How I Grew To Love The Goblet Squat

by tffitness on July 17, 2016

IMG_3325When I first saw someone promoting the goblet squat as the next big thing, I instantly suspected that he was one of those corrective exercise Nazis disguising his evil craft in the form of a squat — a movement that most rational people will readily embrace. And, after watching about 3 reps of this odd-looking exercise, I quickly dismissed it outright — my argument hinged on the fact that performance in this “squat” was limited by upper-body strength rather than leg strength. Therefore, it sucks.

Note how sophisticated my critical thinking skills are — don’t try to get inside my head, because trust me, you’ll only get hurt.

Getting serious for a moment, may I point out that all exercises — even your favorites I’m afraid, have flaws? So yes, performance in the goblet squat is in fact limited by upper body strength — if you’re a 300-pound squatter for example, you won’t be able to hang on to (or even find, come to think of it) a 300-pound kettlebell or dumbbell.

This means that no — you shouldn’t replace your trusty barbell squat for goblet squats. So just relax — I’m not going down that road with this discussion. What I am advocating however, is that you consider incorporating this exercise into your overall training program. In a moment, I’ll quickly outline my reasons for this, but first, let’s take a look at the goblet squat just so we’re all on the same page about this moment. Below is a video of my online client Jeannine goblet-squatting a 70-pound dumbbell for 10 reps:

As you can see, the goblet squat involves holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in from of your chest. Using this technique, a few interesting things will take place:

1)    Squatting with a weight in front of you allows you to squat in a more upright position (and often deeper) than if you placed the weight on your back. Read: more quadriceps recruitment.

2)    As you goblet squat, your elbows will naturally encourage you to spread your knees a bit more than you would otherwise. Read: better patellar tracking, and hence, happier knees.

3)    Holding a weight in front of your chest requires a strong effort from your upper back musculature — something that barbell back squats don’t require. Read: better core stability and abdominal bracing.

4)    Also, holding a (heavy) weight in front of your chest restricts breathing, which makes the goblet squat a valid anaerobic endurance drill.

Personal+Trainer+Goblet+SquattingNow that I’ve outlined the benefits of the goblet squat, let’s briefly return to that criticism I mentioned at the outset, and here’s my take: the fact that upper body strength is the main limitation isn’t purely a negative, it can also be seen as a plus. Here’s why I say that:

First, barbell squats are often cited as “functional” exercise, and while the squat motion is indeed functional, how often (outside of the gym) have you ever found yourself squatting with a significant weight on your back? What’s that you say, never? On the other hand, most people do occasionally find themselves doing some form of a squat while holing some type of a heavy object in front — after all, that’s where your arms are, right

Secondly, it seems to me that there’s some real value in nutting up to difficult/awkward physical tasks in your physical training program. And to be clear, putting a heavy bar on your back and squatting it close to failure qualifies as one of those tasks. But picking up and goblet squatting a dumbbell that weighs half as much (or more) as your own bodyweight also qualifies, believe me. In this vein, I place the goblet squat in the same category as heavy tire flipping and stone lifting — in other words, heavy awkward lifting. Hey, maybe that’s really functional, right?

Finally, last year I was going though a chronic episode of knee pain/discomfort, and while this is admittedly anecdotal, I remembered hearing a few stories of guys who managed to “fix” their cranky knees by doing light goblet squats several times a week.

So at some point I started doing 3 sets of 10 during all 4 of my weekly workouts. Initially, I just used a 20 or 30-pound dumbbell, and once in a while I’d go heavier — occasionally venturing up to 60 or even 70 pounds, depending on how I felt that day. Sure enough — I think after 3-4 weeks perhaps — one day it dawned on me “Hmmm…I think my knees might be feeling better.” I can’t really come up with a compellingly-logical reason as to why this might have happened, or if the same outcome might have taken place had I used light barbell squats instead, but it felt as though the high squat frequency was sort of forcing my knees to accept and more quickly recover from all the light squatting I was doing.

maxresdefault-e1433531699828I also couldn’t help but notice that when a bodypart seems to be irritated as the result of a particular activity, our natural instinct is to do that activity less frequently, not more. But sometimes (not all mind you) the answer runs counter to our instincts. Frequent, light squatting might be an example of this phenomenon.

For these 3 reasons (and possibly others I haven’t identified), I really believe that goblet squats have enhanced my training, and I’m confident that they’ll improve your own workouts as well. Here are a handful of tips to get the most from goblet squats:

1)    Beginners, or folks with questionable squat technique should do lots of goblet squats, since they’re such a great tool for learning efficient squat technique. In fact, if you’re new to squatting, goblet squats to a box will all but guarantee good squat technique from the start

2)    More seasoned lifters might a few sets of goblet squats as a warmup for your barbell squats (on my Monday workout below, you’ll see me doing this). I’ve been doing this for about a year now, and I really think it’s helped. I always use 3 sets of 10 — sometimes I’ll just use a 30-40 pound dumbbell, and other times I might work up to a 70 or even heavier (100×10 is my current best). As you do these, think about replicating this optimal squatting position during your barbell squats.

3)    Use the goblet squat for your “light” squat day. Light days can be a valuable programming component, and even if you go as heavy as possible on this movement, it’ll still be “light” at least as far as your quads are concerned.

4)    Use the goblet squat as a form of core training.

5)    Consider using wrist wraps, especially when you graduate to heavier weights. No harm in making things a bit more comfortable.

6)    On heavy goblet squats, you might set the weight on an elevated surface (such as a tall plyo box) first. This will allow most people to use heavier weights than they could otherwise.

OK kids, rant over! I hope I’ve persuaded you to consider implementing the goblet squat somewhere into your overall training program. And remember — we’re not looking to replace your barbell squats, we’re looking to improve them. That’s what the goblet squat can do, and I urge you to give it a fair shot. Oh — and if you have other thoughts about this movement that I may have missed, let me know in the comments below.

This Week’s Training

Training Volume: 106,218 Pounds (Last Week: 0 Pounds)


• High Bar Squat 240×6

• Trap Bar Deadlift 350×8

Well of course the “big news” this week is that I’m now experimenting with a 6-day training week, as opposed to 4 (and occasionally 5) workouts a week that have been the norm for me as of late.

You might ask why I decided to try this. First, I should make it clear that my goes is not to do more overall work, but to spread the same amount of work over more training days. There have been a few noteworthy experiments/studies demonstrating that a higher total training frequency can result in greater gains (in both strength and muscle mass) than lower frequencies (link:, provided that the overall training volume isn’t markedly increased.

Another experience that persuaded me to increase my frequency was the handful of short Sunday workouts I’ve done recently, where I did a total of 12 sets with bicep curls, tricep extensions, and calf raises. These workouts took less than 20 minutes, but surprisingly, left me with a bigger pump and more post-workout soreness than my typical longer sessions. I think these unexpected results were due to the fact that, since these sessions were so short, I applied myself with more intensity on the few sets that I actually did.

Now there’s a sweet spot when it comes to training intensity, and it’s slightly different for each person. You can envision this more clearly if you first imagine the extremes: Assuming that your optimal number of exercises per week is 16 (a typical number for most people I think) first think about an extremely low frequency program — say, once a week. Here, you’d need to do 16 exercises in your one weekly workout — obviously not a practical solution.

On the other extreme, imagine the highest possible frequency — 16 weekly sessions where you do one exercise per session. This too, would be absurd, because once at the gym, it would make no practical sense to do only one exercises, drive home, and then come back later to do another.

Somewhere between these two extremes is a happy medium — perhaps 3 weekly sessions where you do (about) 5 movements per session, or 4 weekly sessions with 4 movements per session.

At 6 sessions per week, I’m performing roughly 3 movements per training session, which seems just about right. If your workouts seem to long (or too short) you might rethink your training frequency. If you have any questions or comments on this subject, please post them below.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Bodyweight: 197.6 Pounds

Volume: 25,910 Pounds

High Bar Squat

Set 1: 45 lb × 8

Set 2: 95 lb × 8

Set 3: 135 lb × 8

Set 4: 185 lb × 8

Set 5: 225 lb × 8

Set 6: 225 lb × 8 (Video Below)

Set 7: 240 lb × 6


Set 1: 135 lb × 8

Set 2: 185 lb × 8

Set 3: 225 lb × 6

Set 4: 275 lb × 6

Set 5: 315 lb × 6 (Video Below)

Set 6: 350 lb × 6

Notes: Focusing on bar speed and lockout

Standing Calf Raise

Set 1: 220 lb × 8

Set 2: 220 lb × 8

Set 3: 220 lb × 8

Set 4: 220 lb × 8

Goblet Squat

Set 1: 10 lb × 10

Set 2: 40 lb × 10

Set 3: 10 lb × 10

Workout Notes: 800mg ibuprofen

Lying wall slides

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Bodyweight: 196.8 Pounds

Volume: 8188 Pounds

Bench Press

Set 1: 45 lb × 10

Set 2: 95 lb × 8

Set 3: 135 lb × 6

Set 4: 185 lb × 8

Set 5: 185 lb × 8

Set 6: 185 lb × 8

Notes: Mild left shoulder pain

Chin Up

Set 1: 8 reps

Set 2: 8 reps

Set 3: 8 reps

Set 4: 6 reps

Bicep Curl (Dumbbell)

Set 1: 6 lb × 8

Set 2: 70 lb × 8

Set 3: 70 lb × 8

Set 4: 70 lb × 8

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Bodyweight: 196.6 Pounds

Volume: 9920 Pounds

Seated Calf Raise

Set 1: 100 lb × 8

Set 2: 100 lb × 8

Set 3: 100 lb × 8

Set 4: 100 lb × 8

EZ Bar Curl

Set 1: 45 lb × 8

Set 2: 65 lb × 8

Set 3: 65 lb × 8

Set 4: 65 lb × 8

Tricep Pushdowns

Set 1: 150 lb × 8

Set 2: 150 lb × 8

Set 3: 150 lb × 8

Set 4: 150 lb × 8

July 14, 2016

Bodyweight: 196

Volume: 34,960 Pounds

Trap Bar Deadlift

Set 1: 135 lb × 8

Set 2: 185 lb × 8

Set 3: 225 lb × 8

Set 4: 275 lb × 8

Set 5: 315 lb × 8

Set 6: 350 lb × 8 (Video Below)

Set 7: 350 lb × 8

Set 8: 335 lb × 8

Leg Press

Set 1: 90 lb × 8

Set 2: 180 lb × 8

Set 3: 270 lb × 8

Set 4: 360 lb × 8

Set 5: 360 lb × 8

Set 6: 360 lb × 8

Seated Leg Curl

Set 1: 145 lb × 8

Set 2: 145 lb × 8

Set 3: 145 lb × 8

Set 4: 145 lb × 8

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bodyweight: 197.6 Pounds

Volume: 16,240 Pounds

Bench Press (Dumbbell)

Set 1: 100 lb × 8

Set 2: 140 lb × 8

Set 3: 170 lb × 8

Set 4: 170 lb × 8

Set 5: 170 lb × 8

Dual Cable Low Cable Curl

Set 1: 100 lb × 8

Set 2: 100 lb × 8

Set 3: 100 lb × 8

Set 4: 100 lb × 8

Med-Grip Bench

Set 1: 45 lb × 10

Set 2: 95 lb × 8

Set 3: 135 lb × 6

Set 4: 185 lb × 6

Set 5: 185 lb × 6

Set 6: 185 lb × 8

Seated Row

Set 1: 165 lb × 8

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Bodyweight: 198 Pounds

Volume: 11,000 Pounds

Hack Squat

Set 1: 90 lb × 8

Set 2: 140 lb × 8

Set 3: 180 lb × 8

Set 4: 180 lb × 8

45° Back Extension

Set 1: BW (+140 lb) × 8

Set 2: BW (+140 lb) × 8

Set 3: BW (+140 lb) × 8

Seated Calf Raise

Set 1: 100 lb × 8

Set 2: 100 lb × 8

Set 3: 100 lb × 8


Leave a Comment

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric H

The goblet squat looks like it trains similar muscles as the front barbell squat. Is there any big difference between the 2 exercises? Thanks.



charles, i sure the goblet squad serves a purpose somewhere, but as the poundage needed for an individual’s purpose to be effective, doesn’t that poundage (Kettlebell) use up neurological force by-way holding it the static position in front of the chest and taking it away in order to build Leg strength and/or muscle. Why not just do Deadlift variations and Squat variations?


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