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

And though there are plenty of benefits to a traditional back squat, spicing up things with alternative squat movements can be extremely beneficial — for both strength progress and injury prevention.

Despite the advantages — including preventing chronic back paintraditional squats can actually put you at risk for a lower back injury due to the load’s position.

A dumbbell 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 a great exercise for all fitness levels, too.

Other benefits of the dumbbell goblet squat include:

Teaching good squat form

Because of the inherent movement of the goblet squat — torso upright, strong core, knees out — you should be more comfortable than with a traditional squat.

An easier load on the back

As opposed to a traditional back squat where the load is on your upper back, placing quite a bit of tension on your lower back, a dumbbell goblet squat brings the load to the front as a counterbalance. This is much easier for the spine to handle.

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 squat to support the movement.

Potential to scale

While you can start dumbbell goblet squats with a light weight and see benefits, you can also lift a heavy load in this movement with no problem.

The dumbbell is usually easier to hold than a like-weight kettlebell. Your only limitation is the weight of dumbbells accessible to you.

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

In a standard dumbbell squat, you’ll hold one dumbbell in each hand down at your sides. As you squat down, the dumbbells will drop straight down, too.

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

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

To get moving:

  1. Vertically hold a dumbbell, gripping it with both hands underneath the top of the weight. The dumbbell should be positioned against your chest and will remain in contact with it throughout the entire movement.
  2. Inhale and begin to squat, sitting back in your hips, keeping your core tight and torso upright. Allow your elbows to track between your knees, stopping when they touch.
  3. Drive up through your heels back to the starting position.

Start with 3 sets of 12 reps of the dumbbell goblet squat.

The weight should be challenging enough that you wouldn’t be able to complete one more rep with proper form.

You can incorporate a dumbbell goblet squat into your routine in a couple of ways. For killer lower body strength, add it to a leg-specific workout along with:

  • deadlifts
  • traditional squats
  • lunges

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

  • rows
  • chest press
  • deadlifts
  • planks

There are two common mistakes that occur during a dumbbell goblet squat:

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 combat this, focus on engaging your core throughout the movement, making sure your dumbbell stays in contact with your chest.

Your knees fall in, not out

This is a common mistake for any type of squat. It leaves you at risk for a knee injury.

If you have weak hips or glutes, your knees will collapse in, so concentrating on forcing them outward is key.

Using a mini resistance band just below your knees will give you the cue you need to push them out.

There are a couple of variations you can try depending on your available equipment and fitness level.

Kettlebell goblet squat

Using a kettlebell in place of a dumbbell in a goblet squat is a viable variation. Sometimes it just comes down to accessibility.

You’ll hold it with two hands on each side of the handle and complete the movement.

Goblet shooter squat

Make the goblet squat more challenging by adding a rotation or lunge at the bottom.

When your thighs are parallel to the floor, rotate to the right, dropping your left knee to the floor. Stand up and repeat going the other way.

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

Goblet squat to curl

Make the goblet squat a compound movement. Adding in an upper body component will up the burn and target your core even more.

In a squat to curl, you’ll drop down into the goblet squat stance and complete a curl with the dumbbell before standing back up.

Goblet rear-foot-elevated split squat

Elevating one foot behind you and completing the goblet squat movement will challenge your single-leg strength, balance, and core.

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

Consider adding this exercise as a complement or substitute to traditional squats for comprehensive lower body strength.

Nicole Davis is a writer based in Madison, WI, a personal trainer, and a group fitness instructor whose goal is to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. When she’s not working out with her husband or chasing around her young daughter, she’s watching crime TV shows or making sourdough bread from scratch. Find her on Instagram for fitness tidbits, #momlife and more.