The Good Morning Exercise Is One of the Quickest Ways to Strengthen Your Butt and Legs

When you think of good mornings you probably recall the days pre-COVID-19, when we weren’t quarantined at home with the news getting increasingly bleak. But today we're talking about the good morning exercise—it can be an effective part of your warm-up or strength-training program, depending on your goals. It's a versatile move that can be done pretty much anywhere—and it doesn't require weights (though you can add them if you choose). Here's everything you need to know about the good morning exercise.

"A good morning is a hip hinge movement that helps strengthen your butt and legs by targeting your hamstrings, glutes, and adductors," says Josh Gallegos, co-founder of the online functional fitness program Deadboys Fitness. It apparently gets its name because it looks kind of like when you sit up out of bed in the morning to stretch, but this seems like a bit of an, um, stretch to me. You can make your own judgement after reading the next section.

How do you do a good morning exercise?

Gallegos breaks down how to do a good morning:

1. Stand with your feet right underneath your hips (hip width apart apart).

2. Place your fingertips behind your ears.

3. Slightly bend your knees.

4. Keeping your back flat and core braced, push your hips back (think of pushing your butt towards a wall), lowering your torso until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings.

5. Pause, and then return to the starting position.

That's the bodyweight version of a good morning, but there are also variations that you can perform. Gallegos says that placing a PVC pipe on your back (like you would if you were getting ready to do a back squat) can help you maintain a flat back. "A weighted good morning helps to really build your hamstring strength," says Gallegos. "If you’re adding weight you need to be sure you’re still keeping your back flat and your midline tight (keep your core engaged)."

The level of difficulty depends on which variation of a good morning you are doing. Gallegos says that virtually anyone can perform the bodyweight version of a good morning. To make the movement more advanced, you add weight, like with a barbell. "I would recommend anyone who has trouble maintaining a flat back while performing a good morning to be cautious about adding weight because that’s where injury can happen. A good place to start is with your hands behind your ears or using a PVC pipe behind your back," he says.

Keeping a flat back is key to good form with this movement. A rounded back "allows the shoulders to round this compromises the posture and can lead to lower back problems," he says. Another mistake Gallegos sees is that people squat instead of pushing their hips back. "This focuses more on your quads rather than working the correct muscles," he says. "A fun cue I give my clients to get them to push their hips back is to pretend their arms are full of groceries and to try and close a car door with their butt. Almost everybody can relate to that!" Even more now that no one wants to touch doorknobs.

Who should do good mornings?

"The bodyweight good mornings are safe for anyone and can be done virtually anywhere," says Gallegos. "Keep the proper form and technique and you are golden." So basically, everyone (save those who don't have sign off to work out from their docs) can benefit from doing good mornings. "Good mornings are a great hip hinge movement, that can be used in a warm up or a tougher workout. They are important in developing hamstring strength and can serve as an alternative movement to a deadlift or hamstring curls," says Gallegos.

The number of sets and reps will depend on how much weight you're using, and if you're using the movement as a warmup or not. "As a general warmup, three sets of 10 reps with your bodyweight is a great way to get your hamstrings warm and active," says Gallegos. You could also incorporate weighted good mornings as part of a strength program for stronger hamstrings, he says.

What are the benefits?

In addition to helping you get a stronger butt and hamstrings, good mornings are also a great warmup. "I always incorporate bodyweight good mornings with my clients because they are a great way to warm up the hamstrings. It’s important that they’re warm for any movement with a hip hinge like deadlifts or kettlebell swings," says Gallegos. "Your hamstrings affect your glutes, adductors, and lower back so I always want to make sure my clients are warmed up to avoid injury."

The good morning exercise makes an excellent addition to your warm-up before doing hamstring and/or butt heavy movements, like deadlifts, or as accessory work after your workout to strengthen the aforementioned muscles. The exercise can be incorporated into your strength training program. It's a versatile movement that can be performed with or without weight, and can be done at home without equipment. When done with good form, it's a safe movement for pretty much anyone to add into their workout routine.

Want a full lower body workout? Give this slide workout a go:

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