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The goblet squat is a common variation of the traditional squat. Whether you use it as a method of progression from a bodyweight squat or as an alternative to a barbell squat, the goblet variation is ideal for most situations.
There is no massive learning curve for the goblet squat, as it is functionally very similar to any other form of squatting. It can also be an excellent choice for both strength and muscular hypertrophy goals.
The goblet squat requires you to hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of the body. Think of it as holding a heavy goblet in your hands. With the weight at your chest, squat like you normally would until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your elbows high, and don’t let your torso fall too far forward.
In this article, we’ll cover many aspects of the goblet squat, including:
- Goblet squat muscles worked
- The correct goblet squat form
- Goblet squat benefits
- Goblet squat drawbacks
Goblet Squat: Muscles Worked
What do goblet squats work? Well, the muscles used in goblet squats are similar to the muscles used in traditional squats.
The prime movers (the muscles you want to target) are the:
- Quadriceps (the large group of muscles found on the front of the thigh)
- Hamstrings (the large group of muscles found on the back of the thigh)
- Gluteus maximus (the largest muscle in the body, found on the back of the hips)
The goal of all of these muscles is to extend both the knees (quads) and the hips (hamstrings and glutes). Knee and hip extension are essential for any strong squat.
The goblet squat has another consideration to take into account — holding the weight in the “goblet” position. Like a front squat, the goblet squat requires you to maintain the weight in the front of the body. This will require a certain level of strength and stability in your core and shoulders.
Since the weight is in front, it has the tendency to want to pull you forward and away from your center of gravity. To avoid this, you need to keep your shoulders up and your core stable.
A lot of muscles are required for stability, but the main ones for the goblet squat are the:
- Anterior deltoids (front of the shoulders)
- Rectus abdominis (the “six-pack” muscle found on the front of the torso)
- Transverse abdominis (a deeper abdominal muscle located closer to the spine)
Goblet Squat: How To
If you’re new to this exercise and unsure how to do a goblet squat, follow the steps below.
Step One: Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell
As with any resistance training, your first goal should be to select your weight. For the goblet squat, I highly recommend using a dumbbell, but a kettlebell can work as well. Weight is dependent on the individual and the goal.
If your goal is strength, select a heavier weight. This can be measured at around 85%+ of a 1 rep max (1RM) or an 8+ using rate of perceived exertion (RPE). You should feel like you can do another 1-2 reps at the end of your set.
If your goal is muscular hypertrophy, select a more intermediate weight. This can be measured around 75-85% of a 1RM or a 7+ using RPE. You should feel like you can do another 2-3 reps at the end of your set.
Modify as needed based on your training goals.
Make sure there is enough room to perform the exercise safely. I also recommend having a bench or box nearby if available so that you have an elevated surface to pick up the weight from. A spotter can hand you the weight as well.
Step Two: Get into your squat stance while holding the weight
The goblet squat will resemble a “close-grip” front squat. The goal here is to hold the dumbbell like you are holding a heavy goblet (hence the name).
The top half of the dumbbell should be resting on your palms. You do not need to physically hold on to the weight. Keep the top of the dumbbell facing the ceiling and your elbows up high.
I recommend placing the feet slightly outside of shoulder width with your toes pointed outwards. You can adjust your foot placement based on what is comfortable for you.
Maintain this position throughout the entire set.
Step Three: Bend your hips and knees and squat until you’ve reached parallel
Begin the exercise like you are sitting down on a chair. Let the hips go back and the knees bend. The range of motion (ROM) is based on you, but the traditional standards are to drop until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
Adjust the ROM as needed.
Step four: Return to the starting position
Drive through the ground with your entire foot and think about trying to bring the top of the dumbbell to the ceiling. Your main goal here is to extend both the hips and knees until you have returned to the starting position.
Goblet Squat Safety Considerations
Since you cannot rerack or use safety bars for a goblet squat, failing can be tricky.
First and foremost, I recommend being comfortable dropping the weight at the bottom of the rep. Since you cannot always plan for failing, ensure you have enough space around you so that you are not dropping weight close to other people.
If you had a spotter help in the beginning, they can always take the weight away from you as well.
Benefits of the Goblet Squat
Front Squat Variation
The front squat is a fantastic lower-body exercise, often used to enhance strength/power in the lower body and help with muscular development. The goblet squat is a variation of the front squat that can be implemented into any training program.
The traditional barbell front squat might not be the appropriate choice for everyone, so utilizing the goblet squat as an alternative is a perfect way to include this movement pattern in your training program.
Even though the front squat and goblet squat are similar, there are also some differences between the two movements. Learn more in Goblet Squat vs. Front Squat: Form, Benefits, Differences.
When it comes to squatting, most people consider the barbell back squat as the gold standard. The back squat is a phenomenal exercise, but it might not be right for everyone, especially when you take current or past injuries into consideration.
The goblet squat can be a safe alternative for individuals with shoulder instability and who have issues with maintaining a large degree of shoulder external rotation.
It is also much easier to maintain a vertical position with the torso in a front squat position. Since the goblet squat is an easier variation than the barbell front squat, it is an ideal regression for someone with training limitations.
No matter the squat variation, the same muscles will be targeted. However, there is evidence to suggest that a goblet squat can target more of the quads. According to Collins et al. (2021), the goblet squat is a better exercise to target quadricep activity when compared to a landmine squat.
So, if you are working on muscular hypertrophy, the goblet squat can be an excellent choice for targeting the quads. Doing a heel-elevated goblet squat with your heels on a couple of plates can target the quads even more.
You also see greater engagement through your core, which includes the abdominals and the muscles of the spine.
Higher Volume Training
The goblet squat can allow individuals to perform more volume (e.g., more sets and reps) than a traditional back squat. This is something I usually recommend for powerlifters, but it can be applied to just about anyone.
The goblet squat is limited since you can only use a single dumbbell and cannot goblet squat the same as you can back squat. This offers the opportunity to perform more volume. Even though it is not “heavy”, the goblet squat variation, plus the added training volume, is difficult in its own right.
The last benefit lies in the convenience of the goblet squat. Unlike a barbell squat (front or back), which requires a barbell, weighted plates, and a power rack or squat rack, the goblet squat just requires a single dumbbell and some space.
This is perfect for training legs in a busy gym where other equipment is not available. It can also be an excellent choice for resistance training at home since it is much cheaper and more convenient to order a small set of dumbbells versus everything required for squatting with a barbell.
Drawbacks of the Goblet Squat
Difficulties in the Starting Position
Two major drawbacks to the goblet squat are based on the starting position. The first drawback is simply getting to the starting position. It can be difficult to pick up a dumbbell and get situated all by yourself, especially if you are picking up the weight directly from the ground.
The second drawback related to the starting position is maintaining the front squat position. Not only can it be difficult to hold the weight up, but it can also become uncomfortable for the wrists, as they have to bend back to support the weight.
Both of these issues only get worse as the weight gets heavier.
Another drawback is the weight itself. This is not a major issue, but if you are training for strength, you are limited in the weight of the dumbbells you have access to (most gyms only have dumbbells up to 100 lbs). Also, you can be limited by how much weight you can hold versus how much your legs can lift.
So, if strength is your goal, the goblet squat is not the best choice for your main lower body exercise.
If you’re looking for a more challenging squat variation to add to your routine, check out Which Type of Squat Is the Hardest?
Goblet Squat Mistakes to Avoid
The main mistakes to avoid directly relate to the major drawbacks listed above.
It is very important to avoid letting the arms fall too far forward. When you let the weight fall forward, this takes you away from your center of gravity and can make the exercise much more difficult and potentially dangerous.
Think about trying to keep the elbows up and the top of the dumbbell facing the ceiling at all times.
Another mistake is how you hold onto the dumbbells. The goal is to let the top end of the dumbbell rest on your palms. You do not need to grip or hold onto the weight. As the weight gets heavier, this can become dangerous because you might drop the dumbbell on yourself or someone around you, and you can potentially damage the equipment.
Who Should Do the Goblet Squat?
In reality, there really isn’t anyone that the goblet squat cannot help. When it comes to resistance training, anyone training legs can benefit from the goblet squat.
That said, a few specific populations that can benefit from goblet squats include:
- Powerlifters – the goblet squat can allow powerlifters to train in a new movement pattern they may not be comfortable with. It can also allow them to train with more volume compared to their barbell back squat.
- Bodybuilders – the main goal of a bodybuilder is to increase lean body mass. The goblet squat is ideal when trying to target the lower body, especially the quads. For even more quad hypertrophy, an elevated goblet squat is ideal.
- Athletes – the goblet squat is an excellent alternative to the front squat. This makes it ideal for athletes trying to work on strength, power, and athletic performance.
- Beginners – the goblet squat is a regression to the barbell squat, so it can be an appropriate exercise for individuals new to resistance training.
Who Should Not Do the Goblet Squat?
There are only a couple of groups of people who should avoid goblet squats:
- Those who do not feel comfortable squatting. Learning proper squat mechanics is your primary goal before adding any form of resistance.
- Those with any contraindications to training. This refers to any immediate issues that can make the goblet squat unsafe. For most people, this may be any current or past injuries to the shoulders or legs. Please see a medical professional if you believe you have any contraindications to resistance training.
How To Program the Goblet Squat?
There are a number of ways to program the goblet squat, but the main three are muscular endurance, muscular hypertrophy, and strength.
- Repetitions are moderate to high – 12+
- Sets are typically lower – 1-3
- Lower training intensities – starting around 50% of a 1RM
- Lower rest periods – 30-60 seconds
- Repetitions are low to moderate – 6-12
- Sets can be moderate to high – 3 – 6
- Intermediate training intensities – 75 – 85% of a 1RM
- Lower rest periods – 30-60+ seconds (this can greatly vary based on the individual)
- Repetitions are pretty low – 1-5
- Sets are much higher – 4-6
- Training intensity is close to or at maximum – 85-100% of a 1RM
- Higher rest periods – 2-5 minutes
When incorporating the goblet squat into a program, I would start off by considering the exercise a secondary movement or an accessory. A secondary movement is an exercise you perform after your main exercise(s). An accessory movement is one you perform closer to the end of the workout.
For the goblet squat, I would perform it either in the middle of my workout (after my main exercises) or near the end, as it can be an ideal choice for burning out the legs.
Goblet Squat Sample Workout Plan
There are a number of ways the goblet squat can be programmed into any workout. I would consider the goblet squat as an accessory movement or secondary exercise, meaning it would typically come in after other exercises in the middle or end of the workout.
For example, a leg day could look something like this:
- Barbell back squat
- Goblet squat
- Leg extensions
- Leg curls
Below, you can find a few examples of workout programs for the goblet squat. These only focus on the variables related to the goblet squat. However, you can use the programming guidelines above to create a full-leg day workout based on your goals.
- 2 sets of 15-20 reps, 50% of 1RM (30 seconds of rest)
- 4 sets of 8-10 reps, 75% of 1RM (60-90 seconds of rest)
- 5 sets of 5 reps, 85% of 1RM (2-3 minutes of rest)
How To Progress The Goblet Squat
Progressing any exercise comes down to complexity and intensity. If you want to progress with the goblet squat, you can start by modifying the training variables (sets, reps, and weight) and make the movement more difficult or challenging.
You can also progress by moving to more advanced versions of the squat. The two most popular are the barbell back squat and the front squat.
Goblet Squat Variations
This is the starting point for anyone starting to resistance train. The body weight squat should be mastered before moving onto the goblet squat or any other squat variation.
Dumbbell Front Squat
The dumbbell front squat is very similar to a goblet squat, but instead of using a single dumbbell, you would use two. This can allow you to split the weight across two dumbbells, which can be more comfortable on the wrists.
Typically, in this position, you can not lift as much as the goblet squat. For this variation, you can let the dumbbell handles rest in your palms and one end of the weight rest on your shoulders. Like the goblet squat, you do not always need to hold onto the weight.
The landmine variation will require a barbell and landmine attachment (or a corner of a wall, but this option can damage the wall). Like a goblet squat, this can be a slightly awkward exercise to start since you need to be able to lift the weight to the starting position.
For the starting position, you will need to cup the end of the barbell sleeve in your hands (very similar to the goblet position). I recommend either having a spotter or a box next to you so that you can safely put the weight back down.
Goblet Box Squat
The box squat is an excellent variation for any squat. All you need to do is use a box or bench set to your ideal ROM. This can be used to further challenge you or to regress the exercise.
Barbell Front Squat
The standard front squat would be a progression to the goblet squat. The goblet position shares many similarities with the “catch position” of a front squat. A barbell can be very challenging, so make sure you are prepared before making that jump.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Goblet Squats Good For?
The goblet squat is good for just about any training goal. It’s ideal for higher-volume training and muscular hypertrophy, but you can also program it for strength with higher weights and lower reps (1-5) or muscular endurance with lighter weights and higher reps (15+).
What’s the Difference Between a Goblet Squat and a Regular Squat?
The main difference between the goblet squat and any other form of squatting is how the weight is held. The goblet squat is a front squat variation that requires the lifter to hold a single dumbbell in the palms of their hand. Like a front squat, this can create greater demands for stability in the shoulders and core.
Can You Build Muscle With a Goblet Squat?
You can build muscle with goblet squats. Muscular hypertrophy demands the proper training intensity. Any exercise, when performed under the right conditions, can lead to building muscle. When programming the goblet squat, stay around the 6-12 rep range and around 75-85% of your 1RM.
How Heavy Should a Goblet Squat Be?
Heavy is a relative term based on the individual, so specific numbers are hard to identify. For the goblet squat, the weight should be as heavy as it needs to be to benefit your training goal. I do recommend starting off lighter since you can only lift as much as your hands and shoulders can hold.
The goblet squat is an ideal choice for any training program or goal. It can be implemented in a number of ways to suit anyone's training needs. It can be implemented as a strength exercise at the gym or as a convenient exercise to perform at home.
Many people wonder, “What does the goblet squat work?” They don’t realize that it works many of the same muscles used in traditional squats, including the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
For this reason, I highly recommend incorporating the goblet squat on a weekly basis for anyone looking to add some variety to their leg days. It is an exercise many people ignore in favor of barbell movements, but I can guarantee your legs will be thanking me afterward.
About The Author
Jace Fuchs has his MS in kinesiology and sports performance and is currently in the process of getting his Ph.D. in exercise and sports science. Jace has worked within the fitness industry for the better part of a decade now, and before his time in fitness, served in the US Army Infantry. When not writing for Powerlifting Techniques, Jace works as a content developer for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and as a part-time exercise science professor. Outside of work, Jace is an avid powerlifter and strength-training enthusiast.