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To the untrained eye the good morning exercise looks like a chiropractor’s nightmare. You bend over with a barbell balanced across your shoulders, then snap back to standing. You may have even winced at that description.
However, when done with solid spinal alignment and perfect form, the good morning can be a great move for improving your back health. It strengthens your lower-back muscles and core while helping to lightly stretch and bolster your hamstrings, making it a money move for office workers, weightlifters, sportsmen and marathon runners alike.
The way to reap the benefits and avoid doing yourself a mischief is to keep the movement slow, the form strict and the weight light. It’s even worth performing the exercise without weight or just with a resistance band at first. Make sure you get the form consistently perfect right through the set before progressing to using a barbell with plates – that way you shouldn’t strain your back.
How To Do The Good Morning Exercise
For the bodyweight version of the good morning stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands placed behind your head. Stand upright, brace your core and pull your shoulders back. 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 forwards 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.
To incorporate a resistance band into the move, stand on a large looped band with both feet and bring the other side of the loop over your head so it rests on your shoulders.
When you progress to using a light barbell rest it across the back of your shoulders, not your neck. Hold the bar in place with both hands and perform the exercise as in the bodyweight version. 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.
Whatever version of the good morning you are doing, make sure you 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. Push your hips back to maintain balance and drive them forwards to initiate the force needed to return to standing.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.