How To Do Good Morning Exercise + Variations And Alternatives

Written by Charushila Biswas
ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition

Do you want to strengthen your back and core? Try the good morning exercise. This exercise is done with a barbell. It helps improve muscle strength while giving your hammies a good stretch. But there’s a catch.

Doing this exercise without proper form can hurt your back, neck, and shoulders. Hence, learning to do it right is very important. If you are new to this exercise, we can help. Read to know how to perform the good morning exercise safely, the variations and alternatives, its benefits, and precautions. Swipe up!

What Is The Good Morning Exercise?

The good morning exercise is a hinging exercise performed with a barbell. It targets the glutes, upper and lower back, and hamstrings. The ‘hinging’ pose is done by bending from your waist and keeping your back straight and in line with your neck and head. Does this exercise have any benefits? Let’s find out below.

Benefits Of The Good Morning Exercise

The good morning exercise helps strengthen the glutes, core, lower and upper back, and the hamstrings.

Los Angeles-based certified personal fitness trainer, Thomas Jankas, NASM CPT, PST, CES, FTN NCEP, remarks, “I personally find it to be an amazing core, lower back, and hamstring warm up. It’s often used on any day I squat or dead lift. It’s a great way to prep those muscles to work while also training your neuromuscular system to get ready to hinge.”

This exercise also targets secondary muscles like biceps, triceps, shoulders, and traps. It helps improve your muscle strength, coordination, and balance. Doing the exercise right can help you reap all its benefits. Find below the step-by-step guide to the good morning exercise.

How To Do The Good Morning Exercise Properly And Safely

Step 1: Stand in front of a squat rack and position your hands on the barbell set at chest level.

Stand in front of a squat rack and position your hands on the barbell set at chest level

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Step 2: Grip the bar, take a step forward with your left foot, and go underneath the barbell.

Grip the bar, take a step forward with your left foot, and go underneath the barbell.

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Step 3: Bring your right foot close to your left and place your shoulders against the barbell. Keep your knees slightly flexed and bend forward from the waist.

Bring your right foot close to your left and place your shoulders against the barbell

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Step 4: Pull your hands apart. This will switch on all your upper back muscles. Tuck your hips to activate the core.

Pull your hands apart

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Step 5: Push through the knees to stand straight up and lift the barbell off the rack.

Push through the knees to stand straight up and lift the barbell off the rack

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Step 6: Take a step back with your dominant foot.

Take a step back with your dominant foot

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Step 7: Bring both your feet in the same line and keep them hip-width apart. Look forward. This is the starting position.

Bring both your feet in the same line and keep them hip-width apart.

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Step 8: Inhale and push your hips back.

Inhale and push your hips back.

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Step 9: Bend your knees slightly and lean forward keeping your spine in neutral position.

Bend your knees slightly and lean forward keeping your spine in neutral position

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Step 10: Lower your upper body until your back is parallel to the floor. You will feel the stretch in your glutes and hamstrings.

Lower your upper body until your back is parallel to the floor.

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Step 11: Pause for a moment and come back up to the starting position.

Pause for a moment and come back up to the starting position.

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That’s it! You have done your first rep of the good morning exercise. You can do 3 sets of 5 to 12 reps, depending on your fitness level. Beginners can perform the exercise under the supervision of a certified trainer. They may stick to fewer sets and reps. Also, placing the barbell back on the rack is simple. Walk through the squat rack, place the barbell on the rack, bend down and come out from right underneath the barbell. In other words, do the opposite of what you did to get the barbell off the rack.

Yes, doing this exercise correctly should be your priority. But you also must avoid the common mistakes to reduce the risk of injury.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

The most common mistake while performing the good morning exercise is using a barbell that’s too heavy. Fitness trainer Thomas Jankas, NASM CPT, PST, CES, FTN NCEP, agrees. He says, “Only well trained athletes for specific sports need to do heavy mornings. Good mornings should be used as a warm up or a lighter accessory lift for most people. Lots of control with a light to medium load.”

Also, you must maintain a neutral spine while you hinge forward. Maintain a slightly concave lower back while your spine is parallel to the floor. Practice the good morning exercise with an experienced trainer to get the spine posture correct.

In fact, if you are a beginner and are not comfortable with a barbell, you can also perform this exercise with a dumbbell or a kettlebell or even without the weights! Check out the good morning exercise variations that suit your fitness level and comfort.

Good Morning Exercise Variations

1. Good Morning Exercise Without Weights

Good Morning Exercise Without Weights

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Steps

  •  Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  •  Place your hands behind your head, chest out, and look forward. This is the starting position.
  •  Inhale and push your hips out, bend your knees slightly, and lean forward. Maintain a neutral spine position.
  •  Go down until your spine is parallel to the floor.
  •  Pause for a moment and come back to the starting position.
  •  Do 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps.

2. Good Morning Exercise With Dumbbell

Good Morning Exercise With Dumbbell

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Steps

  •  Take a 2-pound or 5-pound dumbbell with both hands. Hold it behind your head, chest out, feet hip-width apart, and look forward. This is the starting position.
  •  Inhale and push your hips out, bend your knees slightly, and lean forward. Maintain a neutral spine position.
  •  Go down until your spine is parallel to the floor.
  •  Pause for a moment and come back to the starting position.
  •  Do 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps.

3. Good Morning Exercise With Kettlebell

Good Morning Exercise With Kettlebell

Youtube

Steps

  •  Take a 2-pound, 5-pound, or 10-pound kettlebell with both hands.
  •  Hold it behind your head, feet hip-width apart, chest out, and look forward. This is the starting position.
  •  Inhale and push your hips out, bend your knees slightly, and lean forward. Maintain a neutral spine position.
  •  Go down until your spine is parallel to the floor.
  •  Pause for a moment and come back to the starting position.
  •  Do 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps.

These are the variations of the good morning exercise that you can perform. Start without weights and gradually move on to a dumbbell or a kettlebell. You may eventually try your hands on the barbell (without extra weights or the 2-pound weight plates on either side, depending on your fitness level). But here’s a word of caution. This exercise is not recommended for everyone. Scroll down to see who should avoid the good morning exercise.

Caution – Should You Avoid The Good Morning Exercise?

Avoid the good morning exercise if you have lower back pain, a slip disc, have just given birth, have scoliosis, have an injury, or have undergone a surgery. Fitness trainer Thomas Jankas, NASM CPT, PST, CES, FTN NCEP, also echoes the same. He says, “Anyone who has any spinal cord conditions should check with their medical professional first to make sure the motion won’t put any unacceptable pressure on the disc.”

What can you do if you cannot perform the good morning exercise? Are there alternatives?

Alternatives Of The Good Morning Exercise

  •  Hip thrusts
  •  Glute bridges
  •  Romanian deadlift
  •  Bird dog exercise

Note: Those with spine issues are suggested to avoid exercises that hyperextend the lower back. Perform the alternative exercises under the supervision of a trained fitness coach. Always start with lower sets and reps.

Takeaway

Good morning exercises help strengthen your lower back and core. They help improve posture, strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance. Learn the correct form to reduce the risk of injuries. Start without weights and gradually move on to a barbell. Always perform this exercise under the supervision of an experienced trainer until you get the correct form. Finally, avoid this exercise if you have any spine issue. You may go for the alternative exercises.

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Charushila Biswas is a Senior Content Writer and an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition. She is an alumni of VIT University, Vellore and has worked on transgenic wheat as a part of her Masters dissertation from NRCPB (IARI), New Delhi. After completing her Masters, she developed a passion for nutrition and fitness, which are closely related to human psychology. This prompted her to author a review article in 2015. She has written over 200 articles on Fitness and Nutrition. In her leisure time, Charushila loves to cook and enjoys mobile photography.