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Why Goblet Squats Are the Underrated Lower-Body Exercise You Need to Do

When you're ready to add weight to your squats but aren't quite ready for a barbell, dumbbells and kettlebells can leave you wondering "But what do I do with my hands?!" The solution? Goblet squats. 

You can perform these simple squats with a dumbbell or a kettlebell (or anything else that's heavy and compact, for that matter). They're called goblet squats because "you hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your chest with your hands cupped around it like you're holding a goblet," says Heidi Jones, founder of Squad WOD and a trainer for Fortë, a boutique fitness streaming service. 

While goblet-holding may not seem particularly relevant to your everyday life, this move is actually a key functional skill to have: "A goblet squat is a very natural primal movement pattern and postural position," says Lisa Niren, head instructor for Studio, an app that allows you to stream running classes. "It's similar to how you would pick up a child (or anything else) from the ground."

Goblet Squat Benefits and Variations

Yes, goblet squats are an easy way to add weight to your basic bodyweight squat, but placing the weight in front of your chest can also help you learn the proper balance and movement pattern to perform a regular squat, says Niren. They'll strengthen everything in your lower body (hips, quads, hip flexors, calves, hamstrings, and glute muscles) as well as your core and latissimus dorsi (a large muscle that stretches across your back).

"The goblet squat is a perfect progression for beginners who often have difficulty performing a front and/or back squat out of the gate," she says. "It's useful for building quad strength, balance, and body awareness—specifically keeping your torso upright and stable while using the legs to perform a proper squat." The placement of the weight allows you to sink lower in your squat, too, which will help maintain or increase your mobility, adds Jones.

If you're ready to kick it up a notch, make the goblet squat a total-body move: Try a goblet squat and curl (lower into a squat, then extend the weight toward the floor and curl back to the chest, trying three to five curls at the bottom of each squat) or a goblet squat and press (lower into a squat, then extend the weight straight forward in front of chest—keeping core braced—and returning it to chest before standing up). Ready to add more weight? Proceed to the barbell back squat.

How to Do a Goblet Squat

A. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointing slightly out. Hold a dumbbell (vertical) or kettlebell (held by the horns) at chest height with elbows pointing down but not tucked in to touch ribs.
B. Brace abs and hinge at the hips and knees to lower into a squat, pausing when thighs are parallel to the ground or when form starts to break down (knees cave in or heels come off the floor). Keep chest tall. 
C. Drive through the heel and mid-foot to stand, keeping core engaged throughout.

Goblet Squat Form Tips

  • Keep chest tall at the bottom of the squat.
  • If using a kettlebell, you can hold it with the handle facing up or with the ball facing up, which is more challenging.
  • Keep core engaged, and avoid rounding spine forward or backward during the squat. 
  • Avoid leaning back when you stand up at the top of each rep.

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