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The Good Morning Workout Is What Your Lifting Routine Is Missing

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

Let’s take a closer look at a move that will effectively round out your lifting routine and improve your results. The good morning workout is designed to strengthen the muscles in your lower back, erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings.

It’s a great way to work your posterior chain, the group of muscles along the backside of your body. This particular group of muscles supports the lower back and when done correctly can help prevent back issues down the line.

A woman doing a good morning workout at the gym
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The good morning workout makes a great warm-up for your daily lifts and can even help prevent injury. And if you want to challenge yourself, just add more weight. Let’s dive into some of the basics of the Good Morning Workout to see if it’s right for you.

What Is the Good Morning Workout?

To perform the good morning workout, you’ll hold a barbell behind your head and rest it on your shoulders as you hinge forward at the hips. Then, you’ll bring the bar back up to a standing position and repeat. You might also recognize it by its simpler name: hip hinges.

It specifically targets your lower back, hips, glutes, abs, and hamstrings all in one motion. The upper body will also see some gains in this workout since the barbell rests on the upper back and shoulders.

How to Do Good Mornings with Proper Form

Start by choosing an appropriate weight. It’s okay to start out using only the barbell, especially if you’re new to lifting. Always err on the side of caution and start out with a lighter weight to reduce your injury risk.

Rest the barbell across your shoulders behind your head and maintain a firm grip with both hands. Your feet should be hip-width apart and engage your core muscles. Inhale and then exhale as you hinge forward from the hips, stopping when your back is flat and at a 90-degree angle from the floor. Depending on your flexibility level, you may not be able to get to the 90-degree angle but just go as far as you can without bending your back.

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© Aliaksandr Makatserchyk

To complete the movement, lift your torso back to the starting position all while maintaining that hinge at the hip. Engaging your hips is essential to correctly perform this exercise. You don’t want to bend at your lower back and risk injuring your lumbar region.

How Much Weight Do You Need for Good Mornings?

The correct amount of weight will vary from person to person. For an experienced lifter, we recommend using 40-50% of the max weight you would use for a single squat. If you’re new to this, you want to use an unweighted barbell or just your body weight.

As we mentioned earlier, start out lighter, and remember you can always add more weight later on. Adding too much weight could mean you strain your back, so it’s important to listen to your body with this one. If you’re unsure of your skill level, always consult an experienced trainer before adding more weight.

4 Key Benefits of Doing Barbell Good Morning Workouts

Good morning workouts activate the muscles along your posterior chain and can do many wonderful things for the backside of your body. Let’s explore some of the main benefits of adding good mornings to your barbell workout.

1. Stronger Lower Back

Strengthening your lower back muscles prevents injury to that area. This exercise will also build the muscles in your glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae. Oftentimes, those who suffer from low back pain have muscles lacking the proper strength to carry out their daily household tasks.

Incorporating this move into your workout can help with that. Starting at a lower weight and working your way up, you’ll slowly develop the strength you need in your low back. You’ll find it easier to heft heavier loads before you know it.

2. Stronger Upper Back Muscles

Because you’re hefting the barbell onto your shoulders, you’ll need to engage your upper back muscles to properly do the exercise. Doing so will keep the barbell on your shoulders and away from your neck where it could do damage. Therefore, good mornings are a phenomenal back-strengthening exercise. 

Stronger upper back muscles equal better posture. This move trains your upper back to support you in all the right ways to help you get that confident, lifted look. You’ll be walking taller in no time as you strengthen your upper body and train your back to lift and open up your chest.

3. Injury Prevention During Future Workouts

In many cases, injury from lifting is due to poor core stabilization. If your abdominal and back muscles are weak, you’re more likely to develop an overcompensation injury somewhere in your muscles. Good mornings can help with that. 

If you always use proper form when doing the good morning exercise, you’ll effectively strengthen the muscles along the posterior chain. This will help with injury prevention in other workouts. 

Strong hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles help you lift, twist, and carry much more efficiently. You’ll notice stronger stabilizer muscles in every other move that you do.

4. Greater Functional Strength

Your hip hinging ability will increase, and you’ll begin to notice a greater range of motion in your hip flexion. If you regularly experience pain in the joints of your legs, improving your hip flexion can help tremendously. Day to day you’ll experience less pain and have a greater range of motion in your hip extension. 

A stronger posterior chain will support you in your daily tasks whether that be a crossover workout or carrying out your daily endeavors at home or work. You’ll be able to do more than you did before.

A woman performing a squat instead of a good morning workout
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Which Muscles Do Good Mornings Work?

As mentioned earlier, good mornings primarily focus on the posterior chain. The posterior chain is made up of your upper to lower back muscles, including your erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings. Studies have shown that morning kinematics can increase the muscle mass in these areas.

You’ll also see growth in secondary muscles like your abdominals, shoulders, and upper back. These muscles help to stabilize and support the exercise, so they’ll get stronger as well. 

Mistakes You Want to Avoid When Doing the Good Morning Workout

As with any movement, whether it be new or old, you should know what to do and what not to do to help prevent injury. Injuries can set you back in your workout goals and cause you a world of hurt. We’ve highlighted a few mistakes you’ll definitely want to watch out for so you can keep growing and improving on your fitness journey.

Too Much Weight

Too much weight is a classic mistake that any overeager gym-goer can make. This can happen to anybody, whether pro or novice. No matter where you place yourself on the scale, avoid getting carried away with seeing how much weight you can lift. Start with a lighter weight and add as you go. This will prevent your muscles from tearing and causing you pain during your workout.

Loose or Collapsed Form

A loose or collapsed form might mean you have too much weight, too many reps, or improper form at the beginning of the movement. Always check your form before you start lifting. You should be standing upright with feet hip-width apart and chest open. Make sure you engage your shoulder blades and core before beginning.

Bending Instead of Hinging

For the sake of your lower back, avoid bending at the lower back rather than hinging at the hip. Keep that lower back tight and straight as you focus on engaging your glutes, hamstrings, and abdominal muscles so that they bear the brunt of the weight as you lean forward.

A woman performing a good morning workout variation using a resistance band
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Good Morning Exercise Variations

Some variation to any workout helps to keep things fresh and new. Check out these good morning variations we’ve highlighted to get you excited and keep you coming back for more.

Variety also keeps your muscles confused instead of familiar with doing the same thing over and over. This can help you see faster results. 

Narrow or Widen Stance

Widening your stance can give you more stability when you’re lifting, and for most people, it makes the lift a little easier. A good rule of thumb for this move would be to widen your stance to just outside shoulder width.

To make it more challenging, you can go a little narrower in your stance and really feel your glutes burn as you do the exercise. 

Single Leg Good Morning with Barbell

Once you’ve mastered the original good morning, you can step it up a notch and challenge your muscles by balancing on one leg.

As you hinge forward, one leg should reach straight behind you until you’re parallel with the floor and your head and tail are in alignment. After pausing for a moment to squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, brush the leg forward again as you return to standing position.

Barbell Seated Good Morning

Unrack the barbell and sit on the weight bench with your feet wider than your shoulders. Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle and you should extend your grip width to help keep the bar from rolling onto your neck.

Make sure to activate your abdominal muscles in this variation so that you can maintain that hinging motion at the hip. 

Good Morning Squat

The good morning squat is a combination of two moves, making it a compound movement. You’ll want to keep the movement pattern fresh in your mind as you do good morning squats.

Start by getting into a good morning position with the barbell behind your head resting on your shoulders and across your upper back. Your feet should be hip-width apart and your torso should lean forward as you hinge at the hips. Now you’re ready to drive the hips and glutes down behind you into a full squat position.

Next, push the hips to your starting position and then shift into a standing position as you prepare to do the movement again.

What’s the Best Way to Incorporate Good Mornings into Your Regular Workout Routine?

Many lifters like to use good mornings as a warm-up move, but you can use them anywhere you want in your lifting routine. Adding this move can help keep your workout from becoming stale. Just like most of the reps you’d normally do, you should expect to work your way up to 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions and take a 1-minute rest in between.

Remember to start with light weight to prevent injury and help you maintain proper form. After a few weeks of doing the recommended reps, you might add some of the variations we mentioned earlier.

A woman doing a good morning workout with the help of a squat rack
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FAQS About the Good Morning Workout

The good morning workout is an excellent option for working the backside of your body. The simple versatility of being able to just use your body weight as part of a warm-up or adding a weighted barbell makes it easy for anyone to use.

If you’re ready to start incorporating these moves into your lifting routine, you might have a few questions. Here are some common questions we see, but let us know if there’s anything else we can answer for you!

Is the Good Morning Exercise the Same as the Romanian Deadlift?

Good mornings are similar to the Romanian deadlift, or RDL, but no they’re not the same. The main difference is the placement of the barbell. In an RDL the weight is in front of you just like a deadlift.
Whereas in the good morning workout, the weight is behind your head resting across your upper back and shoulders. The different placement works your muscles a bit differently.

Can You Do Good Mornings with Dumbbells?

Yes, you can! If you have dumbbells handy, you can place them on your shoulders and do the same movement as you would with a barbell. Your hand placement will be slightly different with your hands gripping the dumbbells in an overhand grip instead of underhand.

Are Good Mornings Effective Without Weights?

Good mornings without weights make an effective warm-up. They’re also good for anyone just starting to lift or anyone seeking to rehabilitate their lower back injuries. Even as you get stronger, and add in a weighted barbell you’ll find it’s a nice way to warm up your body without the weight.

Is the Good Morning Exercise Safe?

When performed correctly, good mornings are safe. Some of the things that can make them dangerous include adding too much weight too soon and losing proper form. If you’re a beginner, we recommend working with a trainer to ensure you’re performing these with the proper technique.

Is It Better to Do Good Mornings Standing or Seated?

These exercises are traditionally done in a standing position; however, you can sit to add variation and put increased emphasis on the muscles of your lower and upper back. Performing these while standing engages the glutes and hamstrings, giving you a better all-over workout for your posterior chain.
Seated good mornings are more of an advanced move because there’s a slight increase of injury to your back when seated. With either of these variations to the good morning, you’ll want to be very careful to prevent injury to the lower back.
Other than that, choosing which exercise is better is more a matter of preference and determining which muscles you want to work.

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