Lower backs are the Vincent Kompany of muscle groups – always carrying a knock or a niggle, frequently unable to perform at their best and out of action at crucial times. But whether you’re sidelined from five-a-side or or wincing in agony as you reach for you slippers or swivel at your desk, the good morning exercise is here to help.
To the untrained eye it looks like a chiropractor’s nightmare. You bend over with a barbell balanced across your shoulders then snap back to standing. In fact, when done with solid spinal alignment and smooth form, it could actually be the key to keeping the chiropractor out of work. It’ll strengthen your crucial lower-back muscles and core while helping lightly stretch and bolster your hamstrings, making it a money move for office workers, weightlifters, sportsmen and marathoners alike.
The key? Keep the movement slow, the form strict and the weight low. Powerlifter Jim Wendler, for instance, never does good mornings with more than 60kg and he’s squatted more than 400kg. He recommends using the good morning on a lower-body day, for three to five sets after your main move, doing ten to 12 reps per set.
RECOMMENDED: Lower Back Workouts
How to Do a Good Morning
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, resting a light barbell across the back of your shoulders, not your neck. Hold the bar in place with your hands and stand upright, core braced and shoulders retracted. Take a breath and hinge forwards from your hips, not your waist, allowing a slight bend in your knees but keeping your back flat. Lean forward until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings (but don’t go beyond horizontal), then, as you exhale, reverse the move to stand up straight.
Good Morning Form Tips
Avoid craning your neck to look forwards as you lean forwards. Instead, keep a neutral spine by looking forwards as you stand and towards the floor as you lower to horizontal.
Push your hips back to maintain balance and drive them forwards to initiate the force to return to standing.
Keep a tight grip on the bar, pulling it into the soft muscle of your shoulders as you lean forwards so it doesn’t put pressure on your neck.
RECOMMENDED: Back Exercises
Good Morning Variations
Split good morning
Place extra pressure on your hamstrings with this one-sided move. Avoid stressing your back by keeping your good morning shallow.
Single-leg good morning
Standing on one leg requires your core muscles – lower back and abs – to work harder to maintain balance. Make the move slow and balanced.
Medicine ball sledgehammer
This exercise targets a host of muscles around your body, especially the stabilising muscles in your lower back. Keep your back flat, bring the ball down powerfully between your legs, then straighten your legs and lift the ball high.