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The squat is one of the foundational exercises for building lower body strength.

Although the traditional back squat has plenty of benefits, spicing things up with alternative squat movements like the goblet squat can be extremely useful — for both increased strength and injury prevention.

A goblet squat and a back squat work many of the same muscles, but the movement is quite different.

In a goblet squat, you’ll hold the weight in front of your chest with both hands. As you squat down, your elbows will track between your knees while the weight follows.

In a back squat, a bar is racked on your upper back. As you squat down, the bar will drop straight down, too.

Despite the advantages of traditional back squats — such as helping to strengthen your back — they can also put you at risk for a lower back injury. This is due to the load’s position.

A goblet squat removes that tension while still targeting the quads and glutes, which are the major movers in the exercise.

Beyond that, the movement is also a great exercise for all fitness levels.

Other benefits of the goblet squat include:

  • Easier for beginners. The goblet squat is often easier for beginners than a back squat. This is because it’s a more natural movement that mimics many daily activities, like picking up a heavy object off the floor.
  • A more comfortable position. Because of the inherent movement of the goblet squat — torso upright, strong core, knees out — you should be more comfortable than with a traditional back squat. Check out this article on how to squat with proper form.
  • An easier load on the back. In a traditional back squat, the load is on your upper back, placing quite a bit of tension on your lower back. A goblet squat brings the load to the front as a counterbalance. This is easier for the spine to handle and makes it easier to maintain correct posture.
  • Extra core activation. Because the weight is moved to the front of your body, your core will need to work harder than in a traditional back squat to support the movement.
  • Potential to scale. While you can start goblet squats with a light weight and see benefits, you can also lift a heavy load during this movement. Here’s a safety tip: Before progressing to a heavier weight, ensure you’re able to perform the squat with correct form and without knee or back pain.

You can perform a goblet squat with a dumbbell or kettlebell. Your only limitations are the weights accessible to you and your strength and flexibility.

Dumbbell goblet squat

To complete a dumbbell goblet squat, start with a lightweight dumbbell until you’re comfortable with the movement.

To get moving:

  1. Hold the dumbbell vertically, gripping it with both hands underneath the top of the weight. Keep the dumbbell close to your chest throughout the entire movement.
  2. Point your knees in the same direction as your toes.
  3. Inhale and begin to squat, sitting back in your hips, keeping your core tight and torso upright.
  4. If your level of flexibility allows it, track your elbows between your knees, stopping when they touch. Don’t touch your elbows to your knees if it causes you to lose proper form.
  5. Drive through your heels back to the starting position. Keep your feet flat on the floor throughout the movement and avoid lifting your heels in an attempt to get your hips lower.
  6. Start with 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps, depending on your fitness level and goals. The weight should be challenging enough that you wouldn’t be able to complete 1 more rep with proper form.
  7. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between each set.

Kettlebell goblet squat

Start with a lightweight kettlebell until you’re comfortable with the movement.

To get moving:

  1. Hold the kettlebell with both hands, placing your hands on the bottom of the bell (as shown) or on each side of the handle. Keep the kettlebell close to your chest throughout the entire movement.
  2. Point your knees in the same direction as your toes.
  3. Inhale and begin to squat, sitting back in your hips, keeping your core tight and torso upright.
  4. If your level of flexibility allows it, track your elbows between your knees, stopping when they touch. Don’t touch your elbows to your knees if it causes you to lose proper form.
  5. Drive through your heels back to the starting position. Keep your feet flat on the floor throughout the movement and avoid lifting your heels in an attempt to get your hips lower.
  6. Start with 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps, depending on your fitness level and goals. The weight should be challenging enough that you wouldn’t be able to complete 1 more rep with proper form.
  7. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between each set.

Where to find the best weights

Check out our reviews of the best dumbbells and the best kettlebells on the market.

You can incorporate a goblet squat into your routine in a couple of ways.

For lower body strength, add the squat to a leg-specific workout along with:

Alternatively, mix up a full-body workout with the addition of a goblet squat. For a well-rounded routine, add:

There are two common mistakes that can occur during a goblet squat: not remaining upright and having your knees in the wrong position.

Your torso doesn’t remain upright

If you lack core strength or flexibility in your ankles, your torso will be tempted to tilt forward as you squat down.

To counteract this, focus on engaging your core throughout the movement, making sure the dumbbell or kettlebell stays close to your chest.

Your knees fall in (or out)

This is a common mistake for any type of squat. Having your knees fall in — or out —leaves you at risk for a knee injury.

If you have weak hips or glutes, your knees will collapse inward. To achieve proper form, try to have your knees point in the same direction as your toes while you keep your back up.

There are several alternatives to a goblet squat you can try, slightly tweaking the exercise to target more or different muscles.

For example, using a mini resistance band just below your knees will help you strengthen weak abductors in your hips and learn how to maintain a stable position. As you press out against the band, remember to keep your knees in line with your toes.

The best resistance bands

Check out our recommendations for resistance bands.

Goblet shooter squat

This move can make the goblet squat more challenging by adding a rotation or lunge at the bottom.

  1. Perform a goblet squat with proper form as listed above.
  2. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, rotate to the right. Rotate your entire left leg along with both hips to avoid straining your knee.
  3. Drop your left knee toward the floor. Your left heel should rise as you rotate into the lunge.
  4. Repeat going the other way, then stand up.
  5. Start with 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps, depending on your fitness level and goals. The weight should be challenging enough that you wouldn’t be able to complete 1 more rep with proper form.
  6. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between each set.

Goblet rear-foot-elevated split squat

  1. Elevate one foot behind you and complete the goblet squat movement. This variation will challenge your single-leg strength, balance, and core.
  2. Start with 2 to 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps, depending on your fitness level and goals. The weight should be challenging enough that you wouldn’t be able to complete 1 more rep with proper form.
  3. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds between each set.

Goblet squats are easier on the back than a traditional back squat while providing many of the same benefits for the quads and glutes.

For comprehensive lower body strength, consider adding this exercise as a complement to or substitute for traditional back squats.

Nicole Davis is a writer, certified personal trainer, and group fitness instructor based in Detroit, Michigan. Her goal is to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. When she’s not working out with her husband or chasing around her two young daughters, she’s listening to true crime podcasts or making sourdough bread from scratch. Find her on Instagram for fitness tidbits, #momlife and more.