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January 07, 2022 9 min read

The goblet squat is an effective exercise for developing the quadriceps to the point of muscle hypertrophy, improving your squat patterning technique to help you with other types of squats, and as a main squatting movement for lifters with injuries or who may not have access to a barbell.

This is a useful squatting variation to try with at-home workout programs, because you only need a single dumbbell, kettlebell, or other heavy object.

Young male athlete practicing goblet squats at the gym with kettlebells.

Learning the Goblet Squat Technique

Just like when you start any new form of exercise, you should take a few precautions to avoid any type of risk of injury to your back or to your shoulders. When beginning your goblet squat session, be sure to do a proper warm-up and learn the proper form so that you can do this exercise in a way that will give you the maximum benefit.

Squats offer a great number of benefits when it comes to improving the health of your shoulders and your spine, improving your full-body strength, and increasing your overall range of motion.

Squats can make your entire body stronger, and the movement might help you experience less pain on a daily basis.

But be sure not to hyperextend your lower back when doing squats. This can place too much strain on your back and lower body, which can sometimes lead to all kinds of serious injuries.

The major function of many types of squats is building overall strength. The goblet squat offers a decent amount of strength carryover to some of the other squat variations you might be doing, such as the snatch, back squat, front squat, the lunge, and the overhead press.

The goblet squat is ideal for  training the strength and stability of your legs and core

Core Stability, Mobility, and Strength

Your abdominals, obliques, and deep core muscles like the transverse abdominis are very important when it comes to squats, deadlifts, kettlebells, barbell overhead exercises,  and other similar exercises.

Your core is considered by some to be the basis for all of your weightlifting strength.

For all types of squats, your core must be able to prevent you from falling forward or backward and getting crushed. Squats generally make your core work a lot harder than in many other types of exercises. Because your torso is elongated, the tension in your deep inner-core muscles will be very intense. The main jobs for your core should be antiextension and antiflexion, which is why some weightlifters train their abs mostly by doing crunches.

A lot of people tend to struggle with at least one of these mobility and stability issues: tight, overlifted pecs that pull the shoulders and upper back forward, a rigid thoracic spine that does not extend, a weak and unstable core, or inflexible hips, knees, and ankles.

Squats can help relieve some of these issues. 

Always start with basic positioning and practice the correct form for this exercise as explained in the step-by-step instructions below. Never just pick up a random weight and expect your body to be able to handle it. Squats can turn you into a stronger, well-rounded athlete, but it can also cause serious injuries if you do them with poor form and without learning the fundamentals.

Extension Training

A lot of people tend to sit hunched forward all day, and then they go straight into the gym and immediately start to train their mirror muscles. Building up to these exercises slowly can be a more effective strategy. If your torso is in constant flexion, your shoulders and scapulae will be pulled forward. 

Squats can help your body learn how to extend. Your thoracic spine and abdominal muscles need to learn how to move backward with as much ease as they flex forward. If you keep your thoracic spine and core strong and flexible, you will have a lot of success with the goblet squat.

How to Do Goblet Squats 

The goblet squat is a very useful exercise for building overall strength and it can also be a good teaching tool to help you learn how to do other squat variations.

Here are some step-by-step instructions of how to do goblet squats:

  1. Set your feet shoulder-width apart as your starting position. 
  2. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell directly under your chin in front of your chest with your elbows tucked in. 
  3. Brace your core, tense your back, and stand as stable as possible with your back straight. Pull your ribs down and engage your abs. Don’t slouch in this position, and squeeze your shoulder blades back to maintain an upright posture.
  4. Before initiating the squat, keep your feet firmly planted, and then twist them outward until you feel your quads, hamstrings, and glutes working. Then, drop down, keeping your torso upright until the bottom of your thighs are parallel to the floor. 
  5. If you can, try to squat deeper by pushing the back of your hamstrings to the back of your calves at the bottom of the squat. The deeper the squat, the better. 
  6. To stand up again, try not to let your hips move backward behind you. 

Some common mistakes made by many lifters is that they fail to keep their hips underneath them and end up letting their chest and torso fall forward. If you do this, it can shift the stress to your hips and lower back rather than your quadriceps (which is the main muscle you are trying to work with goblet squats).

If you get good at doing goblet squats with light weights, work on your mobility before adding any extra weight. Move your hands closer together up and down the weight until you find the lifting position that is most comfortable for you. Some grips might feel a little difficult at first, but you will ultimately benefit from some experimentation.

There are a few other important things to know about goblet squats.

Be aware of your back position. In most exercises, you need to think about  scapular retraction, which refers to the squeezing of the shoulder blades, which is good for your posture. It is very difficult to crunch and contract your abs enough if you are trying too hard to squeeze your shoulder blades.

Some Major Benefits of the Goblet Squat 

The goblet squat is a useful movement for  developing your overall strength.

There are at least five good reasons to add it to your workout routine. These include learning the squat progression, improving your postural strength, enhancing your core strength, easy accessibility, and not as potentially harmful for your lower back. We’ll look at each reason separately.

In terms of learning the squat progression, you can use the load as a counterbalance to assist in squatting with an upright torso, you can maintain a rigid upper back and core (or else the load will pull them forward out of balance) and you can squat deeper in general. The goblet squat teaches you to squat well, which will carry over to your other squat exercises. 

You can improve your postural strength by using the goblet position.

You should always stay squatted with an extended thoracic spine to keep your torso upright and balanced. The goblet squat actually forces you to maintain a more upright posture throughout the exercise, and so you will naturally develop better posture. 

Goblet squats are a good way to increase your core strength.

Like the front squat, the goblet squat is a challenging way to teach lifters (especially beginners) how to brace themselves and not overextend through the spine in the descent, and also to stay balanced and controlled throughout the entire squatting movement.

Goblet squats are very accessible and therefore perfect for home gym owners who don’t even have a barbell.

Whether you have kettlebells, dumbbells, or even heavy rocks or books, goblet squats can easily be done at home as an accessory exercise when you don’t have enough time to make it to the gym. 

One problem with regular back squats is that they load the spine with a lot of weight. Even if you are squatting only 150 pounds (which is not a lot for experienced lifters), that is much more weight than most people can lift in a goblet position. Even compared to front squats, the goblet squat is a safer variation. Considering the manageable load and posture-friendly mechanics, the goblet squat is generally better for your spine. 

Muscles Worked by the Goblet Squat 

The muscle groups worked during the goblet squat include the quadriceps, the glutes, and the core muscles. Squats are a knee-dominant movement. Your quads are used to flex your knees, so goblet squats work your quads a lot. Like any squat, the glutes also work to extend your hips. The deeper the squat, the more glutes are involved as the degrees of hip flexion and extension increase. Your core muscles are also engaged when you maintain a rigid torso and strong core to keep your pelvis and spine stabilized throughout the range of motion. 

Who Should Do the Goblet Squat? 

In general, the benefits of the goblet squat are based on each lifter’s goals and abilities. For strength and power athletes such as powerlifters or strongmen, the goblet squat can be used to improve squat mechanics. It can also be used to prepare the body for heavy squats or improve the muscular development of the lower body. 

For older lifters, the goblet squat can be a safer type of squat to do. Even Olympic weightlifters can use the goblet squat because it forces a more vertical squatting position, increases knee flexion, and is an anteriorly loaded squat (such as the front squat and the clean). The goblet squat can be used as a primer movement, a positional strength movement, or an assistance exercise in almost all weightlifting programs.

As mentioned above, even advanced lifters can build substantial muscle with goblet squats. They might need to use heavier loads to elicit muscle growth, but 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.

Goblet Squat Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations 

Below are three sets, reps, and weight recommendations for coaches and athletes to properly design a goblet squat training program. The below guidelines are some loose recommendations for designing a workout routine.

To Gain Muscle 

You can do the goblet squat to increase your muscle mass and hypertrophy with 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 Squat Form 

The goblet squat is a good option for lifters who struggle to load their quads in the squat or who experience 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 try slow tempos and pauses to improve your muscle coordination and control.

To Improve Your Muscle Endurance 

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

A Few Goblet Squat Variations 

Below are a few other goblet squat variations that coaches and athletes can use to increase strength, muscle mass, and functional fitness. When you are ready to change things up and progress to a different squat variation, you may want to give one of these variations a try. 

Heel Elevated Goblet Squat 

By elevating your heels in the goblet squat, you can reach deeper ranges of knee flexion and maintain a more upright torso positioning, both of which can increase the loading burden on your quadriceps.

Close-Stance Goblet Squat 

A more narrow stance can lead to greater degrees of knee flexion, which results in increased quadricep engagements and utilization in the squat. This can be helpful to do with elevated heels if your main goal is quadriceps development.

Barbell Front Squat 

The barbell front squat is a front-loaded squat variation that applies to most barbell sports. It allows for greater loading than a goblet squat. This is important for general strength development and it can be done to build maximal strength for power sports such as Olympic weightlifting.

Zercher Squat 

The Zercher squat can be used to build upper back strength, thoracic spine integrity, and increase the size of your quadriceps and glutes. Like the Jefferson squat, the load placement minimizes the amount of strain on your lower back and forces you to stay more vertical. 

Sandbag Front Squat 

Sandbag training can be a good way to increase your strength and core stability, and diversify your workout routine. You can perform front-loaded squats with sandbags to get many of the same benefits as you do with a regular goblet squat. It is important to stay upright and go into knee flexion to target the quadriceps.

Final Verdict

So now you know, Goblet squats can get those glutes and legs absolutely shredded and strong. But nobody wants to show up to "leg day" empty handed.

Fueling up with the  ENHANCED PRE-WORKOUT STACK beforehand will guarantee you can keep your leg muscles pumping longer and harder so you can get more out of your training.