Kettlebell Goblet Squat – Exercise Guide and Benefits

The goblet squat can be used across all fitness levels and sports to develop squat technique, muscle hypertrophy, strength, and better functional movement. In this article, we will discuss everything beginner athletes, lifters, and coaches would ever need to know about the goblet squat.

In this goblet squat exercise guide we will discuss:

  • Goblet Squat Form and Technique
  • Benefits of the Goblet Squat
  • Muscles Worked by Goblet Squat
  • Goblet Squat Sets, Reps, and Weight Recommendations
  • Goblet Squat Variations and Alternatives
  • and more…

How to Do the Goblet Squat: Form and Technique

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to properly set up and perform the goblet squat.

Goblet Squat Start
Goblet Squat Start

Step 1: Grab a kettlebell or dumbbell and hold it at chest level.

To do this, hold a weight at chest level with the elbows under the wrists. The weight should be close to the chest with the shoulder blades together and placed down the back (scapular retraction and depression).

Goblet Squat Halfway Down
Goblet Squat Halfway Down

Step 2: Set your feet in a squat stance, so that the heels are at hip width or slightly wider.

With the toes forwards or slightly turned out, set the body so that the weight is not resting on the body, but rather supported by the upper back. Your abs and ribs should be pulled down and in with minimal pelvic tilt (neural lumbar spine).

Step 3: To squat, sit the hips down over the heels, making sure to pull your groin down between the thighs.

Often, people will cue the hips back first, however this is not correct. Instead, the knees and hips should bend freely together, at the same time.

Goblet Squat Bottom Front View
Goblet Squat Bottom Front View

Step 4: As you descend, be sure to support the weight so that it stays above your chest line.  

The weight should not drift forward nor shall your torso. You need to keep the weight upwards with the upper back and arms. Any excessive forward lean will result in your hips shooting backwards, throwing off the squat.

Goblet Squat Bottom Side View
Goblet Squat Bottom Side View

Step 5: At the bottom of the squat, you should be able to contract your back muscles to raise your chest high with the weight at that level.

The knees themselves should be out over the toes. Note, that you should not simply “PUSH” the knees out, as too excessive can also be a bad thing. Instead, think about pulling the groin apart as you sit while placing the knees over your big toe.

Step 6: I recommended having all beginner lifters pause at the bottom of the squat so that they can feel their body needing to resist forward flexion.

This will also help to establish better stability, control, and even mobility at the bottom of the squat.

Step 7: When standing up, you need to actively lift the chest and the weight so that they both stay slightly higher than chest height. It is imperative the the hips do not shoot backwards.

Too often athletes and coaches will allow the hip to shoot up and back, rather than keeping the torso upright and placing the majority of the movement on the quadriceps. By allowing the hips to shoot up and back, the lifter can cheat the squat movement and load more of the hamstrings and lower back.

What Is a Goblet Squat?

The goblet squat is a squat variation that can be done with a dumbbell or kettlebell being held in front of the body at chest height. This squat variation is often done as a fundamental squat exercise with common progression like the barbell, front, and overhead squat. In addition, this squat variation can be used as a educational exercise to help new lifters (and lifters with limited body control and squatting experience) establish better balance, positional awareness, and basic squat strength.

Goblet Squat – Muscles Worked

The goblet squat, like most squat movements, targets the lower body, core, and back. The below muscle groups are primary worked by the goblet squat.

Quadriceps

The goblet squat targets the lower body as a whole, but due to the placement of the load (in front of the body) the lifter must maintain a more upright torso positioning, reinforcing greater knee flexion. In doing so, the quadriceps are asked to support the movement at a higher degree.

Gluteals

Like most squats, the glutes are used to assist in the extension of the hips at the top of the movement as well as stability and strength in the squat itself.

Scapular Stabilizers

The scapular stabilizers/upper back muscles must work to resist spinal flexion caused by the front loaded kettlebell/dumbbell. In doing so, the scapular stabilizers work to stay retracted and stable, which is necessary for more advanced squatting movements.

Benefits of the Goblet Squat

Below are four (4) benefits of the goblet squat.

Balance in Squat

The goblet squat will help establish better balance and stability in the bottom of the squat primarily due to the lifter having the ability to use the weight as a counterbalance in the squat. This will also help to reinforce proper body positioning in the descent and deepest squat positions.

Quadriceps Development

This front loaded squat exercise can help to target the quadriceps. By having the weight supported in front, the lifter is often forced to remain in a more upright torso position (similar( to a front squat).

Better Squat Mechanics

Establishing better squat balance, stability, and positional strength can all be developed using the goblet squat for most squatters.

Entry-Level Squat Movement

The goblet squat can be a helpful squat regression for beginners looking to establish greater squat strength, control, and awareness. This can be helpful for lifters who may have stability or movement control in more advanced squat versions like the front or back squat.

Who Should Goblet Squat?

We break down who can benefit from goblet squats, and why.

Goblet Squats for Strength and Power Athletes

The goblet squat can be used to develop better greater squat mobility and positional strength in either assistance exercises or warm up/corrective segments. Seeing that it is a foundational squat movement, it can also help to teach better alignment in the squat movement.

Goblet Squats for CrossFit/Competitive Fitness Athletes

In addition to the benefits above, competitive fitness and CrossFit athletes will benefit from training goblet squats to do them often being seen competitive WODs.

Goblet Squats for Endurance Athletes

Goblet squats are a good movement for runners and other endurance athletes who need to target the upper back muscles and quadriceps in a higher rep fashion.

Goblet Squats for General Fitness

The goblet squat is fundamental movement for most beginners and is often easier to grasp than a barbell back squat. The above benefits also apply here as a beginner transitions into a more intermediate and advanced lifter.

Goblet Squat Sets, Reps, and Weight Recommendations

Below are common set and rep schemes to develop movement, hypertrophy, strength, and muscle endurance in the goblet squat.

Movement Integrity – Reps, Sets, and Weight Recommendations

The goblet squat is a foundational squat exercise that can help beginners understand body positioning and develop greater balance and stability in the squat.

  • 3-4 sets of 8-10 repetitions with light to moderate loads, at a controlled speed (focusing on proper eccentric/lowering of the weight), resting as needed

Muscle Hypertrophy – Reps, Sets, and Weight Recommendations

The goblet squat is a good way to build muscle hypertrophy in the quadriceps using moderate weight with moderate to high volumes.

  • 3-5 sets of 6-10 repetitions with moderate to heavy loads OR 2-4 sets of 12-15 repetitions with moderate loads to near failure, keeping rest periods 45-90 seconds

Strength – Reps, Sets, and Weight Recommendations

The goblet squat can be used to build strength (with heavier kettlebells) by simply using the sets and rep ranges below.

  • 3-5 sets of 3-5 repetitions with heavy loading, resting as needed

Muscle Endurance- Reps, Sets, and Weight Recommendations

The goblet squat can be trained in higher rep ranges and volumes to increase muscle endurance and stamina using the rep and set ranges below.

  • 2-4 sets of 12-20 repetitions with light to moderate loads, keeping rest periods under 30-45 seconds

Goblet Squat Variations

Below are three (3) goblet squat variations coaches can use to progress this exercise on most training programs.

Pause Goblet Squat

Pause goblet squats are a great way to increase concentric strength, and positional strength in the squat. Lifters who have issues collapsing in the bottom of the squat and/of they find they cannot maintain rigidity in squat can benefit from this exercise.

“Simba” Squat

By performing a goblet squat with the kettlebell raised at shoulder height (with straight arms) the lifter can help to counterbalance themselves as the try to find better squat balance and activity.

Goblet Squat to Curl

This goblet squat variation can be done to increase a lifter’s stability and control at the bottom of the squat. To do this, the lifter can perform a goblet squat, and pause at the bottom. In the pause, the lifter will perform a kettlebell curl (holding the kettlebell with both hands), finishing the curl while still seated in the pause squat. Once done, they can assume the standing position and repeat.

Goblet Squat Alternatives

Below are three (3) squat exercises that can be great alternatives for the goblet squat.

Double Kettlebell Squat

The double kettlebell squat is very similar to the goblet squat in that in stresses many of the same muscle groups and proper torso positioning (vertical) as the goblet squat. By using double kettlebells you can challenge total body control and upper back strength on an isolateral basis.

Front Squat

The front squat is a viable alternative to the goblet squat, as it targets many of the same muscle groups. The quadriceps, anterior core, and back muscles are primarily targeted by both be front squat and the goblet squat.

Tempo Back Squat

The tempo back squat can be done to increase quadriceps engagement to induce greater muscle hypertrophy. In addition, lifters can perform tempo back squats to improved balance and stability throughout all ranges of motion in the squat.

More Goblet Squats and Kettlebells!

Take a look at some of our goblet squat articles, as well as these great kettlebell training secrets!

Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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