The squat is seen by many as the primary exercise to develop the lower legs. However, even the most ardent squat devotees cannot get around the fact that the traditional barbell back squat places a lot of stress on the lower back. Fortunately, there are a number of squat alternatives that overcome this problem. Today we focus on the dumbbell goblet squat. We’ll find out just how to do it, the correct squatting form, and check whether it’s worth adding to your lower body routine.
What is the Dumbbell Goblet Squat?
The dumbbell goblet squat is a squat variation that has you holding a single dumbbell in front of your torso in a clasped grip vertical position. You keep the dumbbell close to your chest as you perform the squat movement. It is important to avoid the common goblet squat mistakes by following the correct goblet squat form to avoid injury and target the relevant muscles.
How to Do the Dumbbell Goblet Squat
- While standing have your feet shoulder width apart and toes pointing slightly outward. Then with your hands cupped under the top end, hold the dumbbell vertically. The weight should be resting against your chest.
- Breathe in as you hinge at the hips to descend into a squat. Maintain a neutral spine and keep your upper body upright.
- Stop when your elbows touch your knees and push through the heels to return to the upright position.
Benefits of the Goblet Dumbbell Squat
Relieves Spinal Load
Because you are holding the weight in front of your body rather than on your back, you are relieving the pressure on your spine. That means that the compression of vertebrae in the spine will not happen when you choose to do this version of the squat. In addition, the back rounding that many people, even experienced lifters, employ when performing the back squat doesn’t happen with this exercise. That takes more pressure off the spine.
Works the Core
The placement of the weight at the front of your body will make you engage your core – the rectus abdominis, intercostals, external obliques and erector spinae – work more to hold and balance the weight.
The goblet dumbbell squat is a safer exercise than the traditional barbell back squat. We have already spoken about how much safer it is for your spine. The more upright position is, in fact, better for your entire body. You are essentially assuming the basic sports defensive stance, putting you in a very powerful position.
The goblet dumbbell squat also puts you in a more advantageous position than the back squat if you fail on a rep. Rather than crashing to the floor with a huge weight on your back, all you have to do is to drop the weight!
The dumbbell goblet squat is a more natural, not to mention a more comfortable, movement than the back squat. Many people have an inherent fear of having a heavy weight on their back. In addition, it is difficult for most people to learn the proper back squat movement.
A big problem with the back squat is that most people do not squat down low enough. In fact, many people only move an embarrassingly pitiful amount of the way down. Unless they put a bench under their butt, they will not have any cues to alert them to the proper squat depth. However, when you perform the dumbbell goblet version of the exercise, you will know exactly where to descend to on every rep.
As we described in the How To section above, descend down until your elbows touch your knees at the bottom of the squat. If you use this cue, your depth will be exactly the same on every rep of every set!
Dumbbell Goblet Squat vs Dumbbell Squat
Even though they are both dumbbell versions of the squat there is a lot of difference between these two exercises. The dumbbell squat is performed with a pair of dumbbells. You hold one dumbbell in each hand at your side. When you squat down, the weights travel directly down to the floor.
With the goblet version of the exercise, you have a single dumbbell in front of your torso at chest level.
You will generally find that you are not able to squat as deeply when you are doing a dumbbell squat. That is because your extended arms, with the added width of the dumbbell, hits the floor before you have gotten all the way down.
Obviously, with the goblet squat you will only be using half the weight that you would with the dumbbell squat. This can present a bit of a challenge. In order to achieve the same weight load challenge as you would have on a dumbbell squat, you will have to use a pretty heavy dumbbell, which can be tricky to get into position for the start position of the exercise. To approximate the weight you would have on your back when doing a barbell back squat, you would need even more weight. Not only will it be difficult to get the dumbbell into the start position, you will also have difficulty holding it in front of your torso as you are squatting.
Best Sets and Reps
The dumbbell goblet squat has many advantages over the barbell squat. However, it is not the best choice when you are wanting to go heavy. I recommend using the dumbbell goblet version of this exercise for light to moderate weights with higher reps.
Here is a 5 set rep scheme that many people have found beneficial:
- Set One – 20 reps
- Set Two – 15 reps
- Set Three – 15 reps
- Set Four – 12 reps
- Set Five – 20 reps
Here is an example of how you can add the goblet dumbbell squat into a leg workout. Note that I have replaced the barbell back squat with barbell front squat. This exercise places far less pressure on your lower back while also allowing for a relatively heavy amount of weight to be lifted. On each succeeding set, increase the weights as the rep count goes down.
- Front Squat – 4 x 15/12/10/8/8
- Dumbbell Goblet Squats – 20/15/15/12/20
- Leg Extension – 30/15/10/8/6
- Leg Curl – 30/15/10/8/6
The dumbbell goblet squat is a squat alternative that overcomes many of the problems associated with the traditional barbell back squat. However, you won’t be able to go heavy on this exercise. Use it as part of a well rounded lower body workout for a rep range between 12 and 20 reps.
All our articles and exercise guides have been written by qualified professionals to use in the gym or as part of your home workout. This includes how to do a workout routine (for example the Bulgarian split, goblet squat alternatives, the split squat); workouts to achieve your fitness objectives (for example, best exercise to improve core strength, best exercises for increase strength, best exercises for calorie burn, best exercises for stronger legs); and excellent nutrition advice.