How to Do Barbell Good Mornings: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

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The good morning exercise works the hamstrings, back, glutes, and abs. Using a weighted barbell increases the load on these muscles, though beginners should start with a light weight (or no weight at all). Add the barbell good morning to your lower body and core strength training routine.

Also Known As: Barbell good morning

Targets: Hamstrings, back, glutes, and core

Equipment: Barbell (with or without weights)

Level: Intermediate

How to Do the Barbell Good Morning Exercise

Verywell / Ben Goldstein


Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Place a barbell of appropriate weight on your shoulders so the bar rests on the trapezius muscles of the upper back, near your shoulders.

  1. Brace your upper back and abdominals and take a good breath in.
  2. Exhale as you hinge at the hips, sending the hips backward and upper body forward. Stop once your upper body is nearly parallel with the floor.
  3. Inhale as you return to the starting position.

Hinging at the hips is the same motion you would use if shutting a car door with your butt or if you had a rope around your hips and someone was pulling that rope backward.

Benefits of the Good Morning Exercise With a Barbell

Your hamstrings (back of the thigh) are the primary target with this move, but other muscle groups get a good workout, too. Your gluteus maximus (buttocks) and adductor magnus (inside thigh) work as synergists while the erector spinae (runs down the length of the spine) is the stabilizer.

Your obliques and rectus abdominis (abdominal muscles) come into play as antagonist stabilizers. By engaging all of these muscle groups, good mornings are a great way to improve leg, hip, and back strength.

Using a weighted barbell increases the load, activating these muscles even more. Research shows that using at least 50% of your one-repetition maximum increases activation of the hamstrings and spinal erectors while also increasing knee flexion.

Start with a non-weighted barbell to practice the correct form. Then, stick to light weights at first, increasing the weight gradually over time as you gain strength and refine your form.

Other Variations of a Barbell Good Morning Exercise

You can vary this exercise to better meet your skill level and fitness goals.

Seated Good Morning With Barbell

You can do this exercise from a seated position. While it won't give your hamstrings the same workout as the standing version, the seated variation is great for isolating your core muscles.

Changing Your Stance

The simplest adjustment you can make—no matter what weight you're lifting—is to narrow or widen your stance. A wider stance works your glutes, while a narrow one puts your hamstrings to work.

Deeper Bend

As you prepare to lift heavier weights, increasing the bend in your knees will intensify the stretch, protect your lower back, and allow you to lift safely.

Single-Leg Barbell Good Morning

Advanced exercisers can increase the challenge of the barbell good morning by doing the lift on one leg. Using only one leg requires greater focus, stability, strength, and balance.

If you decide to try this variation, make sure you're not using too much weight and, if possible, have someone spot you.

Common Mistakes

Avoiding these errors will help you perform the good morning with a barbell safely and effectively.

Overdoing It

How low you can go with this exercise depends on your flexibility across the posterior chain of muscles (hamstrings, glutes, and lower back). While you want to improve your fitness level and gradually challenge yourself, don't push yourself too far too fast.

You also don't need to lift the heaviest weight possible to get the benefits of this exercise. Start with a lighter weight (or no weight) and increase slowly from there.

Poor Form

It's important to have a good understanding of weight training fundamentals when doing barbell good mornings. Before you add weights and start lifting, make sure your form is proper and consistent. This ensures that you're doing the lift safely and effectively every time.

Not Warming Up

One of the most serious mistakes you can make with weight training happens before you even touch a weight. If you aren't properly warmed up, you risk straining your muscles, if not incurring a serious injury. Warm up for at least 5 minutes to make your muscles more flexible while supplying them with more oxygen.

Safety and Precautions

Good mornings require strict attention to form to protect your lower back. It's also imperative to have the right equipment and gear. Whether you're working out at the gym or at home, always make sure you have stable footing and are wearing the appropriate strength training footwear.

While there may be modifications your trainer can recommend, heavy weight lifting should be avoided if you:

  • Are pregnant or recovering from childbirth
  • Are injured or recovering from an injury to your spine, back, neck, arms, knees, or feet
  • Have recently had surgery on your abdomen, pelvis, knees, arms, neck, or back

As always, check with your doctor before starting or increasing a weight training program. Good mornings are a more advanced weight training lift, so it's beneficial to work closely with a trainer or coach when getting started. Stop doing this exercise if you feel pain in the hamstrings or lower back.

The number of sets and reps you do will depend on your fitness goals. If you're just beginning, a good place to start is 3 sets of 3 reps. Increase both as your strength begins to increase.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Vigotsky A, Harper E, Ryan D, Contreras B. Effects of load on good morning kinematics and EMG activity. PeerJ. 2015;3:e708. doi:10.7717/peerj.708

  2. Clark DR, Lambert MI, Hunter AM. Muscle activation in the loaded free barbell squat: a brief review. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(4):1169-1178. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31822d533d

  3. Mausehund L, Skard AE, Krosshaug T. Muscle activation in unilateral barbell exercises: Implications for strength training and rehabilitation. J Strength Cond Res. 2019;33 Suppl 1:S85-S94. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000002617

  4. Lorenzetti S, Ostermann M, Zeidler F, et al. How to squat? Effects of various stance widths, foot placement angles and level of experience on knee, hip and trunk motion and loading. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2018;10:14. doi:10.1186/s13102-018-0103-7

  5. American Heart Association. Warm up, cool down.

By Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers is a personal trainer with experience in a wide range of sports, including track, triathlon, marathon, hockey, tennis, and baseball.