I had a very tough WOD yesterday involving hang clean thrusters, and can I tell you how sore I am? I was intrigued to learn the thruster because it looked similar to the power clean or deadlift high-pull, which are pretty standard strength exercises for rowing training. Boy was I surprised.
The WOD called for hang clean thrusters, in which you start standing with the bar at arms length. You then jump it up, shrug like a clean, catch it all the way down as low as you can go in a squat, and then in one incredible full-body motion explode it with the legs all the way up into an overhead press.
My form here is not great in that I am not locking the shoulder girdle at the top, but it gives you the idea: MVI_1058 by Crossfit Ignite
You might not think that the overhead aspect of this is applicable to the rowing stroke unless you are trying to lift a boat out of the water! What I found was that the mental aspect of trying to transfer power explosively from the low squat all the way up, constantly accelerating the bar, was analogous to racing at a high stroke rate in a fast quad or eight where things are happening so fast that it’s impossible to think about every aspect of the stroke. You just have to punch the legs and feel the stroke unfold. Mentally you have to carry the leg drive all the way through the finish, and then rebound away from the body very quickly to conserve momentum and let the boat run out. Adding the overhead aspect of the thruster requires you to carry the momentum while opening the upper body and back, just like at the finish of the stroke. In a standard power clean, the upper body is closed and compressed to support the bar. The open upper body is much more applicable to rowing, especially sculling. When I was doing these, the neurological feeling that came to mind was winning Masters Nationals in the quad in 2000 where our base rating was 38. Impossible to concentrate on the details, you just have to let it flow.
This is such a dynamic exercise that it is very taxing on the cardio system as well. In this video I was only doing sets of 10 reps at 75 lbs., but it was deadly. I look forward to refining my technique – this is possibly my new all-time favorite lift which will scare everyone else at the boathouse and gym but will translate directly into starts and sprints on the water. Today I woke up and could barely lift my arms. Onward and upward!