I am of the belief that no one, and I mean NO ONE is above the goblet squat. No one is too strong, too mobile, too in shape, or too advanced to grab a dumbbell or kettlebell and drop into the goblet squat.
Just about everyone I see as a personal training client will either perform goblet squat variations throughout their programming, or show me what they have for this movement as an assessment tool.
I even have my super advanced clients give me a few of these from time to time in a conditioning scenario so I can really see whats going on in their comfort zone of squatting.
The goblet squat showcases a plethora of information from a student to a teacher.
World renowned strength and conditioning coach, Dan John has been largely responsible for popularizing this fundamental movement pattern with load for people all along the spectrum of fitness and strength levels of advancement.
But why the goblet squat??
Why not put the barbell on your back and just get down and dirty?
I agree that the family of barbell squat variation has it’s place, but when we look at the continuum of progressions and regressions in regards to the squat, the goblet squat reigns supreme as the largest bang for you buck for the majority fitness enthusiasts. I assess that too many people keep breaking down technique of the back and front squat when in reality, very few actual people are fit or confident enough to step under the bar at their local gym on their own.
My squat continuum is as follows for my students…
But before that, its important that I note each of them has a firm grasp of a proper squat before the even look at a barbell, and as I grow as a coach, I am more and more inclined to make people insanely good at the goblet squat before showing them how to approach and use the bar.
My Squat Continuum
NOVICE SQUAT VARIATIONS <—> Bodyweight Assisted Squat to elevation with Partner <—> TRX assisted squat <—> goblet squat variations with dumbbell, kettlebell, or small plate <—> offset and double kettlebell variations <—> zercher squat variation <—> front squat variations <—> back squat variations <—> ADVANCED SQUAT VARIATIONS
This is just the continuum that works for me, and I find it effective for most people with general goals of moving, looking, and feeling better. Some people are more well equipped and thrive with different loading strategies, but the goblet squat sits right in the middle and can cover more ground up and down the continuum of regression and progression.
Why is it so versatile?
1.) Loading it with a kettlebell or dumbbell doesn’t require the upper extremity mobility and strength that the back and front squat require. Therefore, just about anyone can start with one of the following variations and find success and training effect.
2.) By default, it locks in the anterior core, creating a spine thats closer to neutral and abs that mimic a more plank like engagement.
3.) It doesn’t require elite motion in the ankles, hips, and knees to get into proper position.
4.) Regressing back to a simpler variation or progressing to a more advanced technique in the goblet squat are easy changes to make happen.
5.) All you need for the basic goblet squat is a kettlebell or dumbbell.
6.) If the traditional barbell squat variations hurt or intimidate you, we can often get similar training effects from the goblet squat.
The real bottom line is that the squat is a fundamental human movement pattern that everyone who is born will need almost everyday throughout their lifetime. We use the squat to sit down, stand up, retrieve something from the ground, put something back on the ground, and effectively move through life.
It is my belief that we all should work on our squat patterning in some capacity nearly every single day to improve the quality of our lives.
The goblet squat truly is the most versatile way for the majority of this earth’s population to both strengthen this everyday movement that we need, and ensure we have the movement and stability to perform those everyday tasks throughout our lifetime.
Below are 11 ways you can goblet squat, with video demonstrations that provide optimal technique.
11 WAYS TO GOBLET SQUAT
1.) The Traditional Dumbbell Goblet Squat – Many times when a client comes to me without any history of pain, and appears to have a relatively decent level of fitness and strength, I will have them drop into a regular old dumbbell goblet squat with a lightish dumbbell. This shows me so much. I can see what their aptitude is for a good squat, as well as see joint restrictions and strength deficiencies. This squat here can be put into just about anyone’s strength and conditioning program and deliver a training effect. This video here displays the basic dumbell goblet squat which can be loaded as heavy as you can carry in this position with good posture. This means absolutely no leaning back into extension because it’s too heavy. Adjust reps and sets according to you goals and needs.
2.) The Paused Goblet Squat – I use this squat with many students who can definitely get into position, but need more strength and control throughout the entirety of the squat. When talking about owning your squat and not letting it get away from you in the hole, there’s arguably no better way to improve this deficiency than the paused squat. You can add in pauses anywhere from 1 to 10 seconds and get a solid result, but it’s important to identify your ideal depth before pausing, I suggest holding tension around parallel as shown in the video below.
3.) The Horizontal Kettlebell Goblet Squat – I found this techinique while experimenting with a client who had a pretty beat up wrist from golf. This woman was a competitive athlete, but didn’t quite have any true need whatsoever that warranted moving on to the barbell. She did however need to squat in some capacity to keep moving well and gain strength in her lower body. Every single way to hold on to the dumbbell hurt her wrist except this grip which she accidentally tried while moving the bell around. We didn’t have any sandbags, weighted vests, barbells, or medicine balls to load up the squat which she was prepared for, but this grip worked wonders. The bottom of the kettlebell rests against the sternum area, and the grip resembles a safety squat bar. Give it a try if you have a cranky wrist or just want to mix it up with the kettlebell placement.
4.) The Sideways Goblet Squat With Band – This has become a big hit with my female training population as I constantly strive to provide the biggest bang for their buck in terms of glute activation and development. By adding the band around the top of the feet for the lateral step, you immediately get the glute medius (outside part of the glutes) fired up before dropping into the hole of the goblet squat. If you do 5 or 6 steps and squats each way, you’ve got yourself a solid set of goblet squats with added ass engagement. Make sure the band is both not too strong where you can’t get into your optimal squat stance, but also not too light where it feels like a rubber band and doesn’t require any strength to get a step in.
5.) The Goblet Elevator Squat – This is an absolutely evil way to make the goblet squat harder and ensure constant tension throughout the movement. I tell my students to go up and down “3 floors” on the elevator. This means drop down into the bottom of the squat, come up a few inches to the first floor, then back to the “ground floor” or bottom of the squat again, up again close to the top…but not quite…then back to the bottom…then all the way back to the top or lock out position. That is one rep. Between 5-8 reps is plenty for this killer. I took this variation from Ben Bruno, who I think did this with front squats like the beast that he is.
6.) The Goblet Squat With Band Around Shins – Putting the band here is a wonderful teacher. I agree that the cue of screwing the feet outwardly into the floor and pushing the knees out can be useful for some folks, but putting another piece of equipment in the mix to add resistance against the internal caving of the knees can turn on those glutes and put you in a better situation to grove the squat pattern with optimal positioning. I will do this with folks who have a difficult time identifying what a good, strong squat should feel like, and for those struggling to drop the goblet squat optimally between the thighs without knees caving in. Those who have weak external hip rotators can benefit with this variation when they are ready.
7.) Goblet Squat with Slow Eccentric Control – The eccentric focus of the squat has gotten all of the attention recently and deservedly so. Great coaches around the world are sick and tired of athletes of all kinds loading up the bar without owning every inch of their depth into the hole of the squat. Think crossfit athletes with an ass that falls to the ground 2x speed after half a squat. Cal Dietz and the whole triphasic crew has done a absolutely fantastic job at breaking down the importance of eccentric variability in regards to athletic development. I strongly encourage you to check that shit out if becoming a more explosive athlete is what you’re in to. Either way, for strength gain, kinesthetic awareness, hypertrophy gains, and overall squat development, give these bad boys a try.
8.) The Kettlebell Goblet Squat With Lowering – This exercise was one that I stole from one of my former strength coaches, Tony Gentilcore. I love the two part component of this exercise, and I admittedly didn’t give it enough credit until I implemented them into my programming for a month. Once you really slow this exercise down, a couple of amazing things happen. For starters, you get to hang out at the bottom of your perfectly executed squat for a little while. This provides a ton of benefit in and of itself, but then you throw in the controlled kettlebell lowering, and your abs start working overtime. In a very similar fashion to the pulse, you put the weight further away from you center, forcing your whole body to resist the weight pulling you off line.
9.) The Kettlebell Goblet Squat With Pulse – This is an exercise that can be performed with either a light kettlebell or a 2.5-10lb plate. This is a fantastic variation that tends to be a perfect warmup or pre-work squat variation to prep for bigger loads. The stop at the bottom allows you to begin getting comfortable staying down there, in addition to owning the other variable, which is moving the load away from the body. Basically you are planking and squatting at the same time. What more could you want to get you want out of your pre-squat routine? I love programming this in for folks who aren’t natural squatters, but have the awareness, the stability, and the mobility to get down in this position after getting their body temp ramped up. Throw these in if you need more anterior core stability or want to feel yourself own that bottom position even more.
10.) The Goblet Squat to a Box – This is another excellent teaching tool to program into you or your clients beoginner progarams to identify appropriate depth. Often times you’ll have situations where you or your student has the capability to achieve and perform proper squats, yet the lack the body awareness to understand where they should start owning the bottom portion. A box around parallel will add that often needed external component to make you comfortable understanding where “ideal” is for you. Everyone is a tad different, but around parallel is a good place to start with the goblet squat to the box.
11.) The Stability Ball Goblet Squat – This was another movement that came out of the necessity for adaptation in a client that was weak and lacked the strength/body awareness to achieve proper squat depth. This variation has become a valuable tool for me in coaching the elderly and sedentary population who have father time and gravity working against their strength/mobility, and also present neurological perceived threat which stops them from moving into this depth just out of the blue. I love loading this variation with beginners who are almost ready for the elevated goblet box squat, but need to overcome some neurological hurdles to become comfortable with lower and lower depth. The stability ball provides a cushion and a failsafe component that tends to provide an extra push back up into the concentric portion of the exercise. For this reason, I give this to beginner clients who are new to exercise or have limitations that prevent optimal motion to perform the squat.
There we have it. The goblet squat displayed in 11 different ways. If you have any questions, ask us in the comments section below.