goblet squat
Strength Training

The Ultimate Goblet Squat Exercise Guide

The squat is a foundational compound exercise for developing strength, power, and muscle throughout your entire body. While the traditional squat with a barbell across your trapezius is the most popular form of exercise, this version is also potentially harmful to the lower back.

The goblet squat provides an alternative that provides you with all the benefits of the traditional back squat without compromising the spine.

Benefits of Goblet Squats

1. Less Spinal Load

The goblet squat transfers the exercise load from your spine to the front of your body, removing the compression pressure of barbell squats. This makes the exercise a lot more spine-friendly than the conventional back squat.

2. Core Strength

With the goblet squat, you are holding a single dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest. This requires a lot more core strength than the back squat. The instability of the goblet squat will also help to strengthen your entire core region.

3. Less Injury Prone

You are less likely to suffer an injury with goblet squats. If you get into difficulty at any time during the exercise, you can simply drop the weight to abandon the exercise. Try doing that while performing the back squat and you will be in for a serious injury.

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Muscle Worked

goblet squats muscles worked 1

The major muscles worked by the goblet squat are the glutes. This muscle is the largest in your body and is the main driver of your lower body power. For many people, however, the glute remains underdeveloped.

This can lead to chronic weakness and muscle imbalance. Doing exercises such as squats will help to keep your glutes strong and powerful. Working your glute or butt muscles will also keep your backside looking terrific.

Secondary muscles worked by the goblet squat are the quadriceps and hamstrings. Having the load at the front of your body will also work your core muscles. Performing the exercise with a kettlebell rather than a dumbbell in your hands will work the core more due to the instability of the load.

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How to Perform the Goblet Squat

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and a dumbbell or kettlebell held at the level of your chest. Angle your feet slightly outward. The weight should be resting against your body.
  2. Hinging from the hips, drop down into a parallel level squat position. Keep your torso upright, keeping a neutral spine position. 
  3. From the bottom position, push through your glutes and heels to return to the starting position.


A problem people often have when doing the squat movement is knowing how far to go down in the squat descent. When you are doing the goblet squat, however, you can use your elbows and knees as a guide. Go down until your elbows touch your knees. If you use that as your guide you will be able to achieve a uniform squat depth on each and every rep.

You can also experiment with your foot width and angling to see how it affects the different parts of your quadriceps. Generally, the wider your feet are apart, the more you will work the outer quads.

Related Post: 8 Reasons To Add Close Stance Squats To Your Leg Workout

You can do the goblet squat with either a dumbbell or a kettlebell. Try both to find out which version is more comfortable for you.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

1. Back Rounding

The most common mistake that people make when doing this exercise is rounding the back and not using the proper squat form in the descent. When you have the load in front of your body there is more of a tendency to lean forward, especially when you start using a heavy weight. That makes it all the more important to focus on keeping your lower back upright and your shoulders pulled back throughout the entire movement. 

2. Not Having a Tight Core

Keeping your torso upright also involves maintaining a tight core. Make sure that your core is tight at every stage of the exercise, especially as you are driving back up out of the bottom position. You should also keep your chest tall and your eyes looking directly ahead.

3. Knees Caving In

Another common problem with this, and all other, forms of the squat, is having the knees cave in on the drive up out of the bottom position. This can potentially bad result in a knee injury. To avoid knee pain, concentrate on pushing your knees out as you come out of the squat.

Goblet Squat Variations

Standard Dumbbell Squat

  1. Stand with feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart, and a pair of dumbbells held at your sides.
  2. Drop down into a parallel squat position, so that the dumbbells are about an inch from the ground.
  3. Push through the glutes, quads, and heels to return to the standard dumbbell squat start position.

Resistance Band Goblet Squat

  1. Stand with a looped resistance band under your feet and held both hands in front of your chest, just as f you were doing the kettlebell or dumbbell squats. Your feet should be hip-width apart and pointed slightly outward.
  2. Lower down into a squat position, stopping when your elbows make contact with your knees.
  3. Push through the heels to return to the starting position. 

Dumbbell Squat to Curl

  1. Stand with dumbbells in your hands, feet shoulder-width, and arms by your sides.
  2. Drop the hips down and slightly back to descend into a squat position.
  3. Push out of the squat to return to the start position.
  4. Curl both arms up to shoulder level.
  5. Lower and move into your next squat.

Final Thoughts

The goblet squat is an effective exercise and is an excellent variation of the standard barbell squat. This compound movement allows you to get a similar load to your glutes and quads without placing undue stress on your lower back. You will not be able to use as much as you can with the traditional squat but the load will be more targeted on the muscle you are working on. 

Related Post: 10 Amazing Barbell Squats Alternatives and Benefits

Frequently Asked Questions

Do goblet squats lose weight?

Goblet squats can help you to lose weight but will not do so by themselves. This is a compound exercise that will burn a large number of calories. To lose weight, though, you also need to be reducing your caloric intake by about 500 calories per day and doing cardio exercise. In order to lose weight, you should be doing your goblet squats with a relatively light kettlebell or dumbbell and with faster, higher reps.

How heavy should a goblet squat be?

The amount of weight you use on the goblet squat depends on the goal of your workout. if you are primarily doing the exercise to build muscle and gain strength, you should use a weight that will only allow 8-10 reps with proper form. If, however, your training goals are cardio benefit and weight loss, use a lighter weight that will allow you to do as many as 30 reps. Ideally, you should pyramid your sets so that you reduce the rep count and use a slightly heavier weight on every set.

Do goblet squats build muscle?

Goblet squats are one of the best leg exercises to build muscle and lower body strength so long as you are using a heavy enough weight. After doing a warm-up set with a lighter weight, do 4-5 sets with a heavier weight kettlebell that limits you to 8-10 reps per set. You need to be careful that you do not round your back when you are using a heavy weight. Keep a tight core and pull your shoulder blade back throughout this lower body exercise. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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