Smith Machine Good Morning

Perfecting This Movement for Bigger Glutes & Stronger Hamstrings

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: October 18, 2021

Hamstrings are one of the most overlooked muscle groups. But underdeveloped hamstrings seriously limit your strength on other exercises like squats and deadlifts.

So it’s essential to include a variety of hamstring movements in your workout. One of these is called the good morning exercise. And there are several ways you can use it to build your lower body.

In this article, I show you how to do good mornings on a Smith machine. As well as some other variations you can do with whatever gym equipment you have.

Smith Machine Good Morning

What Is The Good Morning Exercise?

Good mornings are an exercise where you bend your torso forward at the hips while keeping your back straight. During the movement, your knees bend only slightly.

Often, a barbell is held across the upper back to provide resistance and make the exercise more challenging. However, there are other ways to add resistance, including a Smith machine bar.

The good morning is a posterior chain exercise that increases your power and strength on other hip hinge movements like squats and deadlifts.

How To Do Good Mornings

Smith Machine Good Morning Muscles Worked

As a posterior chain exercise, good mornings work multiple muscles on the backside of your body. The primary muscle group involved in this movement is the hamstrings.

Although the hinging action of the hips also involves the gluteus maximus and the erector spinae muscles of the lower back.

Smith Machine Good Morning Muscles Worked

Smith Machine Good Morning vs Barbell

The main difference between the Smith machine good morning and the barbell good morning is the path the bar travels.

With free weights, the bar naturally arches forward slightly as you bend down. In comparison, the bar travels in a straight line with the Smith machine good morning.

The straight line means the movement pattern is slightly less natural when doing good mornings on a Smith machine. However, Smith machines with angled rails can closely replicate the free weight movement, as I’ll discuss later.

This slight change in bar path doesn’t significantly affect the exercise mechanics. But Smith machine good mornings do have some benefits over the traditional barbell.

Smith Machine Good Morning vs Barbell Good Morning

In the picture above, you can see how the vertical bar path of the Smith machine good morning differs from the arc of the free weight version.

Smith Machine Good Morning Benefits & Limitations

The fixed movement path of the Smith machine bar means that you don’t have to use as many stabilizer muscles to balance the bar. And that results in more load placed on the target muscles of the glutes and hamstrings.

In addition, the Smith machine has safety stops and multiple positions to lock out the bar if you get stuck. So it can be easier for beginners to learn on compared to a free weight bar.


  • Less balance and coordination required
  • Puts more load on the glutes and hamstrings
  • More safety lockout points than a free weight power rack
  • Increases strength on deadlifts and squats


  • Not as natural of a movement path compared to free weights

How To Do A Good Morning On Smith Machine

Before you begin the Smith machine good morning exercise, adjust the bar to about shoulder height. Then, position the safety stops at about thigh level.

Next, put the bar on your shoulders between your rear delts and traps. This low bar position will keep the bar from sliding up your neck as you bend forward.

Now position your feet directly below the bar and about shoulder-width apart or slightly narrower. Lift the bar up and rotate it to release the safety hooks from the stops.

Smith Machine Good Morning Starting Position

To initiate the movement, first, push your hips back and bend at the waist. Then, bend your knees slightly and keep your back flat as you lower the bar.

Lower the bar until you feel a good stretch through your hamstrings. How low you’re able to get depends on your hip mobility and hamstring flexibility.

Finally, lift the bar back up by contracting your hamstrings and glutes to drive your hips forward. At the top, squeeze your glutes before beginning another rep.

To recap, here are the step-by-step directions:

  1. Put the bar on your shoulders and lift it off the safety stops
  2. Stand with your feet directly under the bar and about shoulder-width apart
  3. Initiate the movement by pushing your hips back and bending at the waist
  4. As you lower the weight, keep your back flat and bend slightly at the knees
  5. On the way up, contract your glutes and hamstrings to drive your hips forward
  6. Squeeze your glutes at the top
  7. Repeat for the desired number of reps and rerack the bar

Smith Machine Good Morning Video

Smith Machine Good Morning Form

Here are some additional tips for performing this exercise safely and getting maximum muscle activation.

  • Practice the movement with just your bodyweight or a PVC pipe before using heavier weight
  • Use safety stops until you’re comfortable with the weight
  • Keep your eyes forward or angled down at the floor
  • Distribute your weight evenly on your feet, not forward on your toes
  • Don’t roll your back or bend your knees excessively
  • Only go as low as your body comfortably allows
  • Your flexibility and strength will improve over time
Smith Machine Good Morning Form

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Smith Machine Good Morning Variations

The type of good morning exercise you do depends on your equipment. For example, you may have a different Smith machine than the one shown above.

Or you might not even have a Smith machine. For that reason, I’ve included how to do the free weight variation as well.

Angled Smith Machine Good Morning

In the pictures and video above, the Smith machine I’m using has completely vertical rails. But many Smith machines have angled rails, so it’s necessary to take the direction into account when doing good mornings.

On an angled Smith machine, you should face in the direction where the bar moves forward as you lower it. This angle closely replicates the natural movement pattern of the barbell good morning.

Barbell Good Morning

If you don’t have a Smith machine in your gym, you can try doing good mornings with a free weight barbell. Free weights require more balance, so you should practice with your bodyweight or a PVC pipe first.

To do barbell good mornings, the form is the same as the Smith machine good morning except that the bar moves in space. So you will need to balance it throughout the exercise.

Smith Machine Good Morning Alternatives

You don’t have to do good mornings in every lower body workout. Here are some alternative exercises you can use to target your hamstrings and glutes.

Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift or RDL is a hamstring exercise with body mechanics similar to the good morning exercise. The main difference is that you hold the barbell in your hands instead of on your shoulders.

The change in bar placement creates a shorter distance between your hips and the weight. As a result, you can lift more weight with RDL’s compared to good mornings.

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Hyperextensions are an exercise performed on a piece of equipment called a glute-ham developer or GHD. The GHD has a pad to secure your feet and a pad to rest against your thighs.

From this starting position, bend at the hips while keeping your back straight. Then pull your torso back up by squeezing your hamstrings, low back, and glutes.

Hypertrophy Training Program

The Smith machine good morning is more than just good for building hamstrings and glutes. It will increase your strength on squats and deadlifts as well.

But to reach your overall fitness goals, you need a complete resistance training plan designed for muscle gain. To maximize muscle growth (aka hypertrophy), you should adjust ten specific training variables.

Check out my free hypertrophy training program to see how to optimize your workouts.

With this information, you’re well on your way to building a better lower body. And if you found this article useful, I hope you’ll check out some of my other informative content below!

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By |October 18, 2021|Workouts|0 Comments
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