by: Adam benShea
You’re hanging out at home, a border town hotel, or an abandoned gun club on the Gulf coast. This leaves you with some time for reflection.
Coffee in hand, you remember being a kid and hearing your grandpa reminisce about the old days. One of the many things you noticed about him was the way his broad shoulders filled out his polo shirt. On a particular occasion you asked him how he stayed strong and in shape.
He replied with two words: “squat thrust.”
He’d starting doing them during his GI days in WWII and he kept at it.
The movement was invented by Royal Huddleston Burpee in 1940 as part of his PhD thesis in applied physiology at Columbia University. Popularized during the Second World War, it was used by the US Armed Services as a quick and simple way to assess the agility, coordination, strength, and overall fitness of new recruits.
Also known as the “four count burpee,” the movement may be done in four steps:
- Begin in a standing position.
- Move into a squat position with your hands on the ground. (count 1)
- Kick your feet back into a plank position, while keeping your arms extended. (count 2)
- Immediately return your feet into squat position. (count 3)
- Stand up from the squat position (count 4)
Initially, when the military started using this exercise in 1942, soldiers were instructed to do squat thrusts for twenty seconds straight. However, by 1946, the military called for one full minute of squat thrusts. Forty one reps inside of a minute was considered excellent and fewer than twenty seven reps was considered poor.
Different from the burpee popularized by CrossFit and other trendy workouts, the squat thrust does not include a push up or a jump. This makes it a good alternative for those of you carrying more bodyweight or with any type of joint issues. The squat thrust is also beneficial because of its similarity to the sprawl in grappling, or the motion of kicking back your legs to block a takedown. This gives the squat thrust direct functionality for any type of #GASSTATIONREADY scenario, where you do not want to be taken down.
To stay with Dr. Burpee’s philosophy that these should not be performed in high reps, break up the sets with active recovery as a means to keep the overall volume high.
To start, you can do a five by five. Do five squat thrusts walk five steps, complete five more, and continue for five reps. When finished, you will have completed twenty five reps. When you can do this with good form, follow the rule of progressive overload and increase the workload. You can attempt six by six, then seven by seven, and on to eight by eight (where you do eight squat thrusts, walk eight steps, and continue for eight sets) and on from there. You get the idea.
Keeping the reps low but the volume high, will allow your form to be maintained (thus decreasing the likelihood of overuse injuries) while getting stronger, harder, and leaner.
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