A squat is a basic human movement pattern, it’s a part of the everyday human movement. Squats are called the mother of all exercises, along with the deadlift for a reason. Squats are the best way to build over body strength and mass when compared to other lifts. One of the amazing squat movements is Goblet Squats.
When we were children, squatting was the basic movement we performed every day. In India, squatting was even more common, as the toilets were the typical Indian styled ones, where one defecates in a position, in which the humans have been defecating, since evolution. But as we grew older, and with the advent of western-styled toilet seats in our lives, we have become less active, we sit more in comfortable chairs, and as a result gradually lose our hip mobility, which makes it difficult, for some, to even do a basic bodyweight squat, without pain in the back.
When we think about squats, we often imagine a person with a bar on the back, squatting heavyweights. But, for a novice, doing a conventional bar squat, requires a lot of shoulder, ankle and hip mobility. Since most people lack this, they often lean forward while doing a barbell squat, which causes a lot of stress on the back. If you haven’t been exercising, a bar squat may be a distant mission for you. But there is one squat you can start with, which is primarily used by beginners, and by pros alike, which helps to open up the tight hips and develop hip mobility. It is the Goblet Squats.
In the goblet squats, instead of holding the weight behind the back on the shoulder, you hold it in the front, close to your chin and chest. Since the weight is in the front, it is much easier to balance, and this helps keep the back straight and prevents you from falling behind. But this is not an alternative for the conventional squat. It is a way to improve the hip mobility which should transfer into lifting heavy and deep in a barbell squat.
The goblet squats are excellent for teaching you to spread your stance and “squat between your heels.” The reason you squat upright with a goblet squat is because it’s basically a front squat. You won’t be able to duplicate that upright position with a back squat. It’s a great way to teach the beginners who to squat, where weight isn’t the focus. In fact, it is an excellent movement to teach the upper body position and awareness to the beginners during a squat, as this movement forces the upper body to remain straight and upright.
A lot of people think that this is a squat only for the elderly and beginners. This is farther from the truth. When done correctly and used effectively in the lower body workout program, this is one of the most powerful squats, you could incorporate in your workout. in fact, I often use this movement as the starting movement in the leg workout, to open up the hips and be ready for a heavier barbell squat later. It can be extremely powerful when combined in the form of supersets with other leg exercises.
The goblet squats were created by strength coach Dan John for his pupils, in order to teach them how to squat deep and proper. In his own words: “Years ago, faced with 400 athletes who couldn’t squat correctly, I attempted to move after move, lift after lift, to teach the squat. I failed each and every time.
I saw glimmers of hope from teaching one kid the Zercher squat (weight held in the crooks of the elbows) and a few picked up the pattern when we lifted kettlebells from the ball off the ground. But nothing was really working.
Somewhere between a Zercher and a potato squat was the answer. It came to me when I was resting between swings with the weight held in front of me like I was holding the Holy Grail. I squatted down from there, pushed my knees out with my elbows and, behold, the goblet squats!”
To start the goblet squats, the foot stance is generally shoulder width and can be wider depending on your physiology. I would personally suggest a slightly wider stance initially, as this will ensure a more stable position, and help keep the body upright.
To hold the kettlebell/dumbbell, in Dan’s words: “Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell and hold it against your chest. With a kettlebell, hold the horns, but with a dumbbell just hold it vertical by the one end, like you’re holding a goblet against your chest. Hence the name, “goblet squats. Now with the weight cradled against your chest, squat down with the goal of having your elbows – which are pointed downward – slide past the inside of your knees. It’s okay to have the elbows push the knees out as you descend.”
Though there are certain drawbacks of this movement. Firstly, it may cause back pain in great many, because the weight in the goblet squats is held away from the centre of mass, which pulls the body forward and if the back is weak, the pain is generally inevitable. However, due to the shift of the COG (Centre of Gravity), the emphasis also shifts more on the quads and the abdominal muscles.
If you ask me personally I would never use goblet squats as the main exercise during a leg workout. It should also not be performed using forced reps. But it can be used amazingly well in the following conditions:
- For warm-ups
- For high rep workouts
- In combination with other exercises, in a superset, tri-sets, giant sets, rest-pause sets, drop sets, slow negatives, etc.
- To teach beginners to squat
According to the 2012 study in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, researcher Stephen Bird says that “goblet squats and clean deadlift are considered foundation exercises in the progression because both movements develop correct body positioning. Once athletes have mastered the squat movement pattern of the goblet squat and developed the correct body positioning in the clean deadlift, they are ready to move onto the next progression in the model, that being the plate squat.”
Goblet squats are one of the most controversial squats, to date. Where a number of top strength coaches like Dan John, swear by its effectiveness, a lot many like the late Charles Poliquin, called it a moronic exercise.
However, top coaches like Charles Poliquin hates this squat, he said, “There are some that I’d remove for all cases. One, the goblet squat. That is such a moronic exercise. Basically, you’re limited by the strength of your rhomboids, your anterior deltoids, and the elbow flexors. So if you can do a goblet squat and overload your legs, it means you have really, really weak legs – you should be in a wheelchair. That’s a moronic exercise.”
But, if you take the middle path, then Goblets Squats are a great addition to your workouts.