Goblet Squat Vs Back Squat – Your Questions Answered

Throughout this article, we will cover the goblet squat and back squat, which are different variations of a squat. You can use this information and apply it to your training sessions. 

Goblet squat vs back squat

The two main differences between a goblet squat and back squat are i) the location of the weight relative to your center of mass, and ii) the equipment used for each type of exercise. In a goblet squat you use a kettlebell/dumbell and the mass is located in front of your chest. In a back squat you will use a barbell with the option of additional weights, with the bar resting on your shoulders.

Joints worked and ranges of motion

To understand the difference, firstly we must understand what joints and muscles are being used.

JointGoblet Squat ROMBack Squat ROM
HipLow-moderate ROMLow-moderate ROM
KneeLarge ROMLarge ROM
AnkleLarge ROMLarge ROM

Surprisingly, the goblet squat and back squat have very similar ranges of motions, depending on how you perform them, but because the weight is located in a different position, there is a noticeable change in the muscles used to perform the exercise. 

Difference in muscles used goblet squat vs back squat

The goblet squat and back squat utilise similar muscles, but each has a slightly different focus on each of them. Goblet squats target the quadriceps vs the back squats, which utilise more glutes. 

For a run through what muscles are worked in a squat and other variations check out this article.

Muscles worked during goblet squat

The main muscles worked in the goblet squat are the glutes, quadriceps, abductors, adductors and erector spinae muscles. Below is a list of the key muscle groups in more detail:

Glutes: Bottom of the squat.

Quadriceps: Prime muscle used in the eccentric (down) and concentric (up) portion of the squat (greater quadricep focus in goblets).

Abductors & Adductors: Stability/balance

Erector Spinae: Maintains upright posture when holding the weight.

Goblet Squat

Muscles worked during back squat…

The main muscles worked in the back squat are listed below:

Glutes: Bottom of the squat (greater glute focus in back squats).

Quadriceps: Prime muscle used in the eccentric (down) and concentric (up) portion of the squat.

Abductors & Adductors: Hip stability/ general balance.

Erector Spinae: Maintains upright posture when holding the weight.

Back Squat

The pros and cons of goblet squats?

The goblet squat elicits a greater quadricep focus in comparison to back squats due to the weight being held in front of the body (instead of resting on the upper back like a back squat). This means that there is less focus on the glutes during the goblet squat as the quadriceps are the prime muscles being used. 

The goblet squat requires greater strength in the upper back and biceps to stabilise the weight held in front of the body. Goblet squats also place a higher workload on the abdominal muscles at the front of your core, due to the location of the weight relative to your centre of mass.  

The reasons above demonstrate the additional requirements on top of leg strength for a goblet squat. These adaptations can be a pro or a con, depending on your training goals.

The pros and cons of back squats? 

The back squat can be loaded with more weight when compared to the goblet squat, as the barbell is resting on the upper back so that the strength of the upper back and bicep are not a limiting factor, so it can be a great exercise for strength training.

The back squat can be dangerous if performed with incorrect technique, especially when loaded with a relatively large amount of weight. 

Other considerations (strength, hypertrophy..etc)

Strength: Both goblet squats and back squats are loadable for strength development, back squats potentially require less effort from the upper body and arms to hold and stabilise the weight so a greater amount of weight (e.g. above 81% of 1RM) can be used which is more advantageous for strength training. 

Hypertrophy: Both are equally as good for muscle development! With goblet squats having more quadricep focus, and back squats having more glute focus. 

Safety: Both squat variations are equally safe as long as they are performed with good technique. However, as strength and conditioning coaches, we normally begin with goblet squats before moving athletes onto a back squat. When individuals are new to both exercises we’d suggest goblet squats have a lower injury risk. Goblet squats also place less load the lower back, this can be another consideration when choosing your exercise selection.

Ease of Learning: Goblet squats are easier to learn. With the weight located in front of the athlete, it is easier for them to create the correct form in their upper and lower body.

Can goblet squats replace back squats?

Yes, goblet squats can replace back squats for everyday fitness and for individuals first learning how to squat, but for athletes training for building strength within their specific sport, back squats are likely to be a better exercise choice for strength training. 

Why are goblet squats harder than back squats?

Goblet squats require more upper body strength in order to hold the dumbbell! Also the weight is located further in front of your centre of mass, whereas a back squat rests the weight closer above your centre of mass. 

Is goblet squat the best? 

Neither goblet squats or back squats are better than one another, they are both simple variations of a squat! It all depends on your goals and needs of training!

For example, if you have poor hip mobility then goblet squats may be a better solution. Or, if you have weak back and shoulder muscles, meaning you cannot hold the dumbbell or kettlebell for long enough then back squats may be a quick fix solution while you improve your back and shoulder strength.

Coach’s summary – which exercise should I use?

If you are new to squats, we would suggest starting with goblet squats and then progress to back squats after you are comfortable and can perform them with good technique! If you are an intermediate/experienced lifter then getting strong in the back squat is going to help improve overall leg strength and muscle development!

Related Squat articles

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