goblet squat

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This Move Targets Your Core, Glutes, and Lower Body All at Once

Don't skip goblet squats: Find out what makes this squat variation stand out and how to pull them off with perfect form.

By Renee CherryApril 29, 2024


Given the squat’s reputation as a foundational exercise, and more specifically, a functional strength training move, it’s only natural that it’s inspired spin-offs to challenge your muscles further. Goblet squats, one of the most popular variations of the exercise, has become a classic in its own right.

As with other riffs on the squat, goblet squats fire up major muscles of your lower body, but there’s more to the story. This comprehensive guide to the goblet squat will cover the muscles it works, form tips, and how to effectively add goblet squats to your workouts.

What Is a Goblet Squat and What Muscles Do Goblet Squats Work?

The goblet squat’s key differentiating factor from regular bodyweight squats is the addition of an external load. Throughout the movement, you hold a weight in front of your chest, similar to how you might theoretically support the liquid-bearing portion of an oversized goblet. 

While you may associate squats with lower body gains, the goblet squat is a full-body exercise. As with other squats, “goblet squats work muscles such as your quads, your calves, your glutes, and your core,” says Peloton instructor Bradley Rose

The benefits of adding goblet squats to your routine go beyond muscle growth. “The compound movement not only targets a variety of muscle groups but also offers a safe and effective way to enhance overall strength and mobility,” says doctor of physical therapy and certified strength and conditioning specialist Matt Casturo, DPT, CSCS. Each element plays a role in the well-rounded fitness routine.

Benefits of Goblet Squats

Even if you’re already versed in the benefits of squats, maybe you’re curious about the advantages of goblet squats in particular. Below, a summary of the main benefits of the exercise.

Engages Multiple Muscle Groups

As mentioned, goblet squats are a compound exercise, meaning they target multiple muscle groups at the same time. “Relative to isolated single joint exercises, training compound exercises like the goblet squat leads to more efficient metabolic response, calorie burning, and promotes overall functional strength, making it an effective choice for those seeking a full-body workout,” says Casturo. If you prefer time-efficient workouts that prime your body for daily life, this aspect is key. That said, if you’re just getting started with exercise, you may want to master the mechanics of the squat without added load first.

Improves Posture

The nature of the goblet squat encourages an upright torso, says Casturo, which trains the upper back muscles including the erector spinae, rhomboids, and trapezius muscles. “These are often collectively referred to as ‘postural muscles,’" he explains. In other words, adding goblet squats to your routine may help you stand a bit taller throughout the day, which can in turn allow you to remain injury-free. 

Improves Mobility

Due to the positioning of the weight, goblet squats allow you to squat deeper than some other squat variations, allowing for a greater range of motion, points out Casturo. “This increased depth not only targets the muscles more comprehensively but also contributes to improved flexibility and mobility,” he says. “Training the hips to bend and rotate completely in a deep squat can reduce stiffness and increase hip mobility.” Tight hip flexors—a common result of sitting for long periods—can limit your range of motion during certain exercises and result in hip, neck, or back pain, as previously reported on The Output. 

Goblet squats are also more effective than other squat variations for improving ankle mobility, says Casturo. “Holding the weight in front of the body and squatting while allowing the knees to move forward helps improve ankle mobility,” he says.

Increase Grip Strength

Unlike bodyweight squats, goblet squats simultaneously engage muscles in your arms and increase grip strength, since you’re supporting the weight in front of your body, notes Bradley. Grip strength is commonly used as a measure of muscle strength and function, and studies have linked reduced grip strength to various age-related health problems, according to a 2023 article in Frontiers in Public Health

Goblet Squats

How to Do a Goblet Squat

Wondering how to master proper goblet squat form? Here, Bradley breaks down how to do a goblet squat. For this move, you can use a dumbbell or a kettlebell.

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, with your toes pointed slightly outward. If you’re using a dumbbell, hold the dumbbell vertically with one end of the dumbbell resting on your palms. If you’re using a kettlebell, grab onto one side of the kettlebell handle with each hand, or invert the kettlebell, allowing the bell to rest on your palms. Bring the weight to your chest, bending at your elbows.

  2. Keeping your core engaged, your back straight, your chest upright, and the weight held tight to your body, inhale to push your hips back, allowing your knees to bend to sink into a squat.  

  3. Keeping your weight distributed more in your heels than your toes, continue to sink into the squat until your hips are below parallel with your knees. At the lowest point of the squat, your elbows should be positioned on the insides of your knees, ensuring that your knees remain in line with your toes throughout the exercises.

  4. Engage your glutes, exhale, and push through your heels to drive the motion upward and return to start.

Variations of Goblet Squats

You can choose a goblet squat variation that best suits your goals and the equipment that you have at your disposal. Here some tweaks that you can make to classic goblet squats, according to Joseph Bryan Lipana, PT, DPT, CSCS, physical therapist at FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers Punta Gorda:

  • Vary your stance: Start with your feet closer or further than hip-width distance apart. A wider stance emphasizes the glutes.

  • Vary the load: Instead of a dumbbell, you can opt to perform your goblet squat with another piece of equipment, like a kettlebell or medicine ball. 

  • Use a chair rest: Use a chair or bench, which creates a rest point at the transition point (the bottom of the squat). This is useful for beginners as it helps encourage proper form and add safety.

  • Change the speed/tempo: Slow down the movement of the eccentric (descending) portion of the exercise. Or, add a static hold at the bottom of the movement. Both increase the time under tension, which can make an exercise more intense.

  • Add a resistance band: Place a resistance band loop around your legs above your knees before performing the movement. This encourages proper form and requires your legs to work harder by creating resistance against your hip abductors and external rotators. 

Looking to switch up your routine?

Common Mistakes to Avoid

To maximize your benefits and minimize your injury potential, it helps to familiarize yourself with common form mistakes. Here are some pitfalls to be aware of, according to Bradley:

  • Don’t allow your knees to cave in, which can put stress on your knee joints. Instead, make sure your knees remain in line with your feet throughout the exercise.

  • Don’t hold the weight away from your body. Keeping it tight to your chest will ensure you’re firing up your glutes, core, and legs as intended, without putting too much strain on your back.

  • Don’t perform the exercise without maintaining engagement throughout your core the entire time.

  • Don’t allow your back to round during the exercise, which can put undue stress on your back.

  • Don’t lean forward at your hip to initiate the exercise. Instead, sit back into the downward portion of the squat, keeping a proud chest.

What Are the Differences Between Goblet Squats and Other Types of Squats? 

Supporting a weight in front of your chest impacts the effects of the goblet squat and makes it unique from many other squat variations. “The goblet squat engages the postural muscles of the upper back to counterbalance the weight held in front of the body,” explains Casturo.  

Other types of squats will also largely focus on the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, but may target them in different ways, to different extents, and also hit other muscle groups. For example, you might opt for overhead squats to improve your shoulder stability, pistol squats to build lower-body strength and coordination, or rear-foot elevated split squats to work on your lower-body stabilizer muscles.

You can pick and choose from the many squat variations that exist, based on your abilities and what you’re hoping to accomplish. 

How to Add a Goblet Squat to Your Routine

Goblet squats can be added into multiple phases of your workouts. You may decide to use lighter weights if you do them toward the beginning of your workout, go heavier with goblet squats mid-workout, or use goblet squats toward the end of your workout after other compound movements.

You should always adjust your weight and rep scheme to your fitness level and goals. “Beginners can start with lighter weights and fewer repetitions, gradually progressing as they become more comfortable,” notes Casturo. “Advanced lifters can challenge themselves with heavier weights and more repetitions. Additionally, the exercise can be performed with minimal equipment, making it suitable for home workouts.” 

Be sure to reach for a weight that you can comfortably handle without sacrificing your form. “Remember to goblet squat with good technique descending in a controlled manner with a forward eye gaze,” advises Casturo. “Keep your feet flat on the ground and angle the toes out based on what allows your body to squat most comfortably.” You can increase the weight or reps from there as the exercise starts to become easier.

Executed properly, a goblet squat can strengthen muscles throughout your body, improving your posture and mobility and boosting your metabolism in the process. Not bad for an exercise that requires a single piece of equipment.


Featured Instructor Module

Bradley Rose

Bradley Rose

After a decade in New York, Bradley is now back in the UK to bring his unique blend of British charm and eternally optimistic attitude to the London cycling studio.


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