The “good-morning squat” is not a good position to be in while squatting.
It’s characterized when you drive out of the bottom of the squat and your hips rise faster than the barbell, putting your torso more parallel to the floor. If this is how you squat, it will be the #1 reason why you fail squats under heavy loads.
So how do you fix the good-morning squat? The good-morning squat occurs when the knee extensors shift the loading demand to the hip extensors at the bottom of the squat. If this happens, it’s because your quads are weak and need the glutes to assist. The solution is to get your quads stronger to help extend the knees better at the bottom.
The corrections for this type of movement pattern will take some effort to fix. But if you follow the plan in this article, you’ll be well on your way to a more effective squat. In this article, I’ll cover:
- What is the good-morning squat?
- Why is the good morning squat bad?
- Why does the good-morning squat happen?
- 4 ways to fix the good morning squat
Let’s get started!
What Is The Good-Morning Squat?
The good-morning squat is a very common technical deficiency where the hips rise excessively fast out of the bottom of the squat.
This will push the lifter forward onto the front part of their foot where they feel off-balance trying to stand up with the weight. Their torso will also start to lean forward and their back angle becomes more parallel to the floor.
It’s really important though that you don’t think that a ‘forward torso lean’ is a bad thing. I encourage you to read my article on leaning forward in the squat, where I discuss that there is a range of optimal torso angles for squatting based on your limb lengths.
The key way to tell if you have a good-morning squat, which requires fixing, is looking at how fast your hips rise out of the hole. Are they rising at the same tempo as your shoulders? Or are they rapidly shooting up and behind? If rapidly shooting up and behind, you have a problem.
Why Is The Good Morning Squat Bad?
If you’ve identified that you have a good morning squat, then you might wonder why it’s bad for you.
Here’s the thing: you can actually get away with using a good-morning style squat for several months and years without running into any issues. You’ll even continue getting stronger.
However, the issue is that a good morning squat places a lot of stress on the structures in the low and mid-back, which aren’t necessarily designed to take that kind of loading demand. At some point in your lifting career, you’ll be putting unnecessary risk on your back.
Furthermore, while you’re continuing to get stronger today with the good-morning squat, eventually you will reach a plateau that is directly caused by your lack of positioning and balance in the bottom of the squat. So until you correct it, you’ll stop improving.
Why Does The Good-Morning Squat Happen?
The main reason why the good morning squat occurs is that the primary knee extensors, the quads, are unable to extend the knee properly out of the bottom of the squat. In other words, the quad muscles are weak.
As a result, the loading demands shift from the knee extensors to the hip extensors. Therefore the hip extensors, the adductor magnus and glutes, take over to support the completion of the movement.
Additionally, the further the forward torso lean, the greater the spinal erectors will need to work to prevent the lifter from falling forward.
Because lifters feel their low and mid-back in the good-morning squat, they think they have a low and mid-back weakness. This is not true. It’s simply a by-product of having something failing earlier in the chain of movement (the quads).
If you’re interested in learning more about squat anatomy, check out my article on the MUSCLES USED IN THE SQUAT.
One important note on how the body responds to fatigue
Any time you have an incorrect movement pattern it’s the body’s way of compensating for either a lack of positioning or an imbalance between certain muscle groups.
Compensating is not inherently a bad thing because it shows that the body is trying its hardest to create some sort of leverage to complete the lift.
You can think of it as a cascading effect of the body ‘trying different things’ to lift the weight up.
For example, if certain muscles in the quads start to fail, the body will try to use adductor muscles to assist. If the adductor muscles start to fail, the body will try to use the glutes to assist. If the glutes start to fail, the body will try and use the musculature in the back.
Each time the body tries different points of leverage, the lifter’s body position will change. This is essentially what’s happening in the good-morning squat.
4 Ways To Fix The Good Morning Squat
Let’s now discuss how to fix the good morning squat. None of these fixes are quick solutions. You’ll need to implement them over the course of a 2-3 month period in order to see improvement. So be patient, but if you stick with it, you’ll have a much more effective squat.
The 4 ways to fix the good morning squat are:
- Use verbal cues
- Modify your load selection
- Work on coordination drills
- Use squat accessories that target quad strength
Fix#1: Use Verbal Cues
I wrote an entire article on the 9 squat cues you should know. Squat cue #8 was “driving your shoulders back and up into the barbell”. If you have a good-morning squat, this is the cue that you want to implement as you drive to stand up.
You want to actively draw your attention to the feeling of the load on your back and then try to drive into the weight using your upper back. You can also think about “traps through the bar” or “pressing up into the bar”.
This cue helps maintain upper back tightness during the bottom and mid-range of the movement. It will help you to maintain your torso angle when initiating the ‘up phase’, which should remain unchanged from how your torso looked during the ‘down phase’.
The squat cue you’ll hear most often when your torso angle changes is “chest up”. However, I’ve argued heavily against this cue because it can actually lead to hyperextension of the mid and upper back, which will destabilize your core muscles. Read my squat cues article for more details on this point.
Fix #2: Modify Your Load Selection
Fixing the good morning squat will require you to temporarily lower the weight on the barbell.
Most lifters have a hard time putting their ego aside and dropping the weight. But you need to give your body an opportunity to stop loading the hip extensor muscles in the bottom and mid-range of the squat.
If you have a load on the barbell that allows you to not have your hips pop up rapidly out of the hole, then your knee extensors will be forced to do their job properly. This is good because you want to place more loading demand on the quads. So by modifying the weight down, you’re actually making the quads work harder.
The key here is letting the quads do their job without shifting the load to the adductor magnus and glutes.
Fix #3: Work on Coordination Drills
If you’ve been squatting in a good morning position for a long time, then you might not have the motor control to understand what a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ position feels like.
As such, you need to implement coordination drills that teach you what it’s supposed to feel like when your hips are moving properly out of the bottom of the squat.
One of my favorite coordination drills to teach the bottom position is the 1.5 squat:
The 1.5 squat starts normally, squatting down into the bottom position. At that point, you’ll pause. Then you’ll stand halfway back up so your thighs are just above parallel. You’ll pause again. Then you’ll squat back into the hole and pause. After this final pause, you’ll drive to stand up.
The goal is to keep your hips and shoulders rising at the same tempo during the bottom position. You should set up a camera and record the side angle of your squat. This will ensure you’re getting visual feedback on where your hips are in space.
Fix #4: Use Squat Accessories That Target Quad Strength
Fixing the good morning squat will require you to select squat accessories that place greater loading demand on the knee extensors. The goal is to force the quads to work harder in the bottom of the squat and limit the activation of the hip extensors.
The 1.5 squat I previously described is more for motor learning purposes, i.e. learning where your body is in space. The accessories I’ll describe here are ones that specifically target your quads to a larger extent.
Use the front squat
One of my favorite accessories to fix the good morning squat is the front squat.
The main reason why I like this movement is that if your torso angle changes during the movement then the load will simply fall forward onto the floor.
This means that you have to use your quads to extend the knee up rather than relying on your hip extensors to compensate. This will also force you to select the right load so that you use the quads properly.
Use the belt squat
Another accessory movement that I like for fixing the good-morning squat is the belt squat:
If you don’t have a belt squat machine at your gym, then you can strap load to a dip belt and squat standing on two risers.
One of the points I mentioned earlier is that certain structures in the low and mid-back can take a lot of stress when you squat in a good-morning position.
The belt squat totally de-loads the spin by placing the load around the hips. This decompression on the spine will give your erectors and other back stabilizers a chance to recover. At the same time, the belt squat will isolate the quads to a larger extent when compared with a standard back squat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will heeled shoes help with the good-morning squat?
If you don’t have proper shoes for squats you’ll find yourself rocking forward and back throughout the movement. In order to maintain your balance over the mid-line of the foot, and prevent yourself from doing a good morning squat, I recommend getting a hard-soled shoe with a sight heel.
My recommendation is the Nike Romaleos 3 (click for reviews, pricing, and sizing on Amazon)
The good-morning squat is caused by weak quad muscles and over-compensating with stronger adductor magnus and glute muscles. As a result, you’ll want to implement squat cues, drills, and accessory movements that target the quads and teach you the right position. Don’t use a load that continuously puts you in a good-morning position. Drop the load, and focus on proper squat technique.