Goblet Squats: Simple But Effective


To people of all ages and walks of life struggling with squats, I have a simple suggestion for you, goblet squats.  The squat is one of the best exercises.  Not only does it increase size and strength, but also is one of the best movement analyzers available. 

Squats will draw out:

  • Muscle Imbalances
  • Mobility Issues
  • Core Activation
  • Correct walking/running mechanics
  • Provide jumping/landing feedback
  • Thoracic mobility
  • Postural Issues
  • Gluteal Activation

I could add more, but I want to remain on topic.  The point is squats are awesome.  But since there are so many variables that can effect your squat, and safety, many people struggle with them.  In this post we are going to analyze goblet squats and explain why you should implement them if you have trouble with barbell squats.    


How To Do Goblet Squats

The beauty of goblet squats is how simple they are to implement.  Simply grab a dumbbell or kettlebell, preferably dumbbell, and hold it up against your chest.  Place your feet shoulder width apart, toes just slightly pointed out.  Now squat down and up. 

It sounds pretty simple but there is actually a lot going on here.  The heels have to stay down.  The chest has to stay up and both ends of the dumbbell have to remain in contact with the body.  The back must remain flat and the tension should primarily be felt in your legs. 

Just because an exercise is simple does not mean that it is not effective.  Goblet squats are very effective.   


Why Are Goblet Squats So Effective?



With a goblet squat, we have to maintain a nearly vertical torso, which requires a lot of thoracic, hip and ankle mobility.  Generally, most people have poor mobility in these areas to begin with.  However, with a barbell back squat you would not be able to see this. 

The back squat allows the lifter to lean forward more which allows the lifter to get away with poor form.  A classic example is the guy in the gym who loads the barbell with a ridiculous amount of weight and then squats down about 1/4 of the distance with his chest parallel to the floor.  We obviously know how this is going to turn out. 

Goblet squats don’t allow us to get away with this.  If a lifter leans too far forward, the dumbbell will come off of their chest.  Thus putting light on this issue with very little weight or safety concerns.



The goblet squat also is one of the best tools for correcting common depth problems with the squat.  Depth is probably the most common areas that people have trouble with during squats.  This is where you will see the exercise make or break people.  If a lifter cannot achieve proper depth, then they will either round their back in the bottom position, or resort to the dreaded 1/2 squat. 

The problem with depth is that it requires more than just good mobility.  It also requires proper muscle coordination and activation.  When most people perform “glute” exercises, they are actually working their hamstrings.  This causes a muscle inhibition of the glutes and over-activation of the iliopsoas.  So we can conclude that the problem is also neurological as well as physiological. 

Goblet squats help to address this because with a goblet squat we can achieve greater depth than we can with a regular squat.  If form starts to deteriorate, the working weight is light enough that proper cues and corrections can be made.  You can bet that if you can do full depth goblet squats with a 100 lb. dumbbell and no technical errors, you barbell squat will improve dramatically.     


How To Implement Into A Training Program

Implementing goblet squats into your training program can be a little tricky.  They are great to use as part of a warmup with light weight.  They are also great to use at the end of a workout for muscular endurance or even as some form of conditioning. 

I find them to be most effective, especially for a beginner, as a workout of their own.  In his book Mass Made Simple, author Dan John describes what he calls the 6 week goblet squat plan.  In this plan you perform goblet squats for 6 weeks in order to develop and increase your squat.  Here’s the catch though, you only do goblet squats for those 6 weeks, nothing else. 

This may sound simple, maybe even too simple, but this is why it is so effective.  When I first start a beginner on squats, the biggest problem I hear about is how technical the exercise actually is.  It takes plenty of practice in order to make the squat second nature.  Just ask any Olympic lifter. 

With goblet squats though, there are just three things to remember:

  1. Keep Your Heels Down
  2. Keep Your Back Flat
  3. Don’t let the dumbbell, or kettlebell, leave your chest

This simplicity make goblet squats very effective for learning to squat.       


Will They Increase My Barbell Squat?

Goblet squats when done with perfect form and heavy weight will absolutely increase your barbell squat.  In fact it is rather amazing considering that not much weight is done with goblet squats. 

The fact of the matter is not how much weight you lift, but how you lift it.  Goblet squats help you not as much with brute strength, but with good form.  They help you to move better.  Moving better is the most important variable for all athletes and non-athletes alike.  Moving better meant more work is done with less effort, keeping you in the game longer.  Moving better also means less chance of injury. 

Assess yourself and your squat.  Is it going well?  Have you added a lot of weight recently, or have you always gotten a nagging injury around the same weight range every time?  Rather than assessing which assistance exercise will add the next 5 pounds to your squat, why not just work on moving better instead.  You will be surprised how much stronger you get and how much better you feel.    

2 thoughts on “Goblet Squats: Simple But Effective

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *