Good Morning vs Romanian Deadlift [Unveiling the Training Dilemma]

If you’ve ever delved into the realm of strength training, you’ve likely encountered the debate surrounding the “good morning” and the “Romanian deadlift.” These two exercises, though seemingly similar, serve distinct purposes in a workout routine. Let’s dissect the intricacies of good mornings and Romanian deadlifts to help you make informed decisions about your strength training journey.

Understanding the Basics

Before we dive into the nuances, let’s establish a foundational understanding of the good morning and Romanian deadlift.

What is the difference between a good morning and a Romanian deadlift?

At a glance, both exercises involve hinging at the hips, but the devil is in the details. A good morning primarily engages the lower back and hamstrings, requiring an upright torso throughout the movement. On the other hand, the Romanian deadlift (RDL) places more emphasis on the hamstrings, with a slight knee bend and a greater hip hinge.

Targeted Muscles: Unveiling the Strength Matrix

One of the key considerations when choosing between these exercises is understanding the specific muscle groups they target.

Which muscles do good mornings target compared to Romanian deadlifts?

  • Good Mornings: Focus predominantly on the lower back and hamstrings.
  • Romanian Deadlifts: Shift the emphasis more towards the hamstrings with additional involvement of the glutes and lower back.

Key differences in their execution and emphasis on specific muscle groups:

  1. Movement Pattern:
    • Good Morning: In a good morning, the lifter typically starts with a barbell on their upper back, similar to a back squat position. The movement involves hinging at the hips while keeping the legs relatively straight (soft knees) and maintaining a slight bend in the knees. The torso tilts forward, and the emphasis is on the hip hinge.
    • Romanian Deadlift (RDL): The RDL begins with the lifter holding a barbell in front of their thighs. Unlike the good morning, the RDL involves a more traditional deadlift setup with a slight bend in the knees. The movement focuses on hip hinge as well, but the barbell is kept close to the body as it travels down the thighs, emphasizing the stretch on the hamstrings.
  2. Bar Path:
    • Good Morning: The barbell in a good morning typically follows a more vertical path down the lifter’s back. The movement involves the lifter leaning forward, bringing the torso close to parallel with the ground, and then returning to an upright position.
    • Romanian Deadlift (RDL): In the RDL, the barbell follows a more vertical path down the lifter’s thighs. The goal is to maintain a straight back and push the hips back while allowing the barbell to travel down the thighs, keeping it close to the body.
  3. Body Position:
    • Good Morning: The body position in a good morning involves a more pronounced forward lean of the torso. The lifter bends at the hips with less emphasis on bending at the knees.
    • Romanian Deadlift (RDL): While there is still a forward hip hinge in the RDL, the knee bend is slightly more pronounced compared to the good morning, and the back is typically kept straighter throughout the movement.
  4. Depth:
    • Good Morning: The range of motion in a good morning often allows for a deeper forward lean, bringing the torso closer to parallel with the ground.
    • Romanian Deadlift (RDL): The RDL usually involves a more controlled range of motion, with the goal of feeling a stretch in the hamstrings without compromising form. The lifter might not lean as far forward as in a good morning.

To visualize the muscle engagement, here’s a quick breakdown:

Muscle GroupGood MorningRomanian Deadlift
Lower BackHigh EngagementModerate Engagement
HamstringsHigh EngagementIntense Engagement

It’s essential to perform each exercise with proper form to maximize their benefits and minimize the risk of injury. Additionally, individual preferences and comfort with each movement may influence which exercise a person chooses to incorporate into their workout routine.

Good Morning vs Romanian Deadlift Reddit Discussions

To provide a holistic view, let’s tap into the collective wisdom of the Reddit community.

AspectGood MorningsRomanian Deadlifts (RDLs)
Ease of ExecutionCan be challenging; requires proper form and technique.Generally considered easier to perform correctly.
Loading CapacityOften recommended to be kept light; can be risky with heavy weights.Can handle heavier weights, and less prone to form breakdown.
Muscle EmphasisEmphasizes erectors, glutes, and hamstrings.Places significant emphasis on hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
Risk of InjuryConsidered more “dangerous” due to the longer lever arm.Seen as safer, but proper form is still crucial.
Training EffectCan be effective for erectors, glutes, and hamstrings.Effective for hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
Range of Motion (ROM)Limited ROM due to the bar’s position on the upper back.Allows for a deeper ROM, especially with proper flexibility.
Specificity to LiftsMore specific to squats; may assist in deadlift sticking points.More specific to deadlifts; targets similar muscles.
Fatigue and VolumeCan be more fatiguing acutely and chronically.Allows for more volume and additional exercises due to lower fatigue.
Shear Force on ErectorsPlaces a significant shear force on erectors.Shear force is present but may be less compared to good mornings.
Individual VariabilityEffectiveness may vary; some find great results, others not as much.Results may vary, and preferences play a role.
Heuristic ObservationsDrug-tested lifters in certain federations tend to favor RDLs over GMs.RDLs are more commonly seen among top drug-tested lifters.

Please note that individual experiences and preferences play a significant role in choosing between these exercises.

Strength and Safety: Navigating the Terrain

Safety is paramount, especially for beginners. Let’s address concerns about lower back strength and safety.

Are good mornings or Romanian deadlifts better for lower back strength?

Both exercises contribute to lower back strength, but it’s crucial to prioritize proper form. The controlled movement of Romanian deadlifts can be gentler for beginners, while good mornings demand a more upright posture, potentially posing a challenge.

Are good mornings effective for glutes?

Good mornings can be effective for targeting the glutes, along with other muscles such as the erector spinae and hamstrings. The glutes play a role in hip extension, and good mornings involve a hip hinge movement, making them effective for activating and strengthening the glute muscles.

When performing good mornings with proper form, the emphasis on the glutes can be enhanced. Here are some tips to maximize glute engagement during good mornings:

  1. Hip Hinge Technique: Ensure you are performing a proper hip hinge, pushing your hips back while maintaining a slight bend in your knees. This movement pattern helps activate the glutes.
  2. Range of Motion (ROM): Going through a full range of motion can help engage the glutes more effectively. However, be cautious not to compromise your lower back by maintaining a flat back throughout the movement.
  3. Foot Placement: Experiment with your foot position to find what feels most comfortable and activates your glutes effectively. Some individuals prefer a slightly wider stance.
  4. Loading: Start with a light to moderate weight to ensure proper form. Gradually increase the weight as you become more comfortable with the movement.

Are good mornings or Romanian deadlifts safer for beginners?

For beginners, the Romanian deadlift may be the safer option due to its more controlled nature. However, mastering the form is key to preventing injuries in both exercises.

Form and Technique: Mastering the Movements

Now, let’s shift our focus to the nitty-gritty of executing these exercises flawlessly.

How do you perform a good morning exercise correctly?

Muscles Targeted:

  • Primary: Erector spinae, hamstrings, glutes
  • Secondary: Core muscles

Equipment Needed:

  • Barbell

Step-by-Step Guide:

  1. Set Up:
    • Begin by placing a barbell on a squat rack at an appropriate height. The bar should be positioned on your upper traps, below the base of your neck.
  2. Positioning:
    • Stand facing the barbell with your feet shoulder-width apart.
    • Position your feet under the barbell, ensuring it’s centered on your upper traps.
  3. Grip:
    • Reach up and grasp the bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width. You can use a pronated (overhand) or mixed (one overhand, one underhand) grip.
  4. Bar Placement:
    • Lower your body, bending at the hips, and position the barbell on your upper back, just below the base of your neck. Ensure the bar is securely placed on your upper traps.
  5. Stance:
    • Stand with a slight bend in your knees. Your feet can be parallel or slightly turned outward.
  6. Engage Core:
    • Brace your core to stabilize your spine. This is crucial for protecting your lower back during the movement.
  7. Hip Hinge:
    • Initiate the movement by pushing your hips back, allowing your torso to lean forward. Maintain a flat back throughout the movement.
  8. Lowering:
    • Continue to hinge at the hips until your torso is parallel to the ground or slightly below. Keep a slight bend in your knees without letting them collapse inward.
  9. Controlled Descent:
    • Lower the barbell with control, feeling a stretch in your hamstrings and maintaining tension in your core and back.
  10. Return to Starting Position:
    • Reverse the movement by driving through your hips and engaging your glutes to return to the upright position.
  11. Repeat:
    • Perform the desired number of repetitions, maintaining proper form throughout.


  • Start with a light weight to master the movement before adding more resistance.
  • Focus on maintaining a neutral spine throughout the exercise.
  • Keep the movement controlled and avoid using momentum.
  • Pay attention to your body’s response, and if you experience any discomfort, reassess your form or seek guidance from a fitness professional.

What are the proper form and technique for Romanian deadlifts?

Muscles Targeted:

  • Primary: Hamstrings, glutes, lower back
  • Secondary: Erector spinae, core muscles

Equipment Needed:

  • Barbell or dumbbells

Step-by-Step Guide:

  1. Set Up:
    • Begin by placing a barbell in front of you on the ground or by holding a pair of dumbbells in your hands.
  2. Stance:
    • Stand with your feet hip-width apart. You can use a pronated (overhand) grip on the barbell, and your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  3. Grip:
    • Grasp the barbell or dumbbells with a firm grip. If using a barbell, your hands should be just outside your knees.
  4. Positioning:
    • Engage your core muscles to maintain a neutral spine. Your back should be straight, and your shoulders should be pulled back.
  5. Hip Hinge:
    • Initiate the movement by pushing your hips back while maintaining a slight bend in your knees. This hip hinge motion is crucial for targeting the posterior chain.
  6. Lowering:
    • Lower the barbell or dumbbells along the front of your legs, keeping them close to your body. Lower the weight until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings but maintain tension in your muscles.
  7. Neutral Spine:
    • Ensure your back remains straight throughout the movement. Avoid rounding your back, and keep your chest up.
  8. Depth:
    • Lower the weight until your torso is parallel to the ground or slightly below. The exact depth will depend on your flexibility and comfort level.
  9. Controlled Descent:
    • Lower the weight with control, feeling a stretch in your hamstrings. Maintain tension in your hamstrings and glutes.
  10. Hip Extension:
    • Engage your hamstrings and glutes to return to the starting position. Drive your hips forward as you stand upright.
  11. Repeat:
    • Perform the desired number of repetitions, ensuring a controlled and deliberate movement.


  • Keep a slight bend in your knees throughout the movement, avoiding locked knees.
  • Focus on the hip hinge, allowing the movement to come from your hips rather than your lower back.
  • Maintain a neutral spine to protect your lower back.
  • Start with a light weight to master the movement before progressing to heavier loads.
  • Pay attention to your body’s response, and if you experience any discomfort, reassess your form or seek guidance from a fitness professional.

Unlocking the Benefits: Why Include These Exercises?

Understanding the benefits is crucial for making informed decisions about incorporating these exercises into your routine.

What are the benefits of including good mornings in a workout routine?

  • Improved Posture: Strengthens the lower back, promoting a more upright posture.
  • Hamstring Development: Targets hamstrings for enhanced leg strength.
  • Core Activation: Engages the core for stability during the movement.

Can Romanian deadlifts help with hamstring flexibility?

Absolutely. The elongated range of motion in Romanian deadlifts actively contributes to improved hamstring flexibility over time.

Pitfalls to Avoid: Common Mistakes and Potential Risks

To safeguard against injuries and setbacks, let’s pinpoint common mistakes to sidestep.

What are the common mistakes to avoid when doing good mornings or Romanian deadlifts?

  1. Overarching the Lower Back: Maintain a neutral spine to prevent excessive stress on the lower back.
  2. Neglecting Warm-up: Adequate warm-up is crucial; don’t dive into these exercises with cold muscles.
  3. Rushing the Movement: Both exercises demand control. Avoid rushing through the motions to prevent injury.

The Back Pain Conundrum: Myth or Reality?

Let’s address a prevailing concern: Can these exercises cause back pain if done incorrectly?

Can good mornings or Romanian deadlifts cause back pain if done incorrectly?

Yes, if executed with improper form, both exercises have the potential to strain the lower back. Prioritize form over weight to mitigate this risk.

Expert Insights: Navigating the Strength Training Landscape

To enhance our understanding, let’s delve into expert insights through a curated table.

Good MorningsRomanian Deadlifts
Injury PreventionFocus on maintaining a neutral spine.Emphasize a gradual descent to protect the lower back.
Muscle EngagementExcellent for isolating the lower back.Effective in targeting hamstrings and glutes.
Beginner-FriendlyMay pose challenges due to an upright torso.Offers a more controlled movement for beginners.
Flexibility EnhancementLimited impact on hamstring flexibility.Promotes increased hamstring flexibility.

Conclusion: Crafting Your Strength Training Narrative

As you navigate the landscape of good mornings and Romanian deadlifts, remember that individual preferences, fitness goals, and body mechanics play pivotal roles in your decision-making process. Strive for a balance between these two exercises, considering your unique strengths and areas for improvement. With the right knowledge and approach, you can sculpt a strength training routine that aligns with your fitness aspirations.

Remember, your journey is uniquely yours—embrace the learning process and enjoy the transformative power of strength training.

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