Goblet Squats: How to Use Proper Form & Technique

/ November 30, 2016

Goblet squats are a simple and effective exercise to help you build abs of steel and full-body strength. In fact, goblet squats are a staple exercise for you to assess and build your overall strength.

With goblets squats, the weight is held in front of you as a counterbalance, which can help you learn to master proper squat form and technique.

Holding a weight in front of your body – whether a dumbbell, sandbag, or kettlebell – is much harder than squatting the same amount of weight on your back with a barbell. Goblet squats deeply engage your core, build leg and shoulder strength, and increase full-body tension.

Exercise Instructions

globet-squat
Here’s exactly how to do goblet squats, from set-up to execution:

  1. Stand upright with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, hands cupping a dumbbell comfortably in front of your chest.
  2. Keeping your head up and shoulders locked down, lower your hips down while pushing your knees outward so they track in line with your toes.
  3. Squat down until your hips are below the plane of your knees.
  4. Press strongly through your feet (especially your heels) to stand back up to the starting position.

Form Tips

Mastering the goblet squat and optimizing your strength is all about form and technique. Keep these tips in mind as you do this exercise.

  1. Always maintain a flat to slightly arched lower back position (known as a neutral spine). Avoid rounding your lower back, or tucking under your hips.
  2. Keep your knees pushed outward so they track over your toes. Your knees should not cave inward, but rather stay in the same plane.
  3. Keep your heels firmly planted on the ground as you squat.
  4. Keep your torso as vertical as possible, so you are not leaning too far forward.
  5. Breathe in, then lower down while holding your breath, then exhale forcefully as you push back up to the top.

3 Common Mistakes

1. Knees Cave In

globet-squat-knees-cave
A very common mistake when doing goblet squats (and squats in general) is for the knees to cave in and the feet to collapse inward. This can happen for a couple of reasons:

  • The outside of your hips and glutes are weak, so your knees lack proper stability when you squat.
  • The arches in your feet may flatten, or you use footwear with large cushioning, which encourages improper form.
  • You are not consciously pressing your knees outward.
  • Your knees should be in line with your toes as you squat, and your feet should be angled slightly outward, which gives you more space to get your hips into a deep squat position.

    2. Not squatting low enough

    goblet-squat-low
    Doing partial squats is not as effective as squatting deeply with a neutral spine. Ideally, your hip joint will drop below the plane of your knees at the bottom of the squat position, without rounding your low back (aka butt wink). This maximally engages your glutes and legs in a very functional squat pattern.

    To be clear, squatting “below parallel” or getting into a deep squat should not hurt your knees. And keep in mind – you need sufficient ankle, hip, and upper back flexibility to squat deeply without your lower back rounding.

    For more information, check out “How Deep Should I Squat” and “5 Tips to Increase Squat Depth”.

    3. Heels coming off ground

    goblet-squat-heels-up
    As you squat, your heels should be planted firmly on the ground. This is key to activating the proper muscles involved in a squat such as your glutes, increasing joint stability, and maximizing your strength potential.

    If your heels come off the ground, the exercise is not safe because you could lose your balance. I highly recommend flat-soled shoes or taking off your sneakers when squatting. A thick sneaker will significantly affect your squat form, the placement of your joints, and the recruitment of muscles.

    Add Goblet Squats To Your Workout Program

    Goblets squats are a classic exercise that help increase your strength & power. If you haven’t done them yet, give them a try. I personally prefer holding kettlebells over dumbbells, but you can use the piece of equipment that you’re more familiar with.

    Working up to a 1/3 bodyweight goblet squat for 5 reps is a solid strength goal, and from there you can focus on doing 1/2 bodyweight goblet squats.

    Are goblet squats a part of your workout program? Any questions about how to master proper form?

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    14 Comments

    1. profile avatar
      Phillip Schlueter Dec 02, 2016 - 10:07 #

      Butt wink a little?

      1. profile avatar
        Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT Dec 02, 2016 - 18:38 #

        You are right, there is a small butt-wink Phillip. Good eye. What’s strange is I didn’t notice it, or feel it. My muscles were cold from not having a shirt on in 45 degree weather at 7am right next to the water. It was kind of funny that there were people cleaning the park (Brooklyn Bridge Park) bundled up in thick coats as I’m demonstrating. Anyways, thanks for pointing that out

        1. profile avatar
          Ant Dec 07, 2016 - 20:36 #

          What’s a butt wink? Lol

    2. profile avatar
      ** Dec 02, 2016 - 11:51 #

      huge fan of MP and BuiltLean. But agreed, butt wink…

    3. profile avatar
      Yolande Dec 02, 2016 - 12:41 #

      Mark, great video!
      Short, sweet and to the point. Thanks! I know you tried the Fit5 in the weekly emails, but I like the new layout of the emails. They are clean, eye catching photos, great info, and to the point. Thanks for the info!

      1. profile avatar
        Kristin Dec 02, 2016 - 14:10 #

        Thanks for the feedback Yolande! We’re really glad you’re enjoying the articles and layout of the newsletter. We definitely like hearing about what you like, and what doesn’t work for you. It helps us do a better job of giving you the information you’re interested in.
        -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

    4. profile avatar
      Pramod Dec 02, 2016 - 12:50 #

      what should be the breathing pattern for the Goblet squats??? like breath-in while going down & breathe-out while coming back to original / start position. also i think breathing is very important part & it would b great if u mention about breathing pattern in your every workout you share with us. thanks for all your wonderful articles! it has helped me a lot!

      1. profile avatar
        Kristin Dec 02, 2016 - 14:13 #

        Thanks Pramod! We’re glad you’re enjoying the videos and articles, and that we’re helping you learn. We also appreciate the feedback. You’re absolutely right – how you breathe during exercises can make a huge difference in your performance. We’ll keep your recommendation in mind!

        In the goblet squat, you want to inhale through your nose on the way down, briefly hold your breath at the bottom, and then forcefully exhale through your mouth as you stand back up. Give that a try, and let us know how it goes!

        -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

    5. profile avatar
      Elkie Dec 02, 2016 - 19:51 #

      Thanks It’s a great exercise for your legs, sometimes I do not go right down between my legs due to my back problem.

    6. profile avatar
      mahdi Dec 07, 2016 - 12:18 #

      Mark, great video!
      Short, sweet and to the point. Thanks! I know you tried the Fit5 in the weekly emails, but I like the new layout of the emails. They are clean, eye catching photos, great info, and to the point. Thanks for the info!

      1. profile avatar
        Kristin Dec 07, 2016 - 12:25 #

        Glad you enjoyed the video, and thanks for the feedback about the newsletter! We definitely take your opinion into account, and appreciate when our followers let us know what they prefer.

        -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

    7. profile avatar
      Steve Dec 22, 2016 - 19:00 #

      Marc,

      Thanks so much for the video, great instructions. I’ve found goblet squats to be super difficult. For what ever reason, I’ve found that exercises that combine 1) holding weight directly above or in front of me, with 2) deep bends in the knee to be extremely hard. I’m ok with a standing overhead press or a standard back squat, but things like goblet squats and front squats are challenging. Overhead squats are a dealbreaker. I can’t manage to get low while keeping my chest upright.

      Do you think there’s a specific weakness I can address? FYI if it’s relevant, I’m tall (6’5″) and thin (~195lb).

    8. profile avatar
      Deb Dec 31, 2016 - 12:00 #

      I do Goblet squats with a kettlebell and at the bottom, add biceps curls. It keeps me low longer and helps maintain proper back form. Great article!

      1. profile avatar
        Kristin Dec 31, 2016 - 12:17 #

        That’s a great goblet squat variation, Deb! It absolutely does force you to hang out in your deep squat a bit longer, which can help you open your hips while also challenging your core. We’ll definitely have a video and article about the goblet squat & bicep curl exercise some time in the future.
        -Kristin, BuiltLean Coach & Managing Editor

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