The Powerlifting Good Morning
The powerlifting good morning is an exercise that is considered a cornerstone of lower body training at Westside Barbell. We use this exercise to strengthen the posterior chain, specifically the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. These muscle groups are integral to sports performance and must be trained regularly.
What makes the powerlifting good morning different from a traditional good morning is the execution and intention of the exercise. With a traditional good morning, the focus is on the lower back and upper glutes and the reps performed fall in line with what would be considered hypertrophy work. This movement is executed with the hamstrings lengthened and a high hip hinge to specifically target the low back and upper glutes.
Powerlifting-style good mornings are performed with an entirely different intention. Our goal is to train the strengths and muscle groups that will lead to improvement in the squat and deadlift. Instead of targeting a specific area as the traditional good morning does, the powerlifting good morning emphasizes the entire posterior chain, specifically the low back, glutes, and hamstrings.
Additionally, powerlifting good mornings can be performed in a variety of ways. Typically, we perform our good mornings with a giant cambered bar. However, there are times when we will perform good mornings with a safety squat bar or a bow bar to change the focus of the exercise slightly and target the mid and upper back more specifically. If you get creative with your programming, this exercise can be used to solve weakness and strengthen the lower body rapidly.
As I mentioned above, one of the key differences between a traditional good morning and a powerlifting good morning is the execution of the exercise. When learning the powerlifting good morning, it is best to disregard the form associated with a traditional good morning completely. While these exercises may share a name, the execution of the two is much different.
When executing a powerlifting good morning, you want to mimic your conventional deadlift movement pattern as much as possible. Ultimately, that is why we use this exercise, to mimic the deadlift while avoiding the recovery times associated with max effort deadlifts. So, when you perform a powerlifting good morning, imagine that you are performing a conventional deadlift, except the barbell is on your back.
To perform a proper powerlifting good morning, you want to bend at the knees and set your hip hinge height just as you would if you were about to perform a max-effort conventional deadlift. As you do this, you will use your intra-abdominal pressure to maintain control over the speed of the eccentric portion of the lift, allowing your chest to reach the point it would be if you were to deadlift a barbell off the ground.
Once you have reached this point, you will generate as much force as possible to complete the concentric portion of the movement and return to lockout. Keep in mind that control is the most critical aspect of the powerlifting good morning. As the weight gets heavier, you want to control the eccentric portion of the lift as much as possible. Don’t turn it into a tempo lift; just move in a controlled and steady manner.
Be sure to make conservative jumps in weight between sets, and end the exercise once energy levels impact your ability to control the barbell and execute the movement safely. This exercise is not one you want to roll the dice on. Don’t be afraid to leave a set in the tank and get on with the rest of your workout. A set left in the tank beats an injury any day.
How to Program
At Westside, we use powerlifting good mornings as both a main and accessory exercise. We perform the powerlifting good morning as a main exercise once every three weeks. However, our weekly training often includes powerlifting-style good morning accessory exercise variations.
We will work up to a top set of three or five repetitions when performed as a main exercise. We will usually use a giant cambered bar for this training, but there are times when the SSB or bow bar is used. Ultimately, the intention is to mimic our conventional deadlift and reap the posterior chain strength benefits associated with the exercise.
When performed as an accessory exercise, we use the powerlifting good morning to accomplish hypertrophy-focused work that will improve the muscular size and strength endurance of the low back, glute, and hamstring muscles. At Westside, we have found powerlifting good mornings to be one of the best ways to solve posterior chain weakness holding back squat or deadlift advancement.
We recommend performing 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps when using powerlifting good mornings as an accessory exercise. If we perform higher intensity sets of five reps, we will program the exercise as the primary accessory exercise of the day. Be sure to choose the correct working weights, and always execute the movement safely. If fatigue begins to impact your rep quality, end the exercise immediately.
The Difference Maker
When programmed and executed correctly, very few lower body exercises can match the benefits of the powerlifting-style good morning. Additionally, this exercise allows us to program a movement that is easier to recover from than a max-effort squat or deadlift but provides as many lower-body strength benefits. Not a bad deal.
As long as you follow our recommendations as far as programming and execution go, there is no doubt the powerlifting good morning will be a valuable addition to your max effort and accessory exercise selection. If you have never used this exercise before, you will quickly see the benefits of it as you begin watching your squat and deadlift numbers improve.
Optimal lower body strength training must regularly feature squat and deadlift variations. However, the constant back and forth between max effort squat and deadlift variations can become fatiguing, especially if the programming isn’t spot on. Adding in the powerlifting good morning provides a third movement to avoid accommodation, change the movement pattern, and solve weaknesses that your squat and deadlift training may otherwise miss.
If you are struggling to improve your squat or deadlift and are looking for a movement to get you on the right track, the powerlifting good morning could be the difference maker.
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Zatsiorsky, V. M., & Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Science and Practice of Strength Training. Human Kinetics.