Save your spine and hit your hips hard with Goblet Goodmornings

Save your spine and hit your hips hard with Goblet Goodmornings The Fitness Maverick

Goodmornings can often feel awkward and uncomfortable. Bad programming and poor technique can also cause them to wreak havoc on your spine. Goblet Goodmornings will strengthen your entire posterior chain while avoiding some common drawbacks of the traditional barbell.

Here are the basics. Master these before exploring any of the more variations and modifications further below.

Setup:

  • With a heavy kettlebell you might find it easiest setting it on a bench to start and finish.
  • Grip your kettlebell using a bottoms-up position, and holding the actual bell (like a cannonball). Alternatively you can grip the kettlebell in a bottoms-down position and by the horns. Use whichever feels most comfortable, which may differ from your Goblet Squat.

Execution:

  • Adopt a squat width stance. You may go a little narrower or wider depending on what feels best to you, or to change emphasis a little.
  • Firmly grip the kettlebell to your chest. Keep your elbows tucked in to your ribs and engage your back and lats.
  • Breathe in “360 degrees of air around your spine” and brace your abs.
  • Put some weight back on to your heels and push your hips back – “Close the door behind you with your butt.”
  • Focus on a creating a pure hip hinge and keeping your low back stable throughout. 
  • Some minor rounding through your mid-upper back is fine, as long as it’s kept stable and within a natural range of motion. I wouldn’t actively encourage this though, unless you know what you’re doing and looking for.
  • Full depth is where you’ve bent over as far as you can and your hamstrings say “hello”.
  • Keep the kettlebell firmly gripped and in close.
  • Return to the top position, pinch your butt as you do-so. Depending on which variation you use (see below) this position can be further emphasized.  

Benefits of Goblet Goodmornings

Enhanced comfort over a barbell

Performing Goodmornings with a bar on your back is uncomfortable for many. If you don’t have meaty upper traps or good shoulder mobility then the placement of the bar can bring more pain than it’s worth. Your pain tolerance is challenged more than the actual strength of your hips, which of course isn’t good. Using a Goblet position takes the weight in front of you and in a more comfortable position. You won’t need a barbell rack to do them either. Something about just using a kettlebell seems far less hassle. Which is sometimes what you want from a secondary or assistance exercise. Just grab your kettlebell and you’re away.

A more low-back friendly lift

Because of the bar placement during traditional Goodmornings, there’s a large amount of stress placed on your lower back – Shear forces through the lumbar spine are a little on the risky side. That being said I don’t believe this makes the Barbell Goodmorning a “bad” exercise. It just means that it takes some building up to. Goblet Goodmornings place the weight in front of you and allow you to get more out of them with less weight required. Since the load is closer to your hips there’ll be less stress on your lumbar, too. Goblet Goodmornings could offer a smarter approach to your longterm training and back health.

Enhanced core engagement and spinal stiffness…

The placement of the load in front creates an enhanced co-contraction of your torso musculature, increasing torso stiffness and spinal stability. Not only does this help protect your spine while performing the exercise, but will help protect your back in the long run too. Goblet Goodmornings might be the best core exercise you’ve never even considered. Especially through the levels of muscle activation achieved by your internal and external obliques and transverse abdominis (TVA).

They train your entire backside

There are a number of variations of Goblet Goodmornings, each offering you something a little different. Generally, all variations will target and strengthen your glutes, hamstrings and lower back. Certain variations will help you bias each of these areas a little more, or de-emphasize them.

It’s important to note that most of the loading during a Goodmorning happens when you’re furthest bent-over. This works your glutes and hamstrings most in their lengthened position. At the same time your low-back and spinal stabilizers are working isometrically to resist your spine caving in to flexion. This is where your obliques and TVA are working overtime as well. In most part to protect your spine.

Develop a functionally strong upper body

A heavy Goblet Goodmorning can be a big-money lift for your upper back, shoulders and arms. They’re a surprisingly taxing lift for your entire upper body, almost in the way you might regard a Zercher style of lift. The transference on to sports like MMA, American Football and Rugby are something worth considering. Not to mention the transference on to any daily activity that requires holding a load in front of you (baby!?).

Variations

Master the basic Goblet Goodmornings shown above, then go in whatever direction you want using the variations and modifications below. This will depend on your goals and abilities.

Hip Banded

Goblet Goodmornings load you most when you’re bent-over and at the bottom of the lift. As you raise to stand up fully then the load reduces significantly. Using a band around your hips is a good way to accommodate for this unloading. As you stand fully and drive your hips through the band increases in resistance. In a way it accommodates for where the Goodmorning is usually easiest, evening out the resistance profile a little more. This is a good strategy for working your glutes harder at the top.

Kickstance

Kickstance Goodmornings are a step between a Goodmorning performed bilaterally (both legs) and the single-legged variation. They’re an unstable progression meaning you’ll not lift so much, but you will get many of the benefits associated with training one leg at a time. There’s a large challenge to your lumbar/pelvic/hip rotational stability here too.

Rear foot elevated

Use these to develop single-leg strength and stability, while mostly challenging the hamstrings of your lead leg.

Single-leg

A lot of life happens one leg at a time. Single-leg Goblet Goodmornings combine the functional benefits of single-leg strengthening with the Goblet Goodmorning position. These aren’t the best bodybuilding-type exercise, but they will help you develop a bulletproof posterior chain. They’re also a great warm-up exercise prior to heavy lower body workouts.

Chains

Chains work to increase the load as you go deeper in to your hinge. The chain (or multiple chains) are over your shoulders, and as you bend over their load acting on your hips and spine increases. This taxes your low-back musculature and spinal erectors even more. These are an advanced variation and should only be used if you have good low-back strength and health. Correctly applying these to your programming with help build a back that’s unbreakable.

Dumbbell

A dumbbell offers no significant advantages over a kettlebell, however it’s worthwhile trying out a variety of loading options to see which one feels best. A dumbbell might be more comfortable for some to hold. You may also have a greater choice in weights to pick from.

Landmine

A Landmine offers a novelty stimulus to your Goblet Goodmornings. They offer the advantage of being able to add load in small increments, while the bar follows a different path giving a slightly different feel to the exercise – Anecdotally these offer more of a challenge to your TVA, obliques and spinal extensors, but do so at the expense of hamstrings and glutes engagement. These work just fine using a regular landmine as shown in the video, although it’s a more comfortable grip if you’re lucky enough to have a landmine club attachment available (seen in the video resting on the bench).

Programming

Goblet Goodmornings can be used as a secondary or assistance exercise to your big lower body lifts. You’d do best rotating them with exercises such as pull-throughs, back extensions and reverse hyperextensions. That being said, I’m all about training efficiency, and Goblet Goodmornings offer a lot of this because of their ability to recruit a lot of upper body musculature. For that reason they’d also work well as a priority exercise within full body workouts.

Broadly, 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps work best with these. Lower rep ranges should look to focus on using a slower tempo (e.g., emphasized eccentrics, paused reps, 4-6 second lowers with 2-4 second raises, and so on).

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