Goblet squat: When, why and how

Goblet Squat

The Goblet squat is a universally used variation of the squat. Depending on the goal, use it as a warm-up, a primer, or the central movement. In this article, I will give the reasons for using the movement, why I use it and how to implement it. Of course, I am biased toward this exercise because everyone (most) can use it and the carry-over it can provide, from pro-athletes to back-injured people returning to sport.

When to Goblet squat

I like to use this exercise in my training as a warm-up to prime my hips. Especially before I get under the squat bar when going heavy. I’ve written over the years copious amounts of time about my warm-ups and that I advocate in 10/20/Life and Gift of Injury. It helps me open my hips and get ready to squat. Other clients I program and coach love it as an assistance movement done at the end of the day. And lastly, I like utilizing the goblet squat for taller basketballers and footballers (not all) who IMO shouldn’t have a bar on their back. It’s not worth the risk, again, IMO.

Why use this version of the squat?

Ease of use and risk reward. It might surprise you, coming from a powerlifter – but not everyone should have a bar on their back. Putting a bar on an NBA athlete’s back can bring more inherent risk unnecessarily. For other athletes, I may use this as an exercise to rebuild after a spinal injury before getting back under the bar for some time. Unfortunately, many make the mistake of getting pain-free for a while, then getting right back under a barbell. In my experience, you are likely to fail. In my experience, you must work back to a competition-style squat after months of being pain-free.

How to Goblet Squat

For my personal use, I like sets of 5-8 reps for three sets for a great warm-up or cool-down. Some may prefer higher reps and work with less weight. One way to make the goblet squat harder is to hold the KB away from the midline and turn it into more of a front squat. Stance width will vary. Grip the floor and lock in. Bend the ‘horns’ of the KB. Pull your lats down, and anti-shrug. Head and neck neutral. An abdominal brace by pushing your internal and external obliques out. The above video gives a nice coaching piece on how it should look. Details matter during a squat—all of them.

Remember, every exercise is a tool. As with the misunderstood McGill big 3, there are no magical exercises. There are not ‘bad for you’ exercises but poor application and execution. For those of you who are injured and want to get back under the bar pain-free or would like virtual or in-person coaching, please reach out to Brian Carroll. 

Brian highly suggests being familiar with Gift of Injury and Back Mechanic to help you understand how to become pain-free and resilient once again.

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Brian Carroll

Owner and Founder at PowerRackStrength.com
Brian is a retired world-class powerlifter with over two decades of world-class powerlifting. From 1999 to 2020, Brian Carroll was a competitive powerlifter, one of the most accomplished lifters in the sport's history. Brian started off competing in bench press competitions 'raw,' then, shortly into the journey, he gravitated toward equipped lifting as there were no "raw" categories then. You only had to choose from single-ply (USPF) and Multi-ply (APF/WPC). Brian went on to total 2730 at 275 and 2651 at 242 with more than ten times his body weight in three different classes (220, 242, 275), and both bench pressed and deadlifted over 800 pounds in two other weight classes. He's totaled 2600 over 20 times in 2 different weight classes in his career. With 60 squats of 1000lbs or more officially, this is the most in powerlifting history, regardless of weight class or federation, by anyone not named David Hoff. Brian realized many ups and downs during his 20+ years competing. After ten years of high-level powerlifting competition and an all-time World Record squat at 220 with 1030, in 2009, Brian was competing for a Police academy scholarship. On a hot and humid July morning, Brian, hurdling over a barricade at 275lbs, landed on, fell, and hurt his back. After years of back pain and failed therapy, Brian met with world-renowned back specialist Prof McGill in 2013, which changed his trajectory more than he could have imagined. In 2017, Brian Carroll and Prof McGill authored the best-selling book about Brian's triumphant comeback to powerlifting in Gift of Injury. Most recently (10.3.20) -Brian set the highest squat of all time (regardless of weight class) with 1306 lbs – being the first man to break the 1300lb squat barrier at a bodyweight of 303 lbs.
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