Learn everything you need to know about seated good mornings, including how to do them and the benefits.
There’s one exercise that will activate your lower back like no other. This exercise is none other than seated good mornings. It gets its name because it looks like you’re taking a proper bow to say “good morning.” Don’t let this gesture fool you, though. This exercise isn’t for the faint of heart!
Seated good mornings are an excellent posterior chain—lower back, hamstrings, and glute—exercise that improves your hip extension power. And it also enhances the isometric position of your back arch, which helps with Olympic lifts such as cleans and snatches. But, of course, performing this exercise with the proper form and technique is essential so you don’t risk injury or improper muscle development.
Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to do them and their benefits. Plus, if you stick around, you’ll learn tips and alternative exercises to do as well.
Seated Good Mornings Technique and Muscles Worked
Good mornings are excellent for your posterior chain, targeting your lower back, hamstrings, and glutes (1). The seated variation helps to keep weight off problematic areas, such as your knees, so you can focus more directly on using proper form when doing this movement correctly without worrying about falling over. In addition, it emphasizes more of your lower back than standing since it requires less activation from your glutes and hamstrings.
Here’s how to do them:
- Sit on a bench with your feet flat on the floor with a barbell across your upper back, holding it at shoulder width.
- Lean forward and lower your body using your hips, not your lower back. You want to hinge forward as your flexibility allows while trying to get your torso parallel with the floor (and without going past that).
- Slowly extend your hips to raise your torso back to the starting point.
The seated good mornings can cause injury (especially to your lower back) if you don’t do them correctly. So here are some tips to keep in mind when performing them to get the most out of them and reduce your chances of injury.
You should maintain a flat back throughout the exercise. While seated, keeping your back flat may be difficult if you have tight hamstrings and glutes that need longer to loosen up. So a proper warm-up is critical before performing them. For example, light cardio for 5 minutes increases your muscle’s temperature. And doing bodyweight squats and good mornings with just bodyweight.
Don’t Let Your Knees Go Past Your Toes
When doing the exercise, try not to let your knees bend past your toes, as this will put unnecessary pressure on your lower back. Also, keep your head and eyes forward throughout the movement. And don’t let round your back during the exercise.
Keep Your Back Flat
When performing seated good mornings, you should maintain a flat back and keep your gaze forward. If you don’t, several things can happen.
Allowing your hips to move forward during the exercise can cause the lower back to arch excessively, which is terrible for your spine health. Additionally, if your upper body does not stay completely upright during the movement (e.g., if it leans too far forward) or if it leans too far backward (e.g., when looking down), it will put unnecessary stress on the muscles in both areas of the body—again leading to potential injuries such as pulled muscles or strained ligaments.
As aforementioned, seated good mornings are an expectational posterior chain exercise. It requires an extensive hip extension, which will carry over into other big compounds exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, and Olympic movements, such as power cleans.
- You’ll strengthen your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
- Seated good mornings are effective for increasing balance and hip and lower body flexibility.
- Seated mornings can help improve posture by strengthening the lower back muscles. This will reduce stress on your spine and reduce the potential for injury during other activities, such as running or jumping.
- Strengthening your posterior chain will help back pain. And this exercise targets it without putting excessive pressure on your knees, like deadlifts or squats may (2). However, if you have back pain, the weight should be light, or use just your bodyweight!
Seated Good Mornings Alternatives
Here are a few alternative exercises that work similar muscles.
Of course, there’s always the option of the standing variation. This alternative will engage less of your lower back and more your glutes and hamstrings since standing activates them more than sitting.
Barbell Romanian Deadlift
The barbell Romanian deadlift is another good exercise for engaging your posterior chain. The movement pattern is similar to good morning, but it’ll place less strain on your back and allow you to use a heavier load.
Stiff Leg Deadlift
This alternative movement follows a similar movement pattern to seated good mornings and engages the same muscles—glutes, hamstrings, and back. But the stiff leg deadlift will also allow you to use a heavier weight.
Below are frequently asked questions (FAQs) and things to note when performing this movement.
- Are seated good mornings good for your lower back?
This movement can strain your lower back, so it’s best to avoid or use light weight if you experience back pain. However, if you aren’t experiencing any pain, it’s a good movement for strengthening your lower back.
- How much weight should you use for seated good mornings?
This will vary from person to person. But it’s recommended to keep the weight light for this movement for precautionary measures to protect your back.
- What’s the difference between good mornings while standing versus sitting?
The standing variation will engage your glutes and hamstrings, while sitting will strengthen your lower back more.
More Exercise Guides
Seated good mornings are no doubt an excellent movement worth trying to strengthen your posterior chain. And below, we have more exercise guides we recommend checking out to engage other muscles in your body:
- Vigotsky, A. D., Harper, E. N., Ryan, D. R., & Contreras, B. (2015). Effects of load on good morning kinematics and EMG activity. PeerJ, 3, e708. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.708
- Schellenberg, F., Lindorfer, J., List, R., Taylor, W. R., & Lorenzetti, S. (2013). Kinetic and kinematic differences between deadlifts and goodmornings. BMC sports science, medicine & rehabilitation, 5(1), 27. https://doi.org/10.1186/2052-1847-5-27