Who doesn’t want stronger, firmer glutes? Firm, rounded glutes are attractive, but when they’re strong, they also help you generate power and protect against lower back pain. Powerful glutes also help correct the muscle imbalances that many people have from sitting too much – tight hip flexors, weak glutes, and hamstrings. Most of us have overly tight hip flexors that damage our posture and increases the risk of lower back pain, mainly from too much sitting. Sound familiar?
Building strong glutes helps compensate for tight hip flexors related to sitting too much. For a healthy back and good posture, you need exercises that work your entire posterior chain. Your posterior chain is a group of muscles on the back of your body. These muscles include the biceps, posterior deltoids, erector spinae muscles, trapezius muscles, hamstrings, calves, and glutes, particularly the gluteus maximus.
There’s no shortage of exercises that build stronger glutes and some of these target the posterior chain as well. These include compound ones, like deadlifts, squats, and lunges, to isolation ones like glute bridges, donkey kicks, and hip thrusts. But, there’s one compound exercise that you’re probably not doing that helps strengthen your entire posterior chain, including the all-important gluteus maximus. It’s an exercise called “good mornings.”
The Good Morning Exercise and How to Do It Properly
You might already be familiar with the mechanics of a good morning, an exercise that targets the posterior chain. To do this movement, place a light barbell behind your neck and hold it steady using an overhand grip. Now, place your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly. This is the starting position. Then, bend your upper body forward in this position with the weight still behind your neck. Continue bending forward until your body is about 15 degrees above parallel to the floor. Your head should remain erect during the exercise. Hold the position for a second and then slowly return to the starting position. Each repetition should be slow and controlled.
Why should you do good mornings? It’s one of the best exercises for strengthening your lower back, hamstrings, and glutes. Plus, it’s particularly effective for activating the gluteus maximus, the largest of the three gluteal muscles, the maximus, medius, and minimus. The gluteus medius and minimus serve as stabilizers when you flex and extend your torso during the exercise.
So, good mornings are another exercise to add to your glute routine. But, when you do them, you’re strengthening your back as well. When you carry out this exercise properly, you’re also forcing your erector spinae muscles to work harder as well. These are the muscles that extend the vertebrae in your spine. When these muscles are strong, they lower your risk of back injury and improve your posture.
As mentioned, good mornings activate your entire posterior chain, including your hamstrings. Who doesn’t want shaplier hamstrings during shorts season? Plus, strong hamstrings will improve your performance when you run or jump, as is important for many sports. Strong hamstrings also help keep your knees stable and less prone toward injury. In addition, doing good mornings regularly, using proper form, can help you overcome weaknesses that might be limiting your performance when you squat or deadlift.
A Few Caveats
Good mornings aren’t a good exercise for a beginner. If you do it improperly, you can easily injure your lower back. It’s also not an exercise you should do if you have lower back problems. When you bend your torso with a barbell on your back, the stress on your back increases significantly as you approach parallel. Before doing a good morning, master the Romanian deadlift first. Once you can do that successfully, try doing good mornings, first with no weights, then with a light barbell. Another beginner variation is holding a dumbbell lengthwise over your chest in front of your body as you do the exercise rather than placing a barbell behind your neck.
Good form is always important, but it’s critical when you’re bending your torso with a weight on your back. Always stop the movement just above parallel. Don’t try to go lower as lowering your torso more increases your risk of back injury. Once you master the basic good morning and feel comfortable with the exercise, you try a single leg good morning to add a balance challenge and work the stabilizing muscles more.
A Well-Balanced Glute Workout
Now, you know why good mornings should be part of your routine. But, if you’re trying to develop strong, firm glutes, you’ll get the best results if you do a variety of compound and isolation exercises that target the large gluteus maximus and the smaller muscles, the gluteus medius, and minimus. They all need to get in on the action!
Compound exercises are the “big guns” that work multiple muscles in the lower body, including the glutes, while isolation exercises target the glutes with laser-like focus. Other than good mornings, compound exercises that work the glutes include squats, deadlifts, and lunges. But, don’t skip isolation exercises, moves that really hone in on the glutes. A study published by the American Council on Exercise found that four exercises, step-ups, quadruped hip extension, four-way hip extension, and lunges, were as effective as squats at activating the glute muscles. (according to EMG measurements). Doing a variety of glute-focused exercises also helps break through strength and hypertrophy plateaus where you stop making changes.
The Bottom Line
Good mornings are another approach to working your glutes in a manner they might not be accustomed to. Plus, you’re working other muscles in your posterior chain for improved sports performance, functionality, and a lower risk of injury. So, if you’re looking for a new glute burner and an exercise that has multiple benefits, give good mornings a try.
American Council on Exercise. “Effective Exercises to Target the Glutes”
American Council on Exercise. “ACE Lists Best Butt Exercises – Exclusive ACE Research Announces Most Effective Gluteus Maximus Training”