How to Perform Goblet Squats

Here's why the goblet squat can build better squats in beginners and athletes alike!

The goblet squat is a squat variation that can be used with beginners and advanced lifters alike to reinforce upright torso positioning in the squat, isolate the quadriceps for hypertrophy purposes, and even create strength and stability necessary for more advanced squatting variations.

In this article, we will go through everything you need to know about the goblet squat, including:

  • Goblet Squat Form and Technique
  • Goblet Squat Video Guide
  • Benefits of the Goblet Squat
  • Muscles Worked by the Goblet Squat
  • Who Should Do the Goblet Squat
  • Goblet Squat Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations
  • Goblet Squat Variations and Alternatives

How to Perform the Goblet Squat: Step-By-Step Guide

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to perform the goblet squat with a kettlebell or dumbbell in the front loaded position.

Set Up

The feet should be set roughly hip width apart, with the toes turned open 10-15 degrees. While holding the kettlebell at chest level, with the elbows pointed towards the floor, tuck the pelvis so that the glutes are engaged and brace the core.

In the set up position, you should feel tension from the floor up, with the core tight and the torso vertical.

Coach’s Tip: Use the weight as a counterbalance if you find you are losing balance in the squat.

Eccentric and Bottom of the Squat

With your established base, bend the knees and hips to allow yourself to sit down, keeping the feet and heels on the floor. The load should be felt in the quadriceps, glutes, core, and upper back.

The bottom of the goblet squat position should feel strong and stable, with the feet flat, core flexed, and torso vertical.

Coach’s Tip: Be sure to set the pelvis underneath you, with the abdominals and obliques contracted.

Stand Up

Once you have established a strong, low, and stable base in the bottom of the squat, push evenly through the full foot as you stand up.

The chest and shoulders should raise up at the same rate as the hips.

Goblet Squat Video Guide

Are you more of a visual learner? We created an in-depth Goblet Squat guide to support your learning needs and added in some useful notes on programming and what to avoid!

3 Benefits of the Goblet Squat

The goblet squat offers immense benefits for beginners and athletes alike. Below are three of these benefits.

1. Improve Squat Mechanics

The goblet squat can be used to reinforce a vertical squatting position needed for high bar squats, front squats, and general squat patterning. This can be integrated as a main squat movement for beginners or as an activation/accessory movement for quadriceps development.

2. Increase Quadriceps Development

Increasing development of the quad muscles via squatting typically is done with more vertically torso based squats, such as front squats, overhead squats, and high bar back squats. The goblet squat can be used as an accessory exercise to increase quadriceps engagement and hypertrophy while minimizing spinal loading. This can be key for lifters looking to minimize additional strain on them body, individuals recovering from injury, or with beginners.

3. Great Squat Regression for Beginners

The goblet squat can be used as a primary squat movement for beginners who may have issues with loading a bar on the bar/in the front rack. Once someone has shown adequate mobility to attain a squat, adding the goblet squat movement into training programs can increase stability, strength, and progress them towards more advanced forms of squatting.

Muscles Worked – Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is a lower body movement that can be used to increase muscle hypertrophy, improve squat mechanics, and/or be integrated within beginner and large group/class training programs to train the lower body. Below are the main muscle groups that are worked when performing the goblet squat exercise.

  • Quadriceps
  • Anterior Core
  • Latissimus Dorsi and Scapular Stabilizer Muscles
  • Glutes
Leg Muscles Front and Back
Photo by BlueRingMedia / Shutterstock

Who Should Perform Goblet Squats?

Below are a few groups of athletes that can benefit from the inclusion of goblet squats within training programs; either in warm-up/activation segments, main strength work, or accessories.

Strength and Power Athletes

Strength and power athletes are well aware of the benefits of squats, many of which work with a barbell loaded in the back/front rack. Below are some instances where the goblet squat can be used within strength and power training programs to develop fitness, better squat mechanics, and more.

  • Powerlifting and Strongman Athletes: Strength athletes can use goblet squats to improve squat patterning and/or to increase loading on the quadriceps. Due to the positioning of the load and vertical torso alignment of the squat, the goblet squat forces lifters to stay upright as they heavily rely on knee extension.
  • Olympic Weightlifting: The goblet squat can be used to reinforce a vertical squat positioning similar to what is needed in Olympic weightlifting movements like the snatch, front squat, back squat, overhead squat, and clean.

Competitive CrossFit and Fitness Athletes

In addition to the above benefits of the goblet squat for strength and power athletes, CrossFitters and fitness athletes can use the goblet squat as a lower body hypertrophy and/or muscular endurance exercise within workouts.

The ability to transfer directly to other  dumbbell and kettlebell movements and/or the ability to perform this exercise with minimal equipment makes it an ideal candidate for class WODs and high intensity workouts.

Sports Training and General Fitness

For sports training and general fitness purposes, the goblet squat can be performed for the exact same reasons as the above two subgroups. Additionally, this exercise can be helpful to train the squatting movement with beginners and/or individuals who may not be able/ready to squat with a loaded barbell.

Goblet Squat Sets, Reps, and Weight Recommendations

Below are three sets, reps, and weight (intensity) recommendations for coaches and athletes to properly program the goblet squat specific to the training goal. Note, that the below guidelines are simply here to offer coaches and athletes loose recommendations for programming.

Movement Integrity – Reps, Sets, and Weight Recommendations

The goblet squat can be used as a foundational squat mechanics movement to help a lifter establish balance and stability in the squat. This can be done using lighter to moderate loads, with tempos and/or slow and controlled eccentrics, pauses, and isometrics.

  • 3-5 sets of 8-12 repetitions with light to moderate loads under controlled tempos and pauses.
  • The key here is movement quality, balance in the full foot, and establishing a comfortable low and stable squat position. Focus on these prior to adding heavier loads.

Muscle Hypertrophy – Reps, Sets, and Weight Recommendations

The goblet squat is a great exercise to increase muscle hypertrophy in the lower body, specifically the quadriceps and glutes. This exercise can be used by beginners and advanced lifters, often done in higher volumes for muscle hypertrophy.

  • 4-5 sets of 12-15 repetitions with a moderate to heavy load.
  • Tempos, pauses, and forced concentric contractions can be done throughout the range of motion to induce additional muscular damage and hypertrophy.

Strength – Reps, Sets, and Weight Recommendations

For some individuals, loading the goblet squat with enough external load to challenge maximal strength development can be limited. If however, someone is able to use a load for the goblet squat that is heavy enough to train for pure strength, they can do so using the goblet squat. For more advanced athletes, you can build strength by integrating more advanced squat forms like back and front squats into the mix as well, using goblet squats as primer/accessory movements.

  • 4-6 sets of 3-6 repetitions with very challenging loads.
  • The goblet squat can be performed with dumbbells if a lifter doesn’t have a heavy kettlebell.
Dumbbell Goblet Squat
Dumbbell Goblet Squat

3 Goblet Squat Variations

Below are three (3) goblet squat variations to build strength, address squat patterning issues, and improve squat performance.

1. Banded Goblet Squat

The banded goblet squat can be used to increase resistance at larger knee and hip angles, often the phase of a movement where it becomes easier to overcome force. By adding a band you can reinforce muscle activation and engagement as well as help lifters understand the mechanics of them are falling forward and/or losing back tension in the squat movement.

2. Heels Elevated Goblet Squat

Placing the heels on small blocks of plates can be useful to help lifters with limitations in hip and/or ankle mobility. By placing the heels upwards, you decrease the need for higher degrees of dorsiflexion. You can use this exercise to increase fundamental strength of both the quadriceps and reinforce/establish greater control at deeper ranges of motion in the squat..

3. Goblet Squat into Curl

This movement is a great exercise to help beginner lifters establish tension and pelvic stability in the bottom of the squat. To perform this, descend into a goblet squat as low as you can. Once you have achieved a low and stable position, allow the hands to come down to the floor as you touch the kettlebell or dumbbell to the ground. When ready, pull your chest upwards and contract the core as you curl the load back upwards towards the chest. Many lifters will notice they will be able to sit deeper and find greater balance at the bottom of the squat.

3 Goblet Squat Alternatives

Below are three (3) goblet alternatives that can be used to improve squat mechanics, build muscle, and help progress beginners towards more advanced squat training.

1. Zercher Squat

The Zercher squat is a squat variation that places loading in the front of the body, shifting emphasis to the quadriceps and anterior chain. This movement, often done with a barbell, entails a lifter to place a barbell in the crooks of their elbows and squat. This movement is very similar to the patterning needed in the goblet squat, however many lifters may find that they can load up the Zercher squat with significantly more loading; which may allow for greater strength training and muscle hypertrophy..

2. Double Kettlebell Front Squat

The double kettlebell front squat can be used as a progression upon the goblet squat, as it requires similar movement patterning and equipment. This movement increases loading, forces the lifter to stabilize the core, and can be done to help reinforce core bracing and scapular strength.

3. Belt Squat

The belt squat is a lower body movement that can be done to increase leg strength and hypertrophy while minimizing lower back and hip stress. To perform this movement, the lifter sets themselves within a belt squat machine or hangs a load from their hips as the squat. Be sure to stand on platforms that allow you to assume a deep squat position without the load touching the floor.

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