Good Mornings: What, Why, and How


Sebastian Padilla

A Solution for Subpar Technique

Do you have a cat-back deadlift? Chances are you lack strength in your spinal erectors. Without strong spinal erectors, your back will significantly round on deadlifts and/or heavily round when coming out of the hole while squatting. This is due to a weakness in your spinal erectors that are unable to maintain the proper torso angle. Oftentimes this not only results in inefficient technique but also an excessive strain on the spinal erectors themselves-leading to back pain. 

While regular gym-goers simply avoid movements that may place their backs in strenuous positions, powerlifters have no choice but to squat and deadlift. You may be wondering how to deal with this weakness in the erectors. There is a simple solution- strengthen them and the surrounding muscle groups. The most efficient way to strengthen the spinal erectors is through the barbell good morning exercise. 

How to Perform a Good Morning

Place the barbell on your back either in a high bar (although this makes the movement much harder) or low bar position (which I would recommend you use to start off the movement). After placing the bar, you hinge at the hips as if you were to squat. Instead of hinging at the knees, you hinge at the hips with a soft bend of the knees until your chest is pointing towards the ground. 

The range of motion does not necessarily have to be large, but just enough to create a decent hip hinge. This may be closer to an obtuse angle instead of a full 90 degrees (parallel to the ground) using the floor as reference. The hinge at the hips while having the bar on your back forces the spinal erectors to work hard at preventing your torso from collapsing. This trains the erectors in an isometric fashion, as no direct movement of them is done. 

The difficulty of the movement and lack of strength in the spinal erectors will force you to use much less weight compared to what you regularly squat, especially if you use the high bar position. The high bar position places the weight further away from your hips, creating a greater lever arm on the spinal erectors. The low bar position shortens the lever arm, making it easier. One must use the appropriate lower load if choosing to use the high bar position for good mornings. 

How to Bring in Some Variety

There are multiple variations of the good morning you can do, but one of my favorites is the seated Safety bar squat good morning. In this variation, you use a safety bar squat and box squat onto a bench. From here you will intentionally round your back forwards and then straighten it as you sit tall. This will force your spinal erectors to actively lengthen and contract, giving direct stimulus to them.

This variation can be a bit more challenging and lead to a back “pump” that can be uncomfortable, but like any other muscle group, it will go away in a few minutes. As long as you start off light and use proper progressive overload, any variation of the good morning can be perfectly safe. 

Now you Know

Remember to always start off light and sustainably progress the movement as you would any compound lift. Regardless of which variation of the good morning you choose, this exercise is bound to increase your strength. Now that you know how to directly target your spinal erectors in two ways, you can start making progress to a stronger squat and deadlift.

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Alex Gaynor


Sebastian Padilla


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