“A weak back equals a weak man.”
I wish I had come up with this, but instead the credit goes to the legendary Louie Simmons from the famed Westside Barbell. It’s one of his favorite sayings, and, yeah, if Louie says it then it’s definitely true.
For me, I’ve got some first-hand knowledge and now I can certainly say, “strong back equals a strong man.”
I always pictured myself as a powerlifter during the off-season/winter seasons while I competed in bodybuilding. The problem, though, was I kept getting hurt and every injury always happened to be in my back and posterior chain.
For a guy who always liked to squat – a pretty uncommon theme for a lot of lifters, unfortunately – it made things very inconvenient and it’s also why I shied away from doing a lot of barbell good mornings and deadlifts.
It wasn’t necessarily how I wanted to train, but I was in a serious Catch 22: Keep training like I was, doing the wrong stuff with the wrong form and keep getting hurt, or don’t train the posterior chain at all and end up weak as hell in that area. Obviously, neither of these options was going to work for me, so I had to figure out something.
I got to studying and that’s how I found out more about Louie and his methods. Not only did I find that awesome quote from above, but I found out that one of their main “Max Effort” movements on Mondays was, in fact, good mornings.
When I watched it, I was blown away. These monsters were destroying heavier weights for good mornings with more than I was squatting, and I was no slouch in the squat department. After a little more research, I knew what I had to do. I also knew if I wanted a strong lower back, I needed to man up, fix what I was doing and get strong at good mornings.
It certainly didn’t come overnight, but I was off and running on my quest for heavy – and proper – good mornings. I started with three reps at a whopping 135 pounds, getting coached by former Westside Barbell super heavyweight Tim Harold. This is a man who knew plenty about good mornings. Standing 6-foot-6 and 410 pounds, Big Tim could deadlift 855 pounds and could do a good morning with 700 pounds.
So, yes, Big Tim was an expert when it came to good mornings.
As for my start, Tim had this to say: “Cory, your abs look good, but your core is weak as hell.” Message received loud and clear. The next step was actually learning how to properly good morning, and Tim made sure to get my technique nailed down while also learning how to pull with a sumo stance.
With that came an intense focus and attention to detail when it came to technique, but believe me, good mornings can make your spine and posterior chain as strong as a T-Rex.
My 3-rep good morning went from 135 to a stout 335, while my deadlifted skyrocketed to 575, done while weighing 208 pounds. In the process, my back became thick and strong, while my hamstrings became noticeably more developed from the constant good mornings.
Now that I was doing them correctly, my posterior chain had some thick slabs of muscle hanging from it, and I had nearly a triple-bodyweight deadlift to show for it.
These days, I don’t use quite as heavy of a weight when I good morning, but that level of strength I built in my back and posterior chain has paid big dividends. Now that my form is spot-on, I’ve stayed injury free and I can load up 225 and rep it out.
This can be a fearful exercise and technique is a major part of this compound movement, but I’m here to tell you not to be afraid of heavy good mornings. When done correctly, they can work wonders for you like it did for me. After all, a strong back equals a strong man.
Here are some great good morning variations to put into your own routine: