While the good morning exercise can be useful, not everyone likes it. Discover what alternatives with similar benefits you can consider.
Some of the benefits of the good morning exercise include being able to strengthen your lower back, erector spinae, glute, and hamstring muscles, improve your posture, improve flexibility, improve balance and coordination, etc.
Whether you don’t enjoy the good morning, you do not have a barbell or weight equipment in general, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these alternatives to the good morning exercise can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
1. Back extensions
It is generally recommended to use a sturdy back extension machine or a roman chair at your gym for this first good morning alternative.
Take the following steps to do a back extension with the dedicated machine:
- Take place in the back extension machine. Keep a straight back for now. Make sure you are locked in place safely.
- Slowly bend down as far as you can while keeping your back straight. The bending movement comes from your hips, not your lower back.
- Move up your upper body in a controlled motion until your body is in a straight line.
There are many ways to make back extensions weighted and in turn more challenging for your muscles. Some examples include a weight plate, dumbbell, barbell, etc.
Especially if you have lower back issues you want to make sure you don’t extend your back too much. As far as a straight line is enough to train muscles like your lower back, erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings.
2. Hip thrusts
Hip thrusts are similar to glute bridges but instead of doing them on the ground, you will need a bench or any other stable object of the right height. Take the following steps to do a hip thrust:
- Sit right in front of the bench or other object you will use with your back slightly over the edge. Make sure the object is stable. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width in a position where your knees will be at a 90-degree angle in the next step. You can hold a weight at hip height if this aligns with your training goals.
- Move up your hips until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Slowly lower your body again.
Hip thrusts are mainly a good morning exercise alternative that engages your glutes but this exercise does engage your lower back and hamstring muscles to some extent.
Even more so if you hold any hip thrust equipment on your hips.
One downside of hip thrusts is that they can require a bit more equipment and time to set up compared to the good morning.
3. Romanian deadlifts
For the next exercise, you likely need external weights, preferably a barbell. You can also use other free weights and even resistance bands. Take the following steps to do a Romanian deadlift:
- Set up a rack with a barbell at a height just below where your barbell is if you stand up straight with the barbell in your hands. Add the desired number of weight plates.
- Grab the barbell with a pronated grip which means with your hand palms pointing downward/backward. Unrack the barbell and take a few steps back so that you have room for the exercise. Stand up with your feet at more or less shoulder width and your knees slightly bent.
- Slightly tilt your upper body forward as far as you can without bending your back or knees or until the bar is right below knee height. The weight plates should not hit the ground.
- Slowly move back into the position of step 2.
Good technique is important in any exercise to avoid injuries but especially so for Romanian deadlifts. Before trying to deadlift the heaviest weights it is smart to improve your technique first by starting with light or no weights at all.
The Romanian deadlift focuses less on your leg muscles compared to the regular deadlift.
The regular deadlift engages your glutes and lower back a good amount too but Romanian deadlifts are an alternative that comes closer to engaging your muscles similarly to the good morning exercise.
4. Kettlebell swings
Kettlebells are a versatile piece of fitness equipment. You can even use them for an exercise like the kettlebell swing that can serve as a good morning alternative at home or in the gym.
Take the followings steps to do a kettlebell swing:
- Stand up straight with your arms stretched and one kettlebell in your two hands.
- Bend through your knees and move the kettlebell backward a small amount to initiate the full swings. Keep your back and shoulders straight throughout the exercise.
- Swing the kettlebell forward until your arms are about horizontally at shoulder height. Stretch your legs throughout this swing.
- Swing the kettlebell downward and backward between your legs as far as you safely can.
- Alternate between the positions in steps 3 and 4.
Before increasing the weight of your kettlebell make sure you can do a swing with the right technique with lighter kettlebells.
5. Glute ham raises
For this next exercise, you need a glute-ham raise bench. This is a lower back gym machine where you can secure your feet behind two pads and rest your hips on a rounded pad.
Because of this rounded pad, you can also fold your knees.
Take the following steps o do a glute-ham raise:
- Adjust the settings on the bench for your body proportions.
- Take place on the glute-ham raise bench facing downwards with your hips on the rouned pad and your feet behind the foot support. Make sure your ankle and hips are in a stable position and let your upper body hang downwards.
- Slowly raise your upper body until it is in a straight line with your legs. Keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
- Fold your knees until your upper body is in an upward position or until further would be unstable.
- Stretch your knees again.
- Lower your upper body in a controlled motion until it is in the position of step 2.
Glute ham raises are a good morning alternative that focuses slightly more on your hamstrings due to the extra leg folding movement. Besides that, it also engages muscles like your erector spinae, lower back, and glutes just like the good morning.
If the bodyweight glute-ham raise is not challenging enough for your muscles you can hold extra weights like a weight plate, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. in your hands or against your chest.
6. Glute kickbacks
For glute kickbacks, you will preferably need a cable machine or resistance bands. Ankle weights can work too but you may not like the difference in tension consistency.
Take the following steps to do a glute kickback with a cable machine:
- Set the cable grip at a setting close to the ground.
- Stand with your face toward the cable machine and strap on the ankle band. You can hold the cable machine during the exercise for balance.
- Lean forward to about a 45-degree angle to a vertical line.
- Move the foot with the strap back and with your knee slightly bent until your leg is stretched at an angle somewhat more vertical than just a horizontal line.
- Return your foot to starting position in a controlled motion.
As the name implies, glute kickbacks mainly focus on your glute muscles. Even so, you will inevitably also engage muscles like your hamstrings, outer thigh muscles, inner thigh muscles, and to some extent core, and erector spinae muscles.
This ratio of muscle engagement in one leg at a time makes it so you can do glute kickbacks instead of the good morning exercise if you want to avoid any muscle imbalances.
Keep in mind that a full workout of glute kickbacks will also take more time because of this.
One of the benefits of using the cable machine for glute kickbacks is that it is relatively easy to increase the amount of resistance precisely. You simply need to put a pin into a different weight.
7. Pull throughs
This next exercise can be done both with a cable machine or quality resistance bands. Take the following steps to do a cable pull-through:
- Set the cable machine as close to the ground as possible.
- Stand right next to the cable machine with your back toward it. Grab the double rope handle through your legs so that the cable goes through your legs and take a step forward.
- Bend your knees slightly and bend your upper body forward as far as you can without bending your back.
- Slowly move up your upper body until you stand up straight. Keep your back straight and your arms pointing downward. Make sure you don’t hunch your shoulders.
- Alternate between the positions in step 3 and step 4.
Both the cable and resistance band pull through variations make great good morning alternatives in the sense that they target very similar muscles.
One downside of pull throughs is that you are very dependent on the strength of your grip muscles. If these muscles fatigue before your hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and erector spinae you are focusing on a different part of your body.
With the good morning with a barbell you do not have this problem since the weight rests on your shoulders.