2 great squat variations

In the dim and distant past, I thought the gold standard for every client was to back squat. It’s the King of Lifts in many people eyes and a good heavy back squat is a pretty impressive sight.

The problem is that not everyone is built to squat. Nor do they need to for their goals. In fact, only 1 current client back squats with any regularity and only because he likes doing them and has the prerequisite strength and mobility to be able to safely.

If you are new to training, have cranky shoulders or back, the goblet squat is a far superior choice. It works the same movement pattern but in a safer way. Here are 2 variations and some reasons why you need to goblet squat more.

The classic variation

This is where most folks start off. It is a great way to learn to squat properly and introduce a little loading to the equation. Funnily enough, that extra load can immediately improve a lot of squats as the front loading position gets your core “on” and provides stability.

Foot placement should be around hip width or a little wider, you might find your toes want to point out a little, let them. If you struggle to find a good foot placement, try this:

Stand relaxed and perform 3 easy squat jumps in a row. You don’t need to try and hit the roof, just make sure there’s daylight under your feet. On the third one, land and leave your feet where they touch down. Now look down and notice your foot spacing and direction your toes face. There is your squat stance.

Feel free to experiment a little with toe position, find what is best for you and go with it.

Now, keeping your weight close to your chest, sit your butt back and down between your heels. Keep your eyes up, and dig your heels in hard to come back up.

The advanced variation

One of the limiting factors in the goblet squat is as the load increases so does the size of the load. I’ve found that for many people the sheer size of the bigger DBs, and not lack of strength, is what stops the load going up.

The landmine squat, with the load held high, is a great way to advance the goblet squat. Since the load is in the same position, the core bracing is the same as the standard goblet variation, but you can load up significantly heavier.

The other advantage this has (other than me programming it and clients thinking they aren’t doing a goblet squat…) is the arc the bar travels helps you sit back and down into position and maintain more of a neutral spine throughout.

Foot position is about the same as with the previous version. You’ll find you have to move your feet back or forward a little to find the best distance from the pivot for you to be balanced. You’ll figure this position out pretty quickly.

Here’s a great demo from Ben Bruno featuring Jim Parsons (Sheldon from Big Bang Theory)


Sets and reps with this are goal dependent but 2 options I like are either higher rep work as your spine will remain in a solid, braced position throughout, or as a heavier load for a 7-4-7 style set. For example:

  • 7 reps of a landmine goblet squat
  • 4 reps per side of a heavy reverse lunge, or 4 squat jumps, followed by,
  • 7 reps landmine goblet squat.

If you aren’t already using either of these squat variations, give them a go and you’ll quickly realise their benefit.


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