Exercise Technique: Goblet Squat

The goblet squat can be performed either with a dumbbell (DB) or kettlebell (KB). It gets its name for the way you hold the weight, much like you’d hold a two handed goblet.

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Mobility is key to the goblet squat. Modifications are possible, but typically before any weight should be used full mobility (i.e. range of motion) should be achieved. Once you can perform a healthy range of motion weight can be added to increase the difficulty of this mobility focused strength exercise.

Start position

Feet should be about hips distance apart or slightly wider. If using a DB stand it on end and grasp it underneath one end of the DB. If using a KB hold it with both hands by the handle. Regardless of weight type, the weight should be close to your body and elbows should be tucked in. Pull your shoulders back slightly to maintain a straight back as you go through the motion. As you go down your butt should be sinking to the floor to at least past knee height, while you keep your feet flat on the ground. Your back should stay nice and flat with your chest out and shoulders slightly back.

End position

Elbows should end inside your legs with your butt almost to the ground. This is the true end range of motion. However, if this is too deep for you that’s ok. You can also end where your elbows touch the top of your knees. If performing this modification your thighs are either parallel or just below parallel with the floor at the end position as well. Either way your back needs to remain nice and straight with your shoulders back and chest up.

Up position

Once at the end position, extend your hips and knees. Drive your hips upward and forward until you reach the start position. The back needs to remain straight and the weight needs to continue to touch your chest. Feel like you are exploding through your feet as your head shoots straight up.

Common mistakes

The most common mistake with the goblet squat is not getting your butt low enough and just bending forward in the back, which keeps your hips higher than your knees. This is very hard on your low back as you move towards the end position and will prevent you from safely going heavier. Likewise, when moving back to the up position, many people lean way forward moving the weight away from their chest so they end up lifting their hips first and straightening their legs before standing up. Again, this is very hard on your low back and will prevent you from lifting heavier. Another common mistake is allowing your knees to cave in towards each other during the up phase of the movement. This is not healthy for your knees and the weight is likely too heavy so hop in front of a mirror to watch for this and grab a lighter weight.

What it works

The goblet squat works more than people think. It not only engages your quadriceps, but will strengthen your hips, glutes, hamstrings, calves, lats and core. It is a very important exercise to master prior to lifting with a barbell. The goblet squat technique helps novices master the barbell lifting motion with less weight in a much safer position, before progressing up to a weighted bar for front or back squats. In the end, when you can perform a goblet squat perfectly with a heavy weight (50-85+ pounds) for a high amount of reps you’re ready to perform barbell based lifts.

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