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Fitness Education

How to Goblet Squat with a Kettlebell

My name is Carmen, but people call me Coach Bott.  And today, I am here to lead you through an exercise called The Kettlebell Goblet Squat.  No, it isn’t the medieval torture it sounds like; rather it is a great, introductory lift that anyone, at any level can try.

This is a great functional exercise which is an alternative to the traditional barbell squat, and can also be used as a precursor to other squat exercises.

The advantages of a goblet squat with a kettlebell are that you only need one piece of gear — a kettlebell — and the technique is simpler than other squat variations. If you have wrist and shoulder mobility issues, this exercise is great for that too.

This article is a complete rundown of how to do a kettlebell goblet squat: background, what kind of kettlebell to use, benefits, and technique.

What is a Goblet Squat with a Kettlebell?

The Goblet Squat exercise belongs in the squat pattern category but does not require you to use a power rack or barbell.  In fact, it is an ideal pre-requisite exercise to barbell work as there is no better squat exercise to both improve strength and mobility.  All you need is a kettlebell (or a dumbbell).  Oh, and a sadistic love for a good old-fashioned thigh and glute burn

How heavy a Kettlebell and what do I need?

Novices can start between 8kg and 12kg and more experienced strength trainees can try a 12kg-20kg bell.  If you do not have a competition-style kettlebell, you can also use a dumbbell; just hold it vertically as shown in the images. Standard, cast-iron kettlebells are too small in diameter to get a good grip on the handles.

Tip: Keeping the load close to your body reduces the perception of it feeling heavy.

What are the benefits of a Goblet Squat with a Kettlebell?

  • The Goblet Squat is like a front squat but doesn’t require the same outlandish wrist flexibility to support the load. And not only does this exercise target your quads, hams and glutes, it also gives your core quite a workout.  
  • Squats to depth are a terrific body composition-changer and strength exercise.  And guess what?  It is easy to squat to depth using the Goblet squat. In a study by Zatsiorsky & Raitsin (1974) the subjects who isometrically trained at the bottom of the squat position improved their full squat poundage 50% more than those who did their isometrics near the top.  
  • An isometric, for those not familiar, simply means to hold a position.  In the goblet squat, I’ll ask you to hang out at the bottom for a few seconds to earn that position.  You can do it!
  • Goblet Squats with a Kettlebell are simply the introductory pathway to barbell squats.  Once you earn the mobility and posture of a Goblet, it will seamlessly transfer to the barbell lifts: back squat and front squat.
  • Goblets do not require barbells and racks and can be done in home gyms, on vacation, with your pets (ok, that’s weird), pretty much anywhere.

Here's How to Goblet Squat with a Kettlebell:

1. Set-up

Let’s get your feet set up in the proper position first.  To learn how wide you should stand, do this simple test:  Jump up into the air and see where you land.  Your landing width will give you a rough idea of how wide your stance needs to be for this exercise. You will notice, I am barefoot – that is up to you.

2. Grip

Once you have set your feet, pick up the kettlebell.  Hold it upside down, holding the handles with your hands (I know it’s awkward, but it will stress your abdominals more this way). If you gently tug on the handles as if you are pulling them apart it will keep your upper body in a great postural position. See image 1.

how to do a competition kettlebell goblet squat

3. Descend to the bottom position

Now, begin your descent by bending your knees and pushing them forwards while you sit downwards bending at the hips. Try to keep your feet flat on the floor and allow your butt to sink below knee height. Keep tension in your legs and hips by imagining you are tearing a seam in the floor between your feet. Descend slowly over a count of two.

When you hit your deepest position, push your knees out with your elbows. Hang out there for 1-3 seconds – choose a length of time where you feel CHALLENGED without failing.  I know, it’s a fine line, isn’t it? 

The most difficult part of the bottom position of the kettlebell goblet squat is that you must, must, must, not melt like a candle (lose your posture). This means you must stay tall through your spine and keep your chest broad.  It is almost counterintuitive to get taller as you squat downwards, but imagine you are. It will help you maintain the correct postural position.  Look straight ahead.  See image 2.

how to do a kettlebell goblet squat

4. Return to the top

Now, it may sound simple, but oftentimes people struggle with returning to the start. Afterall, your legs are getting tired, and gravity is working against you!  Here you want to really root your feet down into the ground, give the handles of the bell a good squeeze and PUSH the floor away beneath you with those feet.  Take a pause at the top to get your posture set again and repeat.

How many Coach?!

This is where discretion comes in, but I will give you some ideas.  If you are a novice/beginner, you will need to practice this exercise.  Feel free to do MANY sets (not just 3 like every fitness mag will tell you).  Look, if you were learning to shoot a basketball, 3 sets of 8 reps won’t cut it.  So, doing more sets of less reps, like 10 sets of 2-3 is likely a better option and is, scientifically, how we learn new things. 

If you are more advanced and are ready for this to be a strength stimulus, then go ahead and try 4 sets of 6 reps, resting 2-3 minutes between sets.  You could superset it with another drill, but I would suggest it be an upper-body one that is not too fatiguing.  Heavy kettlebell goblet squats will tax your entire body. It’s also okay to just rest.

How to Goblet Squat with a Kettlebell Summary

So, there you have it. A big bang-for-your-buck, portable exercise, using just one competition-style kettlebell of your strength level.  Goblet squats can be done anytime and anywhere with minimal space and equipment.  I wish you luck as you goblet squat your way to superior strength and mobility!

About the Author

My name is Carmen, but people call me Coach Bott.  I’ve been training clients of all ages and fitness levels for over 25 years and am an instructor of Kinesiology at Simon Fraser University.  Now, don’t let my academic credo make you think I’m just a boring academic.  I also love to lift weights and have been taught by some of the most experienced coaches out there.  I want to pass on this knowledge to you and assist you on your fitness journey. 

Thinking like a scientist allows me to be very skeptical of some of the nonsense in the fitness industry. I want to give you the straight facts, so you can stay on track with your training and get the results you deserve with the time you invest.

I have learned just as much from my amazing clients as I have from textbooks. I hope this article helps you meet your fitness goals!

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