Many a casual gym rats have looked at charts of back exercises and made the same remark about Good Mornings, “Those look like they hurt your back.” Wrong. They are great for the back when done properly.
The good morning exercise works the erector spinae muscles in the lower back, as well as, the hamstrings and the gluteus maximus. The exercise helps to strength the lower back and core. Have a weak squat? Hit a limit on your deadlift? The good morning can help strengthen both. Strengthening these muscles also helps with standing and seating posture. I’ve had lower back problems for several years and I do good mornings once a week. This exercise helps my back immensely.
But what about the bending?
When starting to do the good morning, it is important not to grab the Olympic bar, throw some plates on it, lift it off the rack, and bend over. It is best to get used to the movement with limited weight. Grad a light handle and put it on the spin of the scapula. A good place to hold the bar is in the same manner for a low bar squat. This will keep it off the spine when you bend over and from dropping down the back when you stand back upright. It is better to keep the weights light and do more reps than it is to try to move the world.
For safety’s sake, start with the bar in a squat rack with the pins at the same height you would for a low bar squat. Ensure the bar is centered, duck under it, and turn around. Squat down a bit and place the bar on the spine of the scapula. Hand placement is similar to the low bar squat, though it is not total necessary to point your elbows way back. Find a comfortable location.
Now stand up, lifting the bar off the pins, and step forward. There should be enough room in the rack to bend over without banging into any back supports. Keep your back slightly arched while bending and let your butt move backward similar to the squat. Having the knees slightly bent will also help keep the lower back in the proper position.
Once your back is parallel to the floor, push back up with the lower back and stand up straight. There is no need to hyper-extend at the top of the movement. Slowly lower back and do another rep. Down and back up is one rep and a good speed is 2 seconds each way. Going quickly on the positive side may make the weight hard to stop at the top. Slow, steady, and higher rep count will work the muscles adequately.
Now that the reps for your set are done, step back until both sides of the bar are firmly against the rack. Squat down slightly to re-rack the bar. If you have a workout partner, they can help guide you back properly. Walk about a bit and rest for 40 seconds.
Time for the next set.