If you’re looking for an effective weightlifting exercise to strengthen your back, legs, or the entire backside of your body (aka your posterior chain), look no further than good mornings (also known as “hip hinges”). Good mornings in a workout are entirely underrated. The move works great as a bodyweight exercise to warm up before doing compound lifts, like squats, deadlifts, and bentover rows. Alternatively, you can load a barbell with some plates and give good mornings dedicated time in your back or leg day session.
However you choose to include good mornings in your workout routine, it’s critical first to understand what they are, their benefits, and how to execute them with proper form to avoid injury. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered below. Plus, we give some variations of good mornings to keep the exercise fresh and exciting until they become a staple in your workout.
What Are Good Mornings
Good mornings are a weight-bearing exercise resembling something between a deadlift and a squat. They activate several muscle groups, including the hamstrings, glutes, calves, upper back, lower back, and core. While you can use good mornings to build strength and muscle, they’re not strictly a strength exercise like traditional muscle-building lifts since they improve hip mobility and flexibility. Also, using too much weight with good mornings can strain the lower back, so don’t expect to load the bar with a ton of weight when doing them.
How to do Good Mornings Exercise
To get started, place a barbell loaded with the appropriate weight across your upper back/shoulders like you would for a back squat. Consider using an empty barbell until you perfect the movement with proper form, then add weight as needed. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Inhale while engaging your core, then, hinge your hips by sending your butt back and leaning your upper body forward until it’s nearly parallel with the ground. Next, exhale and reverse the movement to return to standing position. That’s one rep. Remember to keep your back straight and core engaged throughout the entire movement.
Do 3 x 10–12 reps with 1-min. rest between sets. Be sure to use a weight that allows you to maintain good technique with each rep.
Benefits of Good Mornings
Once you hear the many benefits that good mornings deliver, adding them to your strength-training program is a no-brainer. Since good mornings engage various muscle groups, they’re an excellent way to improve leg, hip, and back strength and hip mobility. For example, good mornings target your hamstrings primarily, but they also work your glutes and adductor magnus (inner thigh) by engaging them as synergists (meaning they help provide movement). Other muscles activated during good mornings include your erector spinae (which runs the entire length of your spine), lower back muscles, and abdominal muscles. As a result, good mornings can increase your overall back and leg strength when done with the correct technique.
Good mornings can also boost your hip-hinging form by increasing hip extension and mobility, allowing for enhanced performance for other hip-hinging lifts, such as deadlifts, squats, barbell snatches, and kettlebell swings. Additionally, good mornings can improve your posture by strengthening the muscles along your spine. Good posture minimizes strain placed on your body, improves balance, helps you breathe better, and enhances your ability to do everyday activities.
Good Morning Variations
Unlike other traditional weightlifting exercises, there are several variations of good mornings, allowing people at any skill or fitness level to perform them. Once you’ve mastered the basics of doing good mornings with a barbell, consider switching things up and trying the following variations. Aim for 8 to 12 reps.
1. Dumbbell good mornings: This is a nice variation for beginners or those with back or shoulder issues since there’s less strain on your lower back and no barbell resting across your shoulders. Instead of a barbell, use lightweight dumbbells and do the exercise as described above while holding them in front of you, allowing your arms to hang.
2. Resistance band good mornings: Another excellent variation for beginners as no weights are required. Stand on one end of a resistance band with both feet, then wrap the other end around the base of your neck. Go through the full range of motion, working against the band’s resistance to strengthen your back and legs. Use a band with lower resistance to avoid excess strain and injury and to maintain good technique.
3. Single-leg barbell good mornings: This variation is for more advanced exercisers looking to make the traditional good morning more challenging. Perform the movement as described above, except using one leg. Doing so requires greater strength, balance, stability, and focus. If you try this one, be sure to lower the weight so you can maintain proper form and reduce your risk of injury.
4. Chest-loaded kettlebell good mornings (shown above): This cues the body to engage the core and maintain a neutral spine while hinging at the hips. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a kettlebell against your sternum. Maintaining a tall, neutral spine, shoulders back, and soft knees, hinge at the hips, keeping shoulders above hips. Reverse the movement by activating hamstrings and thrusting hips forward, fully extending the hips and squeezing your glutes to end the rep.
5. Switch up your stance: It may sound minor, but little tweaks like changing your stance can provide good variations to many exercises. When adding good mornings to your workout, shift your feet in for a narrow stance to target your hamstrings on some days, or adopt a wider stance to work your glutes more.
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