Good Morning Vs Deadlift (Differences & Which Is Better?)

You're looking at incorporating good morning or deadlift exercises into your workout routine, but you want to find out what the differences between them are. Both movements are great for working the posterior chain and building muscle.

If you're unsure which option is best for you, this good morning vs. deadlift guide will tell you everything you need to know!  

Muscles Worked 

As mentioned above, both good mornings and deadlifts target the posterior chain muscles (the muscles situated on the back of the body). However, when looking at the differences in the muscles worked, deadlifts work a larger variety of muscles than good mornings. Let's take a closer look at each muscle group below: 

Good Morning  

Deadlift  


good mornings muscles worked
deadlift muscles worked
  • Hamstrings, Glutes, Quads & Adductors 
    Deadlifts are an excellent exercise if you’re looking to target quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Although both exercises target these muscles more than any others, deadlifts target all four, while good mornings don’t work the quads. On the other hand, if you’re looking to isolate the hamstrings, then good mornings are better suited for this.
  • Back & Core 
    Taking a look at your core muscles, the erector spinae is the primary core muscle targeted by both deadlifts and good mornings. Good mornings are a great exercise if you're looking to strengthen your lower back muscles, while deadlifts are great for your upper back muscles.
  • Calves  
    The calves consist of 2 muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Both of these muscles are engaged during the deadlift. However, the soleus is worked more due to the gastrocnemius shortening as you bend your knees. Good mornings do not work the calves. 
  • Shoulders & Arms 
    Since your arms remain straight throughout the exercise, deadlifts don't put a lot of strain on your shoulders, but they are involved nonetheless. Similarly, forearm strength is required in order to grip the barbell. Good morning exercises, however, don’t require as much shoulder or arm strength to perform.

Capacity for load 

While both exercises are limited by the amount of weight that you can lift, you'll be able to lift heavier weight when doing deadlifts than when doing good mornings. A good rule of thumb to follow when loading the barbell for good mornings is to load 60% of what you deadlift.

With that said, correct form is far more important than the weight load. If you’re not able to perform with optimal form when lifting by the 60% guideline, go lighter and work at perfecting your form before increasing the weight. Similarly, for deadlifts, you should ensure good form before increasing your weight.

We also wrote an article comparing other types of deadlifts, such as Romanian vs Regular Deadlifts. 

Muscle Hypertrophy/Growth 

When it comes to overall full-body muscle gains, both good mornings and deadlifts are effective in building muscle. As we mentioned previously, deadlifts target a wider variety of muscles.

If you’re specifically after general muscle growth, deadlifts offer better overall hypertrophy of muscles, including the hamstrings, glutes, quads, and calves. However, if you're looking to specifically target your hamstrings alone, good mornings will be better suited for this.  

Deadlifts will also work your lats, traps, and forearms, where good mornings don't. Where deadlifts can be seen as a primary exercise for muscle hypertrophy, good mornings are an excellent secondary/supplementary exercise that can be done to further assist with growth.

For Power & Sports 

If overall power/strength is the goal, particularly for sport, then deadlifts are best suited. Competitive fitness sports like powerlifting and strongman use the deadlift as an indicator of strength. Jump over to our guide on powerlifting vs weightlifting to learn more.

This means that you’ll not only be required to execute the exercise, but you’ll need the power required to lift the barbell off the ground. As the barbell rests on your shoulders when doing good mornings, you won’t be able to improve your strength in this regard.  

In contrast, those involved in Olympic weightlifting may prefer good mornings for their benefit in strengthening spinal extension and assisting in the positioning needed for squats, snatches, cleans, and jerks. However, good mornings won't replace deadlifts but will instead be a complementary exercise. 

Good Morning Vs Deadlift

Difficulty 

Both exercises are fairly simple to execute in theory, but in practice, it can be tricky to perfect your form. Good mornings involve only a simple hip-hinge movement to conduct, whereas deadlifts involve 3 different phases: the setup, the pull, and the lockout.

Although both of these exercises rely on you not rounding your lower back in order to avoid injury, a deadlift is likely more challenging to execute based on its more complex movements. Additionally, deadlifts target more muscle groups than good mornings do, making them an overall harder exercise.

Conversely, when doing good mornings, the shifting of gravity caused from hinging forward and back means it’s more difficult to execute in terms of maintaining form and balance.

Injury Risk 

Any weightlifting comes with a risk of injury. While there may be divided opinions regarding the safety of both good morning and deadlift exercises, the injury risk increases when not performed correctly or responsibly.  

Ego lifting (lifting excessively heavy weight purely to try to impress others) is a fast and easy way to injure yourself. Although Bruce Lee infamously injured himself while doing good mornings, this was a result of not warming up adequately beforehand.

A great way to maintain the correct form during both exercises is to keep your chin up and have a focal point. This helps to prevent your back from rounding, potentially causing injury.

Technique Differences 

While both good mornings and deadlifts rely on the correct form in order to safely perform the exercise and avoid injury, there are some differences in technique for each exercise. The most significant technique difference involves barbell placement.

For good mornings, the bar rests on your shoulders for the duration of the workout, throughout each set. Whereas for deadlifts, the starting and ending position of the bar for each rep is on the ground. This means that you don’t have to bear the weight of the bar throughout the set and only need to bear the weight during each rep, with a break between reps.

Having the bar resting on your shoulders throughout the duration of the set may place too much strain on the spine for people struggling with pre-existing back pain. In this case, deadlifts may be a better alternative for you.  

Another key difference involves the movement of the barbell itself. With good mornings, the barbell starts in an elevated position and is brought down and back up through each rep. However, when performing a deadlift, the barbell starts in a low position and is lifted up and back down through each rep.


Good Morning Overview (Pros & Cons Explained) 

A good morning is an exercise that involves placing a barbell on the upper back (like you would for a barbell squat). From there, you’ll lean forward and hinge at the hips, ensuring a straight back and flexed hamstrings. This exercise gets its name from the way it resembles the bowing action used for greetings in some cultures. 

Good mornings are similar to deadlifts in that they are a compound exercise. This means that they target more than one muscle group at once. In this case, good mornings primarily work the hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae, and lower back muscles. While both exercises work the posterior chain muscles (the muscles along the back of the body), good mornings focus on fewer muscles than deadlifts do.  

Good Mornings

When it comes to safety, there is a divided opinion on good mornings. While the mechanics of the exercise can increase the risk of injury if done incorrectly, this is true for nearly all weight lifting exercises.

When performed correctly, good mornings are an excellent exercise for growing your hamstrings and building a foundation of strength required for deadlifts. This makes them ideal for people just starting out at the gym who want to eventually progress to deadlift exercises.

Added to this, good mornings don’t require the same forearm grip strength needed for deadlifts. Since this exercise helps strengthen your lower back and core muscles, it's ideal for people who sit for long hours a day (such as office workers).  

To execute a good morning correctly, you’ll rest the barbell across your back and hinge your hips forward, keeping your torso parallel to the ground. With this exercise, you’ll want to avoid having the bar resting on your neck but rather ensure it rests on the back of your shoulders. 

The downside to good mornings is that you’re not able to load the barbell as heavy as you would be able to when doing deadlifts. Additionally, it’s harder to achieve progressive overload safely when doing good morning exercises. Due to the greater risk of back injury involved when hinging at the hip, you should preferably use a light to medium weight and a full range of motion when doing this exercise. 

Pros

  • Compound exercise 
  • Posterior chain muscle-building  
  • Improves hip mobility 
  • Not limited by grip strength 

Cons

  • Can’t lift as much weight  
  • Incorrect form has high risk of injury 
  • Requires a barbell 

Deadlift Overview (Pros & Cons Explained)

Originally called a "Dead Weight Lift" and then shorted to just "Deadlift," this exercise gets its name from how you lift a dead weight off the ground. A deadlift is an exercise that involves placing a barbell on the floor and lifting the weight up off the ground. Once the lifter is standing straight, they will lower the weight back down to the floor in a controlled movement. 

Put simply, a deadlift involves picking up a heavy object and placing it back down. This makes it a very easy and simple exercise to execute, even for beginners. However, it’s important to ensure the correct form when doing this exercise. Oftentimes, if the weight is too heavy for the lifters' strength level, they will round their lower back and can cause injury to their spine. 

Romanian Deadlift

Deadlifts, like good mornings, are also a compound exercise that works the posterior chain muscles. However, deadlifts target nearly every major muscle in the body. This includes the quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, adductors, calves, core, lats, traps, erector spinae, and forearms.

When it comes to safety, deadlifts are safe when done with the correct form. It’s best to start with a lightweight and perfect your form before increasing the weight. As a highly effective exercise for increasing functional strength, deadlifts should be incorporated into every workout routine.  

To perform a deadlift correctly, you’ll want to ensure that you keep your spine neutral and your core tight. When you’re lifting the bar up, you should keep the bar as close to your body as possible, almost dragging it over your shins. With this exercise, it’s good to raise your chin and focus on a high focal point to help ensure correct form during the lift. 

The downside to deadlifts is that they place significant strain on the lower back. Studies show that, along with incorrect form and heavy weight, fatigue is also a leading cause of injury when deadlifting. This means you should ideally perform your deadlifts first thing, right after your warm-up.

Pros

  • Compound exercise 
  • Target a wide variety of muscles 
  • Increases functional strength 
  • Suited for beginners 

Cons

  • Incorrect form can lead to injury 
  • Requires a barbell 

Good Morning Versus Deadlifting FAQs 

What exercise can replace good mornings?  

Romanian deadlifts are a great compound exercise that also focuses more on the hamstrings rather than the quads. Like good mornings, the mechanics of this exercise involves a hip-hinge movement too. This makes them a great alternative exercise to replace good mornings with. 

For more info, read our guide on the best good morning alternative exercises.

What exercise can replace deadlifts? 

A barbell rack pull, also known as a "block deadlift," is a great standard deadlift alternative that involves a partial range of motion. This exercise entails either placing blocks on the floor or using a power rack to elevate the barbell. This allows you to load more weight onto the bar and focus more on the top-end portion of the deadlift mechanics. 

We compiled a list of the best deadlift alternatives to help you get the most our of your routine.

How much weight should you use for good mornings? 

When it comes to good mornings, you’ll be using significantly less weight than you would for a deadlift. Louie Simmons recommends doing 60% weight for good mornings as you would do for a deadlift. However, if this is too heavy for you, it’s more important that you opt for a weight that is as heavy as you’re able to manage while maintaining correct form.   


Conclusion

That wraps up our comprehensive guide to good morning vs. deadlift exercises. We hope that all of your questions and concerns were addressed. Now that you know what the differences between the two exercises are and which one is best for you, you'll be able to achieve your muscle-building goals in no time!  

Last Updated on April 20, 2022

Paul J