Sip on Some New Leg Gains 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.

Just about every gymgoer should squat, but not every squat is right for everyone. Back squats can induce a lot of wear and tear over time due to the high amount of weight you can work with. Thrusters may be too intense for some folks. Even more niche squat options like Cossack squats require mobility and stability that might be impractical to you. When it comes to accessibility, the goblet squat is that last bowl of porridge. 

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 foray into weighted squats for newer 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, as well as some stellar variations and alternatives for you to try as well.

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, or to just build a bit of leg muscle on its own. 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.

Coach’s 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. 

Coach’s 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).

Coach’s Tip: Keep your hips under you as you stand up. Do not shoot them back too much.

Goblet Squat Sets and Reps

Some movements require extremely precise programming to reap their benefits, but luckily, the goblet squat is versatile. You can change up your set and rep scheme to make use of the goblet squat in different ways.

  • For Beginners: 3 sets of 10 reps, focusing on your technique.
  • To Build Muscle4 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.

Tilting Forward

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.

Half-Squatting

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 Variations

Below are four goblet squat variations that coaches and athletes can use to increase strength, muscle mass, and improve their 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 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

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 lifting, strongman, and powerlifting.

Zercher Squat

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

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.

Muscles Worked by the Goblet Squat

It’s a leg exercise through-and-through, but the goblet squat does do a bit more than just torch your quads. 

Quadriceps

By nature, most 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. You’ll notice a high degree of glute engagement as you propel yourself upward out of the hole and toward a standing position.

Core

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

Upper Back

By holding the weight aloft in front of you, your upper back — think traps, rhomboids, and your lats to some degree — must contract isometrically for the duration of your set. 

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. 

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 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.

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

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. 

Who Should Do the Goblet Squat

Goblet squats are employed by first-time gymgoers and world-class strength athletes alike. Here’s how the exercise applies to you, and why you should consider giving it a go. 

Beginners

If you’re brand new to the gym, you can think of your athletic endeavors like building a house. Before you can do anything, you need a solid foundation. That holds true for upper and lower-body movements alike, and the goblet squat is one of the best ways to teach yourself how to properly squat with weights. 

Strength and Power Athletes

The goblet squat can be used to improve your squat mechanics. It can also be used to prep for heavy squats or improve the muscular development of the lower body. For older lifters, the goblet squat is also a decent workaround for the high tensile stress of barbell training.

The goblet squat also has application and carryover to Olympic lifting. The movement necessitates a more vertical posture, increases knee flexion, and is an anteriorly-loaded like the front squat and clean

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. 

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. 

FAQs

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.