10 Good Morning Alternatives (Best Substitutes Explained)

While almost unrivaled for working the posterior chain, good mornings are far from the most accessible exercise. First, you need a barbell. Then, you need the strength and confidence to safely load heavy weights onto vulnerable body parts. If you’ve been injured before, it’s often not worth the risk. 

Thankfully, the same results are possible with a good mornings alternative. 

If you can’t do good mornings, don’t worry. The solution is as simple as choosing a replacement.

Worthwhile alternatives to good morning exercise routines need to tick a few boxes. First, they should be compound exercises, preferably focused on the posterior chain for posture correction purposes. Second, they should activate that all-important hamstring. Finally, they need to be practical. 

1. Bent Over Rows 

This barbell good morning alternative can also be performed with dumbbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands. 

It may seem like an arm exercise, but while it does work the biceps, the motion of pulling also works your latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius. This is great for hitting back muscles that are often neglected. 

Bent over rows are excellent good mornings substitute exercises because they improve functional strength in the same way, reducing back pain, and working on your posture at the same time. 

  • Stand with feet shoulder-distance apart. Your upper body should be bent over, parallel to the floor. 
  • Hold a barbell at knee level.  
  • Pull the barbell up to your stomach while squeezing your shoulder blades. 
  • Return the barbell to its knee-level position with a controlled movement. 

To ensure perfect form and maximize the benefits, keep your core braced, your back straight, and maintain a tucked chin.

Related Article - Barbell Rows Vs Dumbbell Rows

barbell Bent Over Rows

2. Hip Thrusts 

Hip thrusts are a lower body-only exercise. They work the glutes, lower back, and hamstrings, providing many of the essential benefits as an alternative for good morning routines.

They’re also easy to do anywhere. You only need a bench-height object for your pivot point. The added weight will increase the benefits, but it is entirely optional. 

  • Sit on the ground with your upper back touching a bench-height surface. This will be your pivot point. 
  • Keep your feet flat and hip-width apart. Knees should be bent at 90-degree angles. You can hold a weight at hip level if you wish. 
  • Pivot your upper back and use your glute muscles to extend your hips off the floor while keeping your spine neutral. 
  • Engage the core to prevent your back arching as you approach the top of the movement.  
  • Lower yourself back to the starting position with control. 
Hip Thrusts

3. Romanian Deadlifts 

These are used specifically to work the posterior chain, focusing on the glutes, hamstrings, erector spinae, and adductors – making them a perfect good morning exercise substitute. As well as promoting good posture, Romanian deadlifts are great for strength-building. If you want to work on your power, too, increase the speed of your reps.

While usually done with a trap bar or barbell, you can use a resistance band for an excellently faithful banded good mornings alternative. 

  • Start with both feet shoulder-width apart, core engaged, and knees and hips stacked together. 
  • Grip your weight with your arms fully extended. 
  • Hinge your hips and bend your knees with a neutral spine until the weight comes to mid-shin height. 
  • Stand by pushing through your legs, driving the hips to meet the weight as it reaches thigh-height lockout position. Your spine should still be neutral. 
  • Begin the next rep without dropping your weight. 
Romanian Deadlift

4. Kettlebell Swings 

An incredibly popular and efficient exercise, kettlebell swings provide a full-body workout, working the core, deltoids, erector spinae, glutes, hamstrings, latissimus dorsi, quadriceps, and the trapezius.  

As well as working all these muscles, kettlebell swings improve posture, balance, and flexibility, making them one of the best practical good morning alternatives workout options out there. 

  • Stand straight with a kettlebell gripped with two stretched arms.  
  • Bend your knees and slowly begin to swing the kettlebell while keeping your back and shoulders straight. 
  • Let hip momentum swing your kettlebell forward until your arms reach shoulder height. Stretch your legs with the swing. 
  • Swing the kettlebell down and back between your legs to a maximum safe distance. 
  • Alternate between the motions of the two previous steps. 

To maintain good form and avoid injury, keep your core braced and shoulders down and back for the entire set.  

See Also - Muscles Worked With Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell Swings

5. Glute Ham Raises 

If you have access to a gym with a glute ham raise bench, this good morning alternative exercise hits all the same spots as the original. Your hamstrings will get even more work than with a regular good morning, while your glutes, lower back, and erector spinae will benefit too.  

You can even hold extra weights against your chest if you find this exercise isn’t challenging enough. 

  • Set the machine to match the proportions of your body. 
  • Enter the machine facing downwards. Put your hips on the pad and feet behind the support. Ensure your ankles and hips are stable, then let your upper body hang downward.  
  • Slowly lift your upper body until it forms a straight line with the legs. Your back should remain straight at all times during the routine. 
  • Return to you starting to position by using the knees for a controlled movement. 
Glute Ham Raises

6. Glute Kickbacks 

This adaptable alternative to good morning exercise routines is usually performed with a cable machine but can be recreated with resistance bands or even ankle weights. 

Your glutes will be the focus, but you will still see erector spinae, core, and hamstring engagement. The only good morning element missing is more demand on the lower back muscles. 

  • Attach a cable to the closest setting to the floor. 
  • Face the machine and put on the ankle band.  
  • Lean forward by around 45-degrees. You can grip the machine for balance if needed. 
  • Move your ankle-banded leg backward with its knee bent slightly. Stop when you slightly overshoot full extension. 
  • Return your leg to its original position with control. 

Using a machine is the optimal way of doing this exercise, as it makes it incredibly easy to customize the level of resistance using the ‘switch weight’ setting. 

Training Options - Best Cable Glute Kickback Alternatives

Glute Kickbacks

7. Pull Throughs 

Another great cable machine alternative exercise for good mornings are pull throughs. These work the lower back, erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings, making them an excellent replacement.

The only downside compared to traditional good mornings is that you will get diminishing benefits as your muscles fatigue here, unlike when using a barbell.  

  • Attach a cable to the closest setting to the floor, 
  • Stand immediately next to the machine, facing away from it.  
  • Grab the cable’s handle through the space between your legs, then step forward once. 
  • With knees slightly bent, bend your entire upper body forward as far as possible while maintaining a straight spine. 
  • Without hunching your shoulders, slowly return your upper body to a straight position. Your spine should be straight still, and your arms pointing down.  
  • Alternate between the two previous positions in a slow and controlled manner. 
cable pull throughs

8. Bird Dogs 

The most accessible good morning exercise alternative on our list works the entire posterior chain from side to side and requires absolutely no equipment.  

It is a low-intensity exercise too. That means those with pre-existing injuries limiting their options don’t have to worry. If you have an injured knee, it may be a good idea to put a mat between you and the ground. 

  • Start on all fours, with your shoulders directly over your hands and hips directly over your knees. 
  • Raise one arm and one leg to full extension parallel with the ground. Your leg should be on the opposite side of the body to your chosen arm. 
  • Slowly lower your arm and leg back to their starting positions in a controlled manner. 
  • Repeat with the other arm and leg. 

For perfect form, keep your hips level, spine neutral, and your shoulders back and down.

Read Also - What Is LIIT? (Low Intensity Interval Training)

Bird Dog

9. Back Extensions 

This alternative exercise for good mornings will require a roman chair or a back extension machine.

Great for recreating the posture benefits of good mornings, this exercise works your hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae, and lower back. You can make things harder (and more rewarding!) by adding weight with plates, dumbbells, or a barbell.

  • Secure yourself to a back extension machine, ensuring your back stays straight. 
  • Bend down slowly for as far as you can while maintaining a straight back. The bend should come from your hips instead. 
  • Now return to a completely straight line by moving your upper body slowly and with control.  

To avoid any risk of injury to your back, it is important to maintain that straight back and avoid any overextension. 

Suggested Equipment - 8 Best Roman Chairs Reviewed

Back Extensions

10. Reverse Chinese Plank 

This good morning alternative exercise targets the whole posterior chain with no movement required. Regular practice also improves your lockout strength. 

It is an advanced isometric exercise, though, so expect it to be reasonably difficult. 

  • Gather three benches/surfaces that are equal in height. Place two shoulder-width apart and one for your feet to rest upon. 
  • Rest your elbows on the two surfaces and put your feet on the other. You should be facing upward. 
  • Bend your elbows to make your arms 90-degrees. 
  • Clench your fists and lift yourself by driving down with your elbows and heels. 
  • Hold this position while squeezing your core, glutes, and hamstrings. Keep your hips and knees straight. Your elbows should be pulled down, and your shoulder blades should be pinched together. 

If you find yourself sagging downward, roll your hips forward while keeping your abs engaged, just like a regular plank. 

Reverse Chinese Plank

Why Do Good Morning Alternative Exercises? 

A standard good morning is performed by hinging forward at the hips with a barbell held behind your shoulders and against your upper back. 

This works muscles across the body, focusing on the posterior chain: the rear string of muscles, including the hamstrings, glutes, core, lower back, erector spinae, and adductors.  

While a great exercise, good mornings aren’t beginner-friendly. That’s why they are mostly practiced by those of advanced fitness, often as strength-building or conditioning exercise or to accompany intensive deadlift/squat training.  

Many athletes, runners, and professional weightlifters swear by good mornings. This is because they build leg, core, and lower back strength, promote spinal health, and prevent hamstring injuries – one of the most common sporting injuries. They also help to improve form for any exercise involving hip hinging. 

Unfortunately, not just athletes need to pay attention to their posterior chains. Working these muscles is vital for the posture of anyone who spends long periods sitting or hunched at a computer.   

That’s why an effective good morning workout alternative is essential. Good posture and back health shouldn’t be limited to advanced gym-goers. Most good morning substitute routines can be done at home without the same level of injury risk.


Common Mistakes When Doing Good Morning Substitutes

Overdoing It

One mistake often made by people keen to make big gains in a small space of time is overdoing it. By trying to push our bodies too quickly, we risk injuries that can cause us to lose progress instead of gaining it.

When trying a new weight-based exercise, start with slightly smaller weights than you would usually use. If the exercise is too easy or if you’re not feeling the results, increase your weights gradually. 

One practical alternative to increasing the weights too quickly is to ensure you are squeezing and activating the muscles you're working. Studies have found that focusing on the muscle you’re working through conscious squeezing increases the activation of your muscle by between 20 to 60%!  

Poor Form

Performing exercise routines with poor form is a dangerous game. Firstly, you can compromise the effectiveness of your workout. If your exercise is targeted at a specific set of muscles, but the power is coming from elsewhere in the body or from momentum, you will not see the results you desire. 

Second, consistently doing routines with poor form can be a serious health risk. If you cannot maintain a neutral spine while doing Romanian deadlifts, for example, loading that much weight can cause back damage – which is a long way from the posture improvement good morning exercise alternatives are aiming at.  

Not Warming Up

Warming up properly is crucial for getting the most out of your routines and avoiding damage to your body.  

A good warmup will increase your heart rate, pumping more blood to the muscles you're about to work. The connections between your muscles and nerves will be primed and already activated, which makes for a more efficient workout.

Finally, you should involve dynamic stretching, as the results will be a greater range of motion and flexibility. The greater your range of motion, the more you can work many muscles, and the lower the level of strain you will be placing on yourself.  

Cramps, torn muscles, body pain, and soreness are all common results of skipping a simple 10-minute aerobic warmup for your workout.  

Related Article - Benefits Of Stretching Before Your Workout

Moving Too Quickly

If you perform the movements in your routine too quickly, you are directly impacting the results you will receive. Try it yourself, and you will notice a rep performed slowly with control will be more difficult than one done quickly. Quick movements rely more on momentum than muscle use, robbing you of potential gains.  

Slowing your movements will increase the amount of time your muscles spend experiencing tension, which causes them to work more and grow more. Even if you can't manage as many reps at a slow speed, the ones you do manage will have a greater benefit.


Frequently Asked Good Morning Alternative Questions

Can you do good mornings without a barbell? 

If your home gym lacks a barbell, try performing a good morning using two dumbbells instead. Some people actively prefer dumbbell good mornings, as they allow a greater range of motion. Using two independently moving weights will prevent any unconscious overcompensation by your stronger side too. This aids balanced and symmetrical muscle development. 

Read More - Dumbbell Vs Barbell

How do you make good mornings harder? 

To make your good morning routine harder, try doing the same amount of reps as slowly as possible. If you're still looking for a greater challenge after this, try increasing the amount of weight you're using. However, only increase the weight slowly and in small increments to avoid injuring yourself. 

What muscles are worked with good morning alternatives? 

Good morning alternatives will focus on the posterior chain. These are the muscles located on the back of your body, namely the lower back, core, erector spinae, adductors, glutes, and hamstrings. Working these regularly is important to prevent wear and tear caused by regular lousy posture, especially if your job involves a lot of screen time like most office roles. 


Conclusion

Good mornings are a great exercise with many benefits. Unfortunately, their advanced nature can be a barrier to entry and even an injury risk for those not confident in nailing proper form each time. 

With these alternatives, you can get the same posture-correcting benefits without being a seasoned gym pro, owning a barbell, or risking unpleasant injuries.