Good mornings vs deadlifts, which is better? Both are great for building strength, but they do different things to your body. Which one should you prioritize? In this blog post we will look at good mornings vs deadlifts, specifically what they are, how they’re performed, how they differ and some variations for each exercise.

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Good mornings vs Deadlifts: Good morning exercise

What is a good morning?

A good morning is an exercise that targets your hamstrings and glutes. The bar is placed across your back as you bend forward with your torso parallel to the ground to perform the movement.

How to perform a good morning?

Step1 : Load a bar/ barbell with weights or no weights.

Step 2: Place the bar across your shoulders, holding the bar at each end. The bar should not be resting on your shoulders, like with a squat. It should be across your shoulders.

Step 3: Bend forward, keeping your spine neutral and pushing your hips back.

Step 4: Return to the starting position by pushing your hips forward and squeezing your glutes.

Good morning exercise muscles worked

The good morning works your hamstrings, glutes and lower back.

What makes the good morning a good exercise?

Barbell Good Morning

The good morning is a great exercise if you are trying to isolate your hamstrings. Since it places a great emphasis on your hamstring during the movement, it is excellent if you are trying to build or strengthen your hamstrings.

Good mornings can’t be loaded as heavily as deadlifts which means that you can concentrate on contracting the muscles rather than getting the weight up. It is also a safer exercise to perform since the amount of weight that can be loaded is limited.

Good mornings are an excellent assistance exercise since it works all the muscles the deadlift does but it is easier to perform.

A good morning can be used to build up your strength and size in your posterior chain which will help you to perform deadlifts.

Limitations of the good morning

Even though the good morning is a good exercise, it does have it’s limitations. Due to how the exercise is set up, you can only lift a limited amount of weight. Lighter loads require less effort and results in lower intensity.

It will also be harder to progressively overload since you will reach a point where you can no longer safely add more weight. Which means you will have to get creative with how you up the intensity. The exercise can also feel awkward to perform because the bar is across your shoulders as you bend over.

In the beginning it can feel like you’re going to fall over. It is important to start with lighter weights until you have gotten your form right and practiced doing the exercise. Once you are comfortable performing the exercises, you can start adding more weight.

Variations of the good morning

Good mornings can be performed with a barbell or with a resistance band.

To perform a a good morning with a resistance band follow these steps:

Step 1: Step into the resistance band with your feet shoulder width apart and pinning each side down.

Step 2: Place the band over the back of your shoulders.

Step 3: Bend forward, pushing your hips back and keeping your spine neutral.

Step 4: Return to the standing position by pushing your hips forward.

Step 5: Repeat for the desired amount of reps.

What is a deadlift?

Good mornings vs Deadlifts: Barbell Deadlift

A conventional deadlift is an exercise where the movement starts with the barbell on the floor and you pull the weight up.

How to perform a deadlift?

Step 1: Load a barbell with the desired amount of weights and stand in front of the barbell with your feet shoulder width apart.

Step 2: Place your hands on the bar, with each hand placed outside your knees.

Step 3: Start pulling the bar up by pushing your feet into the ground and pushing your hips forward.

Step 4: Pull the bar up until the bar is in line with your pelvis and lower to the ground again.

Tips to perform the deadlift

  • Keep your spine neutral. You need to make sure that you do not round your back during the exercise as it could lead to injuries. If you feel you are rounding your back, lower the weight and practice until you can perform the exercise without any rounding.
  • Keep your core tight.
  • When you are pulling the bar up, make sure the bar drags up against your body, you do not want the bar to drift away from you as you perform the deadlift.

Deadlift muscles worked

The deadlift works your lower back, hamstrings and glutes.

What makes the deadlift a good exercise?

Deficit Deadlift

The deadlift is a compound exercise which means it works multiple muscle groups during the movement. This means you build more muscle and burn more calories since so many different muscle groups are involved.  

Deadlifts are great for building overall strength and size specifically for your back since your upper and lower back muscles are involved in a deadlift.

Limitations of the deadlift

Because the deadlift is a compound movement it means that you can lift heavier loads. This also means that you are at a higher risk for injuries, especially lower back injuries. Due to how the deadlift is set up your lower back is worked to a greater degree and also at a greater risk for injury because there is more strain on it.

Variations of the deadlift

There are a ton of different deadlift variations but here are a few:

Sumo Deadlift

Romanian Deadlift

Trap Bar Deadlift

Single Leg Deadlift

Dumbbell Deadlift

Good Mornings vs Deadlifts: Comparison

Good mornings vs Deadlifts: Deadlift

To recap here are the main differences between good mornings vs deadlifts.

Set up

A dead lift starts with the barbell on the floor whereas the good morning starts with the barbell starts with the weight across your shoulders.

Capacity for load

A deadlift can be performed with heavier loads than a good morning which means it is better for overall strength and muscular development. It is also more effective at burning calories because of all the muscle groups involved and the intensity required to complete the movement. A good morning on the other hand can’t be loaded as heavy but it is a good exercise to isolate your hamstrings.

Risk for injury

The deadlift has a higher risk for injury due to the heavier load and strain on your lower back. Since the good morning can’t be loaded as heavily, it is a safer option if you are concerned about lower back problems.

Muscles targeted

Even though both exercises work your hamstrings, good mornings are more effective at targeting your hamstrings than deadlifts are.

Direction of movement

With deadlifts, the barbell moves vertically up and down because you are lifting the weight from the floor, pulling it up towards your pelvis and lowering the weight down again. With good mornings, the weight moves forwards and backwards as you bend and straighten up again.


With all the information you have learned from this blog post, it is time to make a decision. Which of these exercises should be your priority? It’s hard to say definitively without knowing more about what kind of fitness goals you are trying to reach.

Deadlifts are a compound exercise that work your back, glutes, hamstrings and core. The deadlift is one of the best exercises for building strength in the lower body as well as improving posture by strengthening all major muscles in the posterior chain (i.e., those located at the back of your body).

Good mornings are an isolation exercise targeting primarily your hamstrings. This makes them a good choice if you want to focus on developing muscle size or shape around this area specifically while avoiding overworking other areas like your low back. So which should you prioritize?

If you’re trying to build overall size and strength the deadlift is the winner. If you have a history of lower back issues and you’re looking to grow those hammies, then the good morning is the one for you.

You could also try mixing both in your routine for variety if you don’t have lower back injuries.

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Happy lifting!

Anna Mathis, CPT,CNC
Anna Mathis, CPT,CNC

Anna is a certified personal trainer, certified nutrition coach, and science junkie who has a passion for teaching women about weight training, nutrition, and wellness.