The King of Exercises
An almost forgotten special exercise is the Good Morning.
From the beginning of weight training, the Good Morning—in its many varieties—has provided a solid base of building squat, pulls, and the posterior chain used for all types of running including, of course sprints.
Good Mornings can build great back strength or be used to prevent injuries or build flexibility.
Influencers of the Good Morning
I was influenced by three men when I was young.
The first man was Bob Peoples from Tennessee. Bob pulled 725 pounds at 180 pounds body weight in the 1950s. He was very inventive in his training with many special training devices.
But, the Good Morning was a favorite exercise. He would do them with a unique yoke that could place the bar on his traps to his mid to lower back. He felt this would put the load on many parts of the spinal erectors to work the entire back.
Using a Marrs-Bar will do the same thing, but only in one position. The Marrs-Bar places the majority of the work on the hamstrings, glutes, and mid-back quite well.
Paul Anderson, the second man who influenced me, was a young student of Bob Peoples and would later use the Good Morning to build a 1,160-pound squat done from the bottom position in a Vegas nightclub act. No gear at all. That was around 1960 or so.
He found you could cheat by doing a squat Good Morning without the bar going in front of the knees. To solve the problem, he placed a wide, eight-inch strap in front of his thighs that would connect to a rack. Then Paul would walk into it, so when he would bend forward, he could no longer bend his knees and turn it into a Good morning that would take work off the legs and place it on the back where it was not needed.
Today, if you look at a Good Morning machine, it has a pad that keeps the lifter from using his or her legs. Remember, the more you bend your legs, the less back work is being used.
Note: You must always do the exercise correctly, or it will not be effective.
The third man who influenced my early training was Bruce Randall. Not many of you have heard of him, but the Good Morning was a lifesaver. Bruce was a 400-pound all-around lifter, then he broke his leg severely and could not do his favorite building up exercise, the squat. When he learned he could no longer squat, he started doing Power Good Mornings.
A Power Good Morning is performed by pushing the glutes to the rear and bending the leg, much like a quarter squat, while leaning forward with an arched back. As he worked up in the Power Good Morning to 335 pounds, he found he could drop into a parallel squat.
Then, as the Power Good Mornings went up, so did his squat until he could squat 750 pounds. Bruce was at this time 400 pounds, and he set his goal to win Mr. Universe, which he did. This was quite a story, to say the least.
Variations of Good Mornings
But let’s get to how to do a variety of Good Mornings.
1. Seated Good Morning for flexibility
- Sit on the floor with a bar on your back. Your legs are out front, spread, or straight out and bend forward as far as possible. This builds strength and flexibility in the lumbar region.
- A second method for the Seated Good Morning is to sit on a box with a bar on your back. Lean forward until your glutes start to come off the box. Repeat for a set of reps. This is a combo box squat and Seated Good Morning.
2. Concentric Good Morning
- The exercise is done by suspending the barbell on the power rack pins or a set of strong chains for the bar to set in. Now you position yourself under the bar and lift the bar concentrically. When doing reps, take a long period after setting the bar back to the pins or chains and do the next rep. This will break the concentric-eccentric chain, which means you are not using your reversal muscle action. Note: Use a safety squat bar or a chamber bar to save the shoulders.
3. Arched-Back Good Morning for Squatting
- Use a close or wide stance. With the bar on your back, now lean forward with an arched back. The range of motion can range from letting the barbell go just in front of your knees to going to 90 degrees with a much lighter weight.
4. Bend-Over Good Morning for Deadlifts
- Keep the lower back arched, but round the mid and upper back on the eccentric phase. Upon coming to an erect stance on the concentric phase, try to straighten out your entire back, just like when you are deadlifting with a wide or close stance.
For more variety, do a Good Morning to the front, then to the right, then to the left, and back to forward, and repeat for high reps. I saw Bob Birdsong of Louisville, Ky., use the method in 1970. You could also do a Good Morning with one foot in front of the other to isolate one side of the back at a time. Now, try to place one leg on a box eight to 12 inches high. It will blow you up.
- A lower bar position will put more work on the mid-back. And, of course, a high bar placement will put the pressure on the lower back.
- Work your way up to a heavy set of five reps to work back down with at least the same amount of reps or more.
- Do at least three reps and much higher working up to a single can be dangerous,
- I like just weight on the bar, so it is heavy on the bottom, but you can attach bands if you wish.
- To warm up, just put a band over your head.
Westside lifters do some kind of Good Mornings seven out of 10 workouts. They can be a Max Effort lift or a special exercise and can be squatting or deadlifting.
Good Luck, Louie