Squatting well and often is one of the best things you can do for your performance. Unfortunately most of us are unable to squat the way we used to and as a result our mobility and strength has suffered. As babies, we can squat like an Olympic weightlifter and sometimes even spend time just sitting in a deep squat position. As age and inactivity start to become readily apparent this position becomes increasingly difficult for us to get into. If you train your squat pattern frequently you will get more comfortable in the deep squat position. This is where the goblet squat becomes your best friend.
The Easiest Squat to Learn
The next time you go to the gym, follow these instructions:
- Grab a moderately sized dumbbell or kettlebell
- Hold it vertically against your chest, with the top bell resting in your palms and your fingers supporting the sides. With a kettlebell, hold onto the sides of the handles.
- Take shoulder width stance with your toes pointed out slightly and sit back with your hips, maintaining a vertical spine.
- Keep your knees pushed out and get deep enough (if possible) to where your elbows touch the insides of your knees.
- Activate your glutes at the bottom and rise up by pushing your heels through the floor.
- Don’t over think this one, let your body find its comfort zone and squat as deep as you can without any lumbar rounding.
Embrace the Pattern
I’ll start by saying the main purpose of the goblet squat is to be a patterning movement, meaning that the goal is to “clean up” your squat form and improve any problem areas that might be causing issues in your standard barbell front and back squats. This is not the type of variation that you’re going to load with 400 pounds, although that would be quite an impressive feat.
Instead, the goblet squat is going to allow you to get deeper into the movement than other variations and also force the entire body to remain tight. You are working on patterning here and you want this specific pattern to be engraved in your head, because squatting is a basic human movement that will vastly improve your quality of life.
In summary, the goblet squat isn’t going to make you a whole heck of a lot stronger or turn your legs into tree trunks. What it will do, however, is teach you to squat in a safe pattern with phenomenal technique, which will carry over to better results when you do decide to get under the heavy barbell again. On top of that, it’s going to help you maintain your mobility and keep your joints happy, which are crucial if you’d like to remain injury and pain free.
Personally, I don’t think it’s extremely important when you decide to throw in some goblet squats into your training sessions. I think that the vast majority of us could benefit from doing them everyday of the week, but here are some optimal times when they can provide the most benefits.
- At the beginning of a workout, sit back into a nice deep goblet squat and simply hold that position. It doesn’t hurt to slightly move your hips from side to side as you do this because you can make the stretch deeper. If this doesn’t provide enough of a stretch, add weight! This is an awesome way to open up your hips and activate your lower body before a training session.
- Although it isn’t optimal for strength, the goblet squat can be used as your main lower body movement for that particular day. This is much more applicable to beginners, who will find heavier dumbbells to be a pretty significant load. But even if you have some decent experience, try taking a 100 lb dumbbell and performing multiple sets of 12-ish perfect, deep goblet squats. I think you’ll begin to understand they have some application the following day.
- My personal favorite is to use goblet squats as a finisher, with a heavy dumbbell and for very high reps. These are not fun. In fact, they actually suck pretty bad. Aside from your entire lower body turning to jello, your shoulders are going to have a super fun time holding that dumbbell in place after the 20th rep. Adding to that, the anterior placed load will challenge your upper back strength and also really test your core strength, because of the struggle to keep a vertical spine.
Here is an example from a recent training session where I tried to see how many reps I could get with a 105 lb dumbbell.
I ended up stopping at 25. I probably could have gotten a few more, but wanted to avoid complete failure and dropping that 40-year old rusty dumbbell on my feet.
Anyway, there are a couple of things to notice here. First, I’m able to get into a very deep squat even while wearing completely flat shoes and not having any heel lift. Since a lot of people struggle with poor ankle mobility, this is a good thing. Most folks are able to get reasonably deep in a goblet squat even if they are lacking mobility/stability in certain areas. Second, I’m exhaling very obnoxiously. I’m not trying to be the guy you can hear grunting over your headphones, but it’s simply not possible to do here. Because of the way the load is positioned, you are forced to brace your core hard to prevent falling over forward. Combine that with the fact that you’re doing a full-body movement quickly and for high reps, and breathing suddenly becomes very difficult to do. That’s a sneaky little conditioning bonus that comes along with using goblets as a finisher.
Try incorporating this exercise into your regimen the next time you lift. Aside from making you a better squatter, you should feel looser and move easier through your hips. When the load gets heavy again, your body will thank you!