Good Morning Exercise Guide

Good mornings are among the most fundamental lower back, hamstring, and glute accessory exercises done by powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters, Strongman, and fitness athletes. In this exercise guide we will discuss the good morning (specifically the barbell good morning), offering coaches and athletes proper technique guidelines, training benefits, and programming notes.

Note that Torokhtiy’s positioning on the good morning (above) demonstrates superior mobility, and these ranges of motion may be unreasonable for the average lifter to hit.

Muscles Worked

The good morning is an exercise that strengthens many muscles of the posterior chain. The below exercises are targeted when performing the good morning, specifically with a barbell placed on the back.

  • Gluteals
  • Hamstrings
  • Spinal Erectors
  • Upper Back
  • Scapular Stabilizers

Good Morning Exercise Demo

The good morning is often performed with the barbell placed upon the back, which is shown in the exercise demonstration video below. They key here is to set the back so that the movement occurs at the hip (hip flexion and extension) rather than thoracic or lumbar flexion/extension. This movement pattern is very specific to movements like squats, deadlifts, and most athletic movements.

Additionally, the good morning can be done from a seated position to isolate the spinal erectors and minimize hamstring tension. This obviously will decrease the amount of loading one can do when compared to the standing good morning. The below video demonstrates how to set up and perform the seated good morning.

3 Benefits of the Good Morning

In the below section the benefits of the good morning exercise are discussed to help coaches and athletes increase back and hip strength and athletic performance.

Lower Back Health

The good morning is an accessory exercise (however can be used for strength as well in elite strength athletes) that strengthens and develops the spinal erectors, glutes, and hamstrings. Movements like back squats (low and high bar), deadlifts, and weightlifting movements all require a lifter to establish spinal stability and resistance against lumbar flexion. Increasing isometric strength of the spinal erectors while also enhancing the overall strength of the glutes and hamstrings can help lifters who may find themselves in compromised deadlifting positions (too far over the bar) or leaning too forward in the squat (bar passing midfoot). Note, that both faults should be addressed via technique modifications, however having a stronger lower back and hips can aid in performance and injury resilience in the event an athlete does find themselves in a compromised position.

Glute and Hamstring Development

As discussed above, the good morning can be used to increase hamstring and glute hypertrophy and control. Good mornings find their way in most powerlifting and weightlifting program since the competitive lifts require a lifter to be in a bent over position (deadlifts, squats, and Olympic lifts) under load. The purpose of this exercise is to not only increase hamstring and glute strength and muscle hypertrophy, but also help the lifter establish better movement patterning in their competitive and training lifts.

Upper Back Strength for Deadlifts and Squats

When performing squats and deadlifts (as well as other strength and power movements), resistance to spinal flexion (specifically lumbar) is key to injury resilience and bar patterning/load distributions. Exercises like the good morning can be used to increase a lifter’s strength and awareness of the lower and upper back for the above movements. Enhancing upper back tension and lower back stability can help lifters who lack the strength to pack the barbell tightly in the back rack and/or tend to fall forward in the squat and cannot recover from poor positioning. Note, the good morning can be used to aid proper technique and patterning in deadlifts and squats, however should not be the only solution in the event squat/deadlift/pulling technique and mobility is insufficient.

Programming Notes: Good Mornings

Generally speaking, the good morning can be done for hypertrophy and strength for most strength, power, and fitness athletes. Repetition ranges of 8-12 for 3-4 sets can be used to increase lower back, hip, and hamstring strength and muscular development. In some cases, lifters (more advanced strength athletes) may perform good mornings with heavy loads and very low repetitions to maximize back strength, however this is not generally recommended for most lifters and athletes.

Good Morning Variations

More Accessory Exercises to Boost Your Deadlift and Squat

Take a peek at the the below articles and learn what exercises you should be doing to maximize your deadlift and squat strength, technique, and performance.

Featured Image: @m4munson on Instagram

Editor’s Note: BarBend reader and trainer Megan Flanagan had the following to say after reading the above article:

“Good mornings are a great hip hinge alternative to deadlifts and hamstring curls. They’re hit the hamstrings and glutes, as well as help with spinal erector and scapular stabilization (lower and upper back). Start out with higher rep ranges on this one rather than loading up the bar with heavy weight. While it’s often demonstrated with the barbel, one of my favorite variations are banded good mornings. I would caution those with low back pain to be careful when performing good mornings and build up to them using exercises like dead bugs, glute bridges and bird dogs to stabilize the spine; then progress to using a pull up band to perform it.”

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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