The goblet squat is a great exercise and teaching tool to help you graduate to other squat variations, or to just build a bit of leg muscle. This front-loaded squat variation ensures that you stay upright, bolstering your form, and is usually done with either dumbbells or kettlebells. After mastering the bodyweight squat, the goblet version is a great way to introduce yourself to squatting with weights and reap all the benefits that come with it. Here’s how to do a dumbbell (or kettlebell) goblet squat, plus the best variations and technique tips to help you succeed.
How to Do the Goblet Squat
[Read More: 5 Benefits of Goblet Squats]
- Set Up: Set your feet shoulder-width apart. Then, grab a dumbbell or kettlebell and hold the weight directly under your chin with your elbows tucked in. Brace your core, tense your back, and ensure that you feel stable. Think about pulling your ribs down into the body and making sure your abs are engaged.
- Squat Down: Grip the floor with your feet. Keep your feet firmly planted, and then twist them outward until you feel your quads, hamstrings, and glutes light up. Then drop down, keeping your torso upright until the bottom of your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.
- Stand Up: Reverse the motion by pushing straight down into the floor with your legs and ascending until you return to the starting position.
Goblet Squat Variations
Heel-Elevated Goblet Squat
- Place a pair of small weight plates on the ground at the same width as your squat stance. Or, you can use a single bumper plate (as shown in the GIF above).
- Stand with your heels on the plates and your toes planted on the floor in your normal squat stance.
- Squat down while holding the weight( a dumbbell or kettlebell is fine) in the goblet position, trying to remain as upright as possible.
Why Do it: By elevating the heels in the goblet squat, you can improve the ability to go into deeper ranges of knee flexion and maintain a more upright torso positioning, both of which increase loading on the quadriceps. Doing the heel-elevated goblet squat is a great way to accommodate limited ankle mobility while you learn to properly brace and stabilize your torso.
Pause Goblet Squat
- Stand with the weight held in the goblet position and your feet at around hip width, or wherever you usually squat.
- Sink down into a low goblet squat while striving to remain braced and upright.
- As you reach the bottom of your range of motion, pause for a moment and hold yourself motionless in the lowest position before standing up again.
Why Do it: The pause goblet squat can increase loading at the deep squat position, enhance concentric strength, and address technique errors such as your hips shooting back or your thoracic spine collapsing at various points. You can perform these by simply adding a controlled pause at the bottom of the squat. These can be combined with tempos, heel elevations, and close stances variations as well.
Goblet Squat Alternatives
When you’re ready to change things up and progress the goblet squat to something a bit more complex, give one of these a try.
Barbell Front Squat
[Read More: Goblet Squat vs Barbell Squat: Do You Need Both?]
- Stand upright in your normal squat stance while holding a barbell in the front rack position.
- From here, take a breath in. Point your elbows mostly forward, and then slowly sit down into a deep squat.
- Maintain an upright torso so your elbows never come into contact with your legs. Squat as low as you can, then push with your legs to stand back up to the starting position.
Why Do it: The barbell front squat is a front squat variation that applies to most barbell sports and allows for greater loading than a goblet squat. This is key for strength development and application to maximal strength and power sports like Olympic lifting, strongman, and powerlifting.
- Assume your usual squat stance. Secure a barbell in the crooks of your elbows by bending your arms and clasping your hands together in front of your chest.
- From here, brace your core and sink down into a squat.
- Take care to avoid letting your elbows make contact with your thighs. Squat as low as you can, then stand back up.
Why Do it: The Zercher squat is a squat that can build upper back strength, thoracic spine integrity, and increase quadriceps and glute development. Like the Jefferson squat, the load placement minimizes strain on the lower back and forces you to stay more vertical.
Sandbag Front Squat
- Grab a sandbag and clutch it against your upper chest, supported across your upper arms.
- From here, descend into a low squat, keeping your torso upright.
- Stand back up using your legs.
Why Do it: Sandbag, stone, and odd object training are a great way to increase strength, core stability, and diversify your fitness. You can perform front-loaded squats with sandbags, stones, and other odd objects to increase many of the same attributes as the goblet squat. It is important to stay upright and go into knee flexion if you are looking to target the quadriceps.
Goblet Squat Sets and Reps
- For Beginners: 3 sets of 10 reps, focusing on your technique.
- To Build Muscle: 4 sets of 8-12 reps, with a relatively heavy weight.
- As a Technique Tool: 4-5 sets of 5 reps with an extremely slow tempo.
Common Goblet Squat Mistakes
The goblet squat is pretty hard to screw up, but there are still a few specific things to keep in mind in order to have solid technique and make use of the movement.
The main hallmark of the goblet squat is that the load you’re using is placed in front of your body, instead of behind your head like in a back squat. This anterior load helps you maintain a more upright and vertical torso when you squat. As such, you should avoid purposely tilting your torso forward or shooting your hips backward. This is counterintuitive to the purpose of the goblet squat.
Resting the Weight On Your Body
You’re meant to suspend the implement you’re using in space with your arms, not lean it up against your chest or collarbones. By holding the weight aloft, you challenge your upper back and core to a greater degree, turning the goblet squat into an effective full-body stimulus.
When you squat, it’s important to respect your mobility. That said, out of all the squat variations under the sun, the goblet squat is among the most depth-friendly styles you can perform. The placement of the weight and moderate load should make it quite easy to sit your hips into a deep squat, even if you’re new to squatting in general.
Goblet Squat Benefits
The goblet squat is one of the most utilitarian movements. Here are five reasons to add it to your training toolbox.
A Valid Teaching Tool
The anterior loading position of the goblet squat makes it a great beginner-friendly option for learning (or teaching) how to squat. Even rank beginners should find the fundamental movement pattern quite natural. Simply put, the goblet squat is a great instructive tool for learning how to move properly with weights.
Postural Strength in the Squat
By loading in the goblet position, you have absolutely no choice other than to maintain a rigid and extended thoracic spine. If you can’t, the weight will simply fall out of your hands. This ensures that you train your posture effectively with the goblet squat.
[Read More: 5 Beginner Friendly Squat Variations]
Enhanced Core Strength
Squats are a great way to increase core strength, and front-loaded variations are even better. Like the front squat, the goblet squat is a challenging variation to teach lifters (beginners especially) how to brace, not overextended through the spine in the descent, and stay balanced and controlled throughout the squatting movement. Challenging in a good way, that is.
Goblet squats are perfect for home gym owners who don’t own a barbell. Whether you have kettlebells, dumbbells, or even heavy rocks at your disposal, goblet squats can be your go-to squatting movement. That said, if squatting a lot of weight is your chief goal, then you’ll want to back squat. It allows you to lift the most weight possible. Goblet squats can still serve you as a great accessory movement, though.
They’re More Back-Friendly
Since you aren’t working with the barbell, the goblet squat intrinsically limits the amount of external load you use. While this doesn’t directly correlate to being “better” for your back than a barbell squat, it does serve as an easy means of ensuring you don’t put your spine through too much stress.
If you’re working through or around an injury, or simply have low tolerance to high amounts of weight, the goblet squat is a prime choice.
Your Goblet Runneth Over
No movement does everything, but the goblet squat sure comes close. For how simple and easy to perform the exercise is, the goblet squat sure brings a lot to the table for your performance and mobility.
“Beginner” movements are often used by intermediate and advanced athletes throughout their careers, and the goblet squat is no exception. Taking things back to basics can help you remember how to move properly, encourage you to find your mind-muscle connection and, most importantly, simply help you pack on some new leg muscle.
The goblet squat accomplishes all this and more. Give them a try and you’ll be pouring one out for your subpar leg gains.
The sumo squat is done with a wider stance. You can do sumo squats using any weight and any form you want (goblet or front squat or back squat). The goblet squat is done with a dumbbell or kettlebell in the front rack position, with a standard squat stance.
Like most squats, your goal and abilities will dictate the depth to which you squat. If you can assume a full range of motion squat (one that the back of the hamstrings smush against the calves), do goblet squats to full depth. If you are looking to isolate a specific range of motion or sticking point, you can restrict the range of motion to that particular range. For best results, aim to squat as low as you can without pain, with control and a neutral spine.
Yes. While advanced lifters may find that they need to use heavier loads to elicit muscle growth, goblet squats are a great leg-building exercise for most individuals. However, when done for higher reps, upper back strength, core stability, arm strength, and endurance can become limiting factors.