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a woman performs a Good Morning

The good morning is a powerful hip-hinge exercise that builds strength in the legs, core, and back — especially in the hamstrings and spinal erectors.

The move typically calls for resting a barbell across your upper back, leaning forward until your torso is parallel to the floor, and then driving your hips forward to return to standing. But even though the good morning looks like an easy move — bend over and stand up again — it’s easy to mess up.

Here are several common pitfalls and some ways to avoid them:

  • Poor hinge pattern: Maintain a neutral neck position and a forward gaze. Instead of “head down,” think “butt back” and hinging at the hips rather than bending forward at the waist.
  • Incorrect barbell positioning: Place the weight on the shelf formed by the muscles of your upper back, not on your neck.
  • Awkward spinal position: Brace your core and move with a neutral spine, avoiding rounding or arching.
  • Inappropriate loading: Don’t expect to perform a good morning with the same weight you would choose for a deadlift or squat.
  • Work within your range of motion: Lower your upper body only as far as you can control with good form.

Above all, focus on form. Start by practicing the movement with a lightweight PVC pipe or broomstick.

And consider variations that boast similar benefits to the barbell version but may be better suited to your body, such as replacing the barbell with dumbbells, a resistance band, or a sandbag.

You may also consider supporting the weight in positions that are more body friendly for you — over your shoulders, for instance, or in a bear-hug position against your chest.

Follow these tips to perform a great-for-you good morning:

  1. With your feet about hip width apart, position a barbell on your upper traps, just below the bony part of the back of your neck. Engage your shoulder blades and brace your core.
  2. Without rounding your spine, hinge your hips backward, keeping the bar tight against your traps.
  3. When you reach the end of your range of motion — typically indicated by tension in the hamstrings — reverse the movement and stand back up.

If holding a barbell across your back is uncomfortable or inconvenient, perform a good morning while holding two dumbbells on your upper back (or while supporting them on your shoulders). See below.

Sandbag Good Morning

You can also perform a good morning with a sandbag — in lieu of a barbell — across the back of your shoulders.

Try These Additional Variations

Dumbbell Good Morning

If holding a barbell across your back is uncomfortable or inconvenient, perform a good morning while holding two dumbbells on your upper back (or while supporting them on your shoulders).

Bear-Hug Good Morning

If shoulder mobility is a limiting factor for you, the bear-hug variation — in which you wrap your arms around a medicine ball or sandbag and hold it tight against your chest — can be more comfortable. (A related alternative is the Zercher variation, in which you hold a sandbag or barbell in the crooks of your bent elbows.)

Banded Good Morning

Another way to eliminate the compressive force of a barbell on your back is to use a closed-loop resistance band: Stand on one end of the band and loop the other end around the base of your neck so the band lies flat over your shoulders.

Kettlebell “Good Morning”

Try holding a kettlebell behind you with both hands, letting the bell rest against your buttocks. Then, try pressing the kettlebell away from you with your hips to really groove the “butt back” cue. (Note: While this is technically not a good morning because of where you support the load — close to your hips rather than your shoulders — it is a great alternative for training the hip hinge.)

This article originally appeared as “The Barbell Good Morning” in the January/February 2022 issue of Experience Life.

Photography by: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Fitness Model: Maggie Fazeli Fard
Maggie Fazeli Fard

Maggie Fazeli Fard, RKC, is an Experience Life senior editor.

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