How To Do A Goblet Squat

I Used To Hate To Squat

I’m not really built for it. I have long legs, a short torso and hips that don’t like to move. For my first few years training, whenever I squatted heavy my knees would hurt and I’d have hip pain for the next couple days. Obviously I always looked for reasons to skip squats.

Then At A Kettlebell Certification I Learned Why Squats Hurt

The instructor fixed my setup. He showed me how to pull down into the squat instead of just dropping. And he taught me how to use my breath to drive out of the bottom more explosively.

In a matter of 30 minutes, my squat form was perfect and squatting no longer hurt. How did he fix my squat so quickly? He taught me how to do the goblet squat.

What’s The Goblet Squat?

It’s basically a squat variation where you’re holding a kettlebell in front of your chest while you squat. The move was invented by a strength coach named Dan John and he named it the goblet squat because of the way you hold the weight. He says it resembles holding a goblet against your chest.

While the name is a little strange, there are a ton of benefits to learning how to do it.

The Goblet Squat Is The Best Exercise To Learn How To Squat Correctly

Because of the way the weight is situated, it makes it almost impossible to mess up the squat. First time squatters tend to drop down into a perfect squat after a few repetitions of goblet squats and very little coaching.

It’s the perfect exercise to learn great squatting form before moving on to more advanced squat variations and heavier loads.

It Also Makes Your Hips More Mobile

When you do goblet squats the right way, you’ll notice your hip mobility improves dramatically. They have a way of prying open even the tightest hips and getting you to squat deeper than ever. And with better hip mobility, squatting correctly becomes even easier.

That’s why the goblet squat is such a great movement for beginner and advanced lifters.

So How Do You Do A Goblet Squat?

Squatting correctly comes down to three important points. These are principles that you should use regardless of the squat variation you’re doing. They are…

  • How To Get Setup Correctly For A Goblet Squat
  • Why You Need To Use Your Hip Flexors When You Squat
  • How To Explode Out Of The Bottom Of A Squat

First, we’ll start with the setup

How To Get Setup For A Goblet Squat

Getting Setup Correctly Makes Squatting A Lot Easier

A lot of people hate to squat because it’s uncomfortable for them. Usually it’s because they don’t learn how to get setup correctly. So when they squat, their knees, hips and lower back get twisted up and it causes pain. They’ll just chalk it up to “squatting hurts” and avoid squats instead of taking the time to learn how to get setup correctly.

How Do You Get Setup For A Goblet Squat?

Start by getting the kettlebell into the goblet position. Pick your kettlebell up with both hands and hold it by the horns. The horns are the vertical part on the side of the handle that connects to the actual bell. So grab the kettlebell by the horns and hold it in front of your chest with your elbows pointing down to the ground. The kettlebell is now in the goblet position.

Next, Set Your Stance

Everyone’s stance will be a little different depending on your body, so you’ll have to play around with it and find what feels best. Generally, your squat stance should be about shoulder width apart, maybe slightly wider. You’ll turn your feet out slightly to give your hips some room to move as you squat, but don’t turn them out too much.

This Is A Common Mistake People Make With Their Squat Stance

They’ll get set up with their feet turned too far out. Most people do it because they have tight hips and turning their feet out lets them squat deeper and more comfortably. And it definitely works but it also puts a lot of torque on the ligaments in your knees. You don’t want that.

Turn your feet out slightly to give your hips freedom, but make sure it’s not more than about 30 degrees.

Once You Have The Kettlebell In The Goblet Position And You Set Your Stance, You’re Ready To Squat

But you’re not going to just drop down into a squat and pop back up. Instead of just yielding to gravity, you’re going to pull yourself down into the squat.

Why You Need To Use Your Hip Flexors When You Squat

When You Squat, Don’t Just Defer To Gravity And Drop Down

You want to actively pull yourself down with your hip flexors. Obviously gravity is working down against you so you aren’t actually pulling yourself down. But the feeling you want to create is that you’re using your hip flexors to pull down into the squat.

To Understand What I Mean, Imagine You’re Laying On Your Back On The Ground

Or better yet, do it. Have someone grab onto both of your feet. Then pull your knees in towards your chest while they resist you. You’ll feel the muscles on the front of your hip crease turn on as you pull your knees up. Those are your hip flexors and you want to use them when you squat.

Why Do You Want To Use Your Hip Flexors When You Squat?

One big reason is because it makes you stronger. When you use your hip flexors to squat, you’re recruiting more muscle to do the job. It allows you to more effectively load your hips.

Think About A Bow And Arrow

You pull back on the bowstring to load the tension. Then when you let go, the arrow goes flying. The same happens when you pull yourself down into the squat. Using your hip flexors to pull down is like pulling back on the bowstring. It loads the tension onto your hips so you can better drive out of the bottom of the squat.

It Also Protects Your Lower Back

Your hip flexors start at the top of your leg, run through your pelvis and attach to your lumbar spine. When you engage your hip flexors during the squat, you create stability in your lumbar spine. This keeps a strong arch in your lower back and reduces the chances of you rounding your spine and hurting your back when you squat.

Before You Squat, Take A Quick Sniff Of Air

Breathe in through your nose and push the air down into your belly. Hold it down there until you come back up. Keeping the air compressed in your abdomen will make you more stable and allow you to squat heavier weights.

It also helps protect your back. That’s why some lifters wear a belt when they squat. When you breathe in, you push your belly into the belt to create stability and strength.

Once You Have Your Breath, Initiate The Squat With Your Hip Flexors

You want to feel the muscles on the front of your hip creases turn on as you pull yourself down. Think about actively pulling your knees into your chest to squat instead of just dropping down. Like pulling back on the bowstring.

Drive Your Knees Out As You Descend

You want to sit down between your legs, not fold up like an accordion the way most people squat. So drive your knees out and make room for your hips to move. Squat as deep as you can while keeping your chest up, your back flat and your heels on the ground. Your elbows should run along the inside of your thigh, right around your knees.

Sit Up Tall In The Bottom Of The Squat

Try to elongate your spine from your tailbone through the crown of your head. You want to keep your chest tall and your back flat, never let your back round. And you should still have that air trapped in your belly.

That’s A Strong Squat Position

If you’ve done it right, you should feel strong and stable in the bottom of the squat. But you’re only halfway home. Now you have to drive out of the bottom of the squat with some power.

How To Accelerate Out Of The Bottom Of A Squat

You Don’t Want To Be A Timid Squatter

When you come out of the bottom of the squat, you want to do it explosively. Don’t just stand back up, accelerate back to standing with a purpose. When you focus on accelerating you recruit more muscle and nerve force which improves your strength and coordination. How do you accelerate out of the bottom of the squat?

You Use Your Breath To Initiate The Ascent

Release some of the air that’s in your belly with a hard grunt. The same way Serena Williams lets out a grunt as she serves a tennis ball, you want to do the same when you start to drive out of the bottom of a squat. That sharp exhale fires your abs and adds power and explosiveness to your squat.

As You Sharply Exhale, Start Driving Your Heels Through The Floor

You want to press hard into the ground like you’re trying to jump as high as you can. Accelerate all the way up to the top and stand tall. Squeeze your glutes hard, lock your legs out and keep your abs tight. Finish your rep strong.

Make Sure Your Hips And Upper Body Come Up Together

A mistake a lot of people make when squatting is letting their hips come up first before their upper body. So their hips shoot up then their upper body has to catch up after it. Don’t do that, come out of the bottom of the squat in one piece. Everything ascends at the same time.

And That’s How You Do The Goblet Squat

Take the time to learn how to do it correctly and it’ll make you a much better squatter. No matter what squat variation you’re doing, remember these three principles.

  • Make sure to get setup correctly
  • Use your hip flexors to actively pull yourself down into the bottom of the squat
  • Accelerate out of the bottom with power

When you do that, your squats will be much stronger and pain free.

In Strength and Health,

Dave D’Ambrosio