the joy of strength training

Gubernatrix

July 26th, 2010 at 11:16 pm

How-to: Good morning

This incredibly useful exercise had almost disappeared completely from the training playlist, surviving only in the darkest reaches of the powerlifting and olympic weightlifting worlds. Fortunately it is now coming back into favour.

What is a good morning?

The good morning is a compound movement working the back and hamstrings. It is used as an assistance exercise for strengthening the posterior chain.

Good morning

With the bar on your back, bend forward at the hips until your torso is parallel to the floor, then return to a standing position. In other words, take a bow with a weight on your back!

Why is it such a great exercise?

The good morning is an effective way to strengthen the back. It also requires confidence and control to perform well, which are useful skills to master.

Although it might look a bit dangerous at first glance, it is perfectly safe if performed with proper technique and an appropriate weight.

Good mornings have been a standard assistance exercise in olympic weightlifting for many decades. Heavy good mornings and concentric good mornings have been popularised for powerlifters by Westside Barbell.

How to perform the good morning

Practise this movement with just a barbell until you are confident with the technique and body position.

Step 1: start position

Good morning start position

Take up a position as if for a back squat: legs slightly wider than hip width apart, barbell across your back resting on the traps (top of shoulders) not the neck.

You can experiment with different stances; a wider stance will work the hamstrings more while a narrow stance will work the lower back more.

Good morning narrow stance Good morning wide stance

Grip

Your hands should be as close to your shoulders as is comfortable (this will vary with your flexibility).

Good morning position of barbell on back

Position of barbell on back

Breathing

As in the deadlift, take a deep breath and hold it throughout the lift or at least until you are on the way back up. This breathing technique creates intra-abdominal pressure which helps to stabilise the spine.

Step 2: bend forward from the hips

Start the movement by bending forward from the hips, keeping the knees soft. Think about pushing your butt out behind you.

Good morning middle position

Legs

Keep your legs almost straight, with a slight bend in the knee so that they are not locked out completely.

Back

Be careful not to round your lower back; maintain the curve in your lumbar spine. (Note: there is such a thing as a rounded back good morning but this is not in the scope of this article as it has specialist applicability.)

As you bend forward, the bar is held in place on your shoulders by pushing your shoulder blades back and your elbows up.

Good morning Push shoulders and elbows up

Push shoulders and elbows up

Head

Keep your head in a neutral position. This means that as you bend over, your gaze will be directed towards the floor, not ahead of you.

Don’t be tempted to look up in an attempt to keep the bar on your back; the bar will stay in place if you keep your shoulders back, elbows up and a slight curve in your lower back.

Step 3: descend to parallel

Bend forward as close to parallel with the floor as you can go without rounding your lower back. For many people, this will not be quite parallel as they will be limited by hamstring flexibility but try to go for maximum range of motion rather than maximum weight on the bar!

Good morning bottom position

Remember to keep the head neutral all the way down, keeping the bar in place with shoulders and elbow position.

You should feel a stretch in both the hamstrings and lower back in the bottom position of the good morning.

Step 4: return to standing position

Reverse the movement back to a standing position, maintaining the position of the head and back. Make sure you bring the hips back in fully before starting the next rep – in other words, stand up straight.

Concentric good morning

A concentric good morning is a variation of the standard good morning exercise, where you perform the second half of the movement first. You start in the bottom position, almost parallel to the floor, and lift the bar to a standing position.

The idea is to mimic the position of the back in the deadlift, but to focus more on the spinal erectors than a normal deadlift would do by taking a lot of the leg power out of the equation.

Concentric good mornings are usually used by powerlifters as a back assistance exercise or as a training alternative to the deadlift (as some advanced powerlifters do not deadlift very often).

How to perform a concentric good morning

Set the bar to the correct position in the rack. You will need to be able to lift the bar with a flat back, so don’t set the rack too low if you don’t have the flexibility to get into that bottom position.

Concentric good morning start position

Concentric good morning - start position

Take up position under the bar as you would with a normal good morning. Lift the bar, driving up against it leading with the shoulders until hips are fully extended and you are standing up straight.

Concentric good morning top position

Concentric good morning - top position

Then return the bar to the rack in the bottom position, being careful that you rack the bar properly before letting go.

How to use the good morning in your training

The good morning functions as an assistance exercise for the posterior chain, especially the lower back. It is a good option on days when you don’t deadlift but need a back exercise.

If being used as a back assistance exercise, good mornings can be done with light-to-medium weights for 6-10 reps.

If being used by a powerlifter as an alternative to the deadlift on a ‘heavy’ day, heavy weights for 1-5 reps can be used.

Good mornings can be used in warm ups (with light weights of course, maybe just a barbell) to warm up the back muscles. They can also be used as part of a barbell complex, for example: front squatpush press – good morning.

Powerlifters and olympic lifters in particular will benefit from heavy good mornings such as 3×3, but anyone who wants to build lower back strength will find these useful. Just remember not to compromise range of motion for more weight.

Watch a video demo of the good morning and the concentric good morning

More from gubernatrix

How to deadlift
How to front squat
Assistance exercises
Why you should full squat

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  • 1

    Hi
    Thanks for posting this. Good mornings have been an exercise that I’ve always been a bit afraid to try as they look pretty dangerous. Thanks to your great tutorial and video I now feel confident to give them a go.
    Thanks!

    Chloe on July 27th, 2010
  • 2

    Gubes, I would like to offer my own ever humble perspective on the GM which I posted a few days ago; http://sumoman.mipropia.com/moaning/

    sumoman on July 27th, 2010
  • 3

    Great stuff, all spot on. GM’s are in my programs but I never give them the attention they deserve, I think I will from now on.

    neried7 on July 27th, 2010
  • 4

    In my case, I’ve found from experience that a little head tilt upwards goes a long way toward helping to keep the upper back tight and from rounding/falling forward. If that doesn’t happen to others, then great. I just thought that I would note that it can be useful to look a little more forward when doing these.

    Otherwise, great article on the GMs AND I think you did a great job explaining how to do them. I never see these on the GMs!

    Robert on August 1st, 2010
  • 5

    Thanks Robert. Yes I agree that a bit of head tilt can help and if it makes the difference between not being able to do GMs and feeling comfortable doing them then that’s fine. I think working towards not needing the head tilt is better.

    gubernatrix on August 1st, 2010
  • 6

    Hi gubes,

    really enjoyed the post, hadn’t done GM’s for a long time so decided to do them again to see if they fit in a pregnancy weights program. And they do (at least with me)!
    Am in my 7th month now and (with a slightly wider stance to accomodate the bump) actually find them really comfortable and useful.

    thanks for reminding me,

    Lieke

    Lieke on August 2nd, 2010
  • 7

    Lieke, glad to hear all is going well with the pregnancy. Good luck for the last two months. Also very pleased to hear that good mornings are an effective pregnancy exercise! What else have you been doing exercise-wise while pregnant?

    Gubernatrix on August 2nd, 2010
  • 8

    […] continue […]

  • 9

    Gubes,

    I do lots of stuff really, as long as it’s fun and feels good!

    Today it was combinations, since I have been reading up on Crossfit lately, actually quite new here in Holland.
    Started with warm-up (cross-trainer 30 min, need to keep my ankles and rest of self from swelling).

    Then combination (no pause):
    Lat pulls x 12-15
    Single leg squats (leg elevated)x12 per leg
    Lat pull hands together x10-12
    20 fast squats (unweighed)
    (Makes one set, times 4)

    pause to get breath and feeling in legs back

    Then combination (no pause):
    squats (50 pound barbell, light but on the safe side)
    Good mornings (same bb)x12
    Military Press (same bb)x12
    (makes one set, times 3)x20

    Tomorrow rest or something light, depending on how I feel.

    Day after, probably combination as above, but different/more/heavier sets, whatever feels right.

    Goal basically is keeping fit, and maybe get the level up on things I haven’t had time to do. It seems to work well…

    I also try to take appropriate pauses in between sets without counting too much (just letting pulse go down before restart in between instead of watching the clock) and avoid exercises that put direct pressure on the abdomen.

    I did a small guest post on weight liftng while pregnant from personal experience on stumptuous with some more exercises as an inspiration to other pregnant women (with me as initial guinea pig), so altogether I’m having enormous fun :)
    The post is here, maybe someone else will find it useful, too:
    http://www.stumptuous.com/weight-training-during-pregnancy-liekes-experience

    keep up the good work!

    Lieke on August 3rd, 2010
  • 10

    Slight rectification (if the last set would have been repeated 20 times it probably would have left me dead on the floor of gym):)

    squats (50 pound barbell, light but on the safe side)
    Good mornings (same bb)x12
    Military Press (same bb)x20
    (makes one set, times 3)

    lieke on August 4th, 2010
  • 11

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