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A Set of Goblet Squats per Day Keeps the Doctor Away

The goblet squat is an incredible exercise that was popularized by legendary strength & conditioning coach Dan John (one of the most genuine and respected individuals in the our industry). Dan also popularized a saying in strength & conditioning that goes like this:

“If it’s important, do it every day. If it’s not important, don’t do it at all.”

Now, this advice actually came from the mouth of wrestling champ Dan Gable, but was relayed to us strength coaches by Dan John in THIS TNation article back in 2006. It’s been seven years since this article was written, but the advice is every bit as important today as it was back then.

goblet squat II

Proper Squatting Mechanics: Use it or Lose it!

How does this advice apply to the goblet squat? Squatting an ability that you either use or lose as you age, so you never want to stop squatting. Even a simple bodyweight full squat requires a lot of good things to happen for the movement to take place. You need good foot mechanics to stay rigid by distributing the body’s weight over the whole foot without rolling into prontation. You need a flexible ankle joint to allow for considerable dorsiflexion so the knees can migrate forward. You need strong quadriceps to propel the body upwards and prevent excessive forward lean. You need good hip mobility to allow the femurs to sink deep into hip flexion. You need properly functioning glutes to absorb eccentric loading, extend the hips, and help the knees track properly over the toes. You need strong lumbar erectors to maintain lumbopelvic stability and prevent low back rounding and posterior pelvic tilting. You need strong thoracic extensors to keep the torso extended. And you need sound coordination to blend it all together efficiently.

goblet squat

If you can squat properly right now, then that’s great! Just keep it up. Stop squatting, and these mechanical characteristics erode over time. The ankles tighten up, the quads and glutes atrophy and weaken, the erectors shift from stabilizers to prime movers, and the whole movement pattern changes for the worse. Elderly individuals squat markedly different than younger individuals. Fortunately, much of this erosion of movement quality is preventable.

Building Fitness Qualities is Hard, but Maintaining them is Easy

Building flexibility, strength, and coordination is difficult, but maintaining these qualities is much easier. If you goblet squat every day, you will maintain the ability to squat well into advanced years. And it’s really not that hard! Just do a set of goblet squats every day. When I say every day, I mean 5-7 days per week.

Now, the goblet squat can and should be performed daily as part of a good warm-up, but it can also be performed as a strengthening exercise. For example, a 120 pound goblet squat for twenty reps will provide a beastly squatter with a potent upper back and quadricep training stimulus. Don’t believe me? Give it a try. You don’t need to go to failure or max out. Just use a moderately challenging load and focus on movement quality.

If You’re Gonna Do it, Do it Right!

It’s of vital importance, however, that you perform the goblet squat correctly. Please watch this two-and-a-half minute video and follow the instructions:

  • dumbbell tucked into the upper chest
  • elbows in
  • feet slightly wider than shoulder width with 0-30 degrees of foot flare
  • sink down into the squat
  • knees out, elbows track inside of knees
  • push through heels
  • chest up

If you can make goblet squatting a daily habit, I can assure you that you will be rewarded in time with superior functional capacity and performance.

52 Comments

  • raz-fitness trainer says:

    And if i have a strain at the hip labrum?
    I dont think its will be good for me..

    • Bret says:

      I agree, in that case then you should probably avoid deeper squats, but you may be able to do these to parallel or so.

      • Victor says:

        As a competing Olympic Weightlifter for over 30 years now and still competing as a Masters you absolutely should go as deep as you can with the proper form. This will allow greater flexibility and less strain on the joints by only going to parallel or half way down. I am 56 and do a full front squat with 100ks, body weight. I can tell you that my knees never hurt because I always from day one did full deep squats.

        • Victor says:

          Sorry my body weight is 77kg, age 56

          • Brandon Green says:

            Hello

            I am 55 and i have to agree. a full goblet 20-25 reps several times a day.
            Every day. Works wonders especially if you plan on doing the Oly lifts
            and i do. Masters Olympic lifter. Great exercise.

  • Susy says:

    How many do you recommend? in a day that is. thanks!

    • Bret says:

      If done as part of the warm-up, 1-2 sets is sufficient with moderate load. But if your current strength level is such that goblet squats are perfect for squat strengthening, then you can do 3-4 sets of them ramping up in weight.

  • Brian LaFrazia says:

    Love these. Dan and Pavel also talk about pressing the elbows hard against the knees, and the knees against the elbows for some isometric contraction work for the hips and shoulders simultaneously (which of course are connected through the core musculature and work together contralaterally). Also, moving the hips around in circles or figure 8’s can help mobilize the hips in multiple planes of motion while under the iso tension of the knee/hip battle. The Goblet Squat is a GREAT move.

  • Dan John says:

    Thank you, Bret! I have your book(s) and we have a workout dedicated to your “Strong Curves,” the 4-D Workout. On the question of hips, if you don’t mind a couple of points (in full disclosure, I had a total hip replacement two years ago and I now squat daily again):
    Be sure to get an X Ray and have a Medical Doctor review this strain. The upside of the X Ray is this: you will have a baseline for the future. Stu McGill notes that I am the classic “Scottish Hip” and I have some funny stories about being parts of tests and I should have known years ago that my body is designed to do Y well, but not necessarily Z.
    Tim Anderson’s Six Point Rocks were the exercise I used for a year after the operation to rehab, then started doing Goblet Squats again. (As I write this, I am still sweating from 400 Swings mixed with GSs). I believe the MOVEMENT of squatting is important and needs to be done daily, but the load is less important.

    Keep up the good work, Bret. I mention your work in every seminar I give and you really do a nice job reminding all of us about the importance of the glutes…

  • Al says:

    I’ve always preferred to use kettlebells for my goblet squats. They seem easier to hold on to, and I can’t really think of anyway that they would change the movement quality. That being said, I’ve always noticed that a set or two of goblets in the morning with any implement always helps me fell a bit loser throughout the day, however I have been neglecting them lately. Thanks for the reminder to get my goblet squat on!

  • ryan says:

    I’m finding that wider squats help stretch/strengthening tight spots in the addcutors, especially when dropping below parallel. This is an awesome way to warm up and get into those restricted areas.

    Can you comment on your slight butt wink at the bottom of your side angle goblet squat? I always just say it’s okay because it’s part of normal human movement, but not a good idea when under heavy loads because of the spinal sheer.

    I know this is could be a really long response when talking about butt winking, but can maybe write a 3 sentence response (max) on having a slight posterior tilt at the bottom of deep squat. Good, bad and or okay? just would like your abbreviated thoughts on it.

    as a side note, requesting for an abbreviated response so that myself and others can educate client about it better without all the geek speak I love to read and listen on all the content you provide. thanks bret!!

    • Daniel John says:

      On the butt wink and all the rest: I don’t coach ANY of that stuff for a while. Let the person get a lot of reps in before I strive for perfection. Think about what goes through most people’s minds:
      “I was told squats hurt your knees” (They don’t)
      “Now, this guy is telling me to squat…okay.”
      “Now, everything I do is wrong.”

      So, I hold my mouth shut and encourage the exploration. Doing it this way and letting the person watch and learn from me and the others seems to work as well as over-coaching. Sorry to jump back in, but I can’t help it when I see people overcorrecting too early.

      • Bret says:

        Great point Dan. Some people would scoff at what I allow for my first few training sessions. I’m more concerned with how they look in 2 months, not with attaining perfection on workout numero uno. And in 2 months, everyone’s form is markedly better, which is the goal.

  • Neal W. says:

    Is weak lumbar erectors what causes PPV in the bottom of a squat?

    • Bret says:

      It can be. It can also be due to tightness of certain hip muscles and it can also be due to hip anatomy (in which case there will be no “fix”).

  • will says:

    Bret,

    I always get confused with what is considered ” lumbar flexion” . In this video when you go past parallel, your pelvis goes into a posterior pelvic tilt. Since the weight is so light it is safe. But what if you have a really heavy dumbbell? I am going to quote text from my kinesiology book below :

    ” for example, if a person flexes the right thigh at the hip joint for the purpose of kicking a ball, the actual range of motion of the right thigh at the hip joint is approximately 90 degrees. This is not sufficient for a strong follow though to the kick. Therefore the pelvis is posteriorly tilted on the left thigh at the left hip to increase the range of motion. ”

    If the range of motion for the hips is approximately 90 degrees and in order to increase range of motion then one has to create a posterior pelvic tilt/lumbar flexion, then wouldn’t going past 90 degrees contribute to lumbar flexion/butt wink?

    I don’t think it is possible to keep a slight arch/anterior pelvic tilt and go past 90 degrees. Every time I see someone do a goblet squat past 90 degrees there lower back rounds. But then we are told not to round our backs during squats or have any butt wink, so this is what confuses me.

    • Joe Miller says:

      Just a response to your last paragraph Will. What I find helps me alot with squats is to really focus on “sticking my butt out”. I know it sounds kinda silly, but it helps me.

    • Patrik Looft says:

      The hips have approximately 120 degrees of flexion, if I’m not much mistaken. This is easily seen if you have a person lie down on a flat bench and have them do passive or active flexion (the person shouldn’t have any hip-problems, of course).
      I suppose the same sort of flexibility could be seen in a deep squat such as the goblet squat. Of course, there are individual differences to consider…

    • Bret says:

      Haha! Great question. This is where the experienced eye comes into play. Some rounding/butt wink is okay, but too much is not. Sometimes this occurs way down deep, and with others it can occur before parallel and they reach very dangerous levels. So you develop a good sense of this over time after watching hundreds of thousands of reps. Mine is definitely not dangerous, as is that of most Oly lifters. I may write a blogpost on this in the future as it’s an important topic deserved of a better explanation.

  • Antonio says:

    Hi Bret! as always very interesting blog entries.
    I have a question for you, what is the best way to squat after a acl surgery.
    I would like to answer me as it is very important to me.

    Thank you very much.

    • Rob Panariello says:

      Antonio,

      The best way to squat regardless if one has ACL surgery or not, is to assume as technically proficient a squat as possible so that the joint and soft tissue forces are distributed appropriately. There are times where “modifications” in the progression of restoring optimal squat exercise performance may/does occur. Some things to consider are as follows:

      1. The graft used to restore the ACL anatomy i.e. patella tendon, hamstring, quad tendon, allograft, etc… as specific graft sites will determine the specific modification (if necessary) to employ

      2. How far post- op is the patient/athlete

      3. Were there any additional associated injuries i.e. meniscal tears, OCD’s, etc… and how were these concomitant pathologies resolved (if necessary)?

      4.What was the squat exercise proficiency and training experience of the person/athlete prior to the ACL injury

      Generally speaking since neither I nor anyone else on this thread has evaluated your knee, here are some things for you to consider:

      1. You must restore the soft tissue qualities and joint mobility necessary to assume an unloaded (body weight) full squat position. This soft tissue and joint mobility is not limited to just the knee.

      2. You must eliminate the “shift” that often occurs away from the post-op surgical knee (leg) during the descent phase of the squat exercise performance

      3. If appropriate (based on your knee pathology history) you must eventually assume a deep squat position during your training as this position will provide optimum thigh muscle strength and architecture (i.e. cross section area), possible collagen synthesis and hypertrophy of the patella tendon (stronger patella tendon) and enhanced athleticism i.e. improvement in various types of jumps
      .
      4. Don’t assume that partial squats are safer for the knee. Although the moment arm at the knee extensors and patella tendon are shorter when compared to a full squat, these shorter moment arms permit the application of much heavier loads to be lifted during squat exercise performance. Thus the forces applied to the muscle-tendon system are approximately the same in the partial squat v. the full squat with the main difference being the length at which the working muscle contract.

      Use whatever methods which you are familiar or can research to assume a technically proficient full body weight pain-free squat position. Don’t worry about heavy loads as this will come over time.

      Just my opinion. Good luck

      Rob

  • Steve says:

    How would you say they compare to kettlebell front squats? The first time I did high rep kb front squats my upper back was smoked the next day.

    Thanks, Bret

  • Antonio says:

    Many Thanks Rob, I’ve been a big help!

    For my knee operation and because I’m starting to study biomechanics.
    Probe today some of your advice and much better in my squat mechanics.

    Again thank you very much Rob and Bret, for your great blog

  • Marie Ande says:

    Bret,
    Thanks for this post and I would love to see a post about the low back rounding. That was my question from the beginning so I was happy to see it addressed in the comments, but I’m sure there is much more information regarding this.

    Thanks again and I really enjoy your posts!

  • Andrea says:

    Great article Bret! Quick question: It could be something else but it sounds like your knees crack when squatting down. Mine tend to do this too sometimes so I’m wondering how to tell safe/normal cracking knees from ones that are not tracking properly and cracking. Thanks!

  • Stephanie says:

    Bret do you have any suggestions/tips for keeping upper body more upright? I bend too far forward rather than squatting down and I don’t know how to fix.

  • Becky says:

    Thanks for this article. I love goblet squats and do them without weights whenever I can as a resting-sitting position and always as a stretch after a long walk. When I first started swinging a kettlebell I couldn’t do them and was afraid of them and just assuming the position was painful as I sit at a desk all day and I am always tight. My kettle bell instructor explained it as the best way to understand them is to watch a baby squat, they do them perfectly every time, straight down, straight up, no problems! If we do them all through life we will never lose that motion and be flexible into our later years and what a great gift that will be to our bodies!
    Thanks again, love your book and am seeing results for the first time in a long time in how my glutes look!

  • Goblet squats change lives. It’s amazing how easily people are able to get into the right pattern with them. I love them because for the most part they are literally idiot-proof. Great exercise that EVERYONE should be doing.

    Good recommendations for usage between beginners and more advanced trainees as well!

  • Joe Miller says:

    Lately, I’ve noticed that my left knee pops (like a cracked knuckle sound) when I go all the way down with a 30 lb dumbbell. I’m really trying to stay upright as well as keeping my knees from traveling beyond my toes.

    So I’m not sure if the pop is caused by poor form or whatever….

  • Chris says:

    Bret, any thoughts of goblet squats mods when your legs are weak? I’m building them slowly after a car-acc, done with physio so not an issue.. Can i work the goblet without breaking parallel, till i get stronger and then work om increasing the range gradually? Keep up the great work! Greetings from Greece!

  • Danny Shilkett says:

    I’m a 53 yo male who had TKR last Feb. I started doing these about 2 weeks ago and they’re the best exercise I’ve done. I’m 6-5 and weigh 305 and a 50# db for 20 is good because I’m trying to learn form and gain more flexibility, plus they make me puff like a locomotive!

  • Ellen says:

    Sadly I experience knee pain at the end of each workout -just getting down the stairs in the gym is a painful task, and days after. I’ve tried cutting out exercises to see what is the one I have bad form at. It seems to be the leg press and leg extension. So for the former: I cannot squat below parallel, but on the leg press I keep being told to get my legs against my body. Is this wrong? For the latter: is there something specific I should pay attention to?
    Keeping my knees straight/out can be quite cumbersome as I have slight knock knees, they turn in for about a 20-30° angle I think, so letting them cave in during exercises happens quickly.

    Should I not exercise for a while until the knee pain is gone?

  • nish1013 says:

    I’m trying to do dumbbell squats but not possible. I feel unbalanced hence no confidence to put my weight on heels . goblet squats worked ! , I managed to do two 🙂 but I had to move weight some what away from the chest . Could this have negative effects ?

  • Fred Barbe says:

    It works so well! Strangely enough, a lot of people without the proper dorsiflexion to squat will do ok with a weight in their hands.

  • Rick Polcari says:

    Hi Brett,

    Great article as always. Question can I do goblet squats after TKR (total knee replacement)?

    Thanks

    Rick

  • Andrea says:

    I get numbness in my calf after doing these trying to keep my pelvis neutral. What can I do to make sure I have perfect back angles?

  • Loanna says:

    is this exercise ok if I have patellofemoral syndrome?

  • Andrea Herrera says:

    I got some knee pain from my last two days of gob lets, doing 30 pounds. When I was doing 20 pounds, no pain, could it be my form got off and what to do?? go back to less weight?

  • Kenny says:

    Be conscious of your form. My first thought is that your knees may be wobbling inward with the added weight, hence the knee pain. Just a thought.

  • herve says:

    Thanks to you, I’ve been practising these squats two-three times a week for the last two months and I saw a great increase in mobility and flexibility.

    I can now sit on my heel, which I believe I would never be able to to and it seems that it is transfering well to my volley-ball jumps and receives as I now have muscle soreness in both glutes and hamstring muscles each time the day after I played (plus I feel that i’m jumping higher but I’m also losing weight so it’s hard to assess where this added height comes from). I believe it means that I’m using the newfound mobility so thank you for that, it’s a very nice feeling to have when you’re around 40 yo.

    For reference : I like to have first a 20 minutes cardio training, then work on hamstring, quadriceps, glutes and lower back specific exercices before doing 4 sets of 10 goblet squats (I first started using 16, then 20 and now 2*12) and trying to go down slowly and almost (almost) jumping each rep (And I try to fire up the glutes each time, it does feel like I’m pushing the ground down ).

  • Alan Smith says:

    Full squats are the only way to go. Just more ignorant rubbish being peddled by the uneducated.

  • […] are an exercise many people struggle to perform safely and effectively. Luckily, the goblet squat is a great progression from a bodyweight squat before squatting with a bar. Because the load is […]

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