Doing smith machine hip thrusts can be great but you may want other options. Find out what alternatives offer similar benefits.
The smith machine is especially useful for weighted hip thrusts because you have to pay less attention to keeping the bar in place. It can only go up or down.
Smith machine hip thrusts can still help you grow and strengthen the glute, hamstring, and to a smaller extent lower back muscles, help you burn calories, and offer other typical exercise benefits.
Whether you don’t enjoy smith machine hip thrusts, you don’t have a smith machine available, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these smith machine hip thrust substitutes can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
1. Hip thrust machine
Hip thrusts are such a popular exercise that they have their own machines. These vary in forms and sizes but inevitably have the same essential components.
These essential components include something to lean on with your back, something to put your feet on, and a way to put extra resistance on your hips. Exactly how to use each machine will vary from model to model.
This alternative allows you to pay even less attention to balance compared to smith machine hip thrusts. This can help you focus more on your glute training and in turn, possibly see more results.
For glute isolation exercises this is generally preferred but if you want to engage more balancing muscles other options on this list are generally better.
2. Hip thrusts with other equipment
The smith machine can be a great choice for this exercise but there are plenty of other hip thrust equipment options to choose from.
Some of these include a barbell, dumbbell, workout sandbag, resistance bands, and even a heavy backpack at home.
One alternative that resembles the smith machine in that you don’t have to pay a lot of attention to keeping the resistance in place is the resistance band.
Take the following steps to do a hip thrust with this equipment option:
- Anchor the resistance band right below your hips, below your feet, or at the bottom of the bench.
- Sit right in front of the bench or other object you will use with your back slightly over the edge. Make sure the object is stable. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width in a position where your knees will be at a 90-degree angle in the next step. Hold the resistance band over your hips.
- Move up your hips until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Slowly lower your body again.
Resistance bands can be a good option in the sense that you don’t need to balance them. However, a downside is that they are slightly more challenging to set up.
If you have a squat rack available you can likely use it for the resistance band version of this exercise but in other cases, you may have to get creative if you want to do hip thrusts at home.
3. Glute kickbacks
For cable glute kickbacks you preferably have a cable machine and an ankle strap attachment. Once you have these, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Put the cable pulley as close to the ground as possible and preferably use an ankle strap handle. You may be able to get away with a D-grip handle that option is a lot less safe.
- Stand with your face toward the cable machine and strap on the ankle band. You can hold the cable machine during the exercise for balance.
- Lean forward to about a 45-degree angle to a vertical line.
- Slowly move the foot with the strap back and with your knee slightly bent until your leg is stretched at an angle somewhat more vertical than just a horizontal line.
- Return your foot to starting position in a controlled motion.
You can also do this exercise with resistance bands and a good anchor and even smith machine glute kickbacks/donkey kicks but the cable machine is typically the most convenient.
It allows you to adjust the resistance precisely and gradually. Additionally, the tension is relatively constant throughout the movement.
As the name implies, the cable glute kickback is mainly a glute muscle isolation exercise. However, similar to smith machine hip thrusts, you inevitably engage other muscles like your hamstrings a nice amount too.
4. Good morning
The good morning exercise is usually done with a barbell but you can also other free weights, resistance bands, and gym machines like the cable machine or smith machine.
Even at home, you could use a weighted backpack to make the bodyweight version more challenging without machines. Take the following steps to do a good morning with a barbell:
- Find a squat rack and place the barbell at about chest height. Add the desired number of weight plates. If there are any safety bars adjust them to the right height.
- Stand under the barbell, push your shoulders up so that the barbell rests on your higher back, and hold it there with your hands.
- Unrack the barbell and take a few steps back so that you have room to do the exercise. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width.
- Tilt your upper body forward as far as is comfortable with a good posture (but not farther than a horizontal line). At the same time bend your knees a small amount.
- Return to the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.
- Rerack the barbell after your desired number of repetitions.
The good morning may look similar to the popular back squat exercise but you go a lot less through your knees.
This leads to more focus on your lower back, glute, hamstring, and erector spinae training and less on muscles like your calves and quadriceps.
The good morning can be a good smith machine hip thrust alternative if you like this different muscle engagement and don’t mind the extra balance required.
This exercise does not require a weight bench which can be a benefit. At the same time, if you plan to use a barbell you will still need a squat rack.
5. Glute bridges
Glute bridges are basically hip thrusts where you don’t use a weight bench and put your upper body on the ground instead. Take the following steps to do this exercise:
- Lie on your back on the floor or on some soft surface. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width at a distance where your lower legs are more or less vertical in the next step. If you want to, hold any weights on your body at the hip level. If not put your arms at your sides for balance.
- Move up your hips in a controlled motion until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Make sure your arms are only used for balance, not for pushing yourself up.
- Slowly lower your body again.
The main benefit of glute bridges is that you don’t need any machines like the smith machine or weight benches to do the exercise. You can easily do them at home with any compact resistance you can find.
A downside of glute bridges is that your glute muscles go through a smaller range of motion. This is generally suboptimal for muscle growth.
Additionally, holding resistance in place on your hips is even more challenging than regular glute bridges and the smith machine version.
6. Romanian deadlifts
To do the next smith machine hip thrust alternative you again need some form of external weights, preferably a barbell.
You could also use other free weights like dumbbells and possibly even resistance bands. One downside of these last options is that they may not be heavy enough for individuals more experienced with resistance training.
Take the following steps to do a Romanian deadlift:
- Set up a rack with a barbell at a height just below where your barbell is if you stand up straight with the barbell in your hands. Add the desired number of weight plates.
- Grab the barbell with a pronated grip which means with your hand palms pointing downward/backward. Unrack the barbell and take a few steps back so that you have room for the exercise. Stand up with your feet at more or less shoulder width and your knees slightly bent.
- Slightly tilt your upper body forward as far as you can without bending your back or knees or until the bar is right below knee height. The weight plates should not hit the ground.
- Slowly move back into the position of step 2.
Good technique is important in any exercise to avoid injuries but especially so for Romanian deadlifts. Before trying to deadlift the heaviest weights it is smart to improve your technique first by starting with light or no weights at all.
Similar to smith machine hip thrusts, Romanian deadlifts are a great exercise to work your glutes and hamstrings. Additionally, this alternative will work your lower back, erector spinae, grip, and trapezius muscles a lot.
Whether or not you want to do more of a compound glute exercise like this depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, and workout plan.