There are very few exercises that are as good as the good morning in training the muscles of the posterior chain.
In this post, you will:
- The benefits of the good morning exercise,
- how to do it correctly,
- and other variations / alternatives you can try to target the same muscle groups.
Let’s get started
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Okay, let’s get started.
GOOD MORNING EXERCISE FORM VIDEO
BENEFITS OF THE GOOD MORNING EXERCISE
- It strengthens the lower back, abdominals, glutes, and hamstring muscles
- Increases hamstring length
- It helps eliminate muscular imbalances that exist between the quads and the hamstrings
MUSCLES WORKED DURING THE GOOD MORNING
The good morning works the posterior chain muscles, which include:
- Lower Back (Spinal Erectors)
- Upper back muscles
HOW TO PERFORM THE GOOD MORNING WITH PROPER FORM (WITH IMAGES)
- Place a barbell in a squat rack at the mid-chest height (above the nipple)
- Set your grip on the bar just outside of shoulder-width with your thumbs wrapped around the bar
- Dive underneath the bar, retract your shoulder blades and position it on the natural shelf created between your trap muscles and posterior shoulders
- Unrack the weight and take up to three steps back from the rack
- Set your feet shoulder-width with your feet pointing forward
- Take a big breath and begin the movement by pushing your butt back while keeping your chest proud and your back flat
- I.e., the action comes from flexing the hips, NOT flexing the spine
- Focus on trying to touch an imaginary wall behind you with your butt
- As your torso begins to lower toward the ground, maintain a very slight bend at the knee
- Keep pushing your hips back until you feel a long stretch in the hamstrings muscles
- Initially, your range of motion may be limited due to tight hamstrings
- Only go as far as you can tolerate the stretch, AND you can maintain a neutral spine position
- Reverse the movement by pushing your hips forward and squeezing your glutes back to the starting position
- Overtime your mobility will improve, and you will be able to do this movement with a full range of motion
- NEVER bend at the spine
- Repeat for the desired amount of repetitions
NOT LEADING WITH THE HIPS
The most common mistake when doing this exercise is bending or flexing the torso instead of bending at the hip.
You must do this movement with perfect form, especially if you are adding external resistance!
Lead with the hips. My best form tip is to try and touch the wall behind you with your buttocks.
You should feel a good stretch in your hamstrings on each repetition.
LETTING THE SPINE ROUND
This exercise (like any) could be potentially dangerous. Always exercise caution and use good technique.
Your spinal alignment should never change throughout the movement. Keep your core braced and use light weight until you have mastered the ability to maintain a flat back.
You could even do a bodyweight variation or use something light like a PVC pipe.
BENDING THE KNEES TOO MUCH
If you overly bend at the knee, your quadriceps will get involved. This exercise is for the posterior chain, not the quads.
By the way… the good morning is just one of several compound exercises you should be doing.
To see a list of the most important exercises, check out our E-book that goes over all the best compound movements for the entire body!
I also review them in The Best Compound Exercises of All Time.
OTHER RELATED QUESTIONS
What type of exercise is The good morning?
The good morning is a hip hinge exercise, similar to the deadlift. Hip hinge exercises train the muscles of the posterior chain which includes the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles.
What’s the difference between good mornings and deadlifts?
The main difference between the good morning and the deadlift is the moment arm or the distance between the barbell and your lower back.
In the good morning, the moment arm is greater, which means more force is applied to your lower back, and you have to work harder to lift the weight. As a result, the good morning is a more challenging exercise.
The bar is much closer to your center of gravity in the deadlift, so less stress is placed on the lower back.
However, both movements effectively build a strong posterior chain through hip extension.
Is The good morning a good exercise?
The good morning is a great exercise for strengthening the posterior chain muscles. However, as with many exercises, the good morning has a high risk of injury if you don’t perform it correctly or use a weight that is too heavy.
How heavy should good mornings be?
You do not need to use a heavy weight for the good morning to be effective. For most people, I recommend lifting between 45 lbs (the empty bar) to 135 lbs.
Using a weight where you can get at least 6 to 12 repetitions per set (the hypertrophy rep range) is a good idea.
Are good mornings good for posture?
Good mornings have the potential to improve your posture if you suffer from a weak posterior chain and an overly dominant anterior side. However, it is likely that you will also need to strengthen your core and stretch your hip flexors as well.
Can You Do The good morning exercise with dumbbells?
Yes, you can perform the good morning with dumbbells. This variation is great if you don’t have access to a barbell or if 45 lbs is too heavy for you.
You can also do a good morning variation with resistance bands! This is a great way to get comfortable with the hip-hinge movement.
What about the seated good morning exercise?
The seated good morning is another great variation to isolate and improve the strength of the spinal erector muscles. In this video, Ben Patrick (aka Knees Over Toes Guy) explains how to do exercise in a seated position.
The seated version is better than the standing version if you only want to improve lower back strength and hip mobility.
The standing version is better if you want to strengthen the entire posterior chain.
Does This Exercise help The squat?
Yes, the good morning is a great exercise to improve the squat and deadlift as it trains similar muscle groups. In fact, the set-up for the good morning and the back squat is exactly the same.
INTEGRATING THE GOOD MORNING EXERCISE INTO YOUR WORKOUT
Want to know how to use this exercise in your workout? Check out The Best Workout Template For Busy Individuals to learn how to build functional strength on a busy schedule.
WHAT CAN I DO INSTEAD OF GOOD MORNINGS?
If you are unable to do the good morning, here is a list of other alternative exercises to build the same muscle groups.
- Trap Bar Deadlift
- Romanian Deadlifts
- Kettlebell Swing
- Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
- Cable Pull Through
Want to see other great leg exercises like this one? Learn The Best Leg Exercises to Develop a Strong Lower Body.
Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM Certified Personal Trainers, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a resource dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals using time-efficient strategies. Their advice has been featured in My Fitness Pal, Prevention, Livestrong, Reader’s Digest, Bustle, The Active Times, and more. Learn more about them here.