Good Mornings: A Weight-Lifting Exercise

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by Devin Sarno, NSCA-CPT

Good Mornings: the best exercise you may never have even heard of. While this movement is widely incorporated in the powerlifting community, many regular gym goers ignore it either because they don’t even know what it is or they are afraid of it. Yes, you can put yourself at risk of injury if you do not perform the movement correctly; but the same holds true for a number of movements incorporated in fitness. Form and technique are everything, so be sure that you are properly educated on the correct way to perform the movement and how your body should be positioned before beginning to incorporate it into your workout routine.

What are Good Mornings and how do you do them? The Good Morning is a movement, generally performed with a barbell, that is an excellent developer of the posterior chain and core. To start, you will set this exercise up similar to a back squat, but with a significantly lighter load. I suggest starting with just the bar if you have not performed this exercise before. You will unrack the bar just as if you were doing a back squat, but as a beginner you may want to start in a low bar position to make the exercise as safe as possible when initially learning the movement pattern. After un-racking the bar, you will want to begin the movement by starting to bend at the hips, pushing them backward. As you continue to bend forward at the waist, you should also develop a slight bend in the knee while still maintaining a vertical shin angle. You should stop bending at your hips once your torso reaches about 15-20 degrees above the parallel position; going any further could potentially put you into a compromising position and increase your risk of injury, especially in your lower back. Once you reach that bottom position, you must drive your hips forward as your drive your torso back up to your starting position. Throughout the entire movement, you should be maintaining a neutral spinal position.

Why should you do Good Mornings? As stated before, they are a great developer of the posterior chain and core muscles; mostly targeting the hamstrings, glutes, and low back. While it is demanding to those spinal stabilizing muscles that prevent flexion, in turn it is also a great developer of low back strength and stability. With that being said, it is a very beneficial exercise in helping to improve your squat and deadlift. In those two lifts, the back tends to give out before the legs when it should be the other way around. If you incorporate good mornings to really assist in building up your back, you will likely be able to increase the amount of weight you're capable of lifting in your squat and deadlift.

As with many exercises, there is some inherent risk when performing this movement as well. As I brought up earlier, technique is EVERYTHING! Be sure that you are performing the movement properly. Especially in the beginning, have somebody else watch you and provide you with feedback as you work with lighter loads. Make sure when you are performing the movement that you are able to maintain a neutral spine and not trying to get too low either. You will get more than enough of the desired stimulus by going down no further than 15 degrees above the point of parallel. The movement is very similar to an RDL (Russian Deadlift) with the exception of the bar position. If you are thinking of incorporating good mornings, give the RDL a try first and make sure you can perform it safely and efficiently. Regardless, DO NOT load up the movement with heavy weight before you are able to. You should only add as much weight as allows you to still perform the movement with perfect technique and body positioning.

If you are looking to perform a slightly lower risk variation of this movement, you can try using a looped band or even hugging a dumbbell to your chest to provide close to the same stimulus with a little more control over the weight in your hands as opposed to a barbell on your back. There are plenty of variations, but if you are correctly able to perform the barbell good morning you will definitely reap the benefits in other areas of your training. While simple looking, good mornings are a very technical exercise and you should make sure you know exactly what you are doing before giving it a go. Once you are proficient with the movement, feel free to gradually add weight to the bar and watch your hamstrings, glutes, and low back grow stronger and your squats and deadlifts too.

 Hopefully this provided you with enough information to get you started and also sparked enough interest for you to seek further information and instruction on the movement as well! Don’t be afraid of the movement, but be sure you are very aware of your form and efficiency when performing it.

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