The Goblet squat is a functional movement with aesthetic benefits!
The squat reigns supreme as the king of lower body exercises and few would disagree. But it’s a full-body movement that targets multiple muscles and the strength gains are ridiculous when you consistently implement progressive overload.
Now, of course, there are many variations of the squat that you can do for maximum leg development; of which the Goblet Squat is a popular one…
But the goblet squat is much different than the conventional barbell back squat; however, it has its place in a leg workout routine. There are functional benefits and if your squat form is lacking where safety is a concern; then the goblet squat shines in this area as well.
What Is A Goblet Squat?
A goblet squat is a lower body movement similar to the barbell back squat but you use either one kettlebell or dumbbell as resistance. The weight is held in front of the body and the movement is very beneficial for the learning and improving body mechanics during the squat.
Now, you were probably wondering where the name came from. So, we feel it’s only fair to tell you how the goblet squat came about…
Well, a strength and conditioning coach by the name of Dan John invented this variation because he saw a need for a movement that would teach proper body mechanics during the squat. But the movement looks as if you’re holding a goblet!
The goblet squat is a lower body exercise but there are other muscles involved.
Every leg muscle is targeted during the goblet squat from the quadriceps, to the hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Knee and ankle flexion plus hip extension are necessary to fully train the quads and the posterior chain (backside of the body) muscles (hamstring, glutes) are engaged from squatting through the heels.
The back muscles and mostly the spinal erectors are worked to a degree with the goblet squat. However, the movement is not a substitute for direct back training or even a deadlift for maximal stimulation.
The front deltoids are engaged to maintain the weight at chest level during the goblet squat but all shoulder muscles are engaged.
The goblet squat requires core stabilization to maintain an upright posture. And full-body movements are an effective way to indirectly work the abdominals and obliques.
One of the greatest benefits of the goblet squat is how it helps you improve your squat form. While just about everyone is familiar with the general squat form, it’s amazing how often people make mistakes that could contribute to injuries, particularly of the low back or knees.
The goblet squat can help you identify and fix some of the common problems that occur during all types of squats.
Since you’re holding the weight in front of your body, you become more aware of the importance of keeping your torso tall and your core engaged as you move through the squat. For many people, as they begin to lower into the squat, they start tipping forward from the hips, leaning their chest toward the ground, and compromising the neutral position of their back.
Holding the resistance in front of your body during a goblet squat builds the essential awareness that you need to roll your shoulders back, engage your core, and keep your torso upright as you squat down in order to prevent being pulled forward or off-balance by the kettlebell’s weight.
Check out more about this topic at Boxing Bayside
The goal of the exercise is to get your elbows to touch the insides of your knees at the bottom of the goblet squat, so this squat variation encourages proper knee alignment with your toes.
It’s common for people’s knees to angle in slightly as they squat down, something referred to as “knee valgus.” This misalignment often becomes even more pronounced at the bottom of the squat, when you transition from the downward (eccentric) portion of the exercise to the upward (concentric) portion of the exercise.
This improper knee alignment makes it more likely for you to experience knee pain or potential injury because more stress is placed on the inside of the knee as it moves through a full range of motion.
Even if your knees are still angled slightly inward at the bottom, your elbow placement gives you an opportunity to check your form and make sure your knees are tracking properly before you transition to the upward portion of the exercise and return to standing.
This helps reduce the likelihood that your knees “collapse” inward during this transition, ultimately guarding you against potential pain or injury.
You don’t need much to get started with the goblet squat—just a kettlebell or dumbbell and enough space to stand and move comfortably with your feet roughly hip- to shoulder-distance apart.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart, your toes angled slightly outward.
Hold a kettlebell in both hands at your chest, gripping the handles as though you were cupping a goblet—one hand on either side of the handles. Bend your elbows so the goblet is positioned right at the center of your chest.
Warm-up by using a lighter (or no) kettlebell to get a sense of the movement. Then, progress to a heavier weight for your full set.
Engage your core and look straight ahead—you want to keep your back neutrally aligned and your eyes facing straight ahead throughout the squat.
Press your hips back and begin bending your knees to perform the squat. Inhale as you perform this downward phase.
Keep the kettlebell close to your body during the movement.
Focus on keeping your chest tall as you continue pressing your hips back and lowering down. The goal is to get your hips below parallel with your knees.
Make sure your weight remains evenly distributed across your feet, or slightly more weighted toward your heels—you shouldn’t come up on your toes as you squat.
Check your position at the bottom of the squat—your elbows should be positioned on the inside of either knee at the lowest point of the squat. This helps ensure that your knees remain aligned with your toes as you move into the deep squat position.
Press through your heels and reverse the motion to return to the starting position. Exhale as you rise, and be sure to press your hips forward at the top of the squat to more fully engage your glutes.
Complete a full set and carefully rack the kettlebell. Always avoid dropping weights from a height. Repeat through as many sets as desired.
Check out more about this topic at Boxing Bayside
Goblet Squat Benefits
There are a few notable benefits of doing the goblet squat which include…
Resistance training builds muscle plain and simple. But how much muscle you build depends on several factors like the weight used, genetics, growth factors, repetitions, intensity, nutrition, hydration, sleep, and more. But to get a muscle to grow where purely weight training is concerned, you must consistently increase the poundages and/or increasing the number of repetitions to a degree. (1, 2, 3)
Progressive overload builds strength and you should do at least one day per week where you are training pretty heavily to challenge your muscles. A good strategy is to increase the pounds by 5 pounds per week if possible unless you feel you should do slightly more or less.
However, we’ll provide a workout where you can progress pretty quickly regarding strength gains but don’t be alarmed when you hit a plateau as it’s normal. But in that case, you can mix up your routine and you’ll eventually run out of weight with the dumbbell and kettlebell; in which you can increase your reps or focus more on the barbell back squat.
But there’s also the landmine goblet squat variation which we’ll show you and you can use more resistance.
Full-body movements like the squat will aid in the weight loss process but the effectiveness depends on the intensity and number of repetitions. The more you move the more calories you’ll burn and it takes burning approximately 3,500 calories to lose one pound.
Working up and down the dumbbell weight rack is a great workout to burn calories.
Improved aerobic capacity
Full-body movements require more energy and oxygen. Therefore, you’ll increase your aerobic capacity which will allow you to train longer and harder as your endurance improves. If you train at a faster tempo then you can improve your aerobic performance even more.
How To Do The Goblet Squat
It’s always recommended to do a few warm-up sets before doing your working sets. So, start with 30-40% of your one-rep max and work your way up to the working sets (Two sets are usually sufficient).
A proper squat should allow you to perform the movement close to your center of mass which will protect the spine and allow you to lift the weight properly.
Kettlebell goblet squat
Lift the kettlebell by using your legs and keep your back straight.
Turn the kettlebell upside down and hold it with both palms or hold it by the handles. You want to hold it at the upper chest level just below your chin and close to your body with elbows pointed straight down.
Spread your feet slightly wider than hip-width distance apart and point your feet slightly outward.
Keep your back straight and squat down until your upper legs are parallel to the floor while keeping your head straight. Keep your knees in the same direction as your feet.
Now, squat back up into a standing position.
Check out more about this topic at Boxing Bayside
Dumbbell goblet squat
Lift the dumbbell to the upper chest level so one end sits in your palms similar to the kettlebell variation.
Keep your back straight and upright then squat down to parallel with feet hip-width apart.
Squat back up to a standing position.
Goblet Squat Tips
It’s important to find your range of motion to protect your knees and joints since this will vary between individuals.
Never allow your knees to move toward each other during the squat. If you find they are moving inward then your form needs correction or you may have a structural issue that should be examined.
Always maintain a straight and upright back. Leaning forward slightly is normal but doing so excessively is not.
Squatting through the heels is very important during any squat variation. Pushing through the balls of your feet can eventually cause knee problems.
Keep your elbows tucked in so they are on the insides of your thighs when you reach the bottom of the squat.
Goblet Squat Variations
Here are a few variations you can do to further improve your performance and results.
Goblet squat and overhead press
Perform the goblet squat like normal but when you stand up press the kettlebell or dumbbell overhead. But be very careful to have a good grip and even keep the weight slightly in front of your head.
The band goblet squat
Wrap a band around both legs just above your knees and keep tension on the band. Then perform the goblet squat like normal. Using a band will keep tension on your glutes which is great for muscle development and posterior chain strength improvements.
Landmine goblet squat
The landmine variation is excellent for loading the anterior and improving posterior chain mechanics during a squat. The barbell is in contact with the floor which improves coordination and balance since you are working to stabilize the weight.
But a neat benefit of the landmine variation is that each time you perform the negative, the weight forces your hips back which is ideal for improving your squat form.
Make sure one end is secured to the floor and place the loaded end on a bench. Grip the end of the barbell with both hands so your elbows are pointed down and move your chest right up to the bar. Squat the weight up and keep everything tight while squeezing your glutes.
Goblet Squat Benefits
The goblet squat has many benefits. In today’s post, we’ll look at three of the more important benefits in detail to help you decide how goblet squats fit into your program.
Goblet Squat as Teaching Tool
One of the greatest benefits of the goblet squat is its value as a teaching tool. Simply put, it’s one of the best, if not the best squatting variation for a beginner to learn and become comfortable with squatting.
Believe it or not, a goblet squat is easier in a lot of ways than a bodyweight squat. Beginners tend to lose their balance falling over backward when they first try a bodyweight squat.
The weight in the goblet squat provides a useful counterweight and helps keep you grounded and solid on your feet. Yes, there’s an additional load, but even an untrained senior can usually do a few reps with a 10 or 20 lb dumbbell without much difficulty.
Remember that a bodyweight squat is not squatting zero pounds. Your legs are lifting your body weight. Adding a 10 or 20 lb dumbbell is a fairly small percentage increase for most people.
Since new lifters generally tolerate the weight in the goblet squat quite well and also benefit from the grounding effect of the additional load and counterweight, the goblet squat is the best way for a beginner to get started with squats.
Building Strength with the Goblet Squat
Once the pattern is in place and you have some confidence in the movement, it’s quite easy to increase weight. Many of my clients over the years have moved from a 10 lb dumbbell to a 50 or 60 lb dumbbell in just a few weeks
I like to push things as far as possible with the goblet squat before looking to progress to a barbell. Barbell squats are great, but they are technically complex and also put more stress on the spine and the body in general.
This is not inherently bad, but it is something that we need to be aware of and manage.
How far you should push things with the goblet squat depends on the person. If there is no reason too, I like to target a set of 10 reps with a 100 lb dumbbell before introducing barbell squats.
However, there are many reasons why that might not be a good idea. For a smaller person, or someone with a wrist or forearm issue, lifting a dumbbell that size may not be safe or even possible, but the general principle of pushing things with the goblet squat as far as safely possible still applies.
Goblet Squat as a Regression
We’ve established that goblet squatting is useful as a starting point in your lifting career, but what about more advanced lifters. Well, one way it can come in handy is as a regression. Let’s say someone has been squatting for a few years and is fully proficient in barbell variations of the squat.
At some point, this person may get injured and need to take some time off, and then gradually work their way back up to heavy barbell squatting. The goblet squat can be a useful tool for reintroducing load and the squatting pattern to help create a safe transition back to heavier squatting.
More Volume with Less Loading
Another way that a goblet squat can fit into the program of a more advanced lifter is as a way of providing additional volume, with a minimal additional systemic load.
If we’re considering a more advanced lifter, whether they’re a bodybuilder or powerlifter, or anyone doing a lower body training session, they might structure a training day around squats, where their main lift of the day would be a few sets of heavy front or back squats.
They would then probably do some other lower body movements, whether that’s lunges, good mornings, step-ups, or leg curls. In this scenario, the goblet squat can also be a great choice as an accessory lift.
A few sets of 10-20 reps after some other more intense lower bodywork is a great way to drive further adaptation in the lower body and get more practice in the movement, in a way that’s still fairly low intensity, and more transferrable to sport or other athletic tasks than some other movements.
It is certainly worth considering the goblet squat as an accessory lift on a lower-body-focused session, at least at some point throughout the year.
You’re Ready For The Goblet Squat!
And that concludes most of what you need to know about the goblet squat. There’s no doubt it’s an effective and safe movement that most people can do and the benefits are definitely worth the effort. It’s a movement that is very beneficial for learning the ideal squat form and there are many options too.