How to Do a Goblet Squat

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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Targets: Glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, core (abdominals and spinal erectors), forearms, biceps, shoulders

Equipment Needed: Kettlebell or dumbbell

Level: Beginner to advanced

The goblet squat is a great full-body exercise that builds muscle (particularly in the legs, core, and glutes) and develops cardiovascular fitness. Exercisers of all levels can use the movement as a solid warm-up during a lower body workout or as a way to progress to a weighted front squat using a barbell.

As with all squats, the goblet squat targets all the major muscle groups of the lower body in a compound fashion. This translates nicely to everyday functional movements, as it mimics squatting down to pick something up off of the bottom shelf at the grocery store, rising out of a chair, or getting out of bed in the morning.

How to Do a Goblet Squat

You don't need much to get started with the goblet squat—just a kettlebell or dumbbell and enough space to stand and move comfortably with your feet roughly hip- to shoulder-distance apart.

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart, your toes angled slightly outward.
  2. Hold a kettlebell in both hands at your chest, gripping the handles as though you were cupping a goblet—one hand on either side of the handles. Bend your elbows, so the goblet is positioned right at the center of your chest.
  3. Warm up by using a lighter (or no) kettlebell to get a sense of the movement. Then, progress to a heavier weight for your full set.
  4. Engage your core and look straight ahead—you want to keep your back neutrally aligned and your eyes facing straight forward throughout the squat.
  5. Press your hips back and begin bending your knees to perform the squat. Inhale as you perform this downward phase.
  6. Keep the kettlebell close to your body during the movement.
  7. Focus on keeping your chest tall as you continue pressing your hips back and lowering down. The goal is to get your hips below parallel with your knees.
  8. Make sure your weight remains evenly distributed across your feet or slightly more weighted toward your heels—you shouldn't come up on your toes as you squat.
  9. Check your position at the bottom of the squat—your elbows should be positioned on the inside of either knee at the lowest point. This helps ensure that your knees remain aligned with your toes as you move into the deep squat position.
  10. Press through your heels and reverse the motion to return to the starting position. Exhale as you rise and press your hips forward at the top of the squat to engage your glutes more fully.
  11. Complete a full set and carefully rack the kettlebell. Always avoid dropping weights from a height. Repeat through as many sets as desired.

Benefits of Goblet Squats

One of the best things about the goblet squat is that you move through a full range of motion while preventing common beginner-level mistakes, like leaning too far forward or allowing your knees to cave inward. It's also a fantastic beginner-level progression of an air squat because it can help beginners add resistance to the exercise while simultaneously perfecting their squat form.

The goblet squat works all the major muscle groups of the lower body, including the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. It also engages the core and the spinal erectors of your back, forearms, and even, to some degree, shoulders and upper back, as you have to actively engage them to help keep your chest and torso tall throughout the movement. In essence, it's a total-body exercise.

Since the kettlebell is held in front of your body, this exercise engages your quadriceps slightly more than squat variations where the resistance is carried behind the body, as with a back squat. Goblet squats are a good option if you're looking to build extra strength in your quadriceps while performing a total-body move.

Prevents Exercise Injury

One of the greatest benefits of the goblet squat is how it helps you improve your squat form, which helps prevent injury. While just about everyone is familiar with the general squat form, people often make mistakes that could contribute to low back or knee injuries.

The goblet squat can help you identify and fix some common problems that occur during all types of squats.

Since you're holding the weight in front of your body, you become more aware of the importance of keeping your torso tall and your core engaged as you move through the squat. As they begin to lower into the squat, many people start tipping forward from the hips, leaning their chest toward the ground, and compromising the neutral position of their back.

Holding the resistance in front of your body during a goblet squat brings your attention to rolling your shoulders back, engaging your core, and keeping your torso upright as you squat down to prevent being pulled forward or off-balance by the kettlebell's weight.

Prevents Knee Pain from Squats

The goal of the exercise is to get your elbows to touch the insides of your knees at the bottom of the goblet squat, so this squat variation encourages proper knee alignment with your toes.

It's common for people's knees to angle inward slightly as they squat down, referred to as "knee valgus." This misalignment often becomes even more pronounced at the bottom of the squat when you transition from the downward (eccentric) part of the exercise to the upward (concentric) part.

This improper knee alignment makes it more likely for you to experience knee pain or potential injury because more stress is placed on the inside of the knee as it moves through a full range of motion.

By getting your elbows to touch the inside of your knees at the bottom of the squat, you require your knees to track in line with your toes.

Even if your knees are still angled slightly inward at the bottom, your elbow placement gives you an opportunity to check your form and make sure your knees are tracking properly before you transition to the upward portion of the exercise and return to standing. This helps reduce the likelihood that your knees "collapse" inward during this transition, ultimately guarding you against potential pain or injury.

Improves Jumping Performance

A study in the Journal of Sport Science & Medicine shows that performing squats with increased load, such as by holding a kettlebell in a goblet squat, improved jumping performance. Working the muscles in the quads and glutes contributes to how effectively you can jump, and goblet squats work both these muscle groups effectively.

Other Variations of Goblet Squats

There are multiple ways to modify this exercise, including making it a bit easier or more challenging.

Work Up to Using Weight

If adding weight to the goblet squat is proving difficult, do the exercise as an air squat, but hold your hands together at your chest as if you were gripping a kettlebell.

You can still move through the squat the same way, ensuring your elbows touch the inside of your knees at the bottom of the squat. Then, as you grow stronger, add a light kettlebell to the movement to continue increasing your fitness.

Lastly, you can squat down to a box and stand back up. Place the box behind your hips. This option may be helpful for those who are not as comfortable lifting and lowering into a squat position.

Make It Challenging

Additionally, you can choose to focus on building strength and power by using a heavier weight kettlebell or use a lighter weight and do more reps to work on developing cardio and mobility.

Aim for 3 to 5 sets of 4 to 8 reps if you're working on strength. If you're focusing on cardio, try 4 to 6 sets of 8 to 10 reps. Adjust these recommendations based on what is challenging enough to tire you but not so much that the last rep compromises your form.

Change Your Pace

Another option is to slow down the movement by slowly descending into the squat for 3 to 5 seconds, repeating the slow movement as you return to standing. This version eliminates momentum and enhances control and endurance.

The goblet squat is a precursor to a front squat with a barbell. This is because, just like the front squat, the goblet squat requires you to position the added resistance (the kettlebell) in front of your body at roughly shoulder-level, rather than behind you, as is the case during the traditional back squat, where the barbell is positioned across the back of your shoulders.

Change Positioning

If you're ready for a challenge, hold a barbell in both hands at your shoulders (this requires some flexibility at your shoulders to do it correctly), so your elbows are pointing straight ahead, and your palms are facing up.

From this position, do the squat just as you did with the goblet squat. The weight and size of the barbell make this more difficult, as well as the somewhat awkward positioning of your arms.

You'll also notice immediately that you must keep your torso upright and your chest tall, or you risk being pulled forward and off-balance by the weight as it's positioned in front of your body.

Common Mistakes

While the goblet squat is relatively simple to perform, mistakes are possible. Below are some of the most common errors to watch out for.

Holding the Weight Too Far From Your Body

The kettlebell should always be held close to your body at your chest when performing a goblet squat. Make sure your elbows are fully bent and the kettlebell is close to you, so you don't feel like you're actively engaging your biceps to hold it in place.

Suppose you hold the kettlebell farther from your body. In that case, you must engage your biceps, forearms, and even the anterior portion of your shoulders to a greater degree to prevent your chest and shoulders from tipping forward as you squat down, pulling you off balance.

Not only does this make it harder to maintain proper form, but it will also limit how much weight you can use when performing the exercise.

Your legs can carry and support a much greater level of resistance than your biceps and forearms are, so making sure your arms aren't doing most of the work to hold the kettlebell in place is important for ongoing progression.

Leaning Forward From the Waist

Leaning or tipping forward from the waist as you perform a squat is a common mistake. This compromises the neutral alignment of your spine and, in the case of the goblet squat, makes it more likely you'll lose your balance or rise on your toes as you squat down. This is because the weight of the kettlebell is likely to pull you farther forward.

To prevent this forward lean, set up in front of a mirror so you can see your side in its reflection. Before you begin your squat, draw your shoulder blades toward your spine and roll your shoulders back. Engage your core muscles, and as you press your hips back to start the squat, watch yourself in the mirror.

You may not be able to lower yourself as deep into your squat, but that's OK. You can work on your range of motion over time. Correcting this forward lean is important to see more significant improvements in form, range of motion, and resistance level over time.

If you notice your chest or shoulders collapsing or rounding forward, or you see yourself leaning forward at the waist, try looking up at a slight angle before re-engaging your shoulders to pull them back and draw your chest up again.

Rising Up On Your Toes

Since the kettlebell is held in front of your body as you perform the goblet squat, if you have other form problems (for instance, you carry the weight too far from your body, or you lean forward as you squat down), you're also more likely to make the mistake of rising on your toes as you squat down.

Putting weight on the toes is more likely to throw you off balance, compromise the integrity of your knees, and prevent you from increasing resistance over time.

As you squat down, ensure your chest and torso remain upright and tall. You should be able to wiggle your toes a little as you squat. This will help remind you to keep your center of gravity positioned farther back and more centered over your heels than farther forward on your feet.

Your weight should be evenly distributed across your feet, with the exception of the toes—none of your weight should be supported on your toes.

Knees Caving Inward As You Squat

The beauty of the goblet squat is that it helps correct the common squat problem of knee valgus or the caving inward of the knees. As stated previously, by trying to get your elbows to touch the inside of your knees at the bottom of the squat, you're essentially training yourself to keep your knees properly aligned with your toes.

At the very least, it gives you a physical reminder to double-check for this common problem at the deepest point of the squat before you transition to standing up again. Since this is the point at which most people experience knee valgus, it's the ideal way to correct the problem.

As you squat down, your knee caps should align with your second toe throughout the exercise. If they seem to be angled slightly inward, engage your glutes and hips to pull your knees outward slightly.

Not Utilizing the Full Squat

The deepest part of the movement is often the most challenging, which is why it's tempting (whether intentional or not) to stop the movement before hitting the full bottom of the position. Not going fully into the squat robs you of working the full range of motion—and reaping the full benefits of this exercise.

Instead, focus on sitting deeply into the squat, all the way down until your elbows touch the inside of your knees. Then, be sure to rise back up to standing fully upright.

Safety and Precautions

Generally speaking, the goblet squat is a safe and effective beginner-level squat variation that can help you identify and correct common squatting mistakes. That said, individuals who experience knee or back pain with squatting are likely to experience it with the goblet squat as well.

If knee or back pain is an issue for you, try limiting your range of motion at first to see if you can perform the exercise without pain. As you get stronger, gradually deepen your range of motion. If you ever experience sharp or shooting pain, discontinue the movement.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Laura Williams, MSEd, ASCM-CEP
Laura Williams is a fitness expert and advocate with certifications from the American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine.