The good morning exercise is one of the best exercises for strengthening the primary muscles which include the posterior chain muscle groups including the lower back muscles, erector spinae, hamstrings and glutes, and the secondary muscles which are the upper back and core. It also is a great exercise for improving hip-hinging movements. While it has great strength benefits, it’s no as commonly seen as squats, deadlifts or Romanian deadlifts.
It should be noted that the good morning is also not a beginner exercise. A personal trainer should be able to tell if a person is ready to incorporate the good morning into their exercise routine, and they should be able to perform a back squat and deadlift with near perfect form before incorporating the good morning exercise.
Why Perform Good Mornings?
Every personal trainer knows how important it is to have a strong posterior chain but not necessarily the best way to train it. The good morning is one of the best exercises for the posterior chain when it is performed correctly. Good mornings have been known to increase the lengthening of the hamstring and increase the range of motion. In addition to that, they help increase strength in the lower back, including the erector spinae and spinal extensor muscles. This makes this exercise not only good for athletes as it does transition over to other lifts but also for the everyday client who wants to stay healthy long term.
This exercise also is extremely functional to everyday life. Think about how many times a day you bend over and pick something up off the ground, all the muscles used to do that movement are engaged in the good morning. Therefore, strengthening those muscles is essential to be able to do those things long term.
On the other hand, if you are a personal trainer working with athletes for clients, or even the weekend warrior this exercise is vital to their long term ability to participate in the sport they love. This is especially true to runners, lifters, and CrossFit athletes. All of these individuals put a lot of strain on their hamstrings, and hip hingings so it is very important to have the proper base of strength and mobility built up so that they do stay injury free. It is shown that 37% of all muscular injuries in sport are hamstring injuries, and exercises that lengthen the hamstring when done on a regular basis have been known to help prevent those injuries.
In addition to the hamstring benefit, the good morning is a hip hinge exercise, so it does help improve hip mobility. This is crucial for athletes but also for the everyday person. Especially since so many people are in that hip flexed position all day long sitting at a desk this allows them to work on not only strengthening but also on their mobility while working on hip extension.
How to Perform a Good Morning
There are some variations to the good morning exercise. When a client is just learning the exercise it is recommended that they initially learn as a body weight good morning, practicing the hip hinge, hip flexion, hip extension and proper positioning throughout before adding any weight. The next step from there is a good transition before introducing a barbell or a resistance band is to add resistance but not too heavy until the movement is perfected. Once the proper form is shown then the barbell should be introduced. For the purposes here, we will cover how to properly perform the exercise with a barbell.
The starting position for a good morning is going to be very similar to the stance for a back squat. Therefore, the feet should be between hip and shoulder width, and the exact spot will vary person to person. Next, the barbell should be placed across the upper back in a position that is comfortable to the client. Most people do a higher bar position which is shoulder height, but if the client is used to a low bar position that is also ok on this exercise. Then, gripping the bar, keeping the shoulder blades pulled back, and a neutral spine have the client engage their core muscles and ensure they are breathing properly.
This is where the hip hinge movement will start to occur, pushing the hips back and bending forward with a flat back, stopping just above parallel. To ensure that the hamstrings are being engaged the shins should be vertical and the knees should be only slightly bent. Also note, this should not be a fast exercise, this is more of a slow and controlled movement rather than one done for speed.
Then lastly, return to the starting position, ensuring that the client is keeping the tension in the upper back, they should push their hips forward, squeeze their glutes and keep the core engaged the entire time on the way back up. This will be repeated for the set number of reps.
Incorporating Good Mornings into Workout Routines
Just like any other strength training exercise they only help build that strength when they are done on a regular basis. Typically good mornings are seen as an accessory exercise, meaning that it’s not the main focus of the session but they are there to help improve movement patterns and improve other lifts. The typical acute variables that are seen for this type of exercise are going to be for the average everyday lifter not necessarily for the elite athletes. The way we usually see these in a program are 3 sets of 8-10 reps at 75-80% of 1RM. Now certain athletes like powerlifters, olympic lifters, strongmen, some professional athletes even work up to 90%, but for the everyday person who enjoys lifting and just wants to get better that is not necessary. These also can be put in several different places in the workout itself, however for most people it goes well at the beginning before squats or deadlifts as it will help activate the proper muscle groups and movement patterns to improve those lifts.
Overall, the good morning exercise has a plethora of benefits but is not one of the more common exercises you see everyday in the gym. When done with proper form they help improve other lifts and overall mobility. But it’s important that before throwing a client into them that they meet the prerequisites on form in their other lifts to ensure that they do not get injured.