Exercises You Should Be Doing: Zercher Goodmornings
Normally with this segment I gravitate towards exercises that fall under one of the three categories:
1. Those exercises I see most people perform poorly (seated rows, push-up variations, single leg variations, etc).
2. Those that are new to me, and thus, new to the reader, but can be performed by most everyone without running the risk of poking their eye out (band overhead shrugs, innovative pallof press variations, etc).
3. Those that, you know, activate or mobilize “stuff.” As an example, HERE.
Today, however, we’re going to kick it up a notch or two (or ten thousand) and enter beast mode territory. Because, well, why not?
I heart goodmornings. But I also understand that they’re a fairly advanced exercise (okay, uber advanced exercise) that I feel only those with a solid 1-2 years of “real” strength training should utilize.
With that said, here’s some criteria before moving on:
- As noted above: it’s preferred that one has at least 1-2 years of solid training experience under his or her belt before attempting this exercise.
- This isn’t an exercise that I’m just going to haphazardly throw into the mix unless I feel completely confident that someone knows what they’re doing.
- You must have a SOLID foundation of squatting and deadlifting technique. If at any point someone makes the this face (——>) while you’re performing either of the two, you definitely should not be performing goodmornings.
- Why? It’s pretty well known that the spine can handle compressive loading like a G6, and as such, we can sometimes get away with less than stellar technique. When it comes to shear loading, though, the water gets a little murkier and having a client perform goodmornings (which is shear loading central) when they’re not prepared for it, is a recipe for disaster.
Still, I do find that goodmornings are an excellent strength training exercise that, when performed correctly, has it’s advantages.
For starters, it’s an awesome movement that hammers the posterior chain and serves as a key accessory movement to the deadlift (which is probably why I like them so much).
Secondly, and pigging back on the point above, due to the anterior bar placement and subsequent control of shear loading, it forces people to get into more t-spine extension.
Note: This is, of course, assuming that they’re able to do it in the first place. If one has questionable t-spine mobility (particularly in extension), I’d probably pass on this exercise and opt for safer, more manageable alternatives.
And lastly, speaking from a personal perspective, goodmornings serve as an “indicator movement,” which helps me better gauge my progress with the deadlift (and squat for that matter). Because the goodmorning so closely strengthens the same muscle groups, whenever I see improvements in its performance, I can almost guarantee my deadlift and squat numbers improve as well.
There is a caveat. Outside of someone’s preparedness to do them, goodmornings can be problematic for those with a history of cranky shoulders. Due to the bar placement, which places the shoulders in the “at risk” position for impingement (abduction and external rotation), unless one has access to specialty bars such as a Giant Cambered Bar or Safety Squat Bar, traditional goodmornings probably are not the best option.
…which is where Zerchers come in.
Key Coaching Cues: set the bar at or around chest height so that it’s easier to place it in the crook of your elbows. It’s going to take some experimentation, and yes it’s about as comfortable as washing your face with broken glass, but deal with it. Worse case, if you find it’s excruciating, you CAN place a towel between the bar and your elbows. Don’t worry, I won’t judge.
“Hug” the bar close to your chest and keep the chin tucked throughout the set. Un-rack the weight, take two steps back and get your air. I like to tell people to make themselves look fat and fill their belly with air – doing so increases intra-abdominal pressure and improves spinal stability.
Too, you need to make sure to arch like a bastard – particularly when pushing your hips back. When doing so, you feel a significant “stretch” in the hamstrings.
If you can visualize it: the bottom position of the goodmorning (in terms of feet/hip/back placement) should be about the same as your starting position for the deadlift. The back should not be rounded in any way.
From there, you’ll reverse the direction making sure to finish “tall.” Both your hips and knees should lock out and you should squeeze your glutes hard at the top.
I prefer not to go crazy with the reps here, and tend to keep these in the 4-6 rep range. Since it’s such a technique heavy movement, and requires Jedi-like precision, using high(er) rep schemes which induce more fatigue isn’t wise.
Like I said, this is a little bit of a break from the norm in terms of exercises I normally cover in this series, but if you’re looking to kick it up a notch and add a certain level of badassesery to your training, these may fit the bill.
Let me know what you think!