An Ode to Goblet Squats
I usually run my blogging ideas past my darling wife, Renee, before actually putting any keystrokes down on wordpress. She’s a lovely, encouraging sort of person, and typically thinks whatever I write is worthy of a Pulitzer. But, when I told her I was considering writing an article about a goblet squat, she snickered and proceeded to roast me a bit. “Goblet squats? What’s next an article on blinking or taking a nap?” Yes, this seemingly mundane exercise isn’t sexy, innovative, or mind blowing by any stretch. But, what it lacks in flash it makes up for in safety and effectiveness. It is also a great progression in a squat series, and can be a tough task for those looking for a mental or physical challenge.
One of my favorite games to play with any new client is what I like to call “The Goblet Challenge.” In getting to know each athlete, I ask about their training and injury history, goals for their sport, and if they think Lil Yachty is a better rapper than Tupac.
If they are a high school kid who has previously trained, I’ll ask them how much they squat. Usually they will respond with a number in the 300s or 400s. I’ll respond, “Wow that’s awesome,” and then proceed to show them what a five second negative goblet squat should look like. From there, I’ll have them hit a couple increasing warm up sets and let them pick their own weight. But, with a catch- you have to give me at least 20 reps. This is where it gets interesting. Usually around rep seven they forget what a five second negative looks like, and start dive-bombing to the ground. I’ll then say, “Let me count for you,” and the slowest 1…….2…….3…….4……..5 you’ve ever heard creeps out of my grinning mouth.
If they were overzealous in their weight selection, they often start convulsing around 10-15 reps. “Gotta know your body. Listen to your warm up sets,” I’ll matter of factly state. If their spine starts looking like a question mark in a rainstorm, I’ll stop the set short. But otherwise, I’m looking for that 20 reps one way or another.
If the 20th rep has slowed to a crawl I’ll have the athlete stop. If not, time to book your ticket to 25 or 30 town. Since I’m not a complete sadist, I’ll usually stop everyone around 30 reps. Then I’ll have them look down at the dumbbell they just used. What happens is the guy that told me they squatted 365 just got humbled by a 50 pound dumbbell. Head scratcher for sure.
Here’s my point- just because you put a weight on your back doesn’t mean you actually even “squatted” it, or that you squatted it well. Maximal effort squatting should be used sparingly, tactfully, and not at all with most high school kids. The juice isn’t really worth the squeeze in my opinion. You greatly increase the risk of injury, reinforce poor motor patterns, and set kids up for psychological roadblocks when they invariably stall. I goblet kids till they literally can’t hold the dumbbell anymore. Then we will front or back squat while applying the technique they learned from that easier goblet method.
At the end of the day, strength is general. For the high school athlete, slower, more controlled, high rep work is a better option for developing strength than squirming under a weight they can’t handle. If you can take a 120 pound dumbbell and goblet squat it well for a 5 second negative set of 20, you are a strong human and I don’t really need to know what your one rep max is. For me, running, jumping, throwing, catching, and cutting are more telling of what an athlete is capable of athletically. If you can max squat with proper form, then great. If not, keep the reps high, keep the tempo slow, and earn the right to lift heavy. And remember, a squat is just one piece of athletic development, it ain’t the whole puzzle.