The goblet squat revolutionized the way squats are being performed and taught worldwide after the great Dan John came up with it. If you don’t know what a Goblet squat is, I’m getting Dan John to come over to your house and personally put you through his goblet squat workout—but it’s probably more realistic if you just Google the name. Now! Ironically, though Dan John stumbled upon the goblet squat by chance.
“Years ago, I was faced with teaching 400 athletes to squat correctly. I attempted move after move and lift after lift, yet I failed every time. I saw glimmers of hope from teaching one kid the Zercher squat, and a few picked up the pattern when we lifted Kettlebells off the ground, but nothing worked.
The answer was somewhere in between a Zercher and a potato squat. It came to me when I was resting between swings with the weight held in front of me like I was holding the Holy Grail. I squatted down from there, pushed my knees out with my elbows, and behold—the goblet squat.”
You can say he choose wisely. Here we’ll dive into what a goblet squat is, how to do it, common mistakes, and some variations to spice things up.
WHAT IS A GOBLET SQUAT
This exercise is an anterior-loaded squat variation performed with either a kettlebell or dumbbell. Holding the weight anteriorly encourages you to stand up straighter, get the upper back tight and puff out. The weight is a counterbalance that encourages you to sit between your legs and not over your knees.
HOW TO DO THE GOBLET SQUAT
- Set your feet in your preferred position and grip a dumbbell or kettlebell under your chin with your elbows by your side.
- Engage your anterior core and get your chest up and shoulders down.
- Then grip the floor with your feet and squat down between your knees, keeping your chest up.
- Once you have reached your preferred depth, push your feet through the floor, squat, and finish by squeezing your glutes at lockout.
- Reset and repeat for desired reactions.
MUSCLES TRAINED BY THE GOBLET SQUAT
The goblet squat is a predominantly lower-body move, but because you are holding the weight anteriorly in your hands, there is some upper-body action too. Here are the major muscles trained by the holy grail of squats.
- Quadriceps: Most squats are knee-dominant exercises, and the goblet squat is no exception.
- Hamstrings: Minimally involved in almost all squatting variations, but the hamstrings provide eccentric strength when lowering into a squat and assist the glutes a little with hip extension.
- Glutes: The glutes work overtime to extend the hips as you squat up from the hole to the lockout position
- Core: Goblet squat is an anteriorly loaded squat variation that requires you to maintain an upright torso and an engaged anterior core.
- Upper Back: Because you are holding the weight in front of you, your upper back isometrically contracts to keep the weight in place and for good posture during the set.
- Forearms & Biceps: If you are holding a kettlebell, good grip strength is required to keep the kettlebell in the goblet position.
4 GOBLET SQUAT BENEFITS
The beauty of the goblet squat is that almost anyone can do it, and after a few pointers from a YouTube video and this article, most lifters are good to go. Here are a few more benefits of incorporating the exercise into your routine.
- Beginner Friendly: The anterior loaded position of the goblet squat acts as a counterbalance allowing you to squat between your knees and not over your knees for better squat form. If you squat over your knees, you’ll get instant feedback and a face full of the floor. The goblet squat is a great gateway exercise to more complex squatting exercises like the barbell squat.
- Increases Your Postural Strength: By nature of the anterior loaded position, you must keep an engaged upper back, upright posture, and an extended thoracic spine. If you can’t do any of those things, the weight will fall out of your hands, which could be embarrassing.
- Anterior Core Strength: You’ll feel the anterior core magic when you get set up with the goblet squat. By holding the weight in the goblet position, your core will engage to stop collapsing forward. Then you need to brace and prevent over-extension of the spine as you lower into a squat and stay balanced throughout the exercise.
- Lower Back Friendly: The barbell back squat is great, but there is a compressive load on the spine, and if your lower back is angry, this is a no-go. Enter the goblet squat. Because you are not using as much load and anterior weight position, the lower back has a less compressive load. For many lifters, the goblet squat allows you to train the squat movement without lower back discomfort.
This movement is almost the perfect squat teaching drill and a great exercise to add muscle-building volume to your quads and glutes. Let’s face it, it is a hard exercise to do wrong, but there are a few things to look out for to get the most out of this exercise.
- Going To Light: When you’re a beginning lifter, it is OK to go light to get the form and technique down, but if you’re an intermediate to advanced lifter, there is no excuse. Goblet squat is one of those exercises where a heavier load can improve form because the weight acts as a counterbalance. There is no need to pump out mindless reps here; load up and be more intentional between the 8-15 rep range.
- Using Partial Range of Motion: Squat depth is touchy. The goblet squat with its anterior loading is more depth friendly than other squat variations, so there is no need to half-rep. Getting elbows to the inside of your knees at the bottom of your squat is doable. If not, work on hip mobility.
- It’s Not a Good Morning: The main thing with the goblet squat is the anterior loading and the ability to keep a more upright torso when you squat. You must avoid purposely tilting your torso forward or shooting your hips backward like a hinge. Squatting between your knees and keeping your upper back engaged will help here.
The goblet squat is not a great exercise for strength because dumbbells only get so big, and when they do, it isn’t easy to get into position and hold. It IMO takes away from the effectiveness of this exercise. Better to program the goblet squat for muscle and reinforce better technique.
- For Beginners and for Better Technique: More reps (and not less) are better when learning a new movement or wanting to improve your squat form. Two to four sets of eight to 12 reps work well here.
- For Muscle: Challenging weight, time under tension, and volume are essential factors when your goal is building muscle. Three to four sets of between 10 to 15 reps with a moderate to heavy dumbbell or kettlebell are needed here.
GOBLET SQUAT VARIATIONS
Variety is the spice of life, and it’s no different with the goblet squat. Doing the same but a little differently will keep you engaged, and you’ll stay longer aboard the gain train.