that can help improve strength, power, and endurance. With proper form, it is a safe and effective way to challenge all major muscle groups, including the chest, shoulders, arms, and legs.

If you can follow the steps and proper form outlined in this article, you can begin to incorporate this exercise into your workout routine.

With practice, you can achieve maximum benefit from this exercise and reach your fitness goals, and once you master the technique and form you can take your squat thrust to the next level by adding a resistance band or weights like dumbbells or a kettlebell to do weighted squats.

Be Safe

To make sure you are consistently getting stronger and seeing results, make sure your fitness program includes proper warm-ups, rest, and nutrition. Rest is essential for progress, so take at least 24–48 hours after training the same muscle group to give your body enough time to recover.

If you have an existing medical condition, make sure to speak to your doctor before starting a workout routine. It's key to use the correct form for each exercise to make sure the program is safe and effective, but modifications may be needed based on your specific needs. A personal trainer can help in this regard. As you exercise, pay attention to your body and stop immediately if you feel pain or discomfort.