The goblet squat is one of the most common squat variations we see in the gym, but why is it so popular? why should you consider adding it into your training programme? Here we provide 5 reasons you might consider using the goblet squat as a squat variation in your training programme.
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The goblet squat is one of the best ways to learn how to squat with weights. It allows beginners to both make “beginner gains” in strength while learning the basis of the movement. Exercises like back squats and front squat both require a beginner to use a heavier load which for them may not be possible. On top of that, they require more technical proficiency because they force the body into a very fixed position, something that the kettlebell doesn’t do.
This is why beginners are advised to perform goblet squats until they have built some base level of strength before advancing to the more complex versions of the squat with the barbell. Learning the squat can be a long process for some, especially if the starting point is proceeded by either a period of extreme sedentary behaviour and or a lack of mobility. In this case you may want to perform goblet squats for 6-12 months alongside lunge variations before moving to more challenging squatting variations, or you may need to stay even longer and sometimes indefinitely.
The goblet squat is one of the best ways for beginners to gain strength in their legs. This is one of the first exercises my clients will perform to improve strength in their legs (if they are beginners) as it offers a non-technical and light way to start lifting. We often forget that 15-20kg barbells can be heavy for the vast majority of the population, so starting with a 6kg kettlebell in the goblet squat is by far superior to start with an ugly 15kg back squat.
Though many people are able to perform back squats and front squats with some level of proficiency, this doesn’t mean that technical excellence has been reached. Striving towards technical excellence in the squat requires good levels of co-ordination, timing and mobility. It is something that can take a long time to achieve, so improving technique in the squat using the goblet squat can be done in conjunction with strength training adaptations from training with the barbell.
The goblet squat offers a non-technical option for individuals to work on their squat technique, this might be working on their squat depth, keeping their knees out or a variety of other issues that we see in the squat. It also provides a counterbalance during the squat making it easier to keep the torso completely upright and focus on loading the legs. I see a lot of athletes who are very strong and genetically capable but lack technical excellence in the squat, this is a perfect example of where we could use a tempo goblet squat in the warm up to work on technical excellence in the squat.
The goblet squat can be a great way for more advanced lifters to take a deload away from the barbell. The barbell is by far superior for strength training, yet it can beat the body down through tough training cycles leading to the accumulation of a great deal of fatigue. This accumulation of fatigue needs to be mitigated through periods of deload, where both intensity and volume are reduced.
The level of the deload often depends on the difficulty of the previous training cycle, but also on many other factors like life stress and where the individual is at psychologically for their training. This is why the goblet squat can be an effective tool for a massive reduction in volume and intensity, allowing for an effective deload. The goblet squat allows an advanced individual to move through the squat movement pattern, with some load in order to maintain strength and muscle mass while not overloading the position or body allowing them to recover from a tough period of training.
When designing a resistance training programme, we select how many times we perform each movement category within a week. This is a key part of cycle design, as we need to pick the movement patterns we want to either maintain or progress. If we are looking to improve the strength of the squat, or grow the muscles in the legs (hypertrophy) we will need to perform 8+ sets in the squat per week.
For more intermediate individuals who are already back squatting once a week, adding a goblet squat into your training programme as a secondary squat variation to ensure you are getting enough volume to progress can be a great way to start to build volume tolerance in the squat, seeing improvements in strength and muscle gain whilst not putting the knees or hips at to much risk from overload.
Finally, for those who enjoy doing mixed model (multiple exercises) cardiovascular circuits, goblet squats can be a brilliant exercise to perform for high repetitions under fatigue. They can be learnt relatively easily in comparison to their barbell counterparts meaning they can be performed by all abilities (with individual exceptions of course). The Goblet Squat is often seen in Crossfit style HIIT sessions for example:
4 Rounds For Time
Here we can see how the goblet squat can be used effectively in a mixed model session. If you are looking to perform circuits like this, you need to ensure you are selecting exercises that you can perform with technical excellence, exercises you cannot perform well should not be performed under fatigue, the goblet squat is no exception.
How you chose to use goblet squats really depends on your current ability. If you are a beginner or intermediate the goblet squat is ideal for skill acquisition and instilling technical excellence however if you’re a more advanced individual you will have a completely different use case for the goblet squat.
For advanced lifters strength training with Goblet Squats is not an effective way to load the squat movement pattern as the limiting factor is so often holding the kettlebell in position. This is why goblet squats are not advised for reaching maximal strength, it is very rare you see a powerlifter performing blocks of training with a goblet squat, or a body builder using a goblet squat to grow the muscles in the legs. This is not to take away from its effectiveness, the goblet squat is one of the best squat variations for beginners and intermediate trainees. Making sure you are aware of your current ability and why your performing the exercise is crucial for your success.
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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.