Sportswoman doing kettlebell goblet squat

Goblet Squats: Do Them The Right Way

If you're anything like me, squats are your jam. Back in my early fitness days, I was all about them, pushing myself to see how much iron I could lift. It was inspiring to watch others in the gym stacking plates on the barbell, but let's face it, back squats can be pretty intimidating.

But what if I told you that you could reap the squat's rewards without the bulky barbell and intimidating weights? That's where the goblet squat swoops in and steals the show!

So, let's dive into it...

Unpacking the Goblet Squat

Goblet squats offer a splendid twist on the classic back squat, delivering strength and muscle gains to various parts of your body:

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Calves
  • Back
  • Forearms
  • Shoulders
  • Core

It's practically a full-body fiesta!

Now, the real difference between these squats lies in how you cradle the weight and the magic it works on those muscles. In a back squat, the barbell rests on your upper back, challenging your core to prevent any backward wobbles. This setup leans your torso forward, giving your glutes extra attention.

Enter the goblet squat. Here, you hold the weight in front of your body, engaging your core and back to stay upright. With less forward lean, it's your quadriceps that take center stage.

What's even better? You can kiss that hefty barbell goodbye and embrace kettlebells or dumbbells, making goblet squats incredibly accessible.

Goblet Squat Gains: More Than Meets the Eye

Squats are the rockstars of effective and functional exercises, boosting your fitness and flexibility. Goblet squats are no exception!

They're muscle and strength builders, just like their back squat cousin. Plus, they up your game in athletic feats like jumping and sprinting.

For beginners, goblet squats are your golden ticket. They're far less intimidating than back squats, and I, for one, wish I'd known about them when I started my fitness journey.

Here's a safety bonus: holding the weight in front reduces stress on your spine, lowering the risk of injury compared to barbell back squats.

And there's more! Thanks to the front load, you get an extended range of motion. Bonus tip: for an extra challenge, try knocking out 100 goblet squats against the clock. You'll be gasping for air by rep 25 – it's a guaranteed workout!

Cracking the Goblet Squat Code

All you need is a dumbbell or kettlebell and a smidge of space to get started. Let's break down the goblet squat:

Position your feet hip to shoulder-width apart, toes slightly angled outward.

Hold the weight at your chest, like you're cradling a massive goblet for a royal toast. If it's a kettlebell, you can grab the bell with both hands or clutch the handle with both hands, keeping your elbows earthbound. For a dumbbell, cup your hands under one end, ensuring your elbows point downward.

Begin with a few warm-up reps if needed, and don't shy away from lowering the weight if it feels too heavy – leave the ego lifting behind.

Brace your core, puff your chest slightly, retract those shoulders, and gaze forward. Maintain a straight spine, no arching in the lower back or hunching the shoulders. This ensures safety and activates the right muscles.

Inhale, push your hips back, and bend your knees as you descend into a squat. Keep the weight close to your body.

Press through the mid-foot and heel, squeezing those glutes to stand tall. Exhale as you reach the top, ready for the next rep.

Keep that chest up – imagine someone's reading your T-shirt throughout the movement to maintain an upright posture.

Start with 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps, adjusting as per your fitness level. Increase sets, reps, or weight as you progress, with recommended 30-60 seconds of rest between sets.

Dodging Goblet Squat Slip-Ups

While goblet squats may seem simpler than back squats, proper form remains paramount. Avoid pitfalls for maximum gains and injury prevention:

Keep It Close: The further the weight from your body, the more you engage arm and shoulder muscles while making it tougher to stay upright. Stick to the torso for optimum results and progression.

Stay Upright: Envision someone in front trying to decipher your T-shirt while you squat. This mental cue keeps your chest high and discourages rounding the shoulders or back. If you tend to lean forward, try squatting in front of a mirror to self-correct.

Feet on Ground: The forward-pulling weight may tip you onto your toes. Counteract this by engaging your core and back to shift your center of gravity away from your toes. Drive through your mid-foot or heels, not your toes.

Knees Aligned: Don't let your knees cave inward while squatting, a sign of weak glutes. Work on guiding your knees outward if they wander, slowing down the movement. It's a game-changer for knee safety.

Embrace the Depth: Deep squats may pose a challenge, but they work wonders. Descend until your elbows cozy up to your knees before the upward push. If mobility is an issue, consider working on it.

Leveling Up Your Goblet Squats

Once you've nailed the basic goblet squat, it's time to level up:

Swap the weight for a barbell. Rest it on your upper chest, elbows under the bar, palms upward – this tests wrist and shoulder mobility.

Use plates under your heels to emphasize quads more.

Vary the tempo: slow the descent, pause at the bottom, or explode back up. It makes the weight feel heavier and sparks progress.

With goblet squats, it's all about mastering the art and building a strong foundation. So, ditch the absolutes and keep evolving your squat game.

James Freeman


Liam Marshall, the friendly fitness coach, has spent 14 years sharing his love for sports and fitness. With degrees in sports science, he crafts workouts that fit like your favorite jeans. Beyond the gym, he organizes sports clinics and tech-savvy fitness apps that motivate people worldwide. He's all about making fitness doable for everyone, and it's not just about bodies – it's boosting confidence. In 2019, he scored the "Virginia Fitness Coach of the Year" award. Outside the fitness world, he loves family time and hikes in Shenandoah National Park. Liam's journey from a small-town fitness fan to a big-time coach is all about passion, inspiring people to see fitness as a body-and-mind thing. Catch him on Instagram to stay in the loop!