Today I’m debuting a recurring segment called Technique Tuesday. The idea behind this recurring theme is that each week I will be breaking down an exercise that is pretty user friendly but also has a good amount of carry over for all of you who might be reading, whether you are brand new to weightlifting or are an experienced lifter.
As with any exercise, you should be able to go through a good range of motion, pain free (however a little burning in your muscles at the end of a set, is totally acceptable).
If you are experiencing pain through a movement and the problem lies deeper than just using proper technique, please, please, please see a qualified professional (no, your personal trainer/strength coach is not one of them, nor am I).
The Goblet Squat is one of the more basic squat variations out there and is very user friendly, however, despite both of these facts I find a lot of people still somehow manage to make a mess of it.
Hopefully these tips, and videos will help you to perform this great exercise with optimal form so you can get the most out of it, whatever your fitness goals may be.
What it does for you:
First off, lets talk about the benefits of the Goblet Squat, so that we can better understand why and when to use it.
The goblet squat is, as I stated before, one of the more basic variations of squatting exercises, which makes it very beginner friendly. This variation allows you to really hone in on your squat technique, as well as hip mobility, in large part because of how the exercise is loaded.
Since in the load (whether it be a Dumbbell or a Kettlebell) is held in front of the lifter, and braced against their chest, it allows for a much more upright torso (unlike the back squat which requires more forward lean) and is much more comfortable on the shoulders than both the back squat or front squat.
This allows the lifter to focus in on the major technique items of any squat:
- Creating upper back tension by squeezing your scapula down and back
- Thoracic extension of the spine
- Spreading the floor and keeping the knees tracking over the outer toes
- Maintaining tension at the bottom position of the squat while achieving proper squat depth
- Finishing tall at the top with a strong contraction from the glutes
How to perform the exercise:
When teaching the Goblet Squat to one of my new clients, the way I like to go about it is working from the bottom up in your starting position before transitioning into the actual movement.
Nine times out of ten, I am able to correct a lot of the lower body dysfunction I see in their squat pattern caused by restrictions in hip mobility by finding the correct footing for them.
Now, I’m not sure how the myth of everyone standing with their feet shoulder width apart and their toes dead ahead got started, but lets nip that in the bud right here and now.
We all have different anthropometry when it comes to the hips, so a one size fits all squat stance will not allow us all to squat comfortably with a full range of motion because the femur (that’s the upper bone in your leg) will not sit in the hip capsule correctly for everyone if we all use the same stance.
Some people will need to set up with a wider stance, others with a narrower foot stance. Some people will be more comfortable with their toes turned out as much as 30 degrees, while others can maintain a very neutral (toes dead ahead) foot positioning.
Once we have gotten the foot positioning set, I like to make sure my clients are squeezing their glutes and standing up tall. This will prime the glutes for the movement to come, cue the body in on what the finish position should feel like, and force them into good scapular retraction and thoracic extension of their spine.
The cues I like to give at the top position are:
- Screw your feet into the ground
- Squeeze not only your quads, but you butt muscles as well
- Create a shelf with your chest for the Dumbbell or Kettlebell to sit on
- Squeeze your shoulder blades down and back HARD
Once they’ve gotten themselves into the proper positioning in the starting stance, we are ready to squat.
As you begin to descend into your goblet squat, your first instinct should be to sit back with your hips and butt, not bend your knees forward over your toes. A proper hip hinge at the beginning of the movement is of the utmost importance.
As you continue to descend into the squat you should be maintaining that same tension you had from the starting position, keeping that shelf you created with your chest for the weight to sit on, all while sitting back and opening your hips (the goal here with opening your hips to make sure that your knees are tracking in line with your outer toes, and to allow proper depth).
Once at the bottom, you should be able to maintain a neutral spine, while ideally allowing the hips to go below knee level with very little tucking under or rounding of the lumbar spine.
In order to drive the weight upwards, I cue my clients to do a few things:
- Create an earthquake between your feet by pressing them apart
- Press the ground away from you, not press the weight up (it sounds small but can make a big difference)
- Maintain that same tension in your upper back that you’ve had throughout the rep so far.
- Finish tall and squeeze your glutes
These three cues tend to clear up a lot of the technique mistakes I see from most people like:
- Knees caving in
- Hips/weight shifting forward in the bottom position
- Upper and lower back rounding in the bottom position and through the way up during the rep
Here is what it should look like from both the front and side views:
Now I fully understand there is a small population out there who, for the most part should not squat deeply, because it is never pain free for them, but for most of us that is not the case if we have ample mobility. If you are unable to get to that depth simply work through the best range of motion, that allows little to no tucking/rounding of your butt and lumbar spine.
How should I implement it in my program?
As with any exercise, the way you implement it into your fitness program will depend largely on what the goals of your program are. However, for most beginners in the gym, this can be used as their primary squatting exercise for the day. This will allow the beginner to really “grease the groove” for what good squatting technique should feel like before eventually transitioning to something like a traditional squat with a barbell.
For the more seasoned gym goer, who is already squatting correctly with significant weight, this is a great exercise to use as an assistance movement on a squat day. It allows you again to work through any mobility issues you may have with the bottom position of your squat, forces you to maintain tension in the upper back, glutes, and even abs, and teaches you to finish your squat tall with your glutes.
I hope this was helpful, and happy squatting to you all!!