Exercises You Should Be Doing: Kettlebell Goblet Squat w/ Pulse

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For starters, you can’t discuss the goblet squat without first acknowledging the man who popularized it, Dan John.

That said, I really dislike the Smith machine. I was originally going to say hate, but hate is a strong word and should really be saved for stuff like leg curls and leg presses. And Poodles. But I digress. Furthermore, I think any personal trainer who uses the Smith machine exclusively to teach someone how to squat, is doing a huge disservice to their client. And, they’re lazy. But that goes without saying.

In any case, the last time I checked, our bodies weren’t meant to move in a fixed plane of motion. Moreover, it makes no sense- at least in my eyes- to play into someone’s dysfunction and have them use a piece of equipment that just feeds into it.

Instead, the goblet squat is my preferred exercise when introducing the squat to new clients.

Lets back track a bit, though.

For many, the lack of ability to squat to depth has often be recognized as a mobility issue. We see this all the time when we screen athletes/clients who come into CP. We’ll ask him/her to perform a simple bodyweight overhead squat, and more often than not, they’re lucky to get half way down before their knees start caving in, upper back rounds over, or heels come up off the ground, to name a few.

We can argue whether it’s due to poor ankle dorsiflexion, tight lats, tight hip flexors, or any combination of the three, but as Alwyn Cosgrove stated in this article, it could very well come down to a STABILITY issue.

As Cosgrove notes, the body is essentially shutting down, not because of tightness or restriction, but rather because it perceives a threat due to the lack of stability.

As such, this is where the goblet squat comes in.

By holding the dumbbell (or kettlebell) out in front of the body, the trainee is forced to engage their core, which in turn, will help stabilize the body. In a matter of minutes, you can take someone with atrocious squat form, and have them squatting to depth in no time flat.

Which brings me to today’s exercise:

What Is It: Kettlebell Goblet Squat w/ Pulse

Who Did I Steal It From: Dan John, who else?

What Does It Do: Takes all the benefits of the traditional goblet squat- grooving proper squat technique, little to no spinal loading, improving hip mobility, amongst other things- and adds a little flare to it. Namely, the pulse/press done in the bottom position, which really adds another dimension to the exercise, and hammers the anterior core.

Key Coaching Cues:

– Chest “tall,” and shoulder blades should be together and pointing DOWN.

– Arching your lower back as hard you can, squat down, pushing your knees out to the left and right to help “open up” the hips.

– Once in the bottom position, I like to tell people to try to push their knees out with their elbows.

– From there, you’ll extend your arms, pressing the kettlebell until your elbows lock out. Hold for a one count, and bring kettlebell back towards the body.

– Stand up, making sure to squeeze the glutes at the top, and repeat.

– I like to do these for 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps.

Try it out today, and let me know what you think!

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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Comments for This Entry

  • Coachdilworth33

    My football team loves them

    July 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Roy Reichle

    Coach Gentilcore--I've been reading a few of your blogs and have been relatively impressed with the good information. So, I have some questions about Goblet Squats. First, does it pay to have an athlete/trainee lift really heavy weight, 100 +, using the goblet squat, or should one progress to a front squat. Second, a large dumbbell or kettlebell are difficult to handle, and to avoid this difficulty I've taken to using a trap bar, you know, oval with two handles inside the oval. It allows for easier positioning and greater control. Do you think using a trap bar changes the form much? So far, I can't say it does, but I'm just one guy. What do you think?

    December 30, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Roy - Heavy goblet squats are great - assuming technique is on point. I love the trap bar! We generally start all of our athletes with trap bar deadlifts and progress them from there.

      January 1, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Rex Causey

    Hey Tony, I know you posted this article awhile back but I wanted to ask you about it. I am a fitness trainer and consultant in Houston, TX area. Have you or anyone else ever considered that holding a KB or holding a DB in a vertical position is a bit of a disadvantage compared to holding a DB (both hands in semi prone grip on the sides of DB positioned horizontally)? And I'm looking specifically from a shoulder standpoint...internal/forward rotation of the shoulders when you grip the KB or vertical DB. The shoulders are excessively internally rotated for everyone and ESPECIALLY those who are larger in stature and shoulder width. I opt instead for a goblet squat with a DB held horizontally. Tho still not perfect, and still a bit of a disadvantage for the larger framed individual as we still have some degree of internal rotation of the shoulders, it appears to me that there is now less forward rotation of shoulders and better posture involved with the DB held in the horizontal position. Not that the KB goblet or Vertical DB goblet is wrong or bad, but I am questioning whether there is a more beneficial way to do it. I recently read your shoulder press blog post. I 100% agree with it and I use many of those same techniques and other variations too. Sometimes coming up with these things on my own like a skilled chef would. In the spirit of your shoulder maintenance/care philosophy, I am not so sure the type of goblet squat you teach here is congruent with that. This horizontal-grip DB goblet squat is one I have been doing for quite some time now. Or I will simply break it into 2 DB or 2 KB and then they have even more control over their positioning of the wrists, radius/ulna, elbow, humerus, and shoulder and can prevent internal rotation (I use this variation for those with excessive kyphotic posture or those with shoulder pain or those who may need a bit more stability work or to incorporate a DB press in the squat for those who are ready). Also, have you ever considered that the "pulse" could be a risky movement? Such a distal load increases the forces and pressure on the spine due to the increased lever arm. It appears to me, in my humble opinion, that the science doesn't support this being a true core exercise and it actually is more risky than beneficial. What say ye? Hope you can get a chance to look into this more. And I await your reply. I am genuinely curious and just mulling things over one professional to another. Got a lot of respect and appreciation for you! And I hope to get to know you more or at least meet you some day! Many thanks for your time. You're passion and dedication for people and fitness does not go unnoticed. Respectfully, Rex Causey The Woodlands, TX

    June 24, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Rex - We can't take the mindset that we're all walking around with glass jaws. EVERY exercise has inherent risks involved, which is why it's your job as a trainer to ascertain which exercises and drills will be appropriate for your clients. The pulse is a fantastic exercise that helps engage the anterior core. I think it's a "safe" exercise for most. But sure, you can make an argument that it might not be the best fit for some. I LOVE that you're so proactive and inquisitive, and I appreciate the thought you put into your questions. But like I said, it isn't a matter of debating whether that specific recommendation I made applies to ALL trainees. It's just a matter of figuring out whether it's a right fit for certain people given their goals, training history, injury history, and ability level.

      June 25, 2013 at 10:21 am | Reply to this comment

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