Squats are incredibly effective when it comes to building up your glutes, and they are also extremely convenient. After all, many variations—including traditional and sumo—can be done anytime, anyplace, as they require zero equipment. There are also barbell squats, which involve holding a heavy weight on your back.
While traditional squats and sumo squats are popular variations, goblet squats are another butt-building exercise, involving holding a dumbbell or kettlebell while executing a traditional squat. What exactly is a goblet squat, how can you benefit from adding them to your workout, and are they safe? Ahead, discover everything you need to know about goblet squats, from proper form to common modifications.
Meet the Expert
- Jovana Perisic is a NSCA-certified fitness trainer with CrossTown Fitness, based in Chicago.
- Yami Mufdi is a Tone It Up trainer.
What Is a Goblet Squat?
Jovana Perisic explains that a goblet squat is a variation of a squat that targets the major muscle groups in the lower body, including the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. The major difference between a traditional squat and a goblet is the addition of weights. “In a goblet squat position, a dumbbell or kettlebell is held at the chest,” she explains. “The weight being in front of the body forces the athlete to engage their core during the squat.”
Yami Mufdi adds that goblet squats can also be called a DB Front Squat or a front rack squat.
Benefits of Goblet Squats
There are many benefits of goblet squats, per Mufdi:
- They are a compound exercise: Like other types of squats, goblets are a compound exercise, working multiple muscle groups at once.
- Less intimidating than a barbell squat: Compared with a barbell squat, another compound move that involves placing heavy weight on your shoulders, Mufdi explains that holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of the body can be much less intimidating.
- Faster learning curve: It is much easier to learn the squatting movement pattern with a goblet squat. “I almost always start beginner clients off with these before progressing them to the barbell,” she explains.
- Lower injury risk than a barbell squat: The goblet squat allows you to keep a slightly more upright torso, which in turn places less stress on the lower back and decreases the risk of injury.
- Very accessible: Because you don't need a barbell to perform a goblet squat, they're much easier to do anywhere, whether it's at home or in a busy gym if the squat racks are all taken!
Proper Goblet Squat Form
A goblet squat involves holding a weight at your chest with your legs shoulder width apart and executing a squat, explains Perisic.
“As with any exercise, proper form is very important,” adds Mufti, who notes that weight should be evenly distributed, not too far forward on your toes and not too far back on your heels. She offers the following step-by-step instructions on how to execute a goblet squat.
- Push your booty back so your weight shifts slightly back onto your heels. Take a deep breath and squeeze your abs.
- Slowly lower your body as if you're sitting down in a chair. Keep your core tight!
- Keep your chest open and shoulders pulled back as your thighs lower down to be parallel with the ground.
- Once you reach the bottom of your squat, push your heels into the ground, push your knees away from each other, and return to the starting position. Exhale on the way up.
How to Modify
If you would like to make the goblet squat easier or need modifications due to injuries/disabilities, Mufdi suggests decreasing the amount of weight you're using, utilizing a bench or chair to sit on at the bottom of your movement, or attaching a band to something overhead like a door and hold onto it while you squat. “The band will help you on the way up,” she notes.
In order to make it more challenging, you can increase the weight you're using, slow down the tempo of your reps (for example, lower to the bottom for a duration of 3–5 seconds), or pause at the bottom of your squat when you reach parallel.
Perisic adds that if using a weight feels uncomfortable, you can try a body-weight goblet squat with heels elevated on a plate. Or, you can try using a band above your knees and pushing out slightly as you bend and squat “to help you keep your knees in line with your second toes,” she says. “A lot of people tend to let their knees cave inward in goblet squats because the feet are parallel.”
Goblet Squat vs. Barbell Front Squat
The most similar exercise to a goblet squat would be the barbell front squat, says Mufti. “They are almost identical in movement pattern and where the weight is held,” she notes. However the barbell front squat also requires both wrist and shoulder mobility in order to complete safely and effectively.
The barbell front squat will allow you to use more weight, which might be a plus for some people. However, due to its technical nature, it can be a cause of injury if you are not adequately prepared.
If you have lower-back or knee issues, Mufti urges getting cleared by a doctor before performing goblet squats. “While goblet squats are for the most part safe, any squatting pattern can open yourself up to back or knee injuries if you are not careful,” she explains. “Common form mistakes that can cause injury are rounding of the back and knees caving in. Always keep your shoulders pulled back and knees pushed outwards when performing goblet squats.”
Perisic also suggests starting by doing a couple reps with just body weight, and increase to using a dumbbell or kettlebell if the body weight feels good.
Examples of Goblet Squats Variations
Perisic explains that there are also few variations of a goblet squat, “merely preference” as to what type of hold feels best to the athlete performing the goblet squat.
Dumbbell Goblet Squat
Holding the heels of your hands together, hold the top of the dumbbell and complete the squat.
Kettlebell Top Up Goblet Squat
Hold the kettlebell handle at the sides, with the handle facing up.
Kettlebell Bottom Up Goblet Squat
Flip the kettlebell upside down so that the handle faces down, and hold at the sides. “This involves slight balancing of the kettlebell,” she says.
Kettlebell Side Goblet Squat
One hand holds the bottom of the kettlebell, while the other hand holds the handle in this variation. “More weight will be on one hand here, so I like doing an even amount of reps with each hand holding the bottom,” she explains.
The Final Takeaway
Goblet squats are a great alternative to barbell squats, especially if you are exercising at home and only have access to a dumbbell or kettlebell. And, compared with a sumo squat or traditional squat, adding the weight will majorly up your glutes workout game.
DelVecchio L, Daewoud H, Green S. The health and performance benefits of the squat, deadlift, and bench press. MOJ Yoga Phys Therapy. 2018;3(2):40-47. doi:10.15406/mojypt.2018.03.00042