The kettlebell goblet squat has become one of the most popular exercises because of its wide range of benefits. The advantages of including this movement in your training regime make it almost a must-have when programming any effective functional workout program.
Not only does it build and strengthen the lower body muscles such as the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, but it’s a very good core builder, reinforces proper lifting posture, and not to mention, beginners can do it too.
Here’s a guide to the kettlebell goblet squat that includes important details such as how to do this movement safely and effectively, why you should be doing it, and we’ve also included some awesome variations and alternatives to really take your gains to the next level.
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Quadriceps, gluteus maximus and hamstrings
- Type: Strength, hypertrophy and function/athleticism
- Mechanics: Compound
- Equipment: Kettlebell
- Difficulty: Intermediate
The kettlebell goblet squat is a very beneficial exercise as it works multiple muscle groups at the same time. This makes it a time-saving, and more functional movement that will offer better carryover to performing everyday activities, participating in athletics, and not to mention, strengthening your joints, and entire body.
We’ve included brief descriptions of muscles worked during this exercise.
This is the largest and most superficial muscle that makes up majority of the size, shape and appearance of the butt and hip muscles. It’s also one of the butt muscles that also include the gluteus medius and minimus.
The gluteus maximus is a very important muscle for function and aesthetics. The butt primarily extends and externally rotates the thighs and it plays an important role in helping us to maintain an upright posture.
The kettlebell goblet squat is a great butt builder.
The quadriceps or quads for short is the large group of muscles that make up most of your upper leg mass. It has four heads; rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedialis.
These muscles help to flex the hips and extend the knees during movements such as squats. They’re also important for posture, walking, and the function of the spine and pelvis.
There are few movements better than squat variations such as the kettlebell squat when it comes to activating the quadriceps muscles. If you want well-developed leg muscles that look incredible you want to ensure you’re doing enough to train the quadriceps muscles.
The hamstrings is a three-headed muscle group consisting of semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris.
This muscle group is located on the back of the upper leg opposite the quads and functions to extend the hips and flex the knees. It’s important to note that the short head of the biceps femoris only crosses the knee joint and not the hip like the other two muscles.
The hamstrings play an important role in standing but also explosive activities such as sprinting and jumping.
Additionally, this three-headed muscle is active during the gait cycle to resist knee extension, plus it stabilizes the knee joints and has other functions too.
The adductor magnus is the largest of the muscles that make up the adductor group of muscles in the medial compartment of the thigh. While it assists during adduction of the thigh (limb moves toward center of the body), the adductor magnus also helps with hip extension and medial rotation. It has anterior and posterior fibers that help it act on the front and back of the leg.
The calves are the lower leg muscles consisting of the gastrocnemius and soleus. The gastrocnemius is the larger of the two and what most people think of when it comes to the calf muscles.
It’s the very visible muscle right below the knee that has two heads; medial and lateral and it gives the lower leg a lot of its shape. It joins with the soleus to form the Achilles tendon near the lower portion of the leg.
Then you have the soleus; a large muscle located deep to the gastrocnemius.
The calf muscles plantarflex (point the toes down) the foot and ankle. They are also important for posture, and athletic movements. Although they do have an uneven ratio of fast and slow-twitch fibers.
The gastrocnemius is composed of mostly fast-twitch fibers that make it better suited for quick and explosive movements. The soleus contains more slow-twitch fibers and is, therefore, better suited for endurance-type activities.
Tensor Fasciae Latae
The tensor fascia latae (TFL) is a thigh muscle that works with several muscles to assist in the movement and stabilization of the hip and the knee. Along with the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, the TFL internally rotates and abducts the hip. It also works with the gluteus maximus to abduct the hip via the iliotibial (IT) band.
The TFL also assists the rectus femoris in the flexion of the hip, and assists in pelvis stability while standing and walking.
The core consists of many different muscles that include the rectus abdominis, also known as the abdominals or abs, the obliques, deep core muscles, and spinal erectors.
The abs are the most familiar core muscle to most people and it functions to curl the pelvis and rib cage toward each like when you perform a crunch.
The obliques are located on either side of the abs and are responsible for rotation or twisting the torso. Then you have the deeper core muscles such as the transverse abdominis and internal obliques that help to draw the belly button to the spine and stabilize the trunk. This creates a rigid core which is important for safe heavy lifting and even playing sports for example.
Then you have the back extensors that allow us to stand up straight from a bent-over position and lean backward.
How To Do The Kettlebell Goblet Squat
As with any exercise, it’s important that you use proper technique and perform the movement in a way that will maximize your efforts. Here are step-by-step instructions to help you execute the kettlebell goblet squat correctly.
- Place the kettlebell on the floor with the handles at the top.
- Jump up a few times in place which should help you to find a comfortable stance to perform the kettlebell goblet squat. This is usually a roughly hip-width stance with feet turned just slightly outward. Make sure you’re close to the kettlebell so you do not lose your stance.
- Pick up the kettlebell, hold it a few inches from your upper chest as shown in the video example below, and pretend to pull it apart which will activate the back muscles. The back muscles need to be activated for proper squat form. You could also hold the kettlebell by cupping the bottom bulky part in your hands.
- Keep your chest up, tense your core muscles and squat straight down until your upper legs are close to parallel with the floor. Keep your elbows closer to each so that as you squat they touch the top of your thigh or the inner parts of your thighs and not the outsides.
- Stand straight up while maintaining this position and repeat for the desired number of reps.
Kettlebell goblet squat tips/What not to do
- The kettlebell goblet squat is not a hip hinge movement. You do not want to push your butt back and tilt your upper body forward. Your torso should be upright for the most part throughout the movement and there should be plenty of hip and knee flexion to get good depth on your squats.
- It’s perfectly acceptable that your feet move forward past your toes. This is actually important for keeping your balance and to allow you to get good depth and perform the exercise correctly.
- Avoid wearing running shoes or footwear with a lot of cushion and a high heel. It’s best to wear flatter shoes with a more solid heel or go barefoot.
- The kettlebell goblet squat is not a max lift movement. While you can use a challenging kettlebell to perform the exercise, we recommend saving the really heavy stuff for the barbell squat variations.
This is an excellent video on how to properly perform a kettlebell goblet squat.
Kettlebell Goblet Squat Benefits
The benefits of doing kettlebell goblet squats make it a very worthwhile exercise in our opinion. Here’s why we like this exercise.
It’s a compound movement
Again, the kettlebell goblet squat is a compound exercise just like any other squat variation. That means it works various muscle groups and not just one. Multi-joint exercises like this one are good for improving coordination, burning calories, and replicating real life movement and functions that we use all the time.
While not a barbell movement, you can still load them decently heavy to also pack on the mass and build strength.
Reinforces proper lifting posture
While any squat variation requires good posture, holding a weight in front of you involves a different type of technique similar to the difference between a back and front squat.
Positioning a barbell on a certain spot on your upper back and holding it there in place may be easier than trying to hold up weight anteriorly. Although this is more noticeable with heavy weight.
But holding a weight in front of you will quickly remind you to maintain thoracic extension of the torso and activating the back is good practice for when you get into the heavier squats. That’s also why the goblet squat makes for a good progression exercise.
Great for squat progression
Before you progress to using a kettlebell, it’s recommended to try bodyweight squat variations and get them down pat before adding more weight especially if you’re new to training. The kettlebell goblet squat is a good move up from bodyweight squats because kettlebells range in weight so you can start very light and add more resistance before advancing to barbell squats.
Good option when recovering from injuries
The goblet squat is a good substitute if suffering from an injury that might be worsened from doing barbell squat variations or if these movements are not possible due to some limitations. You can train light but still benefit from the movement and it’s also easier to set up.
Takes up very little space
This one is quite obvious but kettlebell goblet squats take up really no space at all. That makes it a great choice for home training, working out in tight spaces, moving it around in the gym, and because it’s a very portable training tool, you can train anywhere you like.
Kettlebell Goblet Squat Drawbacks
The advantages far outweigh the potential disadvantages of kettlebell goblet squat. But it’s still helpful to know about any drawbacks.
Not the best option for strength training
Let us preface this by saying we’re referring to the strength building potential for those lifters who are stronger and more advanced and who need to train using really low rep ranges. After all, you can only lift so much weight using a kettlebell. The same goes for a dumbbell, however, the latter may be easier for lifting heavier due to its ergonomics.
Kettlebell training can make for a good warmup or higher rep movement for more advanced exercisers.
May be uncomfortable for some and if newer to this movement
If you’re not used to holding a kettlebell or any weight (especially if heavier) in front of your torso, it can be a little uncomfortable until you get used to it. This isn’t necessarily a drawback, however, it may prevent some from wanting to continue doing weighted front squats.
Variations and Alternatives
While the kettlebell goblet squat has its special place, so do some of the other common front squat variations and alternatives.
Dumbbell goblet squat
The best alternative to the kettlebell goblet squat is to use a dumbbell. First off, a dumbbell is more common and it may be more comfortable to use for front squats compared to a kettlebell. Whether or not you can lift more weight using a dumbbell vs. a kettlebell may be something to consider as well.
Split stance goblet squat
Similar to the Bulgarian split squat where the rear leg is elevated on a bench or something similar and using dumbbells, you could also do a kettlebell version of this.
You’ll pick up the weight and hold it in front of you, then stand facing away from a bench a few feet away, and place the top side (laces) of one foot behind you on the bench. From here you may have to do a few squats and adjust your front foot position to perform the exercise comfortably.
Then you simply do one-legged squats. These are an absolute killer and anyone who does Bulgarian split squats will agree. We think this is one of the most effective leg exercises that you can do, period.
Using resistance bands
Resistance bands are affordable, lightweight, easy to use, and allow you to do most exercises that you could do with weights and cables.
Now there are many ways to use bands to perform squat variations. You could use loop bands or the ones with the handles that make doing a lot of exercises very convenient. It doesn’t matter as long as you do it correctly.
Landmine goblet squat
Landmine exercises offer something that not many other training tools do not. A barbell is locked in place either by shoving it into a small hole somewhere or hooking it up to a dedicated landmine setup.
The barbell is secured on one end and free to move on the other. So it offers more freedom of movement and requires more stabilization/balance which makes it among the best functional training tools available.
Not to mention, you can load it heavy but it’s arguably easier to perform a lot of movements compared to using freeweights because your arms hold the bar in front of you which places the shoulders in a comfortable position. Additionally, this helps to maintain good lifting posture and it naturally encourages proper lifting form like with squats for example.
Check out our full section on landmine workout related content.
Heels elevated goblet squat
The heels elevated goblet squat is an interesting variation that apparently shifts the emphasis of the exercise more towards the quads. So if you’re looking to really hammer these muscles while not having to use very heavy weights then try this one out.
Barbell front squat
When you’re ready, the barbell front squat is simply king for what it offers. It’ll build incredible mass and strength just like the back squat. But according to a study from 2009 using volunteers to compare the two variations, there was strong evidence to suggest the front squat is superior to the back squat for long-term joint health (1).
How To Include the Kettlebell Goblet Squat Into Your Training Regime
The kettlebell goblet is super versatile in that there are some many different ways that you can benefit from doing it.
The kettlebell goblet actually makes for a really good option to use for warm-ups prior to doing your regular leg routine. The reason being is that it’s easy to just pick up the kettlebell and start doing squats. But it also helps you to activate the back muscles and reinforce good lifting posture before you begin with the heavier stuff.
Main lower body movement
Whether it’s your only option or the fact that this movement is an excellent lower body exercise, the kettlebell goblet squat can replace any other leg exercise when necessary.
Does that mean it should be the only leg movement you do? Absolutely not and we don’t recommend it for those who want to continue making gains in strength and size.
However, it’s still a compound lift and one that you can load heavy. But it’s also good to train using moderate and higher rep ranges which is good especially if you’re more advanced seeing as this is not the first choice if you’re wanting to do very low reps with heavy weight.
Because a kettlebell takes up very little space, is portable, and requires very minimal setup, it’s one of the best training tools to use for supersets. For example, you could alternate the kettlebell goblet squat and the hamstring leg curl, both of which are great for quick transitions between exercises.
Of course, you can pair it any way you like but it is an excellent option for this purpose.
No we’re not talking about buildings but we are referring to a series of kettlebell exercises. A complex is when you perform a series of exercises back to back with no rest in between using the same training tool/weight (kettlebell in this case), and the movements are strategically organized to flow seamlessly from one to the next.
Try out the kettlebell complex workout in this article to add some fun and excitement to your training.
Make Awesome Gains With The Kettlebell Goblet Squat
The kettlebell goblet squat offers many advantages that make it totally worth including in your workouts. It’s great for beginners, progressing into heavy squats, building muscle and strength, reinforcing proper lifting posture, training through injuries and more.
All you need is a kettlebell and you can get a great workout and don’t forget to also incorporate some of the variations and alternatives for training variety and to get even better gains.