If You Only Do 1 Exercise To Get Fit And Build Muscle, This Is It (And It’s Not Burpees)

You may have heard that an hour a day of intense exercise, followed by 8 hours of incidental activity, is the ‘ideal’ for weight loss. However, when our physiology was being developed in this way, we were still cavemen running from Sabre-tooth tigers. Yep, seriously! In these more modern times, we just don’t operate the same way (not to mention that caves were mortgage-free back then). Okay, Tim-ism’s out of the way! As a society, we’ve never been more busy or stressed than we are today. So, to accommodate our 21st-century lives, it’s important to provide workouts that can be done in just 5-30min. As well as shining the spotlight on this one magic exercise that (almost) puts burpees to shame. Time to get fit and build muscle!

The magic exercise

Burpees (especially with the push-up in there) definitely improve both fitness and strength. But this intense exercise isn’t for everyone, especially those with low blood pressure. So what is this other wonder exercise that does it all? Well to spruik it’s resume, it’s an exercise that:

  1. Uses almost every muscle in the body.
  2. Gets the fittest of the fit puffed after a few reps.
  3. Can be easily adjusted to make things easier or harder.
  4. With one change can lean towards either more strength or endurance, depending on your goals.
  5. Is a functional move that we all need until the day we die.

It’s the ‘Thruster!’ For those of you not familiar with this exercise, the Thruster is a full squat where your butt almost touches the ground, immediately followed by a thrust upward and a shoulder press above your head. The momentum from your legs helps drive the dumbbells (or barbell, tin cans or milk jugs) directly over your head before you lower them back down to your shoulders and return to the low squat position.

get fit

Now! For the inside tips to cater it specifically to YOUR current goals:

To lose weight

Set up a timer to do 1 minute on, 1 minute off for 3-5 rounds. Grab a pair of tin cans or dumbbells (if you’ve got them) in your hands and attempt a full minute of thrusters without stopping. 

Note: Even if you think a couple of tin cans is too light, doing Thrusters for 1 minute without resting, will suck the oxygen out your lungs like a vacuum and get your heart rate sky high.

To get fit

If ‘Fitness’ is your main goal and you’re short on time, a ‘Tabata’ will sort you out in 4 agonizing minutes. Set up a timer to do 8 rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest and REALLY go for it. The benefits of this High Intensity Interval Training will be HUUUUUGE. But be warned, when executed at 100% intensity, this form of Thruster is extreme, and you will be in the hurt locker for the full 4 minutes.

I like doing this version with a barbell as you don’t need to focus on the stability of dumbbells, just the endless thrusting.

Note: There are dozens of Free Apps with timers, just Google ‘Tabata Apps’ and download one.

To build strength

If getting stronger is your goal, then consider adding extra weight. My suggestion: If you can get out 8 reps comfortably then increase the weight on the very next set. In terms of recovery, you should take at least 1 minute off or until you feel fully rested. Unlike the ‘Weight loss’ or ‘Fitness’ versions, your goal here is to lift as much weight as possible. So take as much rest as you need so that your energy is repleted and you’re ready to lift as heavy as you can in a safe manner. 2-4 sets of 8 reps will improve your strength nicely.

To increase power

If you play a sport that requires power (or you’re wanting to increase the speed at which you catch toys thrown at you by tantruming children) then the ‘Power Thruster’ is for you. The main difference between the strength and ‘Power Thruster’ is the speed you execute it. The Power Thrusters are done as heavy and fast as you can. My suggestion: If you can do 6 reps with speed and ease then increase the weight on the very next set. Just like strength training, you can rest for as long as you need in between sets. 3 working sets of 6 reps each is enough for most people.

So there you have it! 4 different ways of executing 1 exercise, making you fitter or stronger (or both), depending on your goals. 

To put the cherry on top of the Thruster cake: this exercise is very functional. Everyone needs to squat in life – sitting down, using the toilet, getting on and off the floor with little kids. So by practising this exercise regularly, you’ll not only get fit but you’ll live a more active and comfortable life in general. Win win if you ask me!

Interested in learning more about working out? Visit us at to discover our full range of fitness programs, catering from beginners to advanced, and get fit today!

Tim Pittorino, BHSC
Tim has been working in the Fitness Industry for over 25 years as Personal trainer, holistic health coach as well as an Australian strength & conditioning coach. Tim has a degree in Health Science and is currently completing a Masters in Human Nutrition. After studying all things physiological for 20 years Tim now enjoys branching out into the other areas of wellness including mental health and emotional resilience. Tim’s lifetime goal is to see just how good the human body can feel, he loves to continually experiment with tried and proven methods as well as trying all the cool new findings.

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