When it comes to low-back strength and posterior chain development in athletic performance, no exercise has the characteristics of the seated good morning.
This exercise has been used for several years by Soviet Union weightlifters in the 70's and 80's and it was an integral part of their training regime.
Legendary weightlifting coach Alexei Medvedyev, in his book A System of Multi-Year Training in Weightlifting, wrote that "seated good mornings on a bench and on the floor are used to prevent injuries associated with weightlifting training".
The Seated Good Morning is one of my favorite exercises to be used especially in a GPP (General Preparatory Phase) for 3 main reasons: de-stressing the spine, reinforcement of movement pattern and improvement of hamstrings function.
De-stressing the Spine
Strength training involves high mechanical stress and tension on joints and tissues so having a recovery strategies to periodically take off some load from major anatomical structures it's a smart approach.
In my experience, I consider active recovery to be far superior to other passive techiques and the seated good morning is the right example of what i consider the perfect active recovery exercise: it is able to de-stress the spine while still building low-back resiliency.
More than recovering and tissue regeneration, i like to prescribe it as a main posterior chain exercise at the beginning of a new season, especially in sports with a longer preparatory phases: using it as an introductory movement rather than stick immediately to more stressful exercises (i.e. deadlifts, olympic lifts variations) is fundamental to accomodate for progressive tendons and ligaments loading.
By reducing compression and shear forces on the spine, the seated good morning is great to use with low load and high repetitions to improve back conditioning and work capacity.
It is imperative to keep the load in the lowest range to decrease torques on the hips and back.
Reinforcement of Movement Patterns
Having the hip joint fixed on a bench can force you to focus more on maintaning a neutral spinal extension and it can dramatically improve stability in the lower back at an hip flexion angle which is more specific to the low position in the squat and/or olympic lifts.
It is also a great tool for teaching proper muscle recruitment and hip hinge patterns progression to novel athletes.
The third important characteristics of the Seated Good Morning is that it work the hamstrings isometrically in the mid-range portion of the hip extension movement and this is going to strengthen the muscles in a position where peak muscle force can be generated (Force-Length Relationship).
The Force-Length Relationship of human skeletal muscle (Knudson, 1994)
This is the reason why this exercise is also one of my favorites for the rehabilitation of hamstrings function after injuries.
Technique and Coaching Tips
For a correct execution it's important to focus on few coaching tips to make the movement effective and athlete's compliance high:
- Feet Position
The feet needs to be placed in front of the line of the barbell in order to create a more stable platform to successfully perform the movement;
- Back Position
The back should maintain a natural arch in the lumbar spine and thoracic extension in the upper back. Cervical portion of the spine should maintain a neutral position;
- Neuromuscular Control
Never take off the focus from controlling the muscles of the lower and upper back by maintaning neutral spinal extension and by squeezing the glutes while pushing hard with the feet forward into the ground.
Antonio Robustelli is the mastermind behind the Omniathlete Performance Concept. He is a professional high performance consultant and elite s&c coach from Italy: his area of expertise includes injury prevention, sports technology, strength training programming, speed development, recovery monitoring and return to play assessment. He works all over the world since 16 years with semi-professionals, professionals and Olympic athletes as well as professional teams in various disciplines. Regularly invited as a Keynote Speaker to hold lectures during international conferences in Sports Science and Strength & Conditioning, he is also an Editorial Advisory Board member of the Lower Extremity Review, the most authoritative magazine for lower extremity biomechanics, sports medicine and rehabilitation. Currently he is consultant for Federations, Governing Bodies, Olympians and for First Division football and basketball teams in Europe, Asia and USA.