Goblet Squat Vs Front Squat: A Comparative Guide

Here’s what you need to know… 

  • The goblet squat is an excellent exercise for athletes learning to squat. It is relatively low in technical demand, and the low-moderate load makes it easier and safer for them to learn if they are new to strength and conditioning.  
  • The front squat demands higher technical proficiency, requiring considerable core stability and back stiffness. It allows for heavier loading, facilitating the development of lower limb strength, particularly targeting the quadriceps, whilst also enabling greater depth in the squat. However, some athletes find the barbell placement uncomfortable.

The squat is a cornerstone of strength and conditioning. It is valued as a fundamental movement pattern that underpins the skill needed to develop strength and power qualities to improve athletic performance. 

There are two variations of the front-loaded squat: the goblet and front squat. This article explores both exercises, the muscles they work, and considerations for each so you can decide which is best for you and your goals. 

Understand Goblet Squats and Front Squats

The goblet and front squat are both front-loaded squat variations, with distinct focuses and benefits:

Goblet Squat: A goblet squat is performed the same as a regular squat, but whilst holding a dumbbell close to your chest, like a big cup or goblet, with your palms facing up and grabbing the weight. It’s praised for its simplicity, making it accessible to beginners.

Front Squat: The front squat requires a barbell to be rested on the front of the shoulders, with the elbows pointing forward to keep the bar in place. This variation demands more from the upper body and core to maintain the barbell’s position whilst also allowing you to place more load on the barbell, making it a more advanced exercise that enhances strength.

Goblet Squats Vs Front Squats: Key Differences and Similarities

Muscles Worked

The main muscles worked during goblet squats and muscles worked during front squats are the same – they both place a strong emphasis on the quadriceps and core, whilst also working the glutes, adductors, abductors, erector spinae and upper back muscles. 

However, front squats demand more from the core and back muscles to maintain an upright trunk position so that the barbell remains on the shoulder in the front rack position.

Labelled diagram of the muscles worked during goblet and front squats

Joints Worked and Ranges of Motion

The goblet and front squat both involve large ranges of motion at the hip, knee and ankle joints. This is attributed to both exercises being a squat movement pattern. 

Goblet SquatFront Squat
Hip JointHigh ROMHigh ROM
Knee JointHigh ROMHigh ROM
Ankle JointHigh ROMHigh ROM

This table illustrates the similarities in hip, knee and ankle joint and range of motion between goblet and front squats, highlighting how each exercise emphasises similar aspects of lower body mechanics. 

The front squats demand greater shoulder and wrist mobility to achieve and maintain the front rack position comfortably. Individuals with limited shoulder or wrist mobility may struggle with this aspect of the front squats.

In contrast, the range of motion required in the shoulders and wrists is generally more manageable when using the goblet grip during the goblet squat, making it accessible for most individuals. 

Technique and Execution

How to perform a goblet squat:

For a goblet squat, the athlete holds a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of their chest, resembling a goblet, with palms facing up and gripping the weight securely throughout the lift. This position ensures proper engagement of the upper body and core muscles to maintain stability.

Then, to perform the squat, the athlete follows the same steps as outlined below for the goblet squat. 

Labelled diagram of the technical coaching cues on how to goblet squat

How to perform a front squat:

For a front squat, the athlete can support the bar in the front rack position. This position involves having your shoulders in 90 degrees flexion (arms straight out in front of you), flexing the elbows to position the wrists just above and wider than the shoulder, and extending the wrists so that the bar rests comfortably on the top of the shoulders. The bar need only be supported with 2 or 3 fingers.

If this position is a struggle then the arms crossed position can be used, where the shoulders are flexed at 90 degrees but the bar is supported by each hand by placing them on the opposite shoulder.

The aim is to bend at the knees and hips to lower the body and weight towards the ground to a minimum depth of having the thigh parallel to the floor. The elbows must stay straight in front of you to prevent the bar (and yourself) falling forward. It is important to keep the torso as upright as possible to protect the lumbar spine. The knees should remain over the toe and not cave inwards as this helps to protect your knee ligaments.

Skill Level, Difficulty and Safety

The skill level and difficulty for front squats versus goblet squats can vary depending on individual factors such as strength, mobility and familiarity with the exercises. However, here’s a general comparison:

Goblet Squats:

They are often recommended for beginners because they are considered less technically demanding than front squats. Holding the weight in front of the body helps with balance and stability, making it easier for athletes to learn proper squat mechanics and correct their technique.

The strength in the arms and upper back can limit the amount of weight an athlete can lift, typically resulting in a low to moderate weight, which makes it inherently safer.    

Front Squat:

Front squats are typically regarded as more challenging in terms of technique and strength requirements, so are more appropriate for intermediate to advanced athletes. The exercise demands greater core stability and upper body strength to keep the torso upright and prevent the barbell from tipping forward.

Additionally, while more weight can be loaded on the bar, making it more demanding and conducive to muscle growth and srength development, this also increases the challenge on maintaining the correct technique, increasing the difficulty level.

Load

Front squats allow for heavier weights to be lifted compared to goblet squats due to the mechanics of the exercise and the ability to use a barbell. 

The technical demand and load of variations of a squat
The technical demand and load of variations of a squat

Weight and Equipment

  • Goblet squat: The goblet squat simply needs one dumbbell, making it relatively accessible. 
  • Front squat: The front squat requires a squat rack, a barbell and plates, which can be found in most gyms, enabling athletes to incorporate front squats into their S&C routines. 

Specific Scenarios for Each Exercise

Skill Development

Goblet squats are excellent for developing fundamental squatting mechanics, including proper depth, knee tracking and torso positioning. They help individuals build confidence in their squatting abilities and will prepare them to progress to front squats, which require a higher degree of skill and technical proficiency. 

Lower Body Strength

Front squats are considered a staple lower body strength exercise, demanding substantial engagement of the quads and core to uphold proper form, especially under heavy loads. It;s the capacity to lift relatively heavier weights in front squats that enable athletes to effectively enhance leg strength when compared to the goblet squat. 

Conclusion

Choosing between the goblet squat and front squat depends on your training experience, goals, and available equipment. The goblet squat is excellent for mastering form and serving as a stepping stone to more complex lifts. In contrast, the front squat is a staple for those aiming to build significant strength, with a focus on the quadriceps and core.

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Golf Insider UK | Website | + posts

Will is a sport scientist and golf professional who specialises in motor control and motor learning. Will lecturers part-time in motor control and biomechanics, runs Golf Insider UK and consults elite athletes who are interested in optimising their training and performance.