The goblet squat and barbell squat are two movements that every lifter should have within their arsenal. While each offers lifters and coaches unique benefits, we are here to lay out which movement reigns supreme for muscle growth, strength, sport skill, and more.
For beginners and movement prep series, the goblet squat is one of the best ways to pattern a strong squat. Movements like counterbalance goblet squats and paused goblet squats provide us with great benefits that transition well to complex movements like barbell squats, snatches, cleans, etc. Light and unloaded barbell squats can also be used as soon as possible to develop lifters the fastest way possible, however loading should be kept low-manageable, never sacrificing form and technique.
Muscles grow primarily from increased training volume, time under tension, and loading (generally at 50-75% of best squat for 12-16 total sets per week of 6-12 reps). For weaker athletes or beginners, heavy goblet squats may be a good option to increase systemic muscle growth, however it cannot produce enough training stimulus for most lifters, therefore the barbell squat (and it’s variations) likely reigns supreme in this category. Yes, the goblet squat could be helpful for movement prep, finishing sets, etc., however it will not be the best movement most often for lifters looking to gain muscle in the legs and total body primarily due to lack of substantial loading and training volume.
Maximal strength takes near maximal loading to prepare the mind, muscles, and neurological systems to move heavy weight. The barbell squat simply does it all. While the goblet squat may be heavy for many beginners and can be a great way to vary training and/or progress under the barbell, the barbell squat is a foundational strength movement that can never be substituted if pure strength is the goal.
Squatting with Injuries
Assuming the injury is affected by barbell squats (either back or front) it may be best to steer clear of barbell squats until your are recovered. Lower back, wrist, shoulder, hips, and knee injuries could impair your ability to place a barbell comfortably on your back or front rack, making the goblet squat a good option to still train the squat movement as you focus on recovery (as not squatting is never an option). With that said, it is important to point out that barbell squats are not the cause of your injuries or lack of recovery, rather your poor squat technique, mobility limitations, and programming. If you fix those in the meantime as well as employ squat alternatives such as Zercher squats, double kettlebell squats, and even unilateral leg training you may even come back stronger!
The barbell squat (back and front) is one of, if not THE most foundational strength and performance lift (other than the snatch, clean, and jerk). While goblet squats may be used as a warm up movement, they do not allot for the amount of loading and barbell specific movements that the sport requires. Lifters can go through their lifting career without goblet squatting, but to go without barbell squats would result in not having a lifting career to start with. You need to barbell squat.
This should be a no-brainer, but just in case let me say that the barbell squat IS one-third of your sport (bench barbell squat, bench press, and deadlift). Similar to Olympic weightlifting (except powerlifter soften Squat low bar vs high bar back squat), the barbell squat is a necessity in training and competition. Goblet squats can be helpful for teaching proper squat patterning bulletproofing the hips and knees to keep mobility (as low bar squats often shy on that), but the do not build sufficient hypertrophy, strength, or neural adaptations (see above).
Barbell squats should be at the forefront of squat training for similar reasoning for Olympic weightlifters, powerlifters, muscle hypertrophy, and strength development. With that said, goblet squats may show up in a WOD or competition, making them a must master exercise to maximize readiness for the unknown of CrossFit. Lucky for you I have made the ultimate goblet squat guide to help you master the movement in very little time!
While the barbell squat is far superior for muscle mass, strength, and unlocking greater forms of fitness, it is not 100% a necessity in the event someone has injuries or mobility issues. While the goblet squat can be a viable alternative in these situations, you must realize that you will limit your optimal fitness. A better solution is to learn how to squat using the goblet squat, work on your mobility, and start squatting with a barbell. See the above variations on the injury section for squat alternatives if you have lower back issues or other ailments. Note, if you suspect you have an injury, it’s best to get it checked my a medical professional. Don’t come back here saying I didn’t tell your to get yourself checked out!
The Answer Is Yes!
Both squatting movements can and should be used at some point in a training program. Barbell squats (front, back, Zercher, overhead) should be at the forefront of your training, however goblet squats are a great way to prep for squat sessions, teach and perfect squat technique, and even add some additional training volume to really maximize muscle growth.
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