When developing a strong, balanced lower body, exercises that target the posterior chain muscles are essential. Fortunately there are an abundance of exercises to choose from, and seated good mornings are definitely worth giving a try. Many of the traditional standing variations are widely known, seated good mornings offer a modified approach that provides stability and support, making them accessible to a broader range of individuals.
In this article, we will delve into the details of seated good mornings, highlighting their benefits, proper technique, and ways to incorporate them into your fitness regimen.
What are seated good mornings?
Seated good mornings are a variation of the traditional good morning exercise, which primarily targets the muscles in your lower back, glutes (butt muscles), and hamstrings (back of the thighs). The seated version is a modified version that offers more stability and support, which makes it a nice choice for those new to exercise or anyone who has trouble performing the standing variation.
How to perform seated good mornings
- Sit on a bench or a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor. Make sure your knees are bent and your feet are several inches out in front of your knees. Spread your legs wide enough to allow your torso to drift comfortably between them.
- If you’re using weight, place the barbell on the base of your upper back, making sure it’s centered and off of your neck. If you’re using body weight, rest your hands either on your thighs or behind your head.
- Slowly bend forward from your hips. Keep a flat back, avoiding any lower upper back rounding or lower back arch. Lift your chest and your core engaged.Once you’ve reached full range of motion from leaning forward, feel the stretch in your hamstrings and a slight contraction in your lower back.
- Hold this position for a moment for a moment and slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat these steps for as many reps as you see fit.
Tips for effective seated good mornings
While the seated good morning is an easy enough movement to perform, their are a few factors to consider to get the most out of the exercise:
Start with light weight
Starting with lighter weights enables you to focus on perfecting technique and maintaining proper posture throughout the exercise. The opportunity is also there to learn how to hip hinge correctly all while ensuring your lower back remains stable and neutral.
Another added bonus of light weight is prioritizing the mind-muscle connection. With the focus being on “feeling” the intended muscle groups, you’ll develop a better relationship with muscle contraction. This will pin-point HOW you’re supposed to move for your own body and unique movement pattern, building on it in time as you add more resistance.
Keep the barbell off of your neck
Allow the barbell to rest on the back of your shoulders (the base of the upper back). Often times, traditional good mornings are performed with the bar resting on the neck- however this puts the neck at risk of injury. Especially if you’re using more weight during the exercise.
Mistakes to avoid during seated good mornings
Here are some common mistakes that can be made during the seated good mornings:
Allowing the back to round
Rounding your back during any hip hinge movement is an obvious no-no, but a common mistakes in gym culture. Remember, strict form doesn’t just help you get the most out of each rep, it also keeps you that much further from hurting yourself. Rounding the back can put your spine at risk of injury, leaving exposed to herniated disks, sciatica, and other back injuries.
Leaning forward beyond hip extension
The seated good morning doesn’t require you to go down any lower than your hips will allow. When you think about it, if the goal is the create full hip extension- once they reach the furthest point then it’s “mission accomplished”. Anything past that is just using your back to move your torso lower, which can put you at risk of injury.
Not keeping the knees bent and feet flat on the floor
Keeping your knees bent and feet planted will help keep you stable throughout the exercise. Because you’re leaning forward while sitting, there’s the risk of one falling over and two taking the emphasis off of hip extension.By keeping your feet further out from under your knees and feet planted, you’ll have a much easier time distributing weight to your lower body and getting the most out of each rep.
Seated Good Mornings Alternatives
The seated good morning, while effective, plays only one part in the bigger picture of growing and strengthening the lower body. If you want to build a well-rounded posterior chain, having a couple extra exercises under your belt is a must. Here are a few similar exercises that work the same muscle groups:
Barbell Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian deadlift remains a staple of posterior chain exercises. To master this compound exercise is to truly grasp the muscle contraction necessary for developing the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. It’s of the utmost importance to maintain proper form during this exercise. The fact that you’re both standing and lifting considerably heavier weight puts your back at risk if not done correctly. The following steps explain the proper technique for this hip hinge exercise compared to its seated cousin:
How to perform the Romanian deadlift:
- Stand with your feet in a normal deadlift stance.
- Hold the barbell or dumbbells out in front of you, near your thighs.
- Keeping your back and legs straight, bend at the waist (not at the knees) and focus on sending your hips and butt back as you lower the barbell/dumbbells toward the ground.
- Make sure your weight is in your heels and inhale.
- Push your hips forwards to lift the bar, without bending your back.
- From upright, push your hips back to lower the bar, bending your knees only slightly.
As far as posterior chain exercises goes, hip thrusts are a great fundamental hip hinge exercise. The exercise targets the hamstrings, but you’ll mainly get glute activation with this movement specifically. Unlike the RDL or the seated good morning, the hips are in a vertical position, with the focus or point of contraction being hip flexion rather than hip extension.
How to perform hip thrusts
- Begin the movement by driving through your heels and pushing your hips upward.
- As your hips rise to the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes as you raise your hips. Your hips should bridge both your upper and lower body in a straight line.
- Keep a neutral spine throughout the movement in order to steer clear of excessive rounding or arching in the lower back.
- Hold at the top of the movement, concentrate on squeezing your glutes to fully engage them.
- As you lower your hips, maintain control until you bring they’ve returned to the start position.
- Repeat this process for as many reps as you see fit.
Sumo deadlifts are a slightly different variation from their Romanian counterpart. The sumo requires you to sit into the movement more with a wider stance. This creates less distance for the bar to travel from the bottom to the top of the movement, but still requires a fair amount of hip flexion. This exercise is another great one for engaging the glutes and building strength in your posterior chain.
How to perform sumo deadlifts
- Start by driving through your feet, exploding through the ground, all while straightening your legs.
- As the bar travels up your shins, keep your chest high and your torso as vertical as possible.
- Push your hips forward and clench your glutes at the top of the movement to maximize posterior chain engagement.
- Hold at the top momentarily, squeezing to feel the full tension in your muscles.
- Return to the start by bending your knees and lowering the barbell back down to the floor, keeping your spine straight and maintaining control throughout.
What muscle group(s) do the seated good mornings target?
As you lean forward and hinge your hips, your hamstrings are lengthened and engaged. During the return to the start position, your hamstrings contract to help extend your hips and bring your torso back up.
The glutes, particularly the gluteus maximus, are engaged to control the hip joint and support as the torso leans forward. They work synergistically with the lower back muscles to maintain proper posture and control the descent.
During the downward phase of the movement, the glute muscles are stretched. This lengthening of the glutes creates potential energy that can be utilized during the upward phase of the exercise.
On return to the starting position, your glutes and lower back are initiating hip extension. This movement activates the gluteus maximus as the primary muscle responsible for hip extension, and it contracts to bring your torso back to an upright position.
Seated good mornings requires core engagement to resist excessive flexion and extension of the spine. The core muscles act as stabilizers, preventing the spine from rounding too much or arching excessively as you hinge forward and return to the starting position (ideally creating a neutral spine).
The primary core muscles involved in seated good mornings include the rectus abdominis (the “six-pack” muscles), transverse abdominis (deep abdominal muscles), obliques (muscles on the sides of the abdomen), and erector spinae (muscles along the spine).
Are good mornings more effective standing or seated?
Traditional good morning exercise are performed sitting upright, you may try this exercise sitting down. Good morning posture focuses more on lower back and trapping since sitting deactivates glutes.
Both standing and seated variations of good mornings can be effective exercises, but they target different muscle groups and have their own advantages and considerations. Here’s a comparison between standing and seated good mornings:
Standing good mornings
- Targeted Muscles: Similar to the seated version, standing good mornings target the posterior chain muscles, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. They also work to strengthen the stabilizers of the back and other core muscles.
- Functional Movement: As a standing hip hinge movement pattern, good mornings closely mimic movements of daily activities like lifting, bending, and techniques used in different sports. This may (in theory) translate well if your priority is functional movement.
- Range of Motion: Good mornings free up a little more range of motion. With it’s unique angle, the torso isn’t blocked by the legs like their seated counterpart. If your focus is on feeling the deepest stretch at the bottom of the movement, you may find good mornings more advantageous.
- Balance and Coordination: On top of muscle hypertrophy, standing good mornings are useful for developing balance and coordination compared to seated variations, as you’re relying on your lower body, hips and core/back to stabilize your entire body.
Seated good mornings
- Targeted Muscles: Seated good mornings primarily target the lower back and core muscles. While they may involve some activation of the glutes and hamstrings, the focus is more on the lower back.
- Isolation and Stability: Seated good mornings offer a much more stable base, allowing you to concentrate on the lower back muscles without as much concern for the muscles of the lower body.
- Reduced Spinal Load: Because of the lighter weight used in the seated position, the load on the spine may be significantly less than standing. This could be helpful for individuals with back issues or need to regress exercises to build strength in the lower back and core.
- Accessible for Certain Individuals: Seated good mornings are a good choice for those with limitations in standing or balancing, making them ideal for certain populations or individuals recovering from injuries.
As you begin using seated good mornings in your workouts, you will enhance your overall lower body strength, improve posture, and promote greater stability. It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete looking to improve performance, a person making a comeback from an injury, or someone with the goal of building a strong, stable lower body, this exercise can definitely help.
Now that you have the know-how and some alternatives under your belt, it’s time to put your newfound knowledge into action. Use this exercise in your training and witness the transformative effects it will have on your overall fitness and well-being.