Good day” might be an email salutation, a sweet message from your significant other while they’re away on business, or honestly, the best way to describe any morning that doesn’t start with an alarm clock. However, the good morning exercise is also a workout that you should definitely incorporate into your routine.
Never heard of it? This guide is perfect for you. Here, discover precisely how to perform the good morning exercise correctly, common errors to avoid, and the benefits you’ll reap from including it in your fitness regimen.
How to Perform the Good Morning Exercise
At its most fundamental level, the good morning exercise is a hip hinge. “The hip hinge is one of the functional movement patterns that involves maintaining a neutral spine and bending at the hips,” explains Grayson Wickham, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., a physical therapist and the founder of Movement Vault. To visualize, think about the first half of a deadlift when you break at the hips and lean forward – that’s a hip hinge.
Another great visual is the exercise’s namesake: Getting out of bed in the morning. When you rise from bed, you place your feet on the floor, stabilize your core, and then extend your hips to stand up. Right? Well, that’s the good morning exercise summed up.
Here’s the complete step-by-step explanation, as demonstrated by Wickham:
A. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes facing forward, and knees slightly bent. Your hands can hang by your sides, be crossed over your chest, or rest on the back of your head.
B. Engage your core and simultaneously hinge at the hips, pushing your buttocks straight back while keeping your lower legs perpendicular to the floor.
C. Maintain a flat back as you continue to lower your torso towards the floor, feeling a stretch in your hamstrings or until your back starts to curve.
D. Push through your feet and drive your hips forward to reverse the movement, relying on your hamstrings and core to bring you back to an upright position. Squeeze your glutes at the top.
Note: While the eventual goal is to hinge your torso forward until it’s parallel to the ground, you may not be able to achieve that right away (likely due to tight hamstrings or a weak core). That’s alright! “Don’t worry too much about going so low that it compromises your form.
Some individuals might only possess the ability to pivot forward a few inches initially,” affirms Wickham.
The Main Benefits of Morning Exercise
So, why should you include morning exercises in your fitness routine? Here, we break down all the advantages that the morning exercise has to offer.
Targets the Backside Muscles
While morning exercises primarily strengthen your glutes and hamstrings, they also strengthen all the other muscles in the backside of the body, such as the upper back, lats, and calves.
In modern society, people often have weak backside muscles, according to Wickham. “Never once, when we transition from sitting at work to sitting in a car to sitting in front of the TV, do our backside muscles activate and work,” he explains. This can result in tight and weak muscles, which hinders your athletic potential since the backside muscles are the largest and most powerful in the body. Seriously: A strong backside can help you run faster and lift heavier, as Shape previously reported.
Helps Prevent Injuries
Simply put, morning exercises are the ultimate way to prevent injuries, and their impact on the aforementioned backside muscles is the most important benefit.
To explain, the issue with weak backside muscles is that other muscle groups are forced to compensate for their weakness, and when that happens, “the risk of injuries like plantar fasciitis, knee injuries, pulled hamstring, and low back injuries all increase,” says CJ Hammond, a NASM-certified trainer with RSP Nutrition. Having reliable exercises to activate these overlooked muscles is crucial.
Enhances Your Functional Fitness
Another reason to do morning exercises is because they are functional movement patterns, as Wickham mentioned before. “Functional movement pattern” is a fancy way of saying that the movements mimic actions you perform in your everyday tasks. (Other examples include the squat, push-up, and lunge.) If you can’t properly perform a morning exercise, “the chances of injuring your lower back while doing day-to-day movements, like putting groceries away or tying your shoelaces, significantly increase,” says Wickham.
And that’s particularly accurate as you age, he asserts.
Morning Greetings Exercise Muscles Targeted
You already know by now that the morning greetings exercise is an excellent strengthener for the posterior chain, but that’s not the only group this movement targets. They also hit all the muscles in the center (including the transverse abdominis, side muscles, and pelvic floor), which play a crucial role in keeping your spine safe and protected, according to Hammond. And if the movement is weighted (it doesn’t have to be, FYI), it can strengthen your triceps, biceps, shoulders, and traps as well as every other muscle already mentioned. So, yes, the morning greetings exercise is as full-body as an exercise gets.
Morning Greetings Exercise Variations
The morning greetings exercise on its own is sure to leave your entire body feeling strong and prepare you for everyday life. But you can adjust the exercise so it more heavily targets specific muscle groups. If you add weights, where you hold or position the weight and whether you remain standing impact the difficulty of the movement and the extent to which the exercise targets your center or hamstrings.
If you don’t have a barbell, but you do have a light dumbbell, kettlebell, or medicine ball (or any of these household items), you can still do a lightly weighted morning greetings — the keyword here being “light.” Start by using a five-pound plate, kettlebell, or dumbbell (or, use an object such as a hardcover textbook if you’re working out at home). As you get stronger, you can progress to a morning greetings exercise with dumbbells at a moderate weight.
Variation: Back-Loaded Morning Greetings Exercise
Ever done a barbell back squat? When you perform that exercise, the barbell is in the back-loaded position. For a back-loaded morning greetings, you’ll have the barbell in that same position, which helps increase engagement in the hamstrings and erector spinae, research indicates.
You have two options for safely placing the bar on your back when back-loading. You can either set up a squat rack and unload the bar as you would for a barbell back squat — or, if it’s light enough, you can power-clean the barbell into the front rack position (when you’re holding it in front of your body so that it runs horizontally across your chest, and rests on your shoulders). Then, push press the bar overhead, and lower it behind your head so that it rests along your upper back.
Note: Because taking the barbell from the rack is less challenging and enables you to lift a greater amount of weight, that’s the choice explained below. The remaining steps are the good morning movement itself.
A. If utilizing a squat rack (also referred to as a rig), approach the bar and dip underneath it so that the bar rests on your traps or rear deltoids. Extend your legs to unrack the bar.
B. Step backward away from the rack to create enough space for forward bending. Position your feet hip-width apart, with your toes facing forward as much as possible. Activate your upper back by rotating your pinkies into the bar.
C. Stabilize your midline, then bend at the waist, pushing your buttocks back while lowering your torso towards the ground.
D. Continue descending until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, or until your chest is parallel with the ground — whichever comes first.
E. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged, then activate your glutes and hamstrings to return to the standing position.
Variation: Front-Loaded Good Morning Exercise
To intensify the challenge to your core during the good morning exercise, try holding the barbell (or any other weight you have available) in front of your chest instead of on your back, as demonstrated by Wickham.
A. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your arms bent, your hands in front of your chest, and a barbell racked in your elbows. (Alternatively, hold a weight goblet-style in both hands in front of your chest, with your elbows tucked in towards your ribcage.)
B. Stabilize your core and slightly bend your knees, then push your hips back while leaning your chest forward, maintaining a straight back.
C. Reverse the movement once you feel a stretch in your hamstrings or when your core starts to fatigue, by pressing your feet down and driving through your hips to return to the standing position.
Variation: Seated Good Morning Exercise
Performing a seated good morning exercise places less emphasis on your hamstrings compared to the standing variation, but it prioritizes your glutes and lower back more, according to Wickham. It’s an excellent choice for warming up your body before heavy squats, he suggests.
“The safest way to load this exercise is to unload the barbell from a nearby rack [similar to a barbell back squat] and sit on a nearby bench afterward,” says Wickham. However, according to him, you won’t need more than an empty barbell — if that. Of course, you can always just use your body weight as well, crossing your arms over your chest.
A. Discover a firm surface like a crate or table that is not too tall for one’s feet to touch the ground while seated. Take a seat with feet planted at a distance equal to the width of one’s shoulders and a bar resting on the upper back or rear deltoids.
B. Stabilize the core. Press the glutes into the bench and push the feet into the floor. Then, while maintaining engagement of the core, lower the torso until it is as close to parallel with the floor as possible without curving the back.
C. Push through the floor and activate the hamstrings and core to return to the starting position.
Common Good Morning Exercise Errors
To be direct: The good morning exercise is extremely advantageous, but if performed incorrectly, it carries a significant risk of injury – especially when loaded. “Adding weight when your movement pattern is not solid can lead to an injury like a disc herniation or protrusion,” states Wickham. Wow. That is why it is important for everyone to receive approval from a trainer regarding their form while performing the classic, unweighted good morning exercise before adding weight, according to Wickham. “At the very least, you should record a video of yourself performing the movement from a side angle and ensure that your back does not curve [in either direction],” he states.
When you are ready to attempt a weighted variation, it is worth noting that you can practice using a PVC pipe to imitate the sensation of performing the good morning exercise with a barbell and avoid injury. (Alternatively, if you are at home, a broomstick also works.) When loading the weight in front of your body, your core needs to engage in order to help maintain a neutral spine throughout each repetition. Be honest with yourself about the strength of your core and its limitations, because “if your core is not strong enough for the weight you are using, it can cause your back to bend in a dangerous position,” explains Wickham.
How to Incorporate the Good Morning Exercise into Your Routine
There is no justification for incorporating this movement into an AMRAP or metabolic conditioning-style workout — or any workout that involves racing against the clock, really. Quality, not quantity, is the primary focus when it comes to good mornings, according to Hammond.
When performed without weights or with light weights, you can include good mornings as part of your warm-up routine to “awaken” the muscles of the posterior chain and core, says Wickham. For example, before exercises such as heavy deadlifts, squats, or cleans, do three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions, he suggests. “Performing good mornings before a workout will help your body become accustomed to activating your posterior chain so that it becomes automatic during the workout,” explains Wickham. As mentioned earlier, you can also use a PVC pipe to practice good mornings before transitioning to a weighted barbell.
Good mornings also serve as an excellent strength exercise on leg day.
Try performing three or four series of eight to 12 repetitions at a weight you can execute with flawless form, suggests Wickham. Once you are acquainted with the motion pattern, you can perform five series of five repetitions at a moderate weight, he states. If you go any heavier, the danger outweighs the possible benefit. Oh, and ensure to execute it early enough in your workout so that your core is not excessively fatigued to activate.
Remember: Good mornings are valuable because they aid in the prevention of harm. Do not allow your pride to hinder that.