How to Goblet Squat

Complete Guide to Goblet Squat Benefits, Form, and Variations

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTUpdated: June 14, 2023

Traditional barbell back squats are the king of leg exercises. But they’re not great for targeting specific muscles in your lower body. Plus, the heavy loads can put a strain on your lower back.

The goblet squat, on the other hand, puts very little stress on your back. And it’s a versatile exercise that you can easily alter to fit your gym equipment and bodybuilding goals.

In this article, I show you how to do a goblet squat. As well as providing you with several goblet squat variations for targeting specific parts of your legs.

How to Goblet Squat

What Is A Goblet Squat?

The goblet squat is a lower-body exercise where you hold a weight in front of your chest while performing the squat movement. Usually, the weight is either a dumbbell, kettlebell, or weight plate.

By holding the weight in front, your back can stay in a more upright position. This is why goblet squats put less strain on your lower back than regular squats.

While this exercise is not a direct replacement for barbell squats, it is a terrific accessory lift for your leg day workouts.

Goblet Squat Muscles Worked

As with any squatting movement, goblet squats work nearly every muscle in your lower body. Including the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus, hip flexors, and even the calves to some extent.

However, the more upright back position shifts some of the load off of the glutes and hamstrings. Therefore, goblet squats are best for targeting the quads.

Goblet Squat Muscles Worked

Goblet Squat vs. Front Squat

The front squat is another exercise where you hold the weight in front of you. And if you’re familiar with this exercise, you know that it also puts more emphasis on the quads.

However, the weight is still on your shoulders during a front squat. In comparison, the goblet squat puts the weight’s center of mass a few inches in front of your shoulders.

For this reason, goblet squats emphasize the quads more than front squats. However, you can probably use heavier weights on the front squat.

Goblet Squat Benefits & Limitations

As I mentioned already, the goblet squat has several benefits. But it’s not without limitations.

One drawback is that you’re limited by how much weight you can hold in front of your chest. This means the load and resultant muscle adaptation are significantly lower compared to traditional squats.


  • Less strain on the lower back
  • Can use whatever form of weight you have available
  • Multiple variations for targeting specific leg muscles
  • Don’t need a lot of space


  • Can’t go as heavy as you can on barbell squats
  • Not the best for overall lower body development

How To Do A Dumbbell Goblet Squat

To perform a squat, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell vertically against your chest with both hands. Your palms should face upwards, while your elbows remain close to your body.

Begin by pushing your hips back and bending your knees as if you’re sitting on a chair. Keep your chest up, your back straight, and your heels grounded. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground or as low as you can comfortably go.

Pause at the bottom before pushing through your heels to extend your knees and hips, returning to the starting position. Repeat the exercise for the intended number of repetitions.

Also, it’s best to start with a manageable weight and gradually increase it as you grow stronger and more at ease with the movement.

To recap, here is how to do a goblet squat in 5 basic steps:

  1. Hold the weight against your chest with your palms facing up and elbows directly under your hands
  2. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart (for a standard goblet squat)
  3. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor or your elbows touch your thighs
  4. Push your body back up to the starting position by extending your hips and knees
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps and carefully lower the weight in front of you

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Proper Goblet Squat Form

Here are some additional tips to help you perform this exercise with proper form.

  • You should be able to get low enough that your thighs are about parallel with the floor.
  • For standard goblet squats, your knees should be directly over your toes at the bottom.
  • Ensure that your knees track in line with your toes and don’t collapse inward or push outward.
  • Keep your back straight and relatively upright.
  • Squeeze your quads at the top.

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7 Goblet Squat Variations

Next, I will show you several goblet squat variations for targeting specific parts of the legs. As well as ways you can perform the exercise with different types of equipment.

1. Sumo Goblet Squat

With the standard dumbbell goblet squat, you get a balanced load distribution on the quads. This means it works the inside and the outside.

In contrast, the sumo goblet squat emphasizes the inner thighs and groin area more. The reason is the wide sumo stance where your feet are 1.5 to 2 times shoulder-width.

2. Heel Elevated Goblet Squat

To isolate the quads further, you can do a heel-elevated goblet squat. This is where you place a weight plate or platform under your heels during the exercise.

Elevating your heels shifts your weight farther forward and keeps your back more upright relative to your hips. Also, your knees bend further and move forward past your toes, resulting in greater quad activation.

In addition, keeping your feet close together works more of your outer quads. At this point, the movement pattern begins to resemble a hack squat or a sissy squat, which are also good exercises for building bigger quads.

Standard Goblet Squat vs Heel Elevated Goblet Squat

3. Goblet Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is an exercise where you squat with one leg while the other leg is elevated on a bench or platform behind you. With this exercise, you recruit more stabilizer muscles to balance and isolate one leg at a time.

Usually, the split squat is performed with a dumbbell (or dumbbells) hanging at arm’s length. But if you hold the weight up by your chest, you shift your center of gravity forward.

If you combine this with a shorter step length, you can really isolate the quads.

4. Kettlebell Goblet Squat

What if you work out at home or at a CrossFit gym that doesn’t have dumbbells? Not to worry. You can use kettlebells instead of dumbbells.

For a KB goblet squat, the movement is exactly the same. The only difference is that you hold the kettlebell against your chest by grasping the lower part of the handle with your palms facing in.

5. Goblet Squat With Plate

If you don’t have dumbbells or kettlebells, you can even perform goblet squats by simply holding a weight plate in front of your chest.

6. Landmine Goblet Squat

Another variation involves an apparatus called a landmine. Most often, this is used for an exercise like landmine rows. But it works great for other movements, including goblet squats.

7. Banded Goblet Squat

Lastly, if you’re working out at home and have none of the equipment listed above, you can do a resistance band goblet squat. For a complete at-home resistance band workout, check out these 17 resistance band exercises for legs.

Goblet Squat Alternatives

Of course, you don’t have to include goblet squats in every workout. And it’s actually a good idea to rotate between a few different quad-focused exercises for each leg day.

So here are some of the best exercises you can substitute for goblet squats.

Barbell Front Squat

As mentioned, the front squat also involves holding the weight in front of your shoulders instead of on your back. And shifting your center of gravity forward is what results in greater quad activation.

In addition, barbell front squats allow you to work up to heavier weights. So they are an excellent way to add progressive overload to your quads.

Smith Machine Front Squat

Another option is doing front squats on the Smith machine, which is a barbell on guide rails. Also, Smith machine front squats make it much easier to balance the bar on your shoulders so you can focus on proper form.

Smith Machine Front Squat

Hack Squat

The hack squat is typically performed on a machine that looks like an inverted leg press. Unlike the leg press, however, the hack squat is a quad-dominant movement because your back stays more upright.

Therefore, you could use hack squats as a replacement for goblet squats to target your quads.

Heel Elevated Back Squat

Traditional barbell squats work the quads, glutes, and hamstrings very well. But they’re not the best exercise for isolating either muscle group.

One way to emphasize the quads more on back squats is by raising your heels. And heel elevated back squats are another alternative to goblet squats.

Sissy Squat

Lastly, the sissy squat is not as simple as it may sound. This bodyweight exercise is extremely challenging on the quads because it involves squatting down without bending your hips!

More Leg Exercises & Workouts

Goblet squats are an excellent addition to your lower body or leg day workouts. But if you really want spectacular legs, you must develop a complete lower-body workout program

So I’ve compiled some of my best articles to help you learn more about leg exercises and workouts.

Chris Bumstead Olympia Leg Workout

Tom Platz Legendary Leg Day Workout

Wide vs Narrow Stance Squats – Mechanics & Muscles Worked

14 Hip Thrust Alternatives for Glutes

Best Barbell Hamstring Exercises

16 Leg Extension Alternatives for Building Quads

Top 10 Landmine Leg Exercises with Workout

With this information, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your fitness goals. And if you found this exercise tutorial helpful, click on the articles below for more workout and nutrition tips!

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By |June 14, 2023|Workouts|0 Comments
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