If you’re looking to improve your squatting form, consider holding a weight. It may sound counterintuitive—after all, tacking on resistance typically makes a move more challenging—but when it comes to squatting, adding heft (in the right way) might actually help.
That’s the case with the goblet squat, a weighted squat variation that Don Saladino, celebrity trainer and owner of NYC-based gym Drive495, recently shared in an Instagram video. “The goblet squat is an effective and safe way to squat,” Saladino—whose clients have included Blake Lively, Emily Blunt, Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Sebastian Stan, among others—writes in the caption. “I use this for mobility and [as] a strength builder.”
You can check out the move, via @donsaladino, here:
The weight position is what makes the difference.
The goblet squat involves holding a free weight—either a kettlebell or a dumbbell—in front of you at chest level as you do the move. This positioning can help you squat with greater ease and mobility, says Saladino.
“If you’re someone who struggles to get into an effective squat position, [the goblet squat] will make it easier,” Saladino tells SELF. That’s because holding weight in front of your body counterbalances the body weight that you are pushing back as you squat. This counterbalance helps you keep your back straight and torso upright (not rounded forward) as you squat—two important components that can be difficult to nail in a traditional body squat. For this reason, if a traditional body squat hurts your low back, the goblet squat may be a better, more back-friendly bet, Stephanie Mansour, Chicago-based certified personal trainer, tells SELF.
On that note, a slight tilt forward of the upper body is OK, and in fact, your body may naturally want to do this, says Mansour. As long as your spine is straight—not arched or rounded—you’re still in good form, says Saladino.
The specific weight placement also makes it a safer way to load up your squats compared to other popular weighted squat variations where the weight rests on the back. If you have any shoulder, hip, or thoracic spine (midback) restrictions, loading more weight onto your back, as you would in a back squat, could make the move more dangerous, says Saladino. In this case, holding the weight in front of you may be a better option.
Also, by squatting with the correct positioning that the goblet squat promotes, you'll likely be able to sink further into each squat. In fact, the goblet squat can be used as a mobility drill to improve your range of motion, adds Saladino.
Since squatting is such a functional human movement that we use in everyday life (examples: sitting in a chair, or bending down to pick up a heavy object), being able to get into a correct squatting position can help you move easier and reduce your risk of injury in day-to-day life, says Saladino.
It also strengthens your core and upper body.
“A goblet squat to me is one of the best active core moves you can do,” says Saladino. In the goblet squat, the placement of the weight puts “an incredible amount of load on the abdominal wall and core,” says Saladino. Your core will automatically activate in this position, he explains, making the move a bigger core challenge than a traditional body squat. In fact, this extra core activation will allow you to better sit into each squat and hit a deeper range of motion—yet another reason this move is great for perfecting good squatting form. This automatic core activation can also help protect your lower back as you squat, James Brewer, NYC-based certified personal trainer and certified Spin and TRX instructor, tells SELF, as your entire core will be working to stabilize your body, rather than just your lower back alone.
This move is “really a full-body exercise,” though, says Saladino. That’s because in addition to the lower-body muscles that any squat works—mainly, your hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves—the goblet squat also engages muscles in your upper half. In particular, the muscles of your upper back have to engage to stabilize your body and keep you from falling forward as you hold the weight, he explains. Holding the weight will also engage your shoulders and biceps, adds Brewer, even though they are not the main drivers of the movement.
The goblet squat also works your grip strength, Brewer adds. And lastly, it can be easily regressed and progressed, making it a good option for beginners, advanced gymgoers, and many folks in between, says Mansour.
That said, the goblet squat isn't right for everyone. If you have any injuries that are aggravated with any type of squatting movement, you should check with your doctor or physical therapist before attempting it.
Here’s how to do the goblet squat:
You’ll need a kettlebell or a dumbbell. Though the right amount of weight will vary depending on your fitness level and goals, all three trainers recommend starting light. If you’re not sure what that means for you, Mansour recommends beginning with a 5-pound weight and adding weight once you feel comfortable.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes angled slightly outward. Press down firmly through your entire foot.
- Hold your weight at chest level and grip it firmly with both hands. If using a kettlebell, grip the handle on each side with the bulk of the weight hanging below, as Saladino demos, or flip the weight and grip the handle beneath the bulk of the weight. If using a dumbbell, hold the weight vertically and grip it by one of the heads.
- Press your glutes and hips behind you and try to keep your back flat and torso upright as you bend your knees to lower yourself. If your heels start lifting, try spreading your feet farther apart, suggests Mansour.
- Lower as far as your range of motion allows.
- Once you’ve reached the end of your range of motion (if your back starts to round, you’ve gone too far, says Saladino), pause and then press firmly through your feet to stand back up. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
- That's 1 rep. Try 5 to 20 reps, suggests Saladino.
If you’re new to goblet squats, attempt them first as a warm-up, suggests Saladino. Go slow and stay mindful of your form. Once you’re comfortable with the move, you can play around with your foot positioning (pointing them straight forward, or narrowing your stance, for example), and the speed at which you perform reps, suggests Saladino. “As long as your back is in a good, safe position, it’s going to be very effective,” Brewer says.
If you’re struggling to perform the move correctly, you can regress it by holding a very light weight and placing a box behind you as you squat, suggests Saladino. Practice pushing your butt back as far as you can (so that if you removed the box, you would fall), and at the bottom movement, make sure that your knee and shin are almost in one vertical line, he says. Once you’re comfortable with these lightly weighted box squats, you can remove the box and attempt the goblet squat again.