Welcome to our weekly Move of the Week series. Every Monday, we’ll be sharing with you one of our favourite exercises – how to do them, what muscles they work and why they should be a regular part of your workout regime. This week: Good mornings.
Good mornings are a cornerstone of many mobility drills and warm-ups. They don’t require any weights or equipment, you can do them without getting sweaty (perfect for taking a quick break from your desk) and they’re great for strengthening muscles whether you’re a beginner or seasoned pro.
So, what exactly is a good morning and what muscles do they work?
The exercise is called a “good morning” because it’s supposed to replicate the movement of bowing to wish someone a good morning (imagine you’re wearing a top hat in the 1890s). While you can do them at any point of the day or during your workout, they’re really brilliant for warm-ups and short mobility workouts for a few reasons, including:
- Low-impact: so you don’t have to warm-up before doing them
- Effective: they target two big muscle groups – the hamstrings and glutes
- Loosening: they help to loosen up the hip flexors, making them the ideal move to do if you’ve been sitting down a while or you’re feeling stiff
- Practical: it’s the same hip hinge movement pattern as deadlifts, kettlebell swings and pull-throughs, so great to do ahead of main strength workouts
- Adaptable: you can add weights to make it harder when appropriate
In other words, good mornings are simple but effective at targetting the posterior chain muscles that you’ll probably need to work in any lower body or cardio session. By adding good mornings into your warm-ups, you’ll be getting the body used to hinging correctly – crucial for performing deadlifts correctly and protecting yourself from injury. We start many of our training plans and workout videos with a set of good mornings so they really are worth nailing!
Which muscles are worked?
This move targets the posterior (or back) chain of muscles, so your:
- Lower back
The hips do most of the work in the movement, unless you’re carrying a bar or weight as well. We have to engage all those back muscles to remain stable and prevent something called “spinal flexion”, which is essentially a backbend. By doing this kind of bodyweight exercise, we’re getting the body primed to handle squats and deadlifts better because often, it’s the back muscles that can get tired after a few reps. Good mornings prime those back muscles to last, even when we’re carrying weights, so that we stay in good form throughout those arguably harder compound moves.
How to do good mornings
They’re super simple to do but you need to make sure that your posture is correct if you want to work into the right muscles.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart.
- Bend your arms so that your hands are just behind your ears and your elbows are pointing out to the side.
- Keeping a slight bend in the knees, hinge forward from the hips so that you’re eventually standing like an upside-down “L” – with your back flat and parallel to the floor.
- Make sure that you keep your neck long; keep looking slightly in front of you rather than bending the neck to look at your feet and make sure that you keep that nice, relaxed neck position throughout.
- Keeping the back straight and arms bend, squeeze your glutes and hinge from the hips to return to standing – feeling that in the hamstrings.
Only hinge as far as feels comfortable – you should feel the hamstrings working but don’t go too deep if they’re tight (runners, here’s looking at you).
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Miranda Larbi is a freelance fitness and wellness journalist, and qualified personal trainer. When she’s not finding new vegan places to eat, she can be found training for the next marathon or cycling across London on a Tokyo bike.