How To Do Hip Thrusts On A Smith Machine

Smith machine hip thrusts present a unique take on the traditional barbell hip thrust exercise, by replacing the barbell with a fixed bar attached to a track in a smith machine. 

The key benefit of incorporating the smith machine into hip thrusts is the heightened stability it provides, enabling a more concentrated focus on engaging targeted muscles, particularly the glutes. Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge that the setup for the smith machine hip thrust can be somewhat cumbersome and restrictive, and may not work for everyone. 

In this article, we’ll share the key principles of executing an excellent hip thrust with the smith machine. We’ll also offer key coaching cues and address common mistakes often seen when performing hip thrusts.

A Step-By-Step Guide To Performing The Smith Machine Hip Thrust

  • Set Up: Position yourself seated on the ground with a stable bench directly behind you. Adjust the hight of the smith machine bar to align with your hips, use a padded mat or gym mat for comfort. 
  • Positioning: Lean against the bench so that it supports your upper back. The bench should be just below you’re shoulder blades. Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Ensure the smith machine bar is directly above your hips. 
  • Execution: Unrack the bar on the smith machine and place the bar over your hips. Then, drive through your heals to lift your hips, squeezing your glutes at the top. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. 
  • Return: Lower your hips back o the starting position without your glutes touching the floor, and repeat that movement for each repetition.

Initial Position

Begin by sitting on the ground, aligning your upper back with a stable bench positioned behind you and your hips positioned in the centre under the smith machine bar. Ensure that the bench is at the correct hight, providing comfort for your shoulder blades. 

Unracking the Bar

Grasp the bar on the smith machine with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Rotate the bar off the hooks and lower the bar to rest over your hips. 

Lifting Phase

Press your feet firmley into the ground, directing the force through your heals. As you lift your hips, extend your hips utilizing the resistance provided by the smith machine bar. Maintain a neutral spine and maintain a neutral neck position to avoid over-arching your back. Focus on contracting your glutes, ensuring your hips reach full extension and align with your knees and shoulders.

Top Position

At the peak of the movement, your body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees. Make sure your hips are fully extended, and your glutes and tightly squeezed. Engage your core to prevent hyperextension of the lower back, maintaining proper alignment and maximizing the effectiveness of the exercise.

Lowering Phase

Initiate the descent by lowering your hips back to the starting position in a controlled way. Throughout the lowering phase, maintain tension in your glutes and core to protect your lower back. Gently touch the ground with your hips before smoothly transitioning into the next repetition. 

Coaching Cues

  • Internal Cues:
    • “Squeeze your glutes as if you’re holding a coin between them.”
    • “Imagine pushing the floor away with your heels.”
    • “Engage your core as if bracing for a punch.”
  • External Cues:
    • “Drive your hips toward the ceiling.”
    • “Think of forming a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.”
    • “Keep the barbell path straight and vertical.”
    • “Press the bench down with your upper back.”

Different athletes may find certain cues more effective than others. Internal cues focus on the feeling and muscle engagement, while external cues are about the movement and interaction with the environment. Experiment to find which cues work best for you or your athletes.

Common Mistakes When Performing The Smitch Machine Hip Thrust

Smith machine hip thrusts, are often subject to common errors. Recognizing and correcting these mistakes is crucial for maximizing the benefits of the exercise and minimizing the risk of injury.

Mistake: Arching the Lower Back

Correction: To correct over-arching of the lower back, focus on maintaining a neutral spine throughout the movement. A useful coaching cue is to “brace your core as if you’re about to be punched in the stomach.” This engages the abdominal muscles, supporting the spine and preventing excessive arching. Practicing pelvic tilts as a separate exercise can also help in understanding and controlling pelvic and spinal positioning.

Mistake: Not Fully Extending the Hips

Correction: Full hip extension is key to getting the most out of the hip thrust. A good cue to address this is “drive your hips upward until they’re in line with your knees and shoulders.” To practice this, try doing glute bridges before progressing to barbell hip thrusts. Glute bridges involve a similar movement pattern and can help in developing a sense of full hip extension.

Mistake: Rising onto Toes

Correction: Lifting the heels and rising onto the toes shifts the focus away from the glutes. To correct this, the cue “keep your heels planted firmly on the ground” can be effective. Additionally, practicing the movement barefoot or in flat-soled shoes can enhance the connection with the ground and encourage proper heel drive.

Mistake: Neck Hyperextension

Correction: Hyperextending the neck can strain the cervical spine. To avoid this, use the cue “keep your chin tucked and gaze forward.” This helps in aligning the neck with the rest of the spine. Performing the exercise in front of a mirror can provide visual feedback and assist in maintaining proper neck alignment.

Mistake: Uneven Weight Distribution

Correction: Uneven weight distribution can lead to muscle imbalances and reduced effectiveness. The cue “distribute your weight evenly across both feet” can be helpful. Another approach is to start with single-leg hip thrusts to develop balanced strength and awareness in each leg before progressing to the standard barbell hip thrust.

By addressing these common mistakes with appropriate cues and practice tasks, beginners and intermediates can significantly improve their technique and effectiveness in performing hip thrusts using the smith machine.

Summary

Understanding and practicing these fundamental aspects of hip thrusts will ensure a safe and effective workout, especially for those just starting with this exercise. Remember, proper form is key to reaping the full benefits of hip thrusts on the smith machine and avoiding injury.

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Golf Insider UK | Website | + posts

Will is a sport scientist and golf professional who specialises in motor control and motor learning. Will lecturers part-time in motor control and biomechanics, runs Golf Insider UK and consults elite athletes who are interested in optimising their training and performance.