The goblet squat is becoming a popular variation of the king of exercises, the back squat, and with good reason.
One, they work your whole body like deadlifts.
Two, you need very little space and equipment to do it. Since you only need a single kettlebell (or dumbbell) to do them, they are a perfect choice for a minimalist home gym.
Three, they are special in a few unique ways that can’t be done using other variations.
Here they are:
Benefits of Goblet Squat
1. It’s the Best Squat Variation for Beginners
The fame of the goblet squat comes from a story told by the great strength coach Dan John: when faced with the terrible challenge of teaching 400 athletes the perfect squat mechanics, he tried every squat variation he knew.
Despite his best efforts, nothing was working. Then, during a kettlebell workout, he discovered what he would later call the goblet squat -- purely by chance!
The goblet squat is the perfect squat variation for beginners for the simple reason that it is easy to learn and that it teaches correct squat mechanics by default.
If you’ve ever tried to do the “simple” back squat, you know that there’s a lot of depth to the supposedly simple movement.
For every correct squat, you see dozens of people raising their hips too soon, not going deep enough or doing something else that is 99% sure to give them a bad case of I-need-a-chiropractor-immediately-itis.
And that is exactly why the goblet squat is so good: it fixes all of these.
- If you try to lead your hip and raise your butt too soon, you’ll drop the weight.
- If you bend over too much because your core is too weak, you’ll drop the weight.
- If you have problems with squatting deep, the goblet squat is perfect for building a familiarity with the position, because you can use your elbows to push your knees out. This is a common cue, but not many people can do it without significant training. With the goblet squat, you can do it from the get-go and get a feeling for the correct position.
Many experts like Dr. John Rusin and the aforementioned Dan John recommend mastering the goblet squat first before moving on to back squats.
Dr. Rusin gives a simple test: if you can do 25 goblet squats with 50% of your bodyweight, and with perfect form, you are ready for heavy back squats.
2. It Improves Posture by Strengthening Your Core
The “core” is a term often used in fitness speak, but few people know what it’s supposed to do beyond looking good at the beach.
In essence, the primary function of your core is to prevent the bending of the torso in any direction.
Try it right now: squeeze your core and try to bend in any direction. Not much movement, right?
Our spine is a delicate thing. In order for it to stay uninjured during athletic activities, the muscles around it need to keep it stable; they do that by tightening and preventing movement.
So how does the goblet squat build core strength?
During any squat variation, the load will be slightly in front of your center of gravity, making your torso bend over at a slight angle (during goblet and front squats) or a more pronounced angle (during back squats, especially if done in a powerlifting style).
That load is literally trying to bend your spine.
In order to not do that (and suffer a catastrophic injury), every muscle along the spine tightens to keep its natural S-curve.
That means that your whole core (both the abdominal muscles in the front and the lower back muscles), and your upper back work hard during every loaded squat variation.
However, the variations where the load is held in the front are better for building strength in the upper back, which is crucial during the back squat (but the back squat itself doesn’t do as much to train it).
That is why the goblet squat is such as a great exercise to improve your posture: if you can keep the proper shape during a weighted movement, you will easily be able to keep it in everyday life.
3. It’s the Best Mobility and Activation Tool for the Lower Body
The goblet squat is easy to learn, hard to do wrong and practically ensures good posture -- it is the single best exercise you can do to improve your squat form and mechanics.
Because the weight is held out in front, the upper back gets prepared to handle heavy loads later on, but another, possibly more important, thing happens.
The weight of the front forces you to open your hips and to squat between your legs, not behind them.
This is one of the keys to the perfect squat. It’s easiest to get this by taking a slightly wider squat stance than usual, squatting down and staying there.
You will see that your torso will settle between your legs. The depth will depend on your flexibility, but everyone will experience the same things -- and with time spent in this position, you will gain the ability to go deeper.
In fact, that is one of the best ways to gain flexibility for deep squats and one of the best ways to prime your body for a leg workout.
Try the following as a warm-up on your lower body days: take a kettlebell or a dumbbell, just like you would for a goblet squat, but make sure it’s much lighter.
Squat down, and stay in that position for 30 seconds. The extra weight of the bell will force you deeper into the squat while keeping you in a nice, erect posture. As a side benefit, a few sets of this will warm up your legs nicely and you will build some leg endurance.
Give this exercise a try, especially if you’re suffering from inactive glutes. Trust me, after 30 seconds, you will know exactly where your glutes are and how to activate them.
Another side benefit of activating your glutes and improving your squat mobility is preventing lower back pain.
If you’re suffering from low back pain from sitting too long, the goblet squat is an excellent way to start building those muscles.
How to Do a Proper Goblet Squat
How to Do a Dumbbell Goblet Squat
How to Do a Kettlebell Goblet Squat
Just do it
If you are a beginner to lifting, the goblet squat is the perfect variation to really learn the squat pattern (and build some serious strength: just use a dumbbell over 100 pounds and you’ll see).
If you are serious about lifting, the goblet squat should be in your lower body day warm up. It will keep you mobile and it will activate your muscles for the harder exercises that come later in the workout.
In short, everyone should be using it.
Have you tried goblet squats? Do you currently use them in your workouts? Tell us in the comment below.