When you are ready to add weight to your squats but are not quite prepared for a barbell, dumbbells and kettlebells may leave you thinking, “but what do I do with my hands?!” The solution? Transform your unweighted squats into goblet squats.
You can perform these simple squats with a dumbbell or a kettlebell (or anything else that is heavy and compact, for that matter). They are called goblet squats because “you hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your chest with your hands cupped around it like you’re holding a goblet,” says Heidi Jones, founder of Sweat to Change TV and the director of content at Forte, a boutique fitness streaming service.
While holding a goblet may not seem particularly relevant to your everyday life, this move is actually a vital functional skill to have: “A goblet squat is a very natural primal movement pattern and postural position,” says Lisa Niren, an ACE-certified head instructor for Studio, a workout class platform. “It’s similar to how you would pick up a child (or anything else) from the ground,” she explains.
Goblet Squat Benefits and Variations
Yes, goblet squats are an easy way to add weight to your basic bodyweight squat, but placing the weight in front of your chest can also help you learn the proper balance and movement pattern to perform a regular squat, says Niren. So, essentially, if you have mastered your goblet squat form, you will also be perfecting your all-over squat form in the process. Plus, they will strengthen everything in your lower body (hips, quads, hip flexors, calves, hamstrings, and glute muscles) as well as your core and latissimus dorsi (aka your lats, a large muscle that stretches across your back). Gotta love a multitasking movement! (Read more on the anatomy of your leg muscles here.)
“The goblet squat is a perfect progression for beginners who often struggle with performing a front and/or back squat right away,” says Niren. “It’s useful for building quad strength, balance, and body awareness — specifically, keeping your torso upright and stable while using the legs to perform a proper squat,” she explains. The placement of the weight allows you to sink lower in your squat, too, which will help maintain or increase your mobility, adds Jones.
If you’re prepared to elevate it up a notch, make the goblet squat a full-body move: Try a goblet squat and curl (lower into a squat, then extend the weight toward the floor and curl back to the chest, attempting three to five curls at the bottom of each squat) or a goblet squat and press (lower into a squat, then extend the weight straight forward in front of chest — keeping core braced — and return it to chest before standing up). Prepared to add more weight? Proceed to the barbell back squat.
How to Perform a Goblet Squat
A. Stand with feet wider than shoulders-width apart, toes pointing slightly out. Hold a dumbbell (vertical) or kettlebell (held by the horns) at chest height with elbows pointing down but not tucked in to touch ribs.
B. Brace abs and hinge at hips and knees to lower into a squat, pausing when thighs are parallel to the ground or when form starts to deteriorate (knees cave in or heels come off the floor). Keep chest tall.
C. Drive through heel and mid-foot to stand, keeping core engaged throughout.
Goblet Squat Form Tips
- Maintain an upright chest at the bottom of the squat. (See also: How to Properly Execute Squats — Plus, 6 Squat Mistakes You’re Probably Making)
- If using a kettlebell, you can hold it with the handle facing up or with the ball facing up, which is more challenging.
- Keep core engaged and avoid rounding spine forward or backward during the squat.
- Avoid leaning back when you stand up at the top of each repetition.
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