Goblet squats are my go-to exercise for teaching the squatting movement to strength training beginners. Once a trainee gets quite strong with goblet squats, however, their one glaring drawback is revealed–the awkwardness of progressively loading the movement. Anyone who has shimmied a dumbbell weighing half their bodyweight, or more, into position knows how true this is.
Or what about those who work out at home with limited equipment and don’t have a whole row of dumbbells or kettlebells at their disposal? What about trainees who don’t enjoy doing squats with a barbell but still want to train the squatting movement progressively?
Improving your performance is mandatory with any strength training exercise if you want to get stronger, lose fat, or build muscle. This begs the question: How can goblet squats be made more challenging beyond simply increasing the weight, since this can be an issue (or not an option for those with limited equipment) for many trainees?
You perform more challenging goblet squat variations, of course. Below are video demonstrations of six goblet squat variations you can use to increase the challenge and intensity of goblet squats that don’t require the addition of more weight.
Goblet Squat Variations
The Goblet Squat
If you’re not sure what a goblet squat is or how to correctly perform the movement, watch this video first.
Constant Tension Goblet Squats
As shown in the demonstration, constant tension goblet squats are performed in a piston-like fashion. Don’t rest or pause at any point in the set, until you’re done. Whereas you can perform several additional reps in a set when you rest a few seconds in the top standing position, performing constant tension reps will fatigue your muscles quicker. This is a simple way to increase the difficulty of a set of goblet squats without adding more weight.
Tempo Goblet Squats
Tempo goblet squats are somewhat like constant tension reps, with the exception being the time taken to lower down and squat back up being intentionally slower. A general rule of thumb is to take approximately three seconds to lower down and squat back up.
Not only is this challenging on your muscles due to accumulating fatigue as the set progresses, but this is an excellent variation for those who need help mastering the squatting movement pattern, because the slower speed allows you to focus on your form at all points of the movement.
Slow Eccentric + Explosive Concentric
With this goblet squat variation, the eccentric (i.e., lowering phase of the movement) should take about three seconds. As soon as the bottom position is reached, the goal is to squat back up as explosively as possible (while maintaining control and proper form, of course). Stop the set when your speed slows down noticeably when squatting back up.
Goblet Pause Squats
When performing a goblet squat the traditional way–squatting down and immediately reversing the motion once the bottom position is reached–there’s a nice natural “rebound” from the muscles, courtesy of the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). When you pause for two seconds or so in the bottom position, however, much of the SSC is eliminated, making the concentric (i.e., squatting back up) more challenging.
Goblet Squats with Isometric Hold
This is more of a “finisher” added to the end of a set of goblet squats. Any type of goblet squat can be performed for a set–regular goblet squats, tempo, constant tension, etc.–and that set is concluded with an isometric hold, in the bottom position, for ten to twenty seconds. A good target is to hold the bottom position until your legs feel like they’re being jabbed repeatedly with a hot poker.
Goblet Squat Workouts
It’s time to put those goblet squat variations to use.
The “Squat Faster!” Workout
With this workout, use the slow eccentric + explosive concentric goblet squat variation demonstrated above.
- Reps: 3-6
- Rest: 30 seconds
- Sets: 8-10
- Note: the number of reps performed for each set depends on the weight of the ‘bell: if it’s heavier, perform 3 reps; if it’s lighter, perform 6 reps.
This goblet squat workout could also be called the “Nia, I hate you,” squat workout.
This is one long, extended set that is just as much a mental challenge as it is physical. Begin by performing one all-out set of 15+ reps (depending on the weight of the ‘bell used), rest 15 seconds, crank out as many additional reps as possible, rest 15 seconds, crank out as many additional reps as possible, rest 15 seconds, and crank out as many reps as possible one last time. Then have fun breathing fire and cursing me under muddled breaths.
The rest/pause method is excellent when you’re short on time but still want to have a productive workout, and that’s why it’s included in the Minimalist Workout Routines.
- Do not let your form break down as the sets progress. It’ll be a challenge, but stay focused and make sure every rep is performed correctly.
- You can use any goblet squat variation demonstrated above; I prefer the constant tension style where you simply crank out as many as possible. You can also rest a few seconds in the standing position toward the last reps of a set, if you really want to squeeze out as many reps as possible and take this to a sadistic level.
- I recommend resting the ‘bell on the ground between mini-sets and taking a few deep breaths.
- You’ll know you did this correctly if, after resting a few minutes, you know you couldn’t possibly repeat another rest/pause set of squats.
The Goblet Squat Ladder
This one looks deceptively simple: Perform 1 rep, rest a few seconds, perform 2 reps, rest a few seconds, and repeat all the way up to 10 reps. Then, work your way back down starting at 9 reps, rest a few seconds, perform 8 reps, all the way down to a single rep.
Again, you can use any goblet squat variation, and I recommend resting the ‘bell on the ground between sets.
On the Minute
This workout depends on how heavy of a ‘bell you have to squat with. The heavier the ‘bell, the fewer reps you should perform for each set; the lighter the ‘bell, the more reps you should perform.
Set a timer and perform 5-10 reps at the top of every minute, for 10 minutes. The first few minutes will feel deceptively easy–the last few, not so much, thanks to accumulating fatigue.
100 Total Reps
Choose a goblet squat variation and perform 100 total reps in the shortest time you can muster.
It doesn’t matter how many reps you perform in each set or how many sets it takes–just perform 100 reps.
Keep a stopwatch handy to track your time–when you repeat the workout, aim to perform 100 reps in less time. (Be sure to use the same goblet squat variation and weight when you repeat the workout.)
Try one of those workouts for the leg work in your next workout, and see for yourself how challenging goblet squats can be without having to pile on more weight.