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Squats are one of the most notorious bodyweight exercises for building lower-body strength. Back squats and other squat iterations that incorporate weights can further enhance the benefits of a squat by more intensely stimulating muscle growth. In many cases, this often requires a squat rack, barbell, bumper plates, and other equipment, which isn’t always accessible.

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The goblet squat can offer some of the enhanced benefits of incorporating weights into your squats while being more accessible to beginners, people experiencing shoulder or back pain, and the circumstances of your workout space. In addition, requiring only a dumbbell, kettlebell, or resistance band makes them possible from the comfort of your home, in a park, or without a giant squat rack setup. 

Furthermore, goblet squats offer lower- and upper-body benefits, making them a great way to get more out of your squats and workout routine in less time. In this article, I want to explain how to correctly do a goblet squat while also sharing some of the excellent benefits of this simple and accessible exercise and why it should become a part of your leg day

How To Goblet Squat

  1. Stand with your feet roughly hip-width apart and your toes facing forward while maintaining an upright spine and engaged core. 
  2. Grab your kettlebell (or dumbbell) and grasp it firmly with both hands in front of your chest, with the weight’s top point parallel to your chin. 
  3. Once positioned, hinge your hips back slightly and lower yourself as if you’re about to sit in a chair. Make sure you maintain a safe grip on the weight while also doing your best to keep your back straight and chest upright. 
  4. Lower to your desired depth.
  5. Once lowered, push upward through your heels to return to your starting position.
kettlebell goblet squat

Expert tip: As you come down, pause when your knees are slightly flared out to feel that burn, then push back up immediately. Try to inhale as you come down, and exhale as you come up, maintaining a fluid movement and breathing rhythm. 

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Goblet Squat: Muscles Worked

The goblet squat could be considered a full-body exercise as this movement not only targets your leg muscles (e.g. quads, calves, and glutes) but also works your core and arms due to the weight being held in front of your body.

Trainer Tips for Form

Like most things, practice makes perfect! So here are some tips for mastering your goblet squat form:

Elevate Your Heels

One way to get into a better position on a squat is to elevate your heels. Why? Because it helps reduce the degree of dorsiflexion at the ankle and potentially increase your range of motion. A lack of dorsiflexion is a common reason people struggle to sit deeper in a squat. 

personal trainer instructing squats

As a potential bonus, an elevated goblet squat also puts more of a demand on your quadriceps, potentially enabling you to better build muscle in that area.

Squat to a Target

One helpful way to reach the most beneficial depth of the goblet squat while maintaining proper form is to begin experimenting with squatting to a target. Use an adjustable bench, chair, plyo box, or stackable steps as a target as you lower. This practice is also a  great way to help determine the maximum safe depth your body can reach without losing composure.

At first, especially as you learn the goblet squat technique, it may be hard to get all the way down to where you need to be while still keeping your back straight, chest and torso upright, and weight stabilized. However, by using an adjustable source of butt support, you can slowly progress and lower yourself down to the most beneficial depth.

Increase The Weight As You Master Your Form

It is always better to start with less weight and learn the exercise’s proper technique and form before overwhelming yourself with heavier weight. In a goblet squat, the weight acts as a counterbalance. If the weight is too heavy, it may push you off balance or could even lead to injury. 

Embrace the Weight

When holding your dumbbell or kettlebell, squeeze it as you move up and down. In doing so, you can better help to stimulate the muscle groups in your arms and chest. While debatable, a kettlebell goblet squat could be considered a better way to engage in this particular squat exercise than a dumbbell goblet squat. This is because it offers a safer grip while allowing you to pull apart at the sides of the handle as you hold it, helping you to engage your back muscles more intensely.

While I recommend a kettlebell for the goblet squat, dumbbells are still great. Yet, notably, when using the dumbbell, as it is a little more awkward to hold as you move, hold it by placing your palms underneath the top weight of the dumbbell closest to your chin while squeezing on the top of the weight with your fingers to secure a safe grip.

How Many Reps Should You Do?

If you want to increase the fat-burning or cardio experience a goblet squat offers, increase your repetitions and speed. This should also determine the weight you are using. This is up to your discretion or understanding of your ability, but generally, if you’re looking to focus on strength, seek higher weight with fewer reps. Or, for cardio, use a lower weight or weight where you can still safely engage in higher reps and safe speed.

kettlebell goblet squat demo

In both cases, ensure you do not compromise your technique by using more weight than you can handle or focusing more on speed than form. 

Common Goblet Squat Mistakes

As you’re learning this fantastic lower-body exercise, it’s important to avoid these common mistakes to ensure your goblet squat safety:

Hinging Instead of Squatting

To get the benefits of the goblet squat, maintain a straightened back and a chest that faces forward. Leaning forward or losing technique can lead to injuries and deter the benefits of the goblet squat. This is why it’s important to ensure you are using a weight that can challenge you but does not prevent you from engaging in the correct technique or a full squat. 

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Squatting Too Shallow

You want to really enter that imaginary chair when engaging in this exercise. Always try to squat down as low as possible to maximize the benefits and feel that burn, especially in your lower body. Despite some myths that tell otherwise, your knees passing your toes is not an issue. Quite the contrary, the further you go into a full range of motion, the better the burn. 

Always aim for a squat where someone could slip a high-school desk chair underneath you. This thought can really help!

Moving Too Quickly Too Soon

If you have ever watched someone doing push-ups super fast, they will often go halfway down or just start to look like they are bobbing their head up and down. Faster goblet squats at higher reps can increase the cardio and metabolism-boosting benefits of the goblet squat, but like any exercise, technique always comes first! 

Goblet Squat Variations

While goblet squat form is pretty particular, there are ways to switch things up: 

Swap Out the Kettlebell for a Dumbbell

You can use either a kettlebell or dumbbell for this exercise. A kettlebell may offer a better grip, but if you don’t have one or don’t have one in the appropriate weight, a dumbbell or adjustable dumbbell will suffice.

Try Pause or Pulse Squats

There are several ways to change up the goblet squat movement slightly to get more out of the movement. For example, pausing or pulsing in the bottom can add increased tension on the muscles. 

Nathan squatting on the Terra-Core

This is especially beneficial if you are limited on the weight you have and the squats have begun to feel easy. Holding a pause in the  bottom of the squat makes the movement more difficult, even with a lighter weight.

Widen Your Stance

The traditional goblet squat has you standing with your toes forward, generating overall lower-body conditioning. However, you can also engage in a wide-stance or toes-out goblet squat that focuses more on your adductors and glutes. 

Goblet Squat Alternatives to Try

Once you’ve mastered the goblet squat and its variations, here a few alternative exercises you can try.

Barbell Front Squats

Why do it: If you’re looking to switch it up and experiment with barbells, but are still wary of the back squat, you can replace the kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your body with a barbell. This is done by resting the barbell on your upper chest and holding it with your palms up and elbows pointing forward.     

How to do it:

  1. Load a barbell to the desired weight, then grab the barbell with an overhand grip and unrack it into the front rack position. This means the bar will be resting across your shoulders and upper chest with your elbows lifted.
  2. Hinge forward by bringing your hips back, then bend your knees as you lower into a squat. Keep your chest tall and your elbows pointed forward as you descend.
  3. Push your heels into the floor to return to a standing position.
  4. Repeat for reps.

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Barbell Front Squat

Elevated-Heel Goblet Squat

Why do it: Elevating your heels helps to activate your quads for more focus on building this important muscle. It’s also a compound exercise that can target your glutes an core. 

How to do it: 

  1. Place two weight plates (or a slant board) on the floor and stand with your legs hip-width apart and your heels resting on top. Make sure your toes are facing forward, your back is straight, your chest tall, and your core braced.
  2. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your chest.
  3. Lower your body with control by hinging at your hips and bending your knees. Keep your weight on your heels for the full range of motion.
  4. Keep going until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then pause and push back into a standing position by driving from your heels.
  5. Repeat for reps.
Woman doing a heels elevated goblet squat

Useful Goblet Squat Equipment Accessories

While there is minimal equipment required for a goblet squat, there are a few items that you might find useful:


Kettlebells are arguably the best free weight for goblet squats as they offer a remarkably safe grip to hold the weight and help you to increase the activation of your back muscles while training. A pair of the best dumbbells also are useful and work well with the squat. However, they require a different grip and may not activate your back to the same degree as kettlebells. 

Resistance Bands

Resistance bands, plus a clench band handle, can also be used to perform a goblet squat. By standing with your feet shoulder-width apart on top of a band and grasping it with a clench band handle, you can easily perform a goblet squat as you would using a kettlebell or dumbbell.

resistance band squat

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Furthermore, resistance bands offer a practical alternative to heavier free weights, allowing you to take them with you on the go. Also notable, resistance bands can offer many of the same benefits of using free weights in your training, but at a drastically reduced cost. 

How to Add Goblet Squats to Your Routine

Goblet squats can occupy a prime real estate in any leg day routine. Especially if you’re having difficulty with the range of motion of traditional back squats or want to shake up your quad-focused movements. Here are a few programming suggestions incorporating the goblet squat into your lower-body workout:

  • Beginners: If you’re new to the goblet squat exercise, starting with either your bodyweight or a lighter 5 to 10 pound kettlebell (or dumbbell) while you dial in your form. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.
  • Advanced lifters: If you know the goblet squat like the back of your hand, experiment with heavier weights for less reps (aim for 3-5), tempos, or adjusting your working muscles by performing a goblet squat with your feet elevated.

Goblet Squat: FAQs

What muscles does a goblet squat work?

Most squats offer a low-impact exercise or dynamic warm-up for strength and cardio conditioning. While most squats primarily engage your lower body’s hip muscles, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves, the goblet squat also allows you to experience upper-body muscle stimulation. 
By maintaining your kettlebell or dumbbell at a chest height, your body’s arms, upper back, shoulders, and core muscles are all activated as you move up and down but are forced to keep the weight in place. 

Are goblet squats effective?

Goblet squats are an absolutely effective and great exercise! However, the degree of effectiveness achieved in a goblet squat depends on you maintaining a quality technique and form. Weights, reps, and speed can all deliver varied results, but technique and form should always be the priority to maximize results and avoid injuries. 
Furthermore, goblet squats can deliver both upper and lower body benefits while still offering a varied strength or cardio experience. For example, by increasing weight and lowering reps, you can focus more on strength, or by increasing reps and speed, you can escalate the cardio demands of the squat.
Traditional bodyweight squats are generally known as a classic low-impact beloved exercise due to their accessibility and results. The goblet squat enhances the benefits of the traditional squat by delivering more versatile results for your upper and lower body and your strength and cardio experience. 

What are the benefits of goblet squats?

Goblet squats allow you to engage in a squat that works both your upper and lower body. In addition, goblet squats will enable you to reap many of the same benefits using squat racks for back squats without furthering back pain, owning a squat rack, or needing to go to the gym to use one. 
Furthermore, unlike typical squats, which primarily work your lower body, goblet squats deliver an excellent workout for your core, shoulders, back, and arms at the same time. Because of this, goblet squats help you get more out of your workout with less time than a weight-free classic squat. 

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