Smith Machine Hip Thrusts

If you are looking to build strong glutes and hamstrings then one of the best exercises you can do are hip thrusts.

While there are several ways to do hip thrusts, if you are new to the exercise then using a Smith machine is a great way to focus on your form.

For anybody who doesn't know what a Smith machine or hip thrusts are, no worries, we'll show you everything you need to know below. Plus we will give you a step-by-step guide on how to perform Smith machine hip thrusts.

Proper Form for a Smith Machine Hip Thrust


What’s a Smith Machine?

The Smith machine is considered one of the most versatile pieces of weight training equipment at any gym.

A smith machine generally consists of vertical steel bars to which steel rails are affixed to. These steel rails hold a barbell that moves up and down along the rails, otherwise known as a track.

Some smith machines may come with special systems to assist with the lifting process. smith machines also come with safety stops and special mechanisms to allow you to rack the barbell virtually anywhere along the track.

It's a fantastic machine for doing a variety of exercises, whether shoulder or bench presses, lunges, squats, deadlifts, and yes, thrusts.

Many people prefer using a Smith machine as opposed to doing exercises with a regular barbell, mainly because the Smith machine acts as a spotter for you, therefore making it much safer.

It's a great machine to have for people who need to do heavy lifting but don't have a spotter. Furthermore, because the barbell is fixed to a rail or track, it allows you to really focus on your range of motion, your movement, and the weight that you are lifting. A smith machine, unlike a regular barbell, doesn't force you to balance, which for many people is ideal.

Related: Which is better, Smith Machine vs Squat Rack


What Is a Hip Thrust?

Hip Thrust

We then have the hip thrust, which in some cases may also be called a hip thruster.

This is a strength training exercise that targets your hips, glutes, and your lower back muscles. This is an exercise that many people perform by sitting on the floor with their backs on a bench or other elevated surface, and their feet flat on the floor.

Hip thrusts can be done with a barbell across your hips, and then with your behind on the ground, thrust upwards into the ceiling, using your glutes and legs for the motion.

In other words, imagine thrusting a barbell into the air using your pelvis.

What is important to note is that although the hip thrust is mainly about targeting your glutes, it also targets other parts of the legs, mainly the quads and your hamstrings.

It's a great exercise for improving your overall lower body strength, your balance, your flexibility, and your hip extension. Depending on your fitness level, you might choose to use different weight levels for your hip thrusts.

Related: Hack Squat Alternative Exercises


How to Set Up For a Hip Thrust on a Smith Machine

While it is true that the Smith machine allows you to maintain great form because the barbell is on a guided rail, you still need to have the right technique when doing hip thrusts, or else you might end up hurting yourself. 

At the very least, if you aren't using the proper form or technique, you won't get the results that you're looking for, even if you are lucky enough to not injure yourself.

Therefore, before you start doing your hip thrusts, you have to create the proper setup, and it all starts by putting a bench behind you to support your shoulder blades.

Remember, your upper back, and your shoulders, will be leaning on and partially supported by that bench.

When positioning the bench, make sure to place it close enough to the Smith machine so that your shoulders can rest on the bench with your hips under the barbell.

If you think that the barbell is going to hurt your hips and pelvis, consider putting some kind of pad or mat across it.

If this is your first time doing a hip thrust with a Smith machine, it's wise to do so without any added weight.

Remember that the barbell on a Smith machine already weighs quite a few pounds, so doing this exercise without any additional weight will allow you to get a good feel for things.

Related Exercise: How to do Smith machine squats.


Proper Form for a Smith Machine Hip Thrust – Step-by-Step

As we said before, the hip thrust is a fantastic exercise, but you have to do it properly. This means that you need to keep your hips extended throughout the movement, your back has to be straight, and your core needs to be engaged the whole time.

If you follow all of these tips, doing Smith machine hip thrust should be quite successful, particularly when it comes to targeting the muscles in your lower back, hips, and glutes.

If you feel pain in your back, especially in your lower back, you may need to slightly change position or reduce the amount of weight you are trying to lift. Right now, we want to provide you with a step-by-step guide on exactly how to do Smith machine hip thrusts with the proper form.

  1. Start by placing yourself on the floor with your shoulder blades, and your scapula, right against the bench. Make sure that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are bent, with your hips under the barbell. You want to make sure that your feet are very firmly planted so you can maintain stability during the hip thrust.
  2. Once you have your position down, you can put some weight onto the bar. If you are a beginner, start with just a few pounds. Remember, lifting weight is more about form and technique than it is about the actual amount of weight. Of course, if you consider yourself to be quite strong, put on a couple of plates per side.
  3. Remember that throughout this exercise, your back needs to be straight and your core should be totally engaged. Furthermore, your knees should always be bent 90 degrees, with your chin tucked into your chest.
  4. Now is the time to actually do the exercise. Using your glute and hamstring muscles, thrust your hips straight up into the air, driving the barbell upwards. When you are at the top of the movement, your hips should be fully extended, so that your body creates a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. You can now pause at the top for a few moments, while squeezing your glutes as tightly as you can, to allow for maximum muscle activation.
  5. You'll now lower your hips back to the ground, to your original starting position. Make sure that you move slowly and maintain control during this movement, because you don't want the barbell crashing down onto your hips. 


What Muscles do Smith Machine Hip Thrusts Work?

Many people wonder which muscles are worked by the smith machine hip thrust. The reality is that although your glutes are the main target here, this is just one of many.

Your hip abductors, adductors, your quadriceps, your core, and your lower back all get a solid workout from the smith machine hip thrust.

Just imagine it this way, when you first start to push the barbell into the air, you have to contract your core, which therefore engages your abdominal muscles.

During the whole movement, especially when you are at the top and squeezing, you really activate your glutes.

Furthermore, during that same upward motion, your hamstrings, lower back, and quadriceps are all required to push upwards.

Both your adductors and abductors are used the whole time to ensure balance and stability. Let's take a quick look at each of the main muscles or muscle groups that the smith machine hip thrust targets, and why this is so important.


Adductor Muscle

What many people might not know is that the hip thrust is fantastic for targeting the adductor muscles.

These are muscles on the inside of your thigh that allow you to bring your legs together.

When you are doing the Smith machine hip thrust, these muscles help to stabilize you. These are very important muscles for many activities throughout your daily life.



Glutes Muscle

As mentioned several times now, the glutes are the main muscles targeted by the hip thrust. For the record, there are three parts of the glute, the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus.

In fact, these come together to form what is essentially the largest muscle group in the human body.

These are very important muscles for jumping, running, walking, and more. The issue for so many people is that sitting down all day does nothing to train these muscles, which can result in great weakness and an inability to run for prolonged periods of time or to jump very high.

The worst case scenario is that you become very stiff and immobile if your glutes are not well-trained and maintained.



Quadriceps Muscle

The quadriceps are technically a group of muscles composed of four muscles, which include the Rectus femoris, Vastus lateralis, Vastus medialis, and the Vastus intermedius. Your quadriceps are what help you extend your leg and they help keep you upright.

You need these muscles for running, jumping, kicking, and even for just walking upstairs. If you have weak quads, it can make sitting down and getting up quite difficult. What it comes down to is that your quadriceps muscles are what control knee extension, which means that you literally need your quadriceps to straighten your legs.

Related: Leg Extension Alternative Exercises



Hamstring Muscle

The other main muscle group activated by the hip thrust are the hamstrings, which are made-up up of three muscles. These include the Biceps femoris, Semitendinosus, and Semimembranosus.

The reason why your hamstrings are so important is because they help you extend your hips and knees.

Without your hamstrings, you really can't bend over, run, jump, or even walk for that matter. Having weak hamstrings is one of the biggest causes of a variety of sports injuries.


The Benefits - Why Do Smith Machine Hip Thrusts?

Something you might be wondering now is what all of the main benefits of doing hip thrusts with a Smith machine are.


Stronger Muscles

As you've probably gathered by now, one of the biggest benefits of doing a Smith machine hip thrust is that it strengthens your muscles. This is true mainly of your glutes, but also your quads, hamstrings, and more.


Reducing the Risk of Injury

If you have weak hamstrings, quads, and a weak lower back, these are all issues that can easily lead to injuries, both during sports and in your everyday life. By strengthening all of the relevant muscles with Smith machine hip thrusts, you can help avoid such injuries from occurring.


Better Mobility

Hip and leg mobility both decrease as we age, and this lack of mobility often leads to slips and falls, and ultimately injuries. At the very least, limited mobility makes it hard to move around. By strengthening the muscles around your hip joint, as well as surrounding muscles, you can help maintain maximum mobility.


Maintaining Balance

Balance is closely related to muscle strength and mobility. The easier you can move your legs and hips, and the stronger those muscles are, the better you will be able to balance.


Overall Athletic Performance Benefits

What it comes down to is that all of the muscles trained by the hip thrusts are the muscles that you would use in virtually every sport in the world. Whether you have to run, walk, jog, jump, kick, or anything in between, the hip thrust will train at least some of the muscles that you use for all of these activities.

Related: Find out what muscles are worked by leg extensions.


Recommended Accessories for Smith Machine Hip Thrusts

Barbell Pad

If you are planning on doing hip thrusts, there is one main accessory that you might want to purchase for yourself, and that is a pad for the barbell.

The reality is that those barbells are made out of solid metal, and when there are dozens, or potentially hundreds of pounds pressing down on your pelvis, hips, and midsection, it can be quite painful.

In fact, many people don't do hip thrusts with a smith machine barbell for this exact reason. However, with a simple pad for hip thrusts, you can completely avoid this painful problem.


Doing smith Machine Hip Thrusts vs Barbell Hip Thrusts

If you're wondering why you wouldn't just use a regular barbell for doing hip thrusts, the answer is quite simple, because with a smith machine, you don't have to balance.

It's just something that makes everything a whole lot easier because you don't have to focus on balancing along with having to focus on proper form and actually managing to lift the weight.


Rounding Up

There you have it folks, everything that you need to know about the smith machine hip thrust.

As you can see, it's a fantastic exercise for training a wide variety of muscles, which then leads to a plethora of benefits for your body.

If you haven't done a smith machine hip thrust before, we certainly recommend giving it a try.

Author's Photo

William Parrett

Will, co-founder of Home Gym Supply, launched the company in 2019 after 15-years in the fitness industry. His expertise stems not only from his professional background but also from his athletic pursuits. A former competitor in the World Beauty Fitness & Fashion (WBFF) and a competitive rugby player, Will has always been dedicated to health and fitness.