Goodmorning, also known as stiff leg good morning or arched back good mornings, is a variation of the deadlift that works the hamstrings and back exercise.
If you want to build muscle along your posterior chain, consider adding goodmorning exercises to your workout routine.
The good morning is sometimes regarded as a squat variation, as the bar is taken off the rack as in a squat, and onto the traps.
But since the goodmorning serves as a back and hamstring exercise 1, with more knee extension than the RDL and lots of elements of pulling mechanics in the movement of the bar, it made a case for considering a deadlift variation.
Goodmornings get their name from the faint resemblance between their appearance and that of a subordinate person greeting his superiors in the morning. They’re an old weight room exercise, largely unused today, but they’re worth considering as a way to strengthen your stretches.
What is the Goodmorning?
Goodmornings are a weight-lifting exercise that activates the muscle groups in the back of your body, including the hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spinae and lower back muscles. In a good morning, the bar sits at the top of the trap, as it would in a high bar squat. Basically, you do good mornings by bending over with the bar at your neck until your torso is parallel to the ground or lower back and then returning to the upright position.
The movement is similar to the Romanian deadlift in that the whole thing is essentially a hip extension triggered by an eccentric contraction—think of it as an RDL with the bar at your neck.
In the RDL, with a bridge, the bar rests along a vertical bar path in the middle of the foot; At dawn, the bar forms an arc downward. The arc occurs because the distance from the bar to the hips along the back is usually greater than the distance from the hips to the open knees, and when the bar is lowered, it moves forward.
This arc produces an intentional departure of the bar from the balance position above mid-foot; thus creating a second hand between the bar and the balance point, and is used as an aspect of resistance in exercises similar to a heavy barbell curl.
As the weight gets heavier – and as the resulting center of mass of the lifter/barbell system moves closer to the bar – the bar path moves closer to mid-foot.
How to do the Good Morning Exercise properly?
There are two ways to do the goodmornings:
- Flat-backed goodmorning
- Round-backed goodmorning
The flat-backed goodmorning puts the hips slightly back at the bottom of the movement compared to the bottom of the RDL; because the bar is at the top of the traps rather than hanging under the scapulae, even though the bar is in front of the toes.
The round-backed version allows both the bar and hips to stay close to the mid-foot balance point.
The difference is in the effective length of the back – the flexed spine is effectively “shorter” than the spine in rigid extension – and thus the difference in arm length between the bar and hips in the two movements.
1. Flat-backed goodmorning
- Flat-backed goodmornings are most like RDLs.
- Take the bar out of the rack as you would for a flat-backed good morning, take a big breath, and start by driving your hips back.
- Immediately lower your chest, curling it toward your knees.
- Knees are open, chest is up, lower back is arched, and the bar is over the traps, with hands pulling it down into the neck to keep it from rolling down or sliding.
- It’s important to stabilize the bar against your neck and keep it from slipping, especially when you’re using a bar with a central knob; If it moves, it will definitely dig a hole in your neck.
- The movement basically consists of sliding your hips back down as far as hamstring flexibility allows before your low back rounds.
- It is usually possible to go lower than flat-backed form permits, as sufficient hamstring flexibility to maintain lumbar extension is not the limiting factor in this version.
- Maintain the bent position by lowering down and back, using your air to support the curve.
- The idea is to keep the entire previous travel down and up in detail, and the parallel to the RDL should be clear.
- Come back by first lifting your back and then pushing your hips forward, and finally lifting your chest to return to the starting position.
- Your flexibility will determine your depth, and good mornings improve hamstring length; There’s no better vibe than a strictly flat-backed good morning.
2. Round-back goodmorning
- Round-back goodmorning is a completely different exercise.
- We have many times described the efficient and safe back position as “normal body position” – thoracic and lumbar extension.
- This position is the best way to load the intervertebral discs and the most efficient way to transmit force along the torso.
- But there are many situations, either at work or in many sports, where lifting must occur in conditions that prevent an ideal extended-spine position, and it makes sense for lifters after novices to train for this event.
- For example, strongman competitions involve stone lifting, where a large stone that cannot be placed in a position that allows the competitor’s spine to extend must be lifted from the ground in an upright position.
- The journey from the ground to the hip and knee lockout has to be done with the back bent.
- Or a situation may arise “in the field” that requires you to lift an object – perhaps a fellow soldier in an 85-pound (ca. 39 kg) kit – whose shape has no respect for your finely developed sense of correct kinematics.
- If spinal flexion is the position that must be used, then taking a big breath is the mechanism that stabilizes it. Intervertebral discs are in the best position to bear a compressive load when they conform to their normal resting geometry.
- But lifting the weight off the ground is not primarily compressed until the final stages of the pull, when the back is straightened.
- Moment forces with a rotational or shear component are the primary stresses on the back when the loads come from the ground.
- If the spine is bent and its rigidity can be maintained in flexion, the submaximal load usually encountered in a field position can be safely handled, especially by a strong lifter who can lift a lot of weight.
- The same Valsalva maneuver used in all barbell exercises provides stability and protection for the spine in less than optimal positions often encountered outside the gym.
- Some round-back lifting prepares you for this inevitable situation, and when planned and executed on your terms rather than the universe’s, can be made a productive adjunct to general pulling and back work.
The round-backed Good Morning intentionally employs less-than-optimal spinal mechanics to strengthen the back against the inevitable occurrence of poor mechanics during a fatigued deadlift effort or a normal day at work.
This is a relatively safe way to introduce this position in the context of a controllable, incremental barbell exercise.
Round-supported good mornings are probably better than round-supported deadlifts because of their tendency to use lighter, safer weights and because of the lack of interference with the correct motion pattern in the lift, which is already prone to errors.
But since round-supported movements would be considered advanced exercises, and therefore not really indicated for inexperienced lifters, the advantages of round-supported goodmornings over round-supported deadlifts are not really; Advanced lifters should have no trouble differentiating the two styles of deadlifting.
The important points are that goal-supported lifting is not always bad, because it is inevitable, and good mornings done this way are a good introduction to this aspect of conditioning for sports and life.
Good mornings allow for more direct stress on the hip extensors. But you must remember that this weight is sitting on your neck. Any work done by the hip extensors must be transmitted along the spine, and the leverage against the small cervical and upper thoracic vertebrae will be too great.
Be careful about using too much weight and generating high velocity; The good morning is an assistance exercise, not a primary lift, and should be respected for both its usefulness and its potential for injury.
The World’s Strongest Men never use more than 225 pounds (ca. 102 kg) for the Good Morning, and since it’s an assistance exercise, they use sets of 8 to 10 reps. Good morning, done correctly strengthens the back; Done incorrectly, they can injure the back.
Use good judgment when deciding how much weight to use. There will be no reason to use more than 35% of your squats for sets of 8-10, and no reason to do them unless 35% of your squats are 95 pounds (ca. 43 kg).3
How far down one can go with goodmorning exercises depends on the flexibility of the posterior chain of muscles (hamstrings, glutes and lower back). When you want to improve the fitness level and challenge yourself gradually, don’t push yourself too fast.4
It is important to have a good understanding of weight training fundamentals when performing good morning exercises. Before you add weights and start lifting, make sure form is proper and consistent. This ensures that you are performing the lift safely and effectively every time.5
One of the most common mistakes you can make with weight training happens before you even touch a weight. If you don’t warm up properly, you risk a muscle strain, if not a serious injury. Warm up for at least 5-10 minutes to make the muscles more flexible while supplying more oxygen.6
- Andrew David Vigotsky, Erin Nicole Harper, David Russell Ryan, and Bret Contreras. “Effects of load on good morning kinematics and EMG activity,” PeerJ. 2015; 3: e708. doi: 10.7717/peerj.708. PMCID: PMC4304869. PMID: 25653899.
- Clark, Dave R.; Lambert, Mike I.; Hunter, Angus M. “Muscle Activation in the Loaded Free Barbell Squat
A Brief Review,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 26(4):p 1169-1178, April 2012. | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31822d533d.
- Source: Starting Strength – Basic Barbell Training by Mark Rippetoe. Available here: https://amzn.to/3V1OHXK
- Mausehund, Lasse1; Skard, Audun E.1; Krosshaug, Tron2. “Muscle Activation in Unilateral Barbell Exercises: Implications for Strength Training and Rehabilitation,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2019;33 Suppl 1:S85-S94, July 2019. DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002617.
- Lorenzetti, S., Ostermann, M., Zeidler, F. et al. How to squat? Effects of various stance widths, foot placement angles and level of experience on knee, hip and trunk motion and loading. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil 10, 14 (2018). doi: 10.1186/s13102-018-0103-7.
- Warm up, cool down. American Heart Association. Available here: https://www.heart.org/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/warm-up-cool-down