I’ve been working in the fitness industry for well over 30 years. During that time, I’ve heard all the excuses and reasons people have for not working out regularly. At the top of the list is lack of time, closely followed by no access to facilities.
And while these are legitimate barriers to exercise, they are not insurmountable. You see, in my “other life” as a Royal Marine Commando, I often had no time or facilities for training. However, I always found a way to do something to maintain or improve my fitness and strength.
My standard solution for no time or facilities is calisthenics or bodyweight exercises. Using calisthenics, you can work out anywhere and anytime and get an effective workout in just a few minutes.
Is this the “best” type of training? Probably not. But it’s a whole lot better than nothing.
One of my favorite calisthenic leg exercises is also one of the most unusual – kneeling good mornings. This simple yet challenging movement will fire up your posterior chain without resorting to machines or freeweights.
In this guide, I explain how to do kneeling good mornings and share a few proven tips and variations for you to try.
Kneeling Good Morning Correct Form
Get the most from this exercise while minimizing your risk of injury by following these step-by-step instructions.
- Adopt the tall kneeling position with your thighs vertical. Press the tops of your feet into the floor.
- Place your hands on your temples and push your elbows back to open your chest. Brace your core.
- Push your butt back, hinge forward from your hips, and lean over to lower your chest down toward the floor. Avoid rounding your lower back or letting your elbows drift forward. Keep your feet on the floor.
- Push your hips forward, lift your chest, and return to the upright position.
- Clench your glutes and hamstrings at the top of the movement and repeat.
Kneeling Good Morning: Muscles Worked
Kneeling good mornings are a posterior chain exercise, meaning they work the muscles on the back of your body. A strong posterior chain is critical for improving athletic performance (1) and preventing/treating lower back pain (2).
The primary muscles of the posterior chain worked during kneeling good mornings are:
- Gluteus maximus
- Erector spinae
Get more from kneeling good mornings with these tried-and-tested pro-trainer tips!
- Kneel on a folded exercise mat or foam pad for comfort.
- Cross your hands in front of your chest, put them on your hips, or behind your back to make this exercise easier.
- Hold a dumbbell between your feet if you tend to fall forward during this exercise.
- Avoid sitting back too much during this exercise. Doing so reduces the amount you have to hip hinge, taking work away from your glutes and hamstrings.
- Descend slowly and come back up explosively to maximize muscle engagement.
Kneeling Good Morning Mistakes to Avoid
Make kneeling good mornings as safe as possible by avoiding these common mistakes.
- Sitting back onto your heels – while this makes it easier to balance, it also turns what should be a hip hinge into a kneeling squat, taking work away from your posterior chain. It may also put more stress on your knees.
- Rounding your lower back – keep your lower back slightly arched during forward flexion exercises like kneeling good mornings. This reduces the stress on your lumbar spine and lowers the risk of injury.
- Descending too quickly – leaning forward too fast makes kneeling good mornings less effective and increases the chance of losing your balance. Moving slower is more challenging, but that’s rarely a bad thing!
- Doing this exercise on an unforgiving surface – this exercise is uncomfortable when you do it on a hard floor. Even a folded towel will enhance comfort and protect your knees.
- Giving up after trying this exercise once – kneeling good mornings are one of those exercises that can feel a little weird the first time you do it. You may find it hard to balance or engage the target muscles. Don’t give up! Once mastered, kneeling good mornings will deliver a kick-ass posterior chain workout you can do almost anywhere and anytime.
Kneeling Good Morning Benefits
Not sure if kneeling good mornings deserve a place in your workouts? Consider these benefits and then decide.
Improved athletic performance
Whether you want to run faster, jump higher, throw further, lift heavier, or kick harder, you need a strong posterior chain (1). The muscles of your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back are the engines that drive all athletic movements. Kneeling good mornings are an accessible exercise that all athletes can do, even if they don’t have access to a gym.
Reduced risk of lower back pain
Lower back pain can be crippling, and anything you can do to prevent it is worth pursuing. The ability to hip hinge, combined with a stronger posterior chain, helps protect your lower back from insult and injury (2). The kneeling good morning is an especially effective, joint-friendly, posterior chain exercise that can help prevent lower back pain.
A firmer, shapelier butt
The kneeling good morning is a great butt exercise. The hip-hinge motion really hits your glutes HARD! This exercise is popular with athletes and booty-girl Instagrammers alike. It’s also a favorite of social media star Kim Kardashian, famed for her shapely rear end.
A safer alternative to conventional good mornings
Barbell good mornings are an excellent posterior chain exercise. In fact, I rank them in the same category as Romanian deadlifts, kettlebell swings, and barbell hip thrusts. However, they can also be hard on your lower back, which is why some exercisers avoid them.
Kneeling good mornings are much more lower back-friendly, and ideal for anyone with lumbar spine issues that prevent them from doing conventional good mornings.
An excuse-free posterior chain workout
No gym? No problem? You can do kneeling good mornings almost anywhere and anytime. They’re great for home, outdoor, and hotel workouts. This is the ultimate excuse-free posterior chain exercise. In fact, you can drop down and try them right now!
Kneeling Good Morning Programming
Kneeling good mornings are a bodyweight exercise, so you don’t have much control over their difficulty. As such, you should just do as many reps as it takes to fatigue the target muscles. This could be 5-10 for beginners or 15-20 for more advanced exercisers. Regarding sets, 2-4 should be enough for most people.
Do this exercise 2-3 times a week on non-consecutive days to allow your muscles to recover and adapt between workouts.
Kneeling Good Morning Variations
While I love kneeling good mornings, doing them all the time would soon become boring. Thankfully, there are a few variations of this exercise that you can use to keep your workouts motivating and interesting. Here are three of my favorites:
1. Weighted kneeling good mornings
While doing more reps makes any exercise harder, high-rep sets are not very time-efficient. Make kneeling good mornings more challenging by adding some weight. You can put a barbell on your back or hold a weight in front of your chest. Either way, even a little weight makes this exercise significantly harder, so don’t go too heavy too soon.
2. Smith machine kneeling good morning
Doing kneeling good mornings with weight affects your balance. The more weight you use, the more likely you are to topple forward. Switching from freeweights to a Smith machine is one way to avoid this problem. You can go hard and heavy without worrying about losing your balance.
3. Banded kneeling good morning
The banded kneeling good morning, also known as banded kneeling hip thrusts, increases glute tension at the end of each rep. During the unweighted version, this is where the glutes usually relax. Using bands is a fun and effective way to work your butt and make kneeling good mornings more challenging.
Kneeling Good Morning Closing Thoughts
The kneeling good morning is a low-tech but high-effect exercise for your posterior chain. It’s more lower back-friendly than the barbell variation. In addition, with no equipment required, it’s virtually excuse-free.
My clients and I like this exercise – both for its convenience and effectiveness. Beginners find it challenging, while more experienced exercisers often use it as a warm-up before more demanding movements.
However you use it, this exercise is a winner and deserves a place in your posterior chain workouts.
- Leong CH, Forsythe C, Bohling Z. Posterior chain and core training improves pelvic posture, hamstrings-to-quadriceps ratio, and vertical jump performance. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2023 Oct 6. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.23.15171-1. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37800401.
- Tataryn N, Simas V, Catterall T, Furness J, Keogh JWL. Posterior-Chain Resistance Training Compared to General Exercise and Walking Programmes for the Treatment of Chronic Low Back Pain in the General Population: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med Open. 2021 Mar 8;7(1):17. doi: 10.1186/s40798-021-00306-w. PMID: 33683497; PMCID: PMC7940464.
Featured image via @fitocracy on YouTube!