The good morning and romanian deadlift are both exercises used by powerlifters and bodybuilders to build strength and mass in the muscles of the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, erectors) and core.
Both movements are based on the same hip hinge movement pattern, flexing forward at the hips while keeping the back neutral and knee unchanged.
But, what are the differences between the good morning vs romanian deadlift?
The difference between the good morning and romanian deadlift is in the placement of the barbell. In the good morning, the barbell is placed in the same position as a squat. In the Romanian deadlift, the barbell is held with the same grip as a deadlift, in a standing position with the arms extended.
There are pros and cons for each movement and a correct time to train one or the other.
In this article, I will explain the difference between each of these hip hinge movements and empower you to make the best choice for your exercise selection and programming, to make optimal gains in your training.
What’s The Difference Between a Good Morning and a Romanian Deadlift?
This is the start position for the good morning vs Romanian deadlift:
This is the end position for the good morning vs Romanian deadlift:
The 6 main differences between the good morning vs Romanian deadlift are:
- Bar placement
- Set up
- Movement Difficulty
- Grip involvement
- Muscles used
1. Bar Placement
In the good morning, the bar is placed on the back, typically in a low bar position.
In the RDL the bar is held in front of the body with straight arms, pulled close against the body.
This should be considered when making programming decisions, as you will want to manage overall volume loading the spine.
2. Set Up
For the good morning, the bar is unracked from a squat rack.
In the RDL the bar is lifted off the ground with a conventional deadlift up to the standing start position.
3. Movement Difficulty
Good morning is considered by some to be an easier movement due to the bar on the back, which provides a greater stimulus for maintaining a neutral spine and it’s suitability for anyone, regardless of their mobility.
The RDL requires more upper body awareness as the bar is in front of the body and greater mobility.
Some consider the RDL to be the easier movement precisely because the bar is not on the back which can be challenging mentally. I recommend you try them both and see for yourself!.
4. Grip Involvement
The good morning has a much lesser grip requirement so this is not usually a factor limiting load or reps, whereas it can be for the RDL.
5. Muscles Used
The good morning has the potential for more back muscle activation compared to the RDL.
The RDL has the potential for more hamstring activation compared to the good morning.
If you're looking for exercises that limit hamstring activation, check out my article on the 8 Best Leg Exercises That Don't Use Hamstrings.
The good morning may be more specific to the squat because of its low bar back rack position.
The RDL may transfer better to the conventional deadlift in terms of grip and lat activation required.
Good Morning: Technique, Mistakes, Pros, Cons, & Muscles Used
How To Do a Good Morning
Here is how to set up and perform the barbell good morning;
1. From the rack, place the bar over your mid traps, similar to how you would set up for a low bar back squat. Create a shelf with your upper back muscles for the bar to sit on and pull the bar down to really lock it in place.
2. Take 3 steps away from the rack to set your feet into a hip width stance. Adjust stance to shoulder width for an increased base of support.
3. Keeping your knees soft, send your hips back, allowing your torso to incline forwards. Maintain a tight upper back, engaged core muscles and neutral spine.
4. As your hips go back, your knees will stay bent, but not travel forwards, in order to maintain tension in and recruit the muscles of the back of your body and legs, such as the glutes and hamstrings, rather than the front i.e. the quads.
5. Only go as far as you can send your hips back, keeping your chest up with a neutral spine. Lowering from the lumbar will not benefit the lift.
6. Once you have reached the end range of motion, forcefully drive your hips forward and return to an upright position to prepare for the next rep.
Technique Tips for a Good Morning
Technique is very important for the good morning because this movement takes you to the end range of motion and does so under relatively heavy loads. It is therefore not a movement you would want to do with poor technique or risk failing.
Here are some technique tips to ensure you perform good mornings correctly;
- Cue “close the door behind you with your butt”. A great cue for a beginner learning this movement is to imagine they are closing a door behind them with their butt. This will help them to understand how the hips travel backwards while the knees stay bent but do not travel forwards.
- Keep your weight in your heels. This cue will help to keep the knees in position and hte hips travelling backwards.
- Start with a light weight and build up gradually. This will give your body time to adapt to the stimulus of this movement. You will gain confidence not only in the movement pattern but also in the position and secureness of the bar on your back.
- Train the good morning sub-maximally or to a technical RPE. This will enable you to focus on good form, muscle activation and prevent you failing any reps.
Common Mistakes When Doing a Good Morning
The good morning is a safe and effective exercise when done correctly. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:
- High Bar Position. Unless you have massive traps, avoid setting up in a high bar position. Because of the downward torso angle in this movement, the bar can roll up to the cervical spine if positioned too high and not locked in securely.
Beginners and most people with normal sized traps will do better in a low bar set up, which will offer much greater ability to secure and control the bar especially at the movements end range of motion. This will also load the erector spinae muscles less and prevent craning of the neck.
- Knees locked or too bent. Keeping your knees locked puts additional stress through them and reduces the load on the hamstrings. Bending the knees too much transfers the load to the quads and turns the movement into more of a squat. For optimal good morning technique, keep the knees soft and in the same position, as your hips move back.
Muscles Used In A Good Morning
The muscles used in a good morning are:
- Core muscles
- Erector Spinae
Benefits of the Good Morning
The good morning is a great exercise for learning how to hip hinge correctly, a movement pattern many people can struggle to learn initially.
Benefits of the good morning include:
- Learning to hip hinge. Because the bar is on the back, it's an effective way of helping someone to keep their back stable and upright, enabling them to keep this position and focus on learning the hip hinge without having to worry about a bar in front of them and the additional cues that involves.
- Posterior chain strength and hypertrophy. The good morning is a great assistance lift for building strength and size in the muscles down the back of the body and the core. This transfers to improve squats, deadlifts as well as athletic performance across a range of sports.
- Reduced range of motion. There is no minimum mobility requirement for a good morning. A lifter can perform the good morning according to their individual mobility and range of motion.
- Repetitions are not limited by grip strength. Because the barbell is on the back and not being held, there is no limitation to the number of reps or weight based on grip strength.
- Good mornings are a useful alternative where a lifter has a physical restriction. For example, if a lifter is unable to do a romanian deadlift due to shoulder or grip issues. Or if someone is not able to stand, they can still perform a seated good morning.
Cons of The Good Morning
Potential cons of the good morning include:
- It is a movement which directly loads the spine. This is an important programming consideration and it may not be good for a lifter to have more volume which loads the spine in their training block.
- The movement takes a lifter right to their end range of motion under heavy load. Poor form including unnecessary lumbar movement could potentially lead to injury.
- Greater delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Lifters report more DOMS training good mornings compared to other posterior chain developing exercises. This could affect subsequent lifts or require more rest to recover from and needs to be considered in programming.
Romanian Deadlift: Technique, Mistakes, Pros, Cons, & Muscles Used
How To Do a Romanian Deadlift
Here is how to set up and execute a Romanian deadlift;
1. Most powerlifters will pick up their barbell for RDLs from the floor, using a conventional deadlift set-up for the initial lift to the RDLstanding tall start position.
2. Grip should be just on the outside of the body at standing, as close to the body as possible without getting in the way of the bar. (To learn more about grip width check out the Complete Guide to Deadlift Grip Width).
3. Grip can be double overhand, mixed grip, hook grip or often people use straps for RDLs so that grip is not a limiting factor.
4. From a standing tall position begin by sending your hips backwards with soft knees.
5. As your hips travel backwards, your torso should remain neutral and will come forwards, taking you into a hip hinge.
6. You should feel and maintain the tension in the back of your legs including your hamstrings. Keep your weight in your heels.
7. Keep your knees slightly bent and in the same position. They should neither be locked back or allowed to travel forwards.
8. Activate your lats to help keep the bar close to your body throughout the lift.
9. Go as low as you are able to, while keeping your back neutral, your hips travelling backwards and your knees in the same position.
10. The range of motion will vary from person to person based on limb lengths and mobility. Some people may be able to reach the floor performing this lift, but many will not.
Technique Tips for a Romanian Deadlift
Common Mistakes When Doing a Romanian Deadlift
The romanian deadlift can look different depending on who is performing the movement according to their individual leverages and mobility. Because of this, someone new to this movement can perform it incorrectly if they have different lever lengths and mobility.
Common mistakes to avoid;
- Aiming to always touch the floor. A correctly performed RDL should go to each person’s individual end range of motion where they are able to keep their spine neutral, and their knees bent but not travelling forwards, irrespective of whether or not they can go so far that the bar touches the floor.
- Loss of back tightness. Losing core or back muscle tension can result in bent over spine. This not only reduces the effectiveness of the exercise but can increase the risk of injury. Check out this article for more on how to keep your back straight when deadlifting.
- Knees bending forward too much. This can result from an unrealistic expectation of trying to reach the floor or a fault in the movement pattern itself. Bending the knees forward takes the tension off the posterior chain muscles and turns this movement into more of a conventional deadlift.
- Keeping knees locked. This is often associated with the bar travelling away from the body and starts to look more like a stiff leg deadlift.
- Bar travelling away from the body. A failure to properly engage the lats and upper back can result in the bar travelling forwards away from the body increasing the load on the spine.
Muscles Used In a Romanian Deadlift
The muscles used in a Romanian Deadlift are:
- Core muscles
- Erector spinae
- Grip muscles of the hand and forearm
Benefits of the Romanian Deadlift
This movement is useful for powerlifters, bodybuilders and athletes looking to improve their general sporting performance. It is also great for the general population looking to stay healthy and fit.
- Improves deadlifts, squats and general athletic performance. The RDL is a great assistance exercise for improving conventional deadlifts and squats through building strength and mass in the back, core, glutes and hamstrings.
- Improves jumping and running performance. Check out my article on Do Deadlifts Increase Vertical Jump?
- Can improve hamstring strength and range of motion under tension over time. This can not only improve athletic performance but also reduce the risk of injury in many dymanic movememnt sports in two common injury sites; the hamstrings and the knees.
- Useful for rehabilitation post knee injury. Just as it can help prevent injuries, it is also a very effective movement for knee rehabilitation, helping to strengthen the hamstrings to balance them against usually more dominant and stronger quads.
- Works grip strength
- Engages the lats
Related Article: The Ultimate List Of 55+ Barbell Exercises (By Muscle Group)
Cons of The Romanian Deadlift
The romanian deadlift requires whole body activation and coordination which makes it both effective but also gives it limitations;
- Hip hinge difficulty. The RDL can be a difficult movement to learn as it requires keeping the spine neutral and hip hinging at the same time, while keeping the barbell close to the body. There is no load on the back to help tactile cue keeping a tight neutral back. Because of the many technical requirements, it may not be the best hip hinge movement to start with as a beginner.
- Grip limitation. Many athletes find holding on to the barbell for RDLs really challenges their grip, limiting the number of reps or weight they can lift, unless they use straps.
- Muscle Soreness. Athletes report a pronounced hamstring muscle soreness with this exercise, which may require additional recovery time.
Check out the article Are Romanian Deadlifts Harder Than Traditional Deadlifts?
Good Morning vs RDL: Variations of Each Movement
Variations of The Good Morning
- Prisoner Good Morning: place your hands behind your head and perform a body weight version of the movement.
- Goblet or Plate Good Morning: hold a dumbbell, kettlebell or plate across the front of your chest and perform the good morning with the load in front and held close to the body.
- Overhead Good Morning: hold a weight such as a plate over head for a more challenging version of the goblet or plate good morning.
- Banded Good Morning: place a resistance band around your hips during a barbell good morning to additionally load the hips.
- Seated Good Morning: for athletes with lower body restrictions, a seated good morning allows an athlete to perform a version of the lift without needing to stand.
- Zercher Good Morning: place the barbell in the crease of the elbow instead of on the back for a front loaded good morning.
- Narrow or Wide Stance Good Morning: perform the same good morning movement but in either a narrow or a wider stance.
- Single Leg Good Morning: Perform the barbell good morning in a single leg stance to develop each leg and work on balance.
- Good Morning With Chains: Add chains to the good morning to change the load being lifted at different parts of the movement's range of motion.
- Good Morning With Hanging Plates: Hang plates on the barbell to work on additional core stabilisation throughout the movement.
Romanian Deadlift Variations
- Tempo RDLs: change the tempo of the RD by slowing the downward part of the lift for increased time under tension.
- Perpendicular Banded RDL: add a resistance band to the centre of the barbell and fix it to a squat rack or similar immovable object. The aim of the band is to pull the barbell away from the athlete so that they will need to further activate their lats to keep the bar close.
- Single Leg RDL: perform the RDL in a single leg stance to develop each leg and work on balance. The weight can be held with both hands, or on the same side or opposite side for further variation.
- Snatch Grip RDL: the RDL can be performed with a much wider snatch grip on the barbell. Typically when standing upright, snatch grip is where the barbell is in line with the sharp protruding bones at the front of the hips.
For more deadlift progressions check out this article to take your deadlift from beginner to advanced.
Good Morning vs Romanian Deadlift: Frequently Asked Questions
Can I train both the good morning and romanian deadlift in the same training block?
Because these movements are so similar, it usually makes more sense to train one of these per training block. Each movement is taxing in its own right and should be programmed in context of an athlete's total training volume, including all squat and deadlift variations.
Where in the program would the good morning or romanian deadlift fit in?
Similar to squats and deadlifts, the good morning and RDL are both very demanding compound movements. For this reason, it's usually best to programme them at the start of a session when an athlete is mentally and physically fresh.
Program them first if they are the most technical and high risk movement, or programme them after a lift that is even more demanding such as the back squat or conventional deadlift.
Make sure to include enough recovery time between this movement and the next training session if it includes working similar muscle groups. Good mornings seem to produce more delayed onset muscle soreness and therefore could require additional recovery time.
Both the good morning and romanian deadlift use a barbell, is there another way to learn the movement pattern and get similar benefits?
The cable pull through is a very similar movement and works the same posterior chain muscles. It is a good choice for maintaining activation in these muscles as an athlete deloads or works their way back from injury.
This movement is performed using a cable tower on a low setting. Grip the rope handles between your legs and from an upright starting position, allow the weight to pull you back into a hip hinge, maintaining tension in the back of your legs and back to standing.
For more alternatives to the Romanian deadlift, check out the article on the Best Romanian Deadlift Alternatives.
Not sure if you should add good mornings or Romanian deadlifts to your program? Let me summarise the important take-home points for you;
- Choose good mornings if you are wanting to get the benefits of training a hip hinge movement and making posterior chain gains, but want a movement that can be done with less range of motion, where you don’t need to worry about grip strength and have a large number of variations to suit your ability level to choose from.
- Choose RDLs if you need a hip hinge movement that does not directly load the spine or have forces from the load going through your elbows, but will allow you to effectively work the posterior chain muscles as well as your lats and grip strength.
It’s important to select the exercise that most closely fits your training goals and fits into a well designed programme to get the most gains for your time and effort.
If you are interested in reading about other deadlift comparisons, check out the following articles:
- Deadlift vs Romanian Deadlift: Pros, Cons, Differences
- Deadlift vs Rack Pull: Pros, Cons, Differences
- Back Extension vs Deadlift: Differences, Pros, Cons
- Kettlebell Swing vs Deadlift: Differences, Pros, Cons
About The Author
Carli Dillen has been a Strength and Conditioning Coach since 2007 after earning her degree in Sport and Exercise Science and Human Physiology. She completed further post graduate studies in Movement Neuroscience in 2010 and opened her first gym in 2011. Her sporting achievements include winning 3 World Championship Gold medals in Taekwon-Do, as well as representing New Zealand at 4 IPF Powerlifting World Championships, winning a bronze medal in deadlift in 2017. You can connect with Carli on Instagram