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Squat and Deadlift Assistance Exercises:  The Good Morning
Tom McCullough

Do you want to increase your squat and deadlift? No, I mean do you REALLY want to increase your squat and deadlift? YES? Then we need to got to work on those weak links, and fast. As we are all aware, many of the more conventional leg and back exercises do not really target the particular areas a powerlifter needs to be able to effectively increase the squat and deadlift. So we have really to come up with some different exercises then. Both the squat and the deadlift rely heavily on the hamstrings, the glutes, and the erector spinae. So the powerlifter not only needs an assistance exercise that will strengthen these muscle groups, but exercises that will employ these muscle groups in a similar fashion as they would in both the squat and deadlift. 

In the squat and deadlift, the hamstrings and glutes act to extend the hip as the erectors work to extend the spine. So it is important in powerlifting that we find assistance exercises that will use those three muscle groups in much the same fashion. That way we will get the best bang for the buck out our assistant work. And most of all a better squat and deadlift. 

One of best and perhaps one of the most overlooked and forgotten exercises available is the good morning. This exercises particularly stresses the erectors spinae, but also can be performed to activate the hams and the glutes in a movement that is very similar to that used in the squat and deadlift. There are technically 3 different kinds of good mornings for us to choose from: 1) arched back; 2) bent-over; and 3) seated. I suggested that one of these exercises be used once a week on either your squat of deadlift day. 

The Arched Back Good Mornings

The arched back good mornings are done almost like you would do a squat. The bar is held in the same position. Use a wide stance, with the feet straight and the knees forced out ward similar to your squat. Make sure to keep the chest out and an arch in the back too. Then take a deep breath, bend the legs just slightly, push the glutes back and lean forward about 30 degrees. You should feel the stress mostly on the erectors and some what on the glutes and hams. Make sure that you do not drop your shoulders and let the back round. Keep the body tight, the chest and shoulders back and the low back arched throughout the entire range of movement. Remember to also hold your breath while you bend over and exhale and push the abs against the belt as you come back to the upright position. 

As with all exercises, it is extremely important to use proper form and slowly work up to heavy weights. I would suggest that you start very light and eventually work up to 3 sets of 5 reps with about 65% to 75% of your best squat. I feel that this exercise is one of the most effective assistance exercises for building strength in the squat and deadlift. 

The Bent-Over or Round Back Good Mornings

Once again we will use the same position as you would with your normal squat. However, this time we will bring the legs and feet together. Now you can either do this particular exercise with a straight knee or bent knee. The straighter knee the more emphasis on the erectors. When you bend the knee the erectors are de-emphasized slightly and greater stress is placed on the hams. 

Unlike the arched back good mornings, this exercise is done with a rounded back. So take a deep breath, lean forward as far as possible, pause slightly and quickly accelerate back to the starting position while exhaling. 

Since this exercise isolates the low back much more than the arched back good mornings, I would recommend that you use much lighter weight and higher reps. Try 3 sets of 12 repetitions with light weight and eventually try to work up to about 40% to 60% of your best deadlift. 

The Seated Good Mornings

Unlike the other two forms of good mornings, this exercise is done while sitting on a bench. It takes the use of the hams and glutes out and isolates the erectors. To do the seated good mornings take you normal squat position with light weight and squat down on to a weight lifting bench. In a seated position, keep the body tight, take a deep breath and lean forward as far as possible. Pause just slightly and return to the starting position as you exhale your breath. The shoulder and back will be rounded, just like the bent-over or round back good mornings. 

Since this exercise isolates the erectors and places a great deal of stress on them, I would suggest that you start out with a very light weight and do 3 sets of 12 repetitions , slowly work your way up. 

A Final Word Of Advice

Always try to either use spotters or work inside a power rack when you do good mornings of any type. Because this exercise places a great deal of stress on the erectors never do any form of good mornings to failure. At least have one or two good reps left in you unless you really like back pain. Keep the muscles tight and maintain good form throughout the movement using slow controlled movements. Remember to work up slowly to heavy weights and never use more weight than you can handle. A stronger low back will effectively increase you squat and deadlift totals, but and injury will halt your progress in itÕs tracks. So train hard, but train smart!