Improve Your Form and Build Muscle With the Goblet Squat

The goblet squat can improve your squat mechanics, build lower-body endurance, and add muscle to your frame. Here's how to do it.

Everyone probably should be squatting, but not every squat is right for everyone. Back squats can compress the spine and, over time, lead to potential injuries. Thrusters may be too intense for some folks. And Cossack squats require mobility and stability that some lifters don’t have. When it comes to accessibility, the Goblet squat is that last bowl of porridge. 

This front-loaded squat variation ensures that the lifter stays upright (bolstering form) and is done with either dumbbells or kettlebells, so the load is manageable. After mastering the bodyweight squat, the goblet version is a great foray into weighted squats for new lifters. For more advanced trainees, goblet squats can be repped out for more leg muscle and endurance.

Read up on the right way to do the goblet squat, and also variations, alternatives, and programming recommendations. 

Goblet Squat Video Tutorial

In the video below, BarBend‘s former Training Editor Jake Boly walks you through how to do picture-perfect goblet squats every time. 

Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns.

How to Do the Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is a great exercise and teaching tool to help you graduate to other squat variations. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1 — Set Up

Goblet Squat 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.

Form Tip: Don’t slouch in this position. Squeeze your shoulder blades back to maintain an upright posture.

Step 2 —  Squat Down

Goblet Squat Squat Down

Before initiating the squat, 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 parallel to the floor. If you can, aim to squat deeper. 

Form Tip:  Think about pushing the back of your hamstrings to the back of your calves. The deeper the squat, the better (most of the time).

Step 3 — Stand Up

Goblet Squat Stand Up

To stand up, think about standing up without letting your hips shoot backward behind you. Many lifters fail to keep their hips underneath them and end up letting their chest and torso fall forward. When you do that, you often shift stress to the hips and lower back rather than the quadriceps (which is the muscle you are trying to attack when doing goblet squats)

Form Tip: Keep your hips under you as you stand up. Do not fire them back too much.

Benefits of the Goblet Squat

The goblet squat is one of the most utilitarian movements. Here are five reasons to add it to your training toolbox. 

Learning the Squat Progression

By holding a weight in the goblet position, you allow for A) the lifter to use the load as a counterbalance to assist in squatting with an upright torso, B) you force the lifter to maintain a rigid upper back and core (or else the load will pull them forward out of balance) and C) you can squat deeper due to reasons A and B. Simply put: the goblet squat teaches you to squat well, and that’ll carry over to your other squat efforts. 

Postural Strength in Squat

By loading in the goblet position, the lifter must remain squatted with an extended thoracic spine to keep the torso upright and balanced over the midfoot. The goblet squat essentially forces you to maintain better posture, and so you’ll gain better posture. 

Man front squatting

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. 

They’re Accessible

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

One problem with back squats is that they load the spine with a lot of weight. Even if you’re squatting 225 pounds (which is not a lot for experienced lifters), that’s substantially more weight than most anyone can lift in a goblet position. Even compared to front squats, a movement that lifters can still hoist hundreds of pounds doing, it’s a safer variation. Considering the manageable load and posture-friendly mechanics, the goblet squat is a more spine-friendly variation. 

Muscles Worked by the Goblet Squat

Below are the muscle groups worked during the goblet squat.

 

Quadriceps

By nature, squats are a knee-dominant movement. Your quads flex your knees, so goblet squats work your quads hard

Glutes

Like any squat, the glutes work to extend the hips. The deeper the squat, the more glutes are involved as the degrees of hip flexion and extension is increased.

Core Muscles

This front-loaded squat variation requires the lifter to maintain a rigid torso and strong core to keep the pelvis and spine properly stabilized throughout the range of motion.

Who Should Do the Goblet Squat?

The below section breaks down the benefits of the goblet squat based on a lifter’s sport goals and abilities.

Strength and Power Athletes

  • Powerlifters and Strongmen/Strongwomen: The goblet squat can be used to improve squat mechanics. It can also be used to prep for heavy squats or improve the muscular development of the lower body. For older lifters who are a little beat up, the goblet squat is also a decent workaround (pending your doctor’s approval, of course.)
  • Olympic Weightlifters: The goblet squat has application and carryover to Olympic weightlifting. It forces a more vertical squatting position, increases knee flexion, and is an anteriorly loaded squat (like the front squat and clean). The goblet squat can be used as a primer movement, a positional strength movement, or an assistance exercise in most weightlifting programs.

Fitness Athletes and General Populations

The goblet squat can be used to develop the quadriceps for muscle hypertrophy, improve squat patterning that transitions well to back and front squats, and as a main squatting movement for lifters who may not have access to a barbell (or are battling injuries or movement issues that do not allow them to back or front squat).

This is also a great squatting variation to use with at-home workout programs, as it does not require a ton of equipment but rather a single dumbbell, kettlebell, or weighted object.

Goblet Squat Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations

Below are four 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.

To Improve Squat Form

This front-loaded squat variation is a good option for lifters who struggle loading the quads in the squat or find back-loaded squats cause back pain. Start by performing two to four sets of five to 10 reps with light to moderate loads, resting as needed. You can also implement slow tempos and pauses to improve muscle coordination and control.

To Gain Muscle

You can do the goblet squat to increase muscle mass and hypertrophy via increased rep ranges. Try performing three to five sets of 10-20 repetitions with moderate to heavy loads or two to four sets of 20-30 repetitions with moderate loads to near failure. Keep your rest periods to 45-90 seconds.

To Improve Muscle Endurance

The goblet squat can be used to increase muscle endurance. Start by performing two to four sets of 20-30 repetitions with light to moderate loads. Keep your rest periods under 30-45 seconds.

Goblet Squat Variations

Below are four goblet squat variations that coaches and athletes can use to increase strength, muscle mass, and functional fitness.

Heel Elevated Goblet Squat

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.

Close-Stance Goblet Squat

By taking a more narrow stance, your force greater degrees of knee flexion can occur, resulting in increased quadriceps engagements and utilization in the squat. This can be helpful to do with elevated heels if the goal is quadriceps development.

Pause Goblet Squat

The pause goblet squat can be done to increase loading (at the deep squat position), enhance concentric strength, and address technique breakdowns (such as the hip shooting back or the thoracic spine collapsing) at various ranges of motion of the goblet squat. 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 these to a different squat variation, give one of these a try.

Barbell Front Squat

The barbell front squat is a front-loaded 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 weightlifting, strongman, and powerlifting.

Zercher Squat

The Zercher squat is a squat style that can build upper back strength, thoracic spine integrity, and increase quadriceps and glute development. Like the Jefferson squat, the load placement (in this case, the load is in front of the lifter) minimizes strain on the lower back and forces the lifter to stay more vertical.

Sandbag Front Squat

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. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between the goblet squat and the sumo squat?

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.

How deep should I squat?

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.

Can advanced lifters build muscle with goblet squats?

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.