Crank up your leg workout with goblet squats

There are some people who have no trouble developing powerful legs. I’m not one of those guys. So with the volume of running I do, and the need for greater athleticism, leg training is a major priority for me.

Outside, that comes in the form of intervals (800 meter repeats are rough, but profitable) and hill repeats (again, difficult but awesome). But it doesn’t stop there.

The weight room is a major part of my routine. Bodyweight stuff is fine, as are things like yoga, pilates and other forms of training. But when it comes to building raw strength, nothing beats pushing some iron around.

So my most important workout of the week is leg day. Some of the big lifts for me: barbell squats and deadlifts.

It’s hard work, and it’s also the kind of training where form means everything. Cheating on reps is fruitless at best and injurious at worst.

But it’s that barbell back squat the gets me. I’ll be honest, my form needs work. I get plenty deep enough (past parallel), but there is still too much back recruitment going on. It’s a sure-fire way to shortchange myself on gains and, at worst, get hurt.

Enter the goblet squat.


I didn’t think much of it, mostly because the idea of squatting with anything less than a heavily loaded barbell just doesn’t seem too appealing at first glance. Go heavy or go home, right?

Think again.

The beauty of the goblet squat is that it is almost rehabilitative in its form. Proper technique on this one has you keeping your back straight, and there is less of a hip-hinge curve to the lift. The load toward the front of your body emphasizes the quads. And best yet, if you go deep (I’m talking butt to ankles), there are parts of your muscles that are finally getting recruited and built up that might be missed if your barbell squats are lacking in form.

The result: A more powerful lower body on the deepest part of the lift, which will eventually allow you to improve your back squat and develop a fuller range of motion. And that translates into better athletic performance.

The exercise: Take a dumbbell or kettlebell and hold it close to your chest, hands about collarbone high. Place your feet about shoulder width apart. Keeping your back straight, squat down deep slowly. Your butt should be at least level with your upper ankles. If your mobility is good, you might even be able to come close to touching the floor. Then stand back up. Do sets of 8-10 reps, and if you want, increase weight as you go. NOTE: Your hips will not go back as far on the goblet squat as they would on a normal barbell back squat. The motion will be more straight up-and-down.

I’ve attached a video to show you how the exercise works.

So add it to your leg day. You won’t regret it.

Bob Doucette

12 thoughts on “Crank up your leg workout with goblet squats

  1. I do something similar to this. I take a 45lb plate, start in the squat position, lift up and then extend my arms and the weight over my head. This gets my legs, shoulders and arms. After a couple sets of 20 it can be difficult to walk!

  2. very interesting article Homie! I did enjoy the read but I have to respectfully disagree that this type of squat is a strength builder. Possibly a strength building lift for a very small woman, b/c her bodyweight/dumbbell weight ratio could be good enough to build strength? But overall this lift is good for muscular endurance for the masses. It’s not possible to overload the muscle enough with a dumbbell when you compare it to a barbell. It would just be almost impossible to hold a 185 or 225 pound barbell in your arms. The rep range would be too high b/c the dumbbell is going to be to light so it’s great for muscular endurance lifts but not going to help a linebacker or someone trying to develop leg shattering kicking strength. GREAT read though and very thorough!!! Thanks Homie!

    • Read it a little closer. If someone has range of motion issues that prevent them from going deeper into the squat, their main and supporting muscles are not getting worked. That’s what this one does, and it can build strength down in those hard to hit areas that will eventually help with the bigger lifts. This is pretty proven stuff. Check out the stuff from Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson to learn more.

  3. So you are saying it is a “rehab exercise?” If one of my clients has some serious range of motion issues I’ll use isometric work to break through that issue, but I still wouldn’t want to prescribe this exercise for someone who is trying to get “stronger.” I checked out those guys and they are smart dudes for sure but I think using this as a rehab exercise is the point with this weighted movement…now making it plyometric, well that right there would make it a fast twitch developer:) I like these guys but Charles Poloquin is the man and his word is bond when it comes to getting people strong (in my humble opinion:)

    • Rehabbing form. That is, if you have form issues, it’s likely because you are inadvertently recruiting the wrong muscles. When that happens, your target muscles don’t get properly worked or developed. This exercise makes it easy to work the target muscles and help develop full range of motion.

      Goblet squats don’t replace barbell squats. They supplement them. And you’d be surprised at the strength gains you can make with lighter weights by applying the principles of time under tension. Always more than one way to skin a cat.

  4. Bro I have nothing but love and respect for you but I’ve been making money training people for far more then a decade, I am a C.S.C.S. Coach (like Cressey and I am sure Robertson), as well as having passed 4 other national certs, and am extremely well read on post-surgical rehab, as well as S&C protocols and I don’t think your article is correct in saying the goblet squat is for strength training…rehab maybe but really it is just a gimmick squat, basically. I use these with my clients as a superset sometimes so they aren’t useless but saying they are good for rehab is like saying raising a bar over your head is good for rotator cuff rehab…both of those statements are true but it doesn’t mean they are “Strength Exercises.” And I am not at all surprised about lighter weight training (time under tension is a general term too b/c I’m not sure if you mean volume or higher reps?) Volume is definitely a Great strength training protocol but higher reps are absolutely NOT. When it comes to strength training, yes you can do a bunch of stuff that will get you “in shape” but that doesn’t mean you will increase your 1RM at all.

    • Your experience and credentials speak for themselves. No disputing that, and in our conversations about fitness (as well as your writings) I know that you know your stuff. A couple of things…

      The term “time under tension” isn’t high reps, low weight. You’ll never hear me advocating that, mostly because it doesn’t work. Instead, it has more to do with the proper time taken on a rep (similar to a slow rep, but not really) as well as when a proper pause should be taken. The guys I mentioned earlier, as well as trainers Vince Del Monte and Erik Ledin, are big on time under tension, and they have also had a lot of time in the business as well as success. The goblet squat is an ideal exercise for this concept, and they use it with their clients.

      Second point, and this is more of a reiteration: You don’t use goblet squats to *replace* a barbell squat. That would be foolish, as there is no way you could get the loads (and work levels) lifting a dumbbell or a kettlebell, no matter how deep you go or how well you practice time under tension. This is an exercise you *add* to a routine. It’s great mid-workout or as a finisher. Or, it could replace a less ideal exercise, like leg extensions and hamstring curls. It’s excellent at practicing strict form. And it will help hit your muscles differently than other squats, namely because it’s ideally constructed to help you go deep into the hole and still recruit the right muscles, particularly at the bottom of the lift.

      Strength training is more than just finding and lifting optimal loads. It’s also about creating and reinforcing muscle memory, hopefully for the purpose of perfecting form and increasing effective range of motion. That’s one of the reasons I dubbed this exercise as a way to rehab a lifter’s form.

      Time will tell. I definitely feel worked, though admittedly, I use this one at the end of my workout when I’ve already done a ton of other stuff. But I also have to trust the experts who advocate its use. Anecdotal evidence is unreliable; but tested methods that prove successful bear exploration. Will a goblet squat break you through a 1 RM plateau? Not directly. But if it can help you build proper form through muscle memory and strength in range of motion, it can definitely have a positive impact on athletic performance.

  5. Bro I absolutely disagree with you on this statement; “Strength training is more than just finding and lifting optimal loads. It’s also about creating and reinforcing muscle memory, hopefully for the purpose of perfecting form and increasing effective range of motion. That’s one of the reasons I dubbed this exercise as a way to rehab a lifter’s form” I love ya but that is just wrong…strength is being strong and that 100% has to do with how much weight you can push (or people you can move or whatever your measure is). Muscle memory is related but not at all like you said, b/c with your logic, someone can be “strong” b/c they used to lift a lot of weight but b/c they are weak now BUT they have that muscle memory they are strong is a ridiculous argument. “Form” is a completely separate discussion…pure strength could or could not be void of “proper form” b/c it is irrelevant to how much weight someone can push…Unless it is a power lifting competition! Then they are tied but in terms of general “strength” they are Not related, at all. You are trying to talk about too much stuff at once…that is my point with all of this. This supplemental or “gimmick” squat is not about building strength, at all…it is done for “range of motion” issues in your argument and that is my point. Moving weight, as Heavy as humanly possible, is how you get “Strong” and not doing this gimmick lifts. I DO use these type of lifts with my clients as supersets or as a “fitness enhancer” type of lift but I would Never ever do this type of lift with a healthy linebacker. And I am pretty sure I wouldn’t do this at all with an injured linebacker, but I would absolutely need to work with said linebacker for at least an hour before I made that bold of a statement. Again this is just plain Incorrect; “Strength training is more than just finding and lifting optimal loads.”

  6. Pingback: Fitness Friday: A 3-day strength training plan for those pressed for time – proactiveoutside

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