Deadlift vs Good Morning: How Are They Different?

Barbell Deadlifts and good mornings are effective lower body exercises that work your posterior chain which includes muscles in your glutes, hamstrings, adductors and lower back.

Though many personal trainers and fitness experts attest to their effectiveness and recommend them equally for glute toning and booty making, there are significant differences between the two glute exercises you must know.

Learn how they differ in three aspects: muscles, exercise techniques and weight usage.

Deadlift or Good Morning For Rounder Glutes

The Overview

The deadlift is a common exercise that is similar to Squat. With Barbell Deadlifts, you lift your barbell bar off the floor in two movements and return it back to the floor. Good Morning on the other hand is lacking popularity.

In case you don’t know, Good Morning is not just a greeting you give someone over breakfast! It’s actually an exercise that, like Deadlifts, targets the butt and back of the thighs. Just as Back Squats, you carry a barbell bar on your shoulders and bend forward to target the muscles in your lower body.


While the two exercises work virtually the same muscles (mainly your glutes and hamstrings), they activate the target muscles in a slightly different way. 

Deadlifts fire up glutes and hamstrings when lifting the weights off the floor and bringing it up to your knees (or below your knees where your arms naturally hang). Good mornings also do work your glutes but emphasize much more on hamstrings than glutes. By leaning forward and back, your hamstrings are forced to work a wider range of motion than its exercise counterpart, deadlifts. Either case, it’s important to note that women in particular are more quadricep dominant and in need of hamstring exercises like deadlifts and good mornings to better strengthen the muscles of the region.

According to the research² by WD Ebben PhD, from the Department of Physical Therapy at Marquette University, Milwaukee, showed that when compared with men, women are more easily able to contract the quadriceps group at the front of our thighs than the hamstrings back. This may mean we need to step up the hamstring training, specifically the isolated hamstring training like these two barbell workouts.

Exercise Techniques 

Unlike how each exercise target the same muscles (despite the slight diffences in the emphasis), deadlifts and good mornings’ exercise techniques cannot be any more different. Deadlifts start with you holding the weight in front and close to your body. Good mornings however the weight is placed across the upper back, in a back squat position. 

This difference in the starting positions changes the direction of the exercise movements. with deadlifts, you squat down, lift the weight off the floor and bring it up to your knee level or lower (where your arms naturally hang). This is a vertical movement where the weight travels up and down. No change in weight distribution or center of gravity.

On the other hand, good mornings start with a barbell bar across your upper back. From there, you lean forward from your hips until your hamstrings are fully flexed, pause for a second and return to the original standing position.

This is a forward and back movement that causes a shift in weight distribution. Because your weight travels from right on your spine to the front of your body, this exercise requires good balance and flexibility in addition to strength in your hamstrings.


When deciding which workout to perform on your leg day, one thing to consider is how much weight you’d like to work with. Since deadlifts has the weight in the front and close to the body (and no change in weight distribution), they allow you to use heavier weights. Barbell good mornings on the other hand have you hold the weight on the upper back, causing a weight shift during the movement. 

To adequately support the weight and its distribution change during the workout, it calls for much lighter weight. If only lighter weight is available, you get a better workout by performing good mornings. If you’d like to challenge yourself with heavier weight, perform deadlifts. 


As we saw, both deadlifts and good mornings can offer great glute and hamstring workouts and help you shape up nice butt cheeks. While their target muscles are the same, good mornings tend to work your hamstrings for a wider range of motion than deadlifts, but performing deadlifts have you fire up both glutes and hamstrings to pick up the weight and lift it up off the ground. The major differences between the two workouts are their exercise techniques and weight distribution. Where deadlifts are all about weight moving up and down, good morning is about leaning forward and shifting the weight to the front of your body.

This movement pattern of good mornings causes the center of gravity to change during the workout, making the move a bit more advanced. Having good balance and flexibility in addition to strength in hamstrings is crucial when performing this barbell exercise. 

Also the weight usages are something to note. Go lighter on weight with good mornings than deadlifts. Because you carry the weight on your upper back and it shifts during the  movement, you need to use lighter weight. Aside from all the differences, they are both super effective at toning your lower body, especially your butt and removing cellulite from the back of your legs. 


As with all exercises, the key is a technique, and never is this more important than in deadlifts and good mornings, these are not moves you want to do incorrectly because of the potential load on the lower back. Done correctly, they can both give you the tight tush of your dream. Done incorrectly both of these moves can cause injury, so if in doubt get some coaching from a certified personal trainer. 

Misato Alexandre


After making healthy living a priority, Misato lost over 20 lbs in less than 90 days. Instead of weight loss being a dreading experience, living the lifestyle of health and fitness granted her more happiness and joy than ever before. She co-founded Fitwirr to make health and fitness simple for everyone and share her tips through writing evidence-based articles on nutrition, weight loss, and exercise.

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