Hamstrings, Erectors: Can You Say Good Morning?


I’m feeling slightly creative.

I squat a lot. Other people? Not a lot.
A barbell on my back, legs on squeeze, I got em hot.
Back squat, front squat, rep it light or shake heavy
Forcing pressure through the core enough to break through a levee
Addicted much? I think so. Use a Smith crutch? Nah-ah, no.
Cause that’s like Double Dutchin for your knees in the snow.
Squats versus quads and glutes are sniper squads versus fruit
But aiming them at hamstrings is a lame way to shoot.

Ok, I’ll stop now. But my point is that while I think that front and back barbell squats are two of the most effective strength exercises hands-down, they don’t stress the hamstrings effectively. I’m sure some people might argue with that statement, as I would have until a couple of weeks ago. Why a couple of weeks ago? It was the first time I’d ever performed a heavy good morning. Until that time, I’d performed lots of good mornings over the years with a body bar or a broomstick, but I used them for stretching and warmups, not specifically to make strength gains. I decided to give heavy good mornings a try because I’d read in a few places that many power athletes favored them over Romanian and/ or stiff-legged deadlifts for hamstring engagement. And forget about traditional deadlifts; although I love them for more general posterior chain engagement, they don’t hit the hamstrings anywhere near the extent to which even Romanian and stiff-legged do. Needless to say that I was astonished by how obliterated my hamstrings were (in a good way) for three full days after performing a few sets of heavy good mornings for the first time. The fact that my hamstrings were in such distress after only three sets of ten reps at 110 lbs indicated to me that all my squatting had not been terribly effective at engaging my hams despite always squatting at least to parallel and generally with very good form.  So from here on my lifting routine will include heavy good mornings because it’s so clear how much I was depriving my hams the chance to reach their full potential without them. They’re also phenomenal for the erectors, glutes and internal and external obliques.

I’ve read conflicting opinions on the safety of heavy good mornings because they can generate high shearing forces across the spine, which can lead to a bulged disc. While this might be true, I don’t believe they are more or less dangerous than any other weight-bearing exercise. If performed with poor form and with a load beyond one’s reasonable capacity, any heavy lift can do serious damage. In the 17 years during which I have been lifting I have never seriously injured myself. I see absolutely no danger in performing heavy good mornings with good form and inside a power rack with safety pins set at a reasonable height to allow for a proper bailout if necessary. I should also note that I plan to continue to use good mornings as an assistance exercise a modality that favors a reduced load and higher rep range, so I don’t expect to ever have to bail on one.

Great video on why good mornings are so awesome and how to properly (safely) perform them:

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