The good morning squat is a movement pattern that is loathed by many. These awkward looking squats are always the first to be ridiculed on social media and are easily identifiable across every gym setting.
The good morning squat pattern is problematic because it can be self limiting when it comes to maximal strength and it can lead to potential overuse injuries with consistent use. Despite its appearance that signals poor squat mechanics, fixing the good morning squat can be relatively straight forward at times.
In this article, we’re going to discuss what the good morning squat is and three ways to remedy this issue.
What is a good morning squat?
The good morning squat is a reference to squats that are lead with the hips when performing the concentric action and resemble the good morning exercise, a.k.a, a hip hinging movement. Essentially, good morning squats are squats that are entirely too hip dominant to the point in which the torso collapses and mechanics are compromised.
Note, there’s a difference between hip dominant squats and good morning squats.
Generally, hip dominant squatters use a low-bar positioning and have a forward torso lean, however, their hip angle remains constant. The difference between this and good morning squatters is that the hip angle in the good morning squat will noticeably change throughout the eccentric (lowering) and concentric (standing) movement patterns.
What can cause good morning squats?
- Poor Hip and Knee Sequencing
- Weak Quads
- Disengaged Torso
There are multiple reasons why good morning squats may be happening, which makes it important to address them objectively and experiment with a few methods.
Ways to Fix Good Morning Squats
There are a few ways to work through fixing good morning squats and each will require a different level of commitment and change to what is normal for one’s squat. We’ll start with the easier fixes, then work through some that require a bit more effort when it comes to changing programming.
1. Try New Cues
Cues are easy to implement and can be powerful tools for remedying good morning squats. There are multiple cues that could work in the scenario of fixing good morning squats, but let’s touch on two that can have direct relationships with the hips moving in the squat.
Cue 1: Pull the Bar Into You
- When It’s Useful: Good morning squats where the elbows are flaring upwards coming out of the hole and the torso is losing rigidity.
The first cue involves creating a more active and engaged torso by focusing on pulling the barbell down onto the traps/upper back. By doing this, the elbows will have limited ability to move during the concentric portion of the squat, which can help prevent the chest from dropping.
When creating a shelf and getting into setup position, actively pull the elbows down and back. Make sure the hands are not too wide and forcefully think about pulling the bar into the body by thinking as though there’s a string pulling the elbows and hands downwards.
Cue 2: Break At the Hips and Knees Simultaneously
- When It’s Useful: There’s an over exaggeration of the hips breaking first during the initial descent of the squat.
There is nothing wrong with slightly breaking the hips first when squatting, but when it’s exaggerated to a point of cognizance in which the barbell drifts too far away from the mid-foot, then power and strength can be lost.
When initiating the squat, think as though there are forces pulling hips backward and knees forward at the exact same time. Video a few sets or watch this process in the mirror to work on timing if the mental cue is tough to initially convey.
2. Focus On Positions
Want to improve on a very specific position in a lift? Spend more time in it. This is where tempo and pauses come into play.
In this scenario, tempo isn’t being used to facilitate an adaptation like power or hypertrophy, but to create a positive change in squat mechanics. For this reason, tempo will be applied slightly differently from how it’s traditionally used.
Traditionally, tempo is used with 3 or 4 numbers that indicate different portions of the movement. Instead of simply focusing on the eccentric and concentric patterns as a whole with a time focused goal, it can be useful to hyper-focus on one specific portion of these.
What does that look like in practice?
- Try This: Perform a 2-second eccentric, then focus on performing an exaggerated and very slow 2-second concentric coming out of the hole, then finish the rep with normal speed once you pass 50% of the concentric portion of the squat.
Pretend as if someone pressed slo-mo on your squat as soon as you came out of the hole. The hyper-focus on this range of motion can provide a lot of internal and proprioceptive feedback for rewiring the brain to execute squats with better mechanics.
On top of using the above tempo methodology, pauses can also be a great tool for working to fix good morning squats. Similar to the method above, instead of pausing and holding at traditional positions used with tempo (the top and bottom), the pauses will come just before and after coming out of the hole.
What does that look like in practice?
- Try This: With a lighter load (50-65% 1-RM), perform a slow eccentric and pause for one-second before hitting the hole, then proceed as normal, and finish with a one-second pause coming out of the hole. After this second pause, complete the rep as normal.
The lighter load and additional pauses can help highlight where form is breaking down and whether it’s in the eccentric or concentric portion of the movement. By identifying this piece of information, a plan with intent can be created to work around potential imbalances or lapses in form that have been created.
3. Load Anteriorly
Let’s call it what it is, but the back squat is a little over-glorified. Anterior loaded squat variations like the front squat, Zercher squat, and goblet squat are all powerful variations and can be great for fixing good morning squats.
Wait, load anteriorly to fix a back squat where load is positioned posteriorly? Yes!
By performing more anterior loaded squats, the torso will be forced to remain more upright, which can create a carryover to improving performance on the back squat. This is why a lot of coaches will program anterior loaded squats in warmups or off-season blocks.
In addition, anterior loaded squats can strengthen muscle groups that are not always focal points in back squats, so it’s a win/win. Mechanics can be improved and muscles that are potentially undertrained can receive attention.
What does that look like in practice?
- Try This: Program a full mesocycle/training block with only anterior loaded squat variations! It won’t takeaway from back squat progress and will create a more well-rounded squat.
For strength sport athletes, use this mesocycle in the off-season, and for recreational lifters, program it wherever fits best.
Bonus: Do High-Bar Squats More Often
Another simple way to fix good morning squats is to include more high-bar squats into programming. This tip is for the recreational lifter that always opts for low-bar squats without addressing issues that could be forming from only performing one squat style.
Like the tip above, include high-bar squats for a full mesocycle or training block and take a break from low-bar squats.
There are multiple ways to fix good morning squats. Good morning squats can not only wreak havoc on strength gains, but can also create a higher risk of overuse injuries. Fortunately, fixing them can be as simple as using different cues!
Feature image from Shutterstock/Andy Gin