The goblet squat is performed the same as a regular squat, but whilst holding a dumbbell in front of you. This is a great exercise for athletes learning to squat, as it is easier and safer to learn when compared to other squat variations.
Here, we’ll explore what muscles goblet squats work, along with variations to meet your training outcome.
What muscles do goblet squats work?
Goblet squats are a compound exercise, engaging multiple muscle groups across your entire body. The main muscles the goblet squats work include:
- Erector Spinae and Lower Back
- Lats and Upper Back
Your quads (or thigh muscles) are your prime movers in the goblet squat, so they do most of the work during both the downward (eccentric) and upward (concentric) phase.
The gluteus maximus works to extend your hips as you work to stand up during the goblet squat, it has to work harder if you squat to a greater depth.
The gluteus medius is responsible for keeping your knees in line with your toes throughout the goblet squat.
The adductor, also known as your inner thigh muscles, contributes to stability around the hips during the goblet squat, particularly when you’re at the bottom of the squat.
Erector Spinae and Lower Back
The erector spinae and lower back muscles are responsible for keeping your torso strong and stable during the goblet squat, helping to maintain a flat back and minimise the stress placed upon your spine.
The abdominal muscles play a key role in stabilising your trunk to avoid you arching in the back.
Lats and Upper Back
The lats and upper back work to hold you in an upright posture so that you can hold the dumbbell in front of you in the goblet hold without leaning forwards.
Goblet squats muscles worked diagram
Why goblet squats are such a great exercise
The goblet squat is a great exercise for athletes learning to squat given that it’s relatively easy to learn and allows athletes to hold a comfortable, light-moderate amount of weight when compared to other squat variations such as the back squat and front squat. Let’s delve into this a bit further:
The technical and load demands of a goblet squat compared to other variations
The goblet squat stands out for being relatively easy to learn for athletes learning to squat, owing to its relatively low technical demand. Placing the dumbbell in front of the athlete encourages an instinctive adjustment of form should an athlete lean too far forwards, the weight naturally prompts you to correct it otherwise you can’t hold the correct position.
The goblet squat allows you to hold a comfortably light-moderate amount of weight, as it is constrained by the amount of weight you can hold in your hands. This also positions the goblet squat as a safer introduction option when contrasted with the possibility of incorporating a large amount of weight onto a barbell placed on your back or in the front rack position.
Training recommendations for goblet squats
The goblet squat is best suited for athletes learning to squat, so complete plenty of sets and reps at low-moderate weight to allow you plenty of practice to get that excellent technique. This might look like:
2-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions up to 2 times per week.
Goblet squat variations & the muscles they work
There are plenty of variations of the goblet squat, we’ll cover what they are and how they might alter the muscle groups that are targeted, plus why you might use them.
Pause goblet squat
What are pause goblet squats?
Pause goblet squats are similar to that of your traditional goblet squat, but at the bottom position of your squat, you hold that position for 3-5 seconds before driving back up to your set up position.
Why do pause goblet squats?
Pause goblet squats can be used to improve your concentric strength or when you want to work on becoming more comfortable at the bottom position of the squat and extending from that position.
What muscles does pause goblet squats work?
The pause goblet squat works the exact same muscles as the goblet squat including the quads, glutes and adductors, although the pause at the bottom of the goblet squat brings about an isometric contraction and increases the time under tension of the muscles that are working.
Goblet squat to box
What is a goblet squat to box?
Goblet squats to a box involves performing the goblet squat as you normally would, but squatting down to a box or bench placed behind you. The height of the box will depend on your height and leg length and the depth of squat you want to work on.
Why do a goblet squat to box?
The box is a great tool to use to force you to slow down and control your movement, given that it removes the momentum (or stretch reflex) you can use when bouncing at the bottom position of a regular goblet squat.
We’ve also found the use of the box a great way for athletes to work on increasing the depth of their squat over 6-8 weeks, which has transferred over to improving the depth and technique of their regular squat.
What muscles do goblet squats to box work?
The goblet squat to box works the same muscles as the regular goblet squat, including the quads, glutes and adductors. The pause in the bottom position of the squat when on the box increases the demand on the posterior chain muscles (glutes) and improves the concentric (pushing) strength of the quadriceps.
Sumo goblet squat
What are sumo goblet squats?
Sumo goblet squats involve having a wide stance, typically about 1-2 foot lengths out on each side depending on flexibility, and then performing the squat as you would like the regular stance goblet squat.
Why do sumo goblet squats?
Sumo squats are a more well-rounded lower body exercise when compared to the regular stance goblet squat – as you’ll see why below.
They’re also a good choice for reducing lower back stress, making them a good option for people coming back from a back injury.
What muscles does sumo goblet squats work?
The sumo squat tends to recruit glutes, abductors and adductors more evenly with quads, whereas the regular stance goblet squat tends to preferentially recruit quads.
Heal raised goblet squat
What are heal raised goblet squats?
Heal raised goblet squats involve elevating your heals by placing a 1-1.5kg plate on the floor under your heels when you’re in the set up position of your goblet squat.
Why do heal raised goblet squats?
This will help you get into a lower position in the bottom position of your squat and may also be more comfortable for those with limited ankle mobility. It will also help to keep your torso more upright.
What muscles do heal raised goblet squats work?
The heal raised goblet squat will increase the loading on the quadriceps, given that your knees are flexed (bent) to a greater extent.
Frequently asked questions on what muscles do goblet squats work
What muscles do goblet squats work the most?
The main muscles the goblet squats work are the quadriceps, glutes, adductors – with the primary mover (main muscle worked) being the quadriceps. Goblet squats also work the lower and upper back, erector spinae, lats and abdominal muscles.
Are goblet squats better than regular squats?
The goblet squat is better for athletes new to squatting, as it’s easier to learn, safer than back squats or front squats and they will still get a strength stimulus as it’s new.
Goblet squats aren’t as good as back squats or front squats for more experienced athletes who are looking for a strength adaptation, as they can’t usually be loaded as heavily due to the strength of the arms and upper back being a limiting factor.
Can you build muscle with goblet squats?
Goblet squats can build muscle, although only really for athletes that are new to squatting given it will be a new stimulus for them. For most other athletes that have some experience with squatting, goblet squats are unlikely to build muscle as they are unlikely to be loaded heavy enough to elicit an adaptation.
How many goblet squats should I do?
How many goblet squats you should do will depend on your training goal. Goblet squats are great for athletes in the process of learning the squat technique.
It’s recommended to complete multiple sets and repetitions using weights of moderate resistance to provide plenty of opportunities to practise your technique. This might look like 2-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions 2-3 times per week.
Do goblet squats work hamstrings
Goblet squats do work your hamstrings to some extent, mainly towards the top of the squat to extend the hips up and forwards when standing up.
However, they are not the main muscles worked during the goblet squat and if you want to train your hamstrings, you should look at hamstring-dominant exercises such as deadlifts or variations of the deadlift.
Goblet squat benefits
The goblet squat is a great exercise that has many benefits, these include:
- Accessible for beginners: The position of the dumbbell in front of the body acts as a counterbalance and provides instant feedback for athletes to instinctively adjust their technique.
- Promotes good posture: You must engage your upper back to maintain an upright posture and keep the dumbbell in front of your chest without it falling forwards.
- Promotes stability and strength of the anterior core: You must brace and be stable through your anterior core to maintain an upright posture and keep the dumbbell in front of your chest without it falling forwards.
- Lower back friendly: Holding the dumbbell in front of the body means there is less stress and compressive forces placed on the lower back when compared to the front and back squat where the barbell places a compressive load on the spine. This may be beneficial for those looking for a lower back friendly squat variation and/or those who already have a lot of stress placed upon their lower back in their sport.
- Can be used as a ‘prep’ exercise: This can be viewed in two ways – firstly, the goblet squat can be used as a gateway exercise where an athlete performs the goblet squat to become competent at a squat under some load and later progress to other squat variations such as the front and back squat. Secondly, the goblet squat can be used in the warm-up to prepare the athlete’s body for the front or back squat under greater load, so that they feel ready.
Goblet squats are a great exercise for athletes new to squatting, as they are easy to learn and allow for safe practice with light to moderate weights.
Take a look at our other articles on squatting below.
- How to Goblet Squat – Form, Tips & More
- Goblet Squat vs Back Squat – Your Questions Answered
- Goblet Squat vs Sumo Squat
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?
Emily, co-founder of Sport Science Insider, graduated from the University of Leeds in 2020 and went on to become an accredited S&C coach with the UKSCA in 2022. A former athlete herself, Emily has since gone on to deliver S&C coaching for the Southern Academy of Sport, GB Rowing, GB Taekwondo and works currently as a full-time S&C coach at the University of Leeds.