Good Mornings


see also Good Morning Basics


“Good Mornings”

This exercise may have a somewhat silly name (not our choice, but as that’s what it is generally known by we’ll use it here) but it is a potentially very useful exercise as part of a balanced strength programme.


From a technical point of view this is a fairly simple exercise and there is a lot less to learn (or to go wrong) than with the things like Squats. This said, like every exercise, it has to be performed correctly both to get the maximum benefit and to avoid injury risk.

The “Good Morning” is predominantly a lower back exercise (although it also works the hamstrings less directly, and ditto the abs etc). Very few people ever put a huge weight on the bar for Good Mornings (and you’ll quickly see why).

While arguably there are better lower back exercises (such as Stiff or Straight Legged Deadlifts), the Good Morning is still very useful, both in its own right and as both preparatory and assistance training for Deadlifts. As your strength training progresses you may find that you drop this exercise – but it will be very useful at this stage.

Essentially a “Good Morning” is a sort of bow. You start by standing erect with a bar on your shoulders and then bend forwards at the waist while keeping your legs basically straight. Then you come back upright again – and that’s it, one “Good Morning” done.

Naturally there are a couple of points that help refine exercise form, so here goes.

Rest the bar on your shoulders, in basically the same position you would use when performing Squats. I’ll make a couple of comments about this that apply to both good mornings and [Squats]]:- People with relatively lower levels of upper body / shoulder flexibility might find it a bit of a challenge to both get the bar in a comfortable position and firmly grasp it with both hands (one on either side, obviously!) at least without either feeling a little “stretched” (maybe across the chest, maybe at the elbows etc).

If this is at all the case, play around a little with the width of your grip – you might find having your arms wider apart (or possibly even closer together) feels more comfortable. As with most things, don’t worry if this feels a little awkward at first – as long as you can actually stand upright in a good position (i.e. not only by having the neck bent forward, or the lower back out of alignment etc). With time and practice you’ll get more used to the position and also develop a little more flexibility in the associated regions.

Another point worth mentioning is that beginners with Good Mornings and/or Squats often find it difficult to get the bar into a really good position on the shoulders. In an ideal world you want to aim to have the bar quite a way down the upper-back e.g. pretty much resting on the rear of the deltoids .

Many beginners and/or people without much upper-body muscular development and/or relatively lower levels of flexibility in this area have the bar higher up e.g. more in the region of the upper trapezius / base of the neck. If that is the lowest a person can manage at this point, fair enough, but it is best to gradually work toward being able to hold the bar a little lower / more on the shoulders.

There are a few good reasons for this but I’ll just mention two.

Firstly, a higher bar position, while not actually “dangerous” as such, can cause the (weighted) bar to press on the discs in the neck (especially if there isn’t much muscle to act as a cushion). The biggest problem with this is simply that it can be very uncomfortable, even painful. Having a lower bar position simply feels a lot better.

Secondly, a lower bar position is more stable. The weight is born a little closer to the centre of gravity of the body, and there’s less chance of loosing balance (to give a not very good example, imagine balancing a hammer on the palm of your hand. If the head of the hammer is at the bottom, this isn’t too difficult. If the head of the hammer is at the top, it is a lot harder. The same basic principle applies here). Having the bar a little lower on the shoulders also generally makes a person more stable in the start position for squats and good mornings by encouraging a better spinal alignment (relative to this type of exercise).

Here’s a tip for “setting up” for either Good Mornings or Squats. When you have the bar on your shoulders, grip it as tightly as possible. This helps tense the whole body prior to the exercise (this should be maintained throughout as much as possible). Now imagine bending the bar (e.g. into an upside down U shape). Don’t worry. there is no chance of you actually bending the bar (!), just imagine trying to do so. It is important that you try to BEND the bar, not simply pull it down into the neck/shoulders. This simple encourages a good, strong and stable start position prior to the exercise.

Having set up, you now want to bend forwards to do a “Good Morning”. There are a few things to watch out for with this.

Firstly, you want to make sure that you keep your balance, so do the first rep very carefully and feel your way, making sure that you are balanced at all times.

Don’t look down and stare at the floor as you lower – this makes balancing harder. Instead, before you start, pick something to look at (like a spot on the wall at a suitable height) and keep looking at this as you bend forward. This will help most people to keep better balance (obviously if you find it doesn’t work for you, discard this, but do give it a try).

You are aiming to bend at the waist in order to lower yourself – not to simply stick your backside out in order to go down. In fairness, you almost certainly move your bottom back a little to help maintain balance against the weight of the bar, but keep this minimal. Remember, bend from the waist, not “backside first”.

Your legs should be “naturally straight” while doing this exercise. By this I mean that you are actually standing straight, legs somewhere between being together and shoulder width apart – whatever feels natural. Your legs will tighten as you bend forward and you’ll probably feel a pull not only on the lower back (the target muscle group with this exercise) but also on the hamstrings and maybe even the calves. This is fine (this exercise actually helps stretch the back of the legs) – but don’t overdo things.

If you find you can only add weight to the bar by bending your legs a good deal – DON’T! Better to keep a good position with a little less weight than to change the form of the exercise.

You will probably also feel your knees tighten as you bend forwards, pulling them straighter. Again, this is fine – within reason. Don’t actually lock the knees to the point of hyperextending them as this can be very damaging. Just keep a “natural straightness” to the legs, with a pull – but not too great a pull.

When you bend forwards try to aim to go to the point where you are bent pretty much horizontal (like an upside down L shape). Don’t go beyond horizontal, even if you are flexible enough to do so (this is because gravity dictates that the hardest point of the exercise is a horizontal position). If your flexibility doesn’t allow you to go this far, don’t worry, this will come in time, simply do your best and keep working. But if you can go this far with a light weight but can’t manage it with a heavier one – stick to a weight that you can manage.

Make sure you do plenty of Warming-Up before attempting Good-Mornings, possibly doing a set with bodyweight alone just bending forwards (like “touching your toes) before trying to do this with weight.

At this point you should stick to just using the bar for a little while to get used to the exercise, work your flexibility and so on. Assuming that you feel OK doing so, 2 or 3 sets of 10-15 reps would be fine.

As with just about every exercise, it is fine to do this daily when learning the exercise and not really using any weight as such (e.g. just the bar), but as soon as the weight becomes any kind of challenge then every other day is the maximum you should do the exercise.

Likewise, if you do other exercises that work the same muscle group/s (e.g. [[Deadlifts]), you would want to avoid doing these the day before or day after so as to avoid over-training (or as I prefer to put it, under-recovering) on the trained muscles. Initially, just concentrate on learning good form with the exercise.


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