Good Mornings Vs. RDLs For Bodybuilding: Which One is Better?

The worst feeling in bodybuilding is working hard for weeks and not seeing growth because you used the wrong exercise. 

Don’t bomb on the body’s biggest muscles. You should build your glutes with the most powerful exercise – but is that the good morning or RDL?

Read on so this article can give you the best tools for growth.

Which Is Better For Bodybuilding, Good Mornings Or RDLs?

Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs) are better than good mornings for building muscle and strength in the hamstrings and glutes. This is the main benefit you want from a hip and hamstring exercise for bodybuilding since it maximizes muscle growth.

However, the good morning is better for learning the hip hinge and building isometric back strength – which is key for powerlifting and weightlifting.

These are different exercises with different goals, so you must consider what you’re lacking.

The good-morning is a perfect choice if you’re struggling to feel the hips working or if you often round your back. The RDL is just a hammer – it’s a huge exercise for adding more load to your posterior chain to get bigger and stronger. That’s always a good tool to have.

What Are Good Mornings?

Good mornings are a hip hinge exercise where you place the barbell on your upper back – like in a back squat. 

The good-morning is a popular exercise in old-school exercise circles, as well as in athletic training. It’s popular because of how it ties the roles of the hips, hamstrings, back, and core muscles together.

The good morning has a long lever, defined by this constant tension on stabilizer muscles in the hips and back. This is going to be key as we compare it with the Romanian Deadlift.

Romanian Deadlifts: What Are RDLs?

RDLs are Romanian Deadlifts – a hip and hamstring exercise that you can load very heavily. It’s a pure hip hinge, with no contribution from the quads or other leg muscles. This makes it a popular and effective way to build strength and muscle around the posterior chain.

The posterior chain is a group of muscles along the back of your body. Typically, it refers to the traps, spinal erectors, glutes, and hamstrings.

Romanian deadlifts are loaded differently compared to the good morning. The barbell is in your hand instead of on your back, which changes how & which muscles are used, and how you can load the exercise over time.

Are Good Mornings and RDLs The Same?

difference between rdl and good morning

No – good mornings and RDLs are not the same. They focus on similar muscle groups, and both contribute to building a bigger deadlift or back. Still, they also vary in a lot of ways.

The Good Morning and RDL mainly share the hip hinge movement pattern. The main thing you’re doing in both of these exercises is flexing and then extending the hip. However, that’s not enough to make them the same.

Similarly, a squat and a step up aren’t the same movement just because they both bend the knees. For bodybuilding, especially, there’s a big difference between good mornings and RDLs that we need to explore so you can build glute, hamstring, and back mass more efficiently…

Basics: Comparing Good Mornings And Romanian Deadlifts For Bodybuilding

Good mornings and RDLs are very different for bodybuilders, particularly when it’s not enough to get stronger. You have to choose the exercises that produce the most growth with the least recovery demand and injury risk.

To decide what’s best, we need to look at the similaritiesdifferences and heads up of these exercises.

Similarities Between Good Mornings And Romanian Deadlifts

Why are we comparing the RDL and good morning? Because they have some key similarities, they can compete for the same spot in your workout, and it’s essential to know which one is best for what.

Muscle Groups 

Both of these exercises train the hamstrings through their full length of motion on one function. The hamstrings bend the knee and extend the hip, and in these exercises, they focus on the hip.

You get good development from both exercises, offering stretch-mediated hypertrophy in the hamstrings. However, to achieve this, you need to keep the knees in place. Bending your knees will remove the stretch and the extra growth it produces.

The other muscles – the spinal erectors and glutes – are also working, but they’re not the main focus. They’ll develop from adding good mornings or RDLs to your program, but not enough for most bodybuilders’ goals.

Moving The Hips

Both of these exercises teach you how to move your hips – because they demand you use them properly.

To perform either of these exercises properly, you need to:

  • Keep your back straight by extending against the weight
  • Keep the knees in place while you move the hips
  • Push the hips back without losing balance or posture
  • Keep the core active to stabilize your balance and weight
  • Push the hips in while extending them, standing up again

This teaches you how to move your hips if you’re going to do it right. It can be demanding early on – which is why so many people perform very light good mornings or RDLs – but you can load them very heavily later on.

People who train good mornings regularly – like powerlifters, strongmen, and weightlifters – can typically build to bodyweight (or heavier) good mornings. Meanwhile, RDLs can be performed near maximal squatting weights among experienced lifters.

Many of the best bodybuilders take RDLs and their variants very seriously. They will be handling 100s of kilos for high-rep sets. Once you learn the movement, these hip exercises can offer you a lifetime of growth and strength gains.

Isometric Back Exercise

These exercises train the back muscles isometrically: it’s working to stay still. This means they’re effective in strengthening the back but won’t develop as much mass as a complete concentric-eccentric cycle, like a Back Extension or Lying Superman.

This can help build strength and work capacity but also fatigue the back. Keep that in mind when building your program: you may end up compromising your performance and volume on your dedicated back day if your RDLs or good mornings leave you too tired.

Differences Between Good Mornings And Romanian Deadlifts

Lever Arm Length

The lever arm of the exercise is how far the weight is from the acting lever – in this case, the hips.

This is a huge deal for how heavy the exercises feel, how limited you are, and the leverage you have against the weight.

The shorter lever arm of the RDL is hugely important. It keeps the weight closer to your body, and it reduces the added load placed on the back muscles, letting you focus on the hamstring development aspect.

This makes the good morning much harder than the RDL and will define many of the differences. Specifically, this is a lever controlled by the spinal erectors: the good morning is more of a back exercise than the RDL because of this longer lever.

Loading: Heavy Posterior Chain Exercises

The loading of these two exercises is radically different. If you try to perform a good morning with your max RDL, you’re going to drop a bar over your head and look like a fool.

RDLs are typically twice as heavy as good mornings because you’re not limited by your back muscles’ isometric strength in the same way. The shorter lever arm ensures that your back muscles are not as likely to limit the movement, so you can load up heavier.

This is important because you are going to need specific exercises in ‘slots’ in your workout routine. An RDL is a ‘big’ heavy hamstring and hip exercise, while a good morning is lighter and may have a different place – as a starter or finisher to your posterior chain workouts. 

Targeted Muscles: What Is The Main Challenge?

The main challenge and experience of the two exercises are completely different. The good-morning is all about keeping the back strong, extending into the weight, and then using the hips to move the back as a flat, single unit.

On the other hand, you will feel the RDL in the hamstrings and hips, which will be pushed to their limits either by weight or reps. This is a big deal for bodybuilding; you’re actively loading the prime movers more.

Here’s the secret sauce: you probably won’t get much from an RDL if you can’t perform a good semi-heavy good morning.

Good Morning Vs RDL: Which Is Better For Bodybuilding?

The Romanian Deadlift – or RDL – is better for bodybuilding than the good morning. It’s a heavier exercise you can use more broadly, with less experience, to force growth in the hamstrings and glutes.

It’s a better choice for directly strengthening and growing these big, strong muscles. Being able to lift more is great, but it also means you can perform more reps and push the muscular endurance, add more sets, and boost your total tonnage – key to building muscle.

With a shorter lever, you’ll also be able to keep your back fresh when you’re using lighter RDLs, compared to good mornings. This means you can add light RDLs without completely toasting your back for a squatting or deadlifting session throughout the week.

Good Mornings Are Still Great

The reality is simple: good mornings are harder to do and require more skill development and time.

However, there’s still a place for the good morning in your training program – even if they’re not the best hamstring exercise. 

The good-morning is a beginner’s essential that most people skip over, and it could be the right choice for you if you’ve never put time into them.

Everyone should spend one block getting good at good mornings at least once. It’s an essential skill that will improve your RDLs and help you load up the hamstrings and glutes more effectively in the future.

Learning to set that strong neutral/slightly arched back for your hip hinges is a great way to maximize your return. If you want to build a huge RDL and deadlift, spend at least 6-8 weeks with (paused) good mornings in your workout program. 

Consider adding the good morning into your workouts as a warm-up, a superset choice, or a higher rep finisher. It’s got a place, even if the RDL is more reliably and broadly useful for growth!

Good Morning Vs. RDL FAQ

Can You Do RDLs And Good Mornings Together?

Yes – there’s no reason you can’t use RDLs and good mornings on the same day or at least in the same week. They have different focuses, but both work on hip-hinging, which means you can find interesting ways to use both.

The easiest way to use good mornings and RDLs together is as a warm-up and main lift, respectively.

Use lighter, paused good mornings to stretch the hamstrings and build back strength. This helps you feel the right positions, with the core and back working together, so your RDLs move better. This puts the load into the right muscles, ensuring maximum growth and better lifting for bigger weights!

Can RDLs Replace Deadlifts?

Yes – for most people, RDLs are a better choice than conventional deadlifts from the floor. They focus more closely on building hip and hamstring strength. They are more effective at building muscle mass (compared to recovery and effort) and a strictly better choice for hamstring health.

This is important because RDLs are good for everyone, but deadlifts are not. A runner can benefit from an RDL far more than a deadlift. A bodybuilder is likely to build more muscle with RDLs. Weightlifters (the ones who invented the RDL) also use RDLs often.

Whatever your goals, the RDL is relevant and a great choice. The conventional deadlift, however, doesn’t fill that same role and isn’t nearly as versatile. It’s a fun lift – popular because of powerlifting – but it’s not the best back or hamstring exercise!

Are Good Mornings Worth Doing?

Yes – everyone should do good mornings at least briefly. They’re one of the most fundamental movements to teach you the hip hinge. This is important for learning the squat and deadlift.

The good morning also teaches you to use your core, back, and hips together. This is key for moving properly with weight, reducing your risk of lower back pain, and improving the stabilizing role of the hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles.

If you want to get into strength training in any serious way, this is essential. For that reason, good mornings are a great exercise if:

  1. You’re a beginner trying to build a great posterior chain, or
  2. You’re an experienced lifter who has never put time into them.

Everyone should be able to perform good, accurate, moderately heavy good mornings. If you can’t, then you need to make that your new mission!

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Chris Thompson
Hi, I'm Chris. I'm a personal trainer, writer & co-founder of OxygenFitnessCT. I've been writing hundreds of articles on strength training & muscle building for several fitness websites & apps since 2017. Our goal with OxygenFitnessCT is to help you pick the most effective, suitable exercises to improve your workout & achieve your fitness goals.

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