The KB (Kettlebell) Goblet Squat
The KB Goblet Squat is not to be confused with the Goblin Squat—which doesn’t exist btw. While some of you may think goblet squats are evil and as sinister as their fictitious counterpart, they’re actually your friend and one of the best squat variations you can deploy in the gym.
In this tutorial you’ll learn how to master the goblet squat with a kettlebell or even a dumbbell and pave the way to better squat form mechanics and more advanced squat variations in the future.
Let’s understand why.
What is a KB Goblet Squat?
First, we need to understand what a goblet squat is.
The goblet squat is a squat variation whereby an individual grips a KB by its horns, firmly secures it against their chest and then lowers the hips to the floor. What’s unique about this movement is how the kettlebell is held (like a goblet), the position of the elbows inside the knees and the depth of this movement.
Goblet squats have earned mainstream popularity and cemented their place in the exercise hall of fame by strength and conditioning coach Dan John.
Here’s a small piece of the his goblet squat story …
“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 squat!”Coach Dan John from Goblet Squats 101 – T-Nation – 1.
You can learn more about strength Coach Dan John here.
Benefits of a Goblet Squat: Why They’re Great for Beginners
The benefits of mastering this full body movement are wide and varied, but the two main benefits of the Kb Goblet Squat are its adaptability and the ease to which beginners can learn proper squat mechanics.
Here’s why from a students perspective:
- Easy-to-understand coaching cues.
- Less intimidating than heavy barbell back squats, barbell front squats etc.
- Simple and easy to learn proper foot placement and patterning from.
- Safer way to understand, learn and apply proper squat mechanics.
Here’s why from a coaches perspective:
- No heavy equipment necessary.
- Easy-to-teach proper foot placement and patterning.
- Safer way to teach squat mechanics before progressing to advanced squat variations.
- Simple and easy exercise to administer coaching cues for.
One of my favorite cues taken from John’s teachings is:
“The legs are not stuck like stilts under the torso. Rather, the torso is slung between the legs. As you go down…you’ll discover one of the true keys of lifting: you squat between your legs. You don’t fold and unfold like an accordion; you sink between your legs.”Coach Dan John from Goblet Squats 101 – T-Nation 2.
KB Goblet Squat: Muscles Worked
This exercise is primarily a lower body movement. Here’s the lower body muscle groups it targets:
- Spinal Erectors
- Deep Core
The upper body is also involved in this exercise due to the way you secure the kettlebell in front of the chest. Here’s the upper body muscle groups it targets:
- Grip Strength
Although, the KB Goblet Squat is quite complex, it’s easy to learn and perfect in a short period of time. Even if you never performed another squat variation, you’re good. You’d still realize awesome strength and conditioning benefits from it for years to come.
How To Do A Goblet Squat
Time needed: 1 minute.
KB Goblet Squat: Proper Form, Foot Placement, Technique and Tips
- Setup and Foot Placement
Begin by lightly stomping your feet down one at a time while standing in place. Do this twice. In doing so, your feet will naturally establish a position where you should be squatting from. Feet should be slightly turned out. [This foot placement technique is a bastardized version of Coach Dan John’s vertical jump sequence for foot placement and patterning. It’s a great variation to use with older populations that have difficulty with vertical jumping or jumps of any kind.] 3.
- Kettlebell Position
Grab and firmly hold a kettlebell by each of the horns. Next, move the kettlebell close to the chest and secure a solid position by driving your elbows down and in towards your chest. Another option: Hold the kettlebell by its base with the fingers wrapping around the front of the KB while the thumbs secure themselves around the back of the horns.
- Beginning of Movement
Brace your core by exhaling forcefully and then drawing the abdominals into your spine. Begin the KB Goblet Squat movement by bending your knees and naturally letting your hips fall towards the floor. Remember you’re squatting between your legs. Keep your eyes looking for forward, not down. Chest should be up and your back should be flat.
- Bottom of Movement
At the bottom of the movement your hips are lower than parallel. Your essentially in the deepest squat you naturally and safely can achieve. Your feet should be flat and slightly turned out. Your weight is distributed through your heels. Your elbows should track inside the knees. Continue to keep your eyes looking forward.
- Goblet Squat Finish
The goal here is a deep squat, then back to the top. With your core engaged and braced, begin your ascent by pushing through your heels, squeezing your glutes and sharply exhaling as you return to full standing position. That’s one rep.
Here’s a great visual from Men’s Health of how it should look.
Note: Image #1 shows the fitness model holding the weight (a dumbbell, instead of a KB) securely against his chest. Image #2 shows his back flat, his eye line straight ahead, his chest is up and his knees driving out.
3 Common Mistakes to Avoid
These 3 common goblet squat mistakes are noteworthy to avoid serious injury and become a KB Goblet Squatting pro!
Avoid turning this squat variation into a ballerina plie squat. Your weight should be evenly distributed through your entire foot with an emphasis on your heels NOT your toes. Focus on rooting or pushing your feet down into the floor as you ascend to start position.
The problem with holding the kettlebell too far from the chest is twofold. First, it creates a forward leaning position, thereby distributing your weight over your toes, not your heels. Balance is also somewhat lost with the kettlebell too far in front. Second, your biceps, forearms, core and shoulders are forced to work harder than necessary to maintain balance, proper foot position and placement. You also limit the max loads you can lift. Note: Remember to secure a solid rack position with the KB cradled in front of your chest with the elbows driving inward for added support.
While the goal of the goblet is to hit bottom or rather close to it, meaning the hips track lower than parallel, this depth may be contraindicated for individuals with tight hips that cause a posterior pelvic tilt or “butt wink.” Butt wink occurs when the lumbar spine rounds or tucks under causing undue stress. According to The PTDC-Online Training Academy, ” If the demands exceed the ability of the ligaments to manage, you have a very unhappy SI joint.”
Learn more about butt wink and how you can fix it here.
I’ve crafted a really simple and easy tutorial on proper KB Goblet Squat Form and Technique for you. While all of this knowledge is great in theory, it’s of little to no use unless you apply it. My point being—It’s time to squat!
So put on your best workout gear and grab some open floor. Start by practicing the foot placement and patterning drill. Once you have a solid grasp on that, grab a light kettlebell, secure it and drop those hips!
And remember, implement best practices from the proper form guide and avoid the 3 most notable and common mistakes. No one wants a butt that winks!
Until next time,
Fitness Guy @body360fit
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1-3. John, Dan. “Goblet Squats 101.” T-Nation. 3 March 2011. https://www.t-nation.com/training/goblet-squats-101