3 Good Morning Exercise Variations That Build Strong and Injury-Proof Hamstrings

Protect this oft-injured muscle with 3 moves from STACK Expert John Cissik.

The Good Morning exercise develops hamstring and lower-back strength. You should do them regularly, and when you do, they should be the main hip extension/hamstring exercise in your workout.

When you do Good Mornings, keep the total number of reps fairly low. I generally recommend sets of 4 to 12 repetitions. Higher reps mean fatigue and sloppy form, which increases the risks of injury.

Over time,  you can work up to using a lot of weight on the Good Morning. I try to have my athletes use weights equivalent to what they use on Lunges. That helps keep their front and back sides balanced. Here are three Good Morning variations that make good additions to your training.

Standing Good Morning

This is the most common version of the Good Morning, and it's usually done from a squat rack. Stand up with the bar on the back of your shoulders, just like the Squat. Your feet should be hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Stick your chest out and pull your shoulders back.

From that position, push your hips back and lean forward until your torso is parallel to the ground. From the bottom position, reverse directions until you are standing up again.

Coaching Points:

  • Keep your chest out, shoulders back and core tight throughout the exercise to protect your lower back.
  • This exercise is not a Squat. Your upper body needs to lean forward until it is parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your weight on your heels to improve balance.
  • Look up slightly as you lower your upper body to keep your chest and shoulders in the proper position.

Seated Good Morning

Performed sitting down on a bench, this version focuses more on the lower back. To perform it, straddle the bench so that your legs are on either side. The bar should be on the back of your shoulders. From here, stick your chest out and pull your shoulders back. Then lean forward toward the bench, ideally until your lower abs touch the bench.

Coaching Points:

  • Make sure your shoulders don't round forward.
  • The closer together your feet are, the more challenging this exercise will be.
  • This exercise is safest when you take the bar from the squat rack and sit on a nearby bench. You can do this in the Bench press as well, but this can be dangerous with heavy weights or when you're tired.

Good Morning From the Floor

This is the most difficult version of the Good Morning. It can also be called a Stiff-Legged Deadlift, because the bar begins on the floor.

Stand in front of the bar with your feet hip-width apart. Pull your shoulders back and stick your chest out. With a slight bend in your knees, push your hips back and lean forward until you are able to grip the bar.

Take a medium-width grip on the bar (between your snatch-width grip and your clean-width grip). From this position, drive your hips forward to stand up and lift the barbell off the ground until it touches your thighs.

Coaching Points:

  • There should be little use of your knees in this exercise. Think of your hips as the pivot point.
  • If you lack the mobility to do this lift from the floor, place the bar on boxes or weight plates until you have the desired height.

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