Squats are one of the most fundamental movement patterns we can perform.
As far as lower body exercises go, the squat offers the most bang for your buck when it comes to the immense value it provides from a strength and aesthetic standpoint.
One of the best things about squats is the fact that they are scalable and offer a ton of different variations you can perform, no matter what level of fitness.
A common misconception is you need to load a bar on your back to get the most out of squats. That’s not true. While back squats are an incredibly effective way to increase overall strength and muscle mass, they aren’t the only way to go about doing so. In fact, not everyone should be performing back squats in the first place.
Some things to consider about back squats…
- Shoulder mobility: If your shoulders are jacked up, it’s going to be hard getting into an optimal position with a barbell placed on your back.
- Upper back mobility and strength: The back squat requires your thoracic spine (upper back) to be able to slightly extend and remain active throughout the squat. If you don’t have the mobility to do so, the bar is going to cave you forward. Ouch.
- Lower back health: Squats are a lower body-dominant movement…and it should remain that way. If you have a history of lower back pain, or inactive core, and you try to perform back squats without the strength required to support a barbell on your back, you’re then turning the back squat from a leg exercise to a spine exercise. That’s not good.
- Goals: Think about what your goals are in the first place. Is it to get stronger? To add muscle? To improve athletic performance? Back squats can achieve all of these things, but again, they’re not the only way to achieve them.
Not everyone needs to perform every single exercise out there. Factors like body types, injuries, limitations, training age, and goals should be considered when deciding which exercises are best for you.
Let’s talk about the majority for a second.
Most people (most…not all, so chill the fuck out and don’t take this personally) shouldn’t be doing back squats. Period.
The majority of people do not meet the fundamental requirements to be able to justify loading a bar on their back and performing squats.
- Overall mobility: A sedentary lifestyle causes tight hip restriction and excessive rounding in the shoulders and upper back…all of which equal a rough day in the gym when trying to load a bar on your back.
- Lower back pain: If you have chronic lower back pain (which most people do due to the constant seated position they’re in throughout the day)…why in the fuck would you want to make it worse by putting a bar on your back and attempting to squat up and down?
- Inactive core: Your core needs to be engaged during back squats. If not…it turns into a spine exercise (and remember…that’s not good). Forget about engaging your core during squats…most people don’t even know how to engage their core at all! Let alone when they have so much weight on their back they feel like they’re gonna shit themselves!
It might seem like I’m shitting on back squats right now…but I’m not. I’m just stating facts. I love back squats…they’re actually my favourite lift. But it doesn’t change the fact that not everyone needs to be doing them in order to reach their goals.
A safer alternative for the masses…
Let’s quickly review what factors you need to consider before you do back squats…
- Shoulder health and mobility
- Lower back health
- Core engagement
Now…is there any movement out there that takes all of these factors into consideration…while still offering some of the benefits of the back squat such as strength gains and muscle development?
You bet your sweet candy ass there is.
Introducing the goblet squat.
Rather than placing a barbell on your back, you hold a dumbbell in front of your chest during goblet squats. Actually, it doesn’t even need to be a dumbbell. Remember how squats can be broken down into a ton of variations? Goblet squats aren’t any different.
Whichever way you slice it, as long as you’re holding an object in front of your chest with your hands while squatting up and down…you’re doing a goblet squat.
Why are they so damn effective?
1. SHOULDER HEALTH
Remember how tough it is to get into a back squat position for most people given their lack of shoulder mobility? You don’t run into that issue with goblet squats. Since you’re holding the weight in front of your body, it’s much easier to get into an optimal position that keeps the shoulders in a safe position, even if you currently have limited range of motion or mobility.
2. CORE ENGAGEMENT
Whenever you have weight distributed in front of your torso (ex. front squats, goblet squats) you are automatically engaging your core more effectively than if it were distributed behind you.
Why? Our core’s main function is to stabilize the spine. When you’re carrying weight in front, naturally, your torso wants to topple forward. This puts a higher demand on the core to keep the spine in check while squatting.
3. SIMPLICITY AND SCALABILITY
Goblet squats are a relatively safe exercise for most people to start with given the fact that the movement itself is fairly simple from a mechanical standpoint. They’re also scalable…offering plenty of variations for beginners to gain tons of benefit from this amazing exercise.
4. ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
Think of most athletic movements…tackling, going for a takedown, throwing, punching…all of these movements occur in front of the body. There’s a time and place for everything, but when it comes to training for specific sport, you want a portion of your training to mimic what you’re doing during competition.
Goblet squats and front-loaded squats offer more transferability to most athletic movements than back squats given their weight distribution and core engagement.
As with nay exercise, there are tons of variations of the goblet squat. As mentioned earlier, they’re scalable, meaning they can be broken down into beginner-friendly variations, as well as advanced variations. You’ll never get bored of goblet squats again with the amount of variety you have at your disposal.
GOBLET SQUAT VARIATIONS
If you have any questions or comments about today’s article, please shoot me a message down below!