Better For Bodybuilding: Good Mornings vs Romanian Deadlifts
Updated January 26th 2022
Both good mornings and Romanian deadlift are essentially barbell exercises that focus on your lower body muscles.
These lower body muscles specifically include the hamstrings and glutes.
Although the hip movement in both good mornings and Romanian deadlifts are almost identical, we still have differences in various aspects.
Be wary of hips shooting up in deadlifts.
There are variations in bar placement and techniques, and each of the lifts has its unique merits and ideal requirements for perfection.
The best you can do is to learn how each of them works and then decide if you will implement each of them separately or perform both lifts in your strength building sessions simultaneously.
Also, both the Romanian deadlifts and good mornings are regarded as hinge patterns even though they have quite a number of differences.
In fact, the lever action in these lifts as far as the load placement is concerned brings about some of the variations.
Essentially in good mornings, the entire length of your body acts as the lever arm where the load is distributed throughout the entire posterior chain.
Keep reading the guidelines below to apprehend exactly what good mornings and Romanian deadlift for bodybuilding entail.
Good Morning vs Romanian Deadlift, which is better for bodybuilding
The good morning is a more squat-specific movement while the Romanian deadlift is a more deadlift-specific movement. However, there is no mystery that many athletes can have carryover to both lifts when performing only the good morning or only the Romanian deadlift.
Exercises need to address your weaknesses.
This is what will take your PRs to the next level.
If you have a really weak posterior chain, both exercises do an excellent job of strengthening that.
If you need to strengthen your lower back, good mornings are the exercise for you.
If you need more hamstring development, Romanian deadlifts are more up your alley.
But does this mean the other exercise does not hit the strengths of the other?
Of course not, which is why there may be some confusion in the lifting community.
They both work on almost the same muscle groups but because of the different stressors placed on the body via weight resistance, you are meant to feel the stimulus in certain muscle groups more.
This will differ from the usual hamstring back soreness from deadlifts you typically get.
Differences between Good Mornings vs Romanian Deadlift for Bodybuilding
As aforementioned, there are key defining aspects that bring about the differences between the two types of lifts.
Here are the differences we will discuss between good mornings vs Romanian deadlifts:
- Muscles worked
- Strength gains
- General performance
Regarding the techniques, good mornings require the bar to be held in a similar position as when you are doing back squats.
Precisely, it should be held on the top of your back while your shoulder blades are pulled back to give it support.
Here is also a good video showing how you can do a proper good morning:
When you are performing Romanian deadlifts, you need to hold the bar just as normally as in deadlifts.
Therefore, make sure it is held in front of your thighs while the shoulder width grip and the palms are facing towards you.
Here is a great video showing you the proper technique of a Romanian deadlift:
In both lifts, you start off in a standing position - the barbell on your back for good mornings and the barbell in your hands for Romanian deadlifts.
With both lifts, you need to stand up by forcefully pushing the hips forward.
Always maintain an arch in your lower back each time you stroke the lift movements.
Initiate the movements by pushing your hips back and then lowering the rest of the body towards the ground.
To achieve this you need to keep doing until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings.
2. Muscles Worked
Another difference comes in when we look at the type of muscles worked.
Basically, the two lifts help to place a high emphasis on your posterior chain.
The posterior chain is the group of muscles that includes your hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and adductors.
You need a solid midsection and core in order to maintain the lower back arch to avoid rounding over.
Now Romanian deadlifts have an advantage because it targets your forearm muscles too unlike the good mornings.
That difference comes about since when you are performing Romanian lifts you have to hold the bar for your given sets and reps.
3. Strength gains
Depending on your programming and training experience, good mornings and Romanian deadlifts do offer powerful strength bonuses when used.
For instance, if you have a heavy squat day on Monday, a heavy deadlift day on Thursday, and you are thinking about adding an accessory movement, you would probably lean more towards a good morning.
It will be less taxing and you can focus more on having a better deadlift session.
Both exercises are great for building up your posterior chain to have a bigger squat and deadlift.
This might be better than doing squats and hack squats on the same day.
Depending on your strengths and weaknesses, you can decide to implement one or both movements as accessories in your program.
4. General performance
The two types of strength building exercises vary also in how they are performed.
Here are differences on how to individually perform Romanian deadlifts and good mornings.
Other than being regarded as the easiest ways of learning how to lift, Romanian deadlift is a great boss level muscle developer.
Here is how to execute it in just four simple steps.
- Stand on your feet while your hip width is apart; hold the barbell at the level of your thighs.
Ensure that your hands are about a shoulder-width apart.
- While maintaining your back straight bend on your waist and then set your hips to the back in order to lower the bar.
- Then after that keep the bar just close to your shins, lower it as far as your flexibility can allow.
Remember not to hit the floor otherwise, it will be a full regular deadlift.
- The final step is to forcefully contract your glutes in order to extend your hips and stand up again.
On the other hand, good morning varies from Romanian deadlifts in terms of execution.
Good Mornings are regarded as one of the best methods for building strong leg, hip, and back muscles for maximum strength.
However, good mornings are often overlooked because people fear suffering a back injury.
No one wants a deadlift back crack.
There is no need for worry since the way it is performed is relatively safe for your back.
Even though it is quite different from Romanian lifts, the results can be quite similar.
The following are steps to follow when performing good mornings.
- Step one, you set up similar to a back squat with a stance between the hip- and shoulder-widths.
Then place the bar on top of your shoulders just across your back on the high- or even the low-bar position (usually people use a low bar position because, in a high bar position, the bar can roll onto your neck which is not fun).
Thereafter grip the bar tightly and pull the bar onto your body then take a deep breath and tighten your core.
- Break at the hips in order to initiate a movement.
Carry on with pushing your hips back until your torso rests at an acute angle (15 degrees) just above parallel.
Make sure that your shins remain vertical and also your knees remain slightly bent at the lower side of the entire movement.
Make sure your weight is on your heels and the weight is not leaning forward
- Finally, try to push your hips to the front in order to drive up to your starting position.
Then breathe out once you reach the top of your movement.
The ideal number of sets/reps that work best for each exercise
If you are warming up, 1-2 sets of 10-15 reps are usually good.
As an accessory movement, 3 sets of 8-12 reps are a standard.
As the main movement, 3 sets of 4-6 reps, with moderate to high intensity are usually done.
There are additional variations regarding Romanian lifts and good mornings.
Each of the above-mentioned strength building exercises has a unique way in which they are performed.
Each of the exercises depends greatly on your training experience to accurately recommend a number of sets or reps in order to achieve the best results.
Both exercises are tricky to learn but Romanian deadlifts are a bit simpler compared to good mornings.
• Good mornings sets, reps, and weight recommendations
It is pretty clear that good morning lifts are slightly complicated movements to perform compared to Romanian.
Beginners and intermediate lifters should avoid training good mornings as the heavy movement until your program instructions specify.
However, that does not imply that the good morning is an ineffective strength building exercise.
On the contrary, all types of lifters can benefit from good mornings’ stiff-legged variation using straight bar weight between 45 to 135 pounds.
The weight recommendations are usually pegged on your personal strength level.
When first starting off, the 4-5 sets of 8-12 reps can work well with bar weight between 45- 135 pounds.
Make sure you employ a perfect and slow technique on a controlled tempo particularly in eccentric portion exercises.
There are also surveys done on how much weight you can put on a good morning compared to your squat.
For beginner lifters, squats are usually 50% more than good mornings.
So, if you are doing a 300lbs squat, your working sets for a good morning can be around 200lbs.
Just be aware of linear progression limits when you decide on a certain weight.
For elite level lifters, squats are only about 10% more than good mornings.
So, an elite squatter who does 480lbs could also do 430lbs for his good mornings.
If you are at this level, you are well on your way to becoming an elite powerlifter.
• Romanian Deadlift Sets, Reps, and Weight Recommendations
As earlier mentioned the Romanian deadlift is the best choice for hamstring and back strengthening.
Some workout sessions can start with some squats, which the Romanian deadlifts as an accessory.
The following section includes the programming recommendations for the Romanian deadlift reps, sets, and weight recommendations.
All Romanian deadlift variations can be used to build a movement with great integrity and proper hip hinge mechanics.
For beginner lifters, they need to start using lighter loads in order to realize their strength potential.
For amateurs, 3-4 sets of 8-10 repetitions with moderate loads and controlled speed can bring resting as required.
Other Romanian deadlift variations with their reps, sets, and weight recommendations are outlined below.
- Squat (Warm-up): 3 sets of 6 repetitions (reps) at 80-85% of 1RM.
- Muscle Hypertrophy: 3-5 sets of 6-10 repetitions on moderation to heavy loads. Alternatively, you can perform 2-4 sets of 12-15 repetitions on moderate loads with one minute rest periods.
- Strength: perform 3-5 sets of 3-5 repetitions on heavy loading with resting as needed.
- Muscle endurance: 2-4 sets of 12-20 repetitions on light to moderate loads with 30-50 resting periods.
- Typical Romanian Deadlift - 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps at 80-85% of 1RM.
- Hamstring Curls - 2 sets of 6 to 8 reps at 75 to 80% of 1RM
Note: Avoid going for an absolute muscle failure in every set.
That is why we have reasonable resting periods between the sets and repetitions.
Also, surveys were done on what percentage of your deadlift 1 rep max should your Romanian deadlifts be.
For beginners, the Romanian deadlift is about 80% of your deadlift 1 rep max.
For example, if you are deadlift 330lbs, your Romanian deadlift working sets will be around 260lbs.
For an elite lifter, your Romanian deadlift will be around 85% of your deadlift 1 rep max, which is not too far off from the beginner trend.
Chances are that you are running a tough program like Kizen Infinite Offseason where the volume is decent and you are thinking about adding Romanian deadlifts.
Better exercise at developing better quads, hamstrings, glutes, and your back
If you want to hit your glutes and back, good mornings are a better exercise.
If you want to hit your hamstrings, Romanian deadlifts are a better exercise.
Both exercises do require your quads for stabilization.
Between good mornings and Romanian deadlifts, which one is the best in developing your quads, hamstrings, back, and glutes?
Both exercises have a lot of overlapping similarities but they do have their distinctions.
Here is a comprehensive answer to this common query.
The good morning exercise is always intended to increase hamstring, glutes, lower back, and hip strength.
It also helps to add muscle hypertrophy and endurance which increases the overall body awareness that is needed for advanced workouts like squats and deadlifts.
Maybe you need to think twice if you are doing squats and deadlifts only for legs.
What does the research say?
It shows that these muscles contract the most with at least 90% of your 1 rep max:
- Inner hamstrings (medial hamstrings)
- Outer hamstrings (lateral hamstrings)
When performing a good morning with at least 80% of your 1 rep max, these muscles fire:
- Medial hamstrings, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus
- Lateral hamstrings, biceps femoris
- Thoracic erector spinae
- Lumbar erector spinae
It was thought that good mornings just worked on your hamstrings while you maintain back stabilization.
This is untrue since your back is performing lumbar flexion and extension while you do hip flexion and extension when you lower and bring up the weight during a good morning.
Romanian deadlift appears like a lazy version of regular deadlifts but on the contrary, it is great at developing your spinal erectors, hamstrings, glutes, quads, forearms, and your upper back.
This exercise is very effective because it is easy to learn, load, and program.
Also when it is performed correctly, it is safer and much effective than good mornings for certain athletes.
What does the research state?
These muscles show significant contraction during the Romanian deadlift:
- Glute max
The other muscles are activated but you would get a better bang for your buck with conventional deadlifts rather than Romanian deadlifts:
- Spinal erectors
- Upper back
Deadlift and Romanian deadlift same day
It is fine to do both deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts on the same day, given that you are recovering well and have a workout plan.
There are many programs that include multiple compound exercises in one day, such as push/pull/legs (PPL).
The tradeoff is that you will not be performing these exercises as often or as heavy as you would want if you cannot recover from the workouts.
Here are two ways lifters can program doing both deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts on the same day—
- Moderate deadlifts, moderate Romanian deadlifts
- Heavy deadlifts, light Romanian deadlifts
You will not find people performing heavy Romanian deadlifts if the regular deadlift is available.
Deadlift and good mornings same day
Deadlifts and good mornings can be done on the same day but it is not typical in most programs.
Because both these exercises tax the same muscles, performing heavy working sets in your primary movement will impact performance in the other exercise.
Many lifters will opt to perform heavy deadlifts before considering heavy good mornings.
There are some exceptions that will put in heavy good morning into their routine but this is not the norm.
For a majority of people, heavy deadlifts will be plenty of stimuli to kickstart growth in your posterior chain.
Should you deadlift after back day?
Your deadlift variation will determine whether or not you work your legs or back more.
After back day, you will generally not work back again will want to focus on your legs more, which the deadlifts can accomplish with these variations—
- Deficit deadlifts
- Sumo deadlifts
- Trap bar deadlifts
If you want to work on more back or want to deadlift on back day, these deadlift variations will help you succeed—
- Conventional deadlifts
- Stiff leg deadlifts
- Snatch grip deadlifts
As I mentioned earlier and at the end of the article, deadlifts are a great way to build both size and strength if you are able to recover from the training stress.
Make sure you programming is on point and you should have no issues deadlifting after back or leg day.
The bottom line on good morning and Romanian deadlift for bodybuilding
After reading the above information, you will at least be familiar with the mechanics of both good mornings and Romanian deadlift.
Good mornings force the posterior chain to move at a range of motion that leverages favorably compared to Romanian deadlifts.
Good mornings will work on:
- Your hamstrings
- Your mid-lower back stabilization
If you want a true posterior chain movement for your hamstrings and back, you need to add good mornings into your program.
The Romanian deadlift exercise is one of the best exercises that you can do to develop your posterior chain which includes the hamstrings, quads, glutes, and back.
If you can do conventional deadlifts, do those instead.
Romanian deadlifts will work on:
- Glute max
If you want a mixture of hamstring, glute development with a some quad, forearm, and back exertion, Romanian deadlifts will be the perfect exercise for growing your entire body.
Ultimately, both exercises are can be effective in building muscle and strength.
It depends on your training goals to determine if they should be done as a main movement or accessory.
Just make sure you do not feel light headed after deadlifts.