Friday, September 13, 2013

Smith Machine Hip Thrust (Yes, I Found A Use For The Smith Machine)

Unless you spend your time hanging out at LA Fitness and reading back issues of Flex magazine you are probably aware of an exercise called the Barbell Hip Thrust as popularised by The Glute Guy Himself Bret Contreras.

Contreras has shown this exercise to have high levels of glute activation and if you want to have a strong booty this is a 'go to' exercises. However, I have noted that many women seem to avoid it for a several reasons:

  1. They have to venture into the freeweight area and negotiate guys doing their third chest and bicep workout of the week and have to put up with their braying stares as they set up.
  2. The set up can be awkward for both men and women. But I think especially for women, as they can probably hip thrust some heavy weights, normally way more than they can bench press and in many cases probably more than they can squat. So loading up the bar and getting set up can take time.
  3. They then have to position themselves under the bar and bridge up. This requires them to stabilise the bar with their hands and I have a had a few people who are not so confident about this.
  4. One of the common errors I see, is people drifting up the bench, or 'travelling' thus turning it into more of a leg press, as their body tries to desperately avoid activating their dormant posterior chain.

Of course, it turns out I didn't invent the Smith Machine version but I like it for several reasons
  1. Set up is easier. You can load up the bar and then when you are ready twist it and let the weight down onto your hips.
  2. No need to worry about stabilising the bar with your hands. It's going to stay in place. And at anytime you can re-rack.
  3. In the video you can see that the Smith Machine we are using doesn't let you go all the way down to the bottom and get a fuller range of movement. At first I thought this would be a problem but it turned out to be advantageous. Firstly, it allows for a more continuous tension on the glutes. Secondly, its easier to get out of at the bottom. Thirdly, it really lends itself to pumping and partial reps.
  4. The bar moves in a vertical path. It's much harder to cheat on this movement. I've had people who could only feel the traditional hip thrust in their back or hamstrings, despite coaching and cueing. As soon as I put them on the Smith Machine version they could feel their glutes activating for the first time. It is much harder to travel up the bench and turn it into a leg press, as you will feel the bar moving down your legs away from you.
Several women in the gym have tried this and they have all said that this is best glute activation/soreness they have felt with any exercise.

I like moderately high reps with this exercise, sets of 15-20 reps and finishing some sets with partial reps and iso holds for good measure.

The only issue you are going to have is accessing the Smith Machine if there is a group of 16 year olds on it doing partial assisted 1 rep max bench press day or some old skool fella doing his behind the neck press supersetted with shrugs workout. 

This doesn't mean don't do glute bridges and thrusts with the barbell or bodyweight versions (another version I like is with the sand bag) but its something else to add into the exercise tool box.

Now I think about it, there are a few other exercises that the Smith Machine is good for if you have access to one:

  1. Inverted Rows (also known as fat man pull ups or as named by James Exall 'Lazy Boys')
  2. Side stepping over it like a hurdle for hip mobility. This is good because you can adjust the height of the bar
  3. Press up progression, start with the bar high, steep body angle, progress down to a flatter press up position. Similar to what you can do with a suspension trainer/ TRX, but more stable.
  4. Chest/ Lat stretch
  5. Possibly a one leg squat variation.
  6. Hanging your coat on
  7. Frees up the power racks and bench presses because of all the people doing their partial rep bench presses and squats on it.
I will add in videos of the above exercises at some point. In the mean time give the Smith Machine Hip Thrust a go.