Dumbbell Goblet Squat Illustration Female Woman Bombshell

Dumbbell Goblet Squat: Overview, Proper Form & Tips

The dumbbell goblet squat is one of our favourite exercises to program for women who want to build muscle. While it’s primarily a lower-body exercise that works the quads, glutes, and hamstrings, it’s also a compound full-body exercise. It’ll also hit the spinal erectors, shoulders, and anterior (front) core because the weight needs to be held up and is in the front of the body. That means the goblet squat will not only help women get the lower-body work that they want to develop a curvier, more attractive body, but they’ll get an athletic and balanced one too. Let’s take a look:

The Dumbell Goblet Squat

The Big Picture

The main difference between a goblet squat and the traditional barbell back squat is the fact that you’ll be holding the weight in front of you. This is a great thing because it changes the mechanics of the movement into a much more athletic one.

With the weight in front of you, the dumbbell (or kettlebell) will act a bit like a counterbalance. This will allow you to sit back a bit more, allowing you to squat much more deeply without your hips jamming and your lower back rounding at the bottom of the movement and getting the dreaded “butt wink.” 

When you can squat down deeper with better form, that will allow your muscles to engage properly through a deeper range of motion, getting a better loaded-stretch, when that happens, muscle growth explodes, and your muscles get worked in a new way that’s unexpected.

After the initial muscle soreness wears off (called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS), you’ll notice all these cool new shapes in your leg muscles, which is a sign of oncoming muscle gain. They’ll look much more 3D, and you’ll look much more athletic.

Because of this, we love the dumbbell goblet squat for women, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced lifter. It’s an amazing lift either way, and you don’t really outgrow it. Someone who’s been lifting for a few years can still be doing it. They’ll just be using more weight.

Women's weight gain transformation (before and after photo)

Muscles Worked

The dumbbell goblet squat mainly works the legs like the:

  • Quads (front of thighs)
  • Glutes (gluteus max)
  • Hamstrings (back of thighs)

But it is a compound exercise, which means it works many joints at once. It will still work these muscles, just to a lesser degree:

  • Spinal erectors (lower back, and is good for helping with back pain and posture)
  • Anterior core (front side of the core, due to the weight being in front, like the abs and obliques)
  • Shoulders (due to having to hold the weight up)

Equipment Needed

For a dumbbell goblet squat, all you need is a single dumbbell or kettlebell. (If you’re travelling, you could use a backpack or tote bag and load it up with heavy books and use that as well.) 

Dumbbell Goblet Squat Video Demonstration

Here’s Marco coaching Simone on how to do the dumbbell goblet squat.

Proper Form

To perform a proper dumbbell goblet squat, follow these steps:

  1. Stand with your feet apart in your strongest stance (as if you were going to jump or maybe a tiny bit wider)
  2. Hold the dumbbell up and cup your hands underneath, like you’re holding a giant goblet chalice.
  3. You can hold the dumbbell right next to your chest.
  4. Get as tall as you can, and take a deep breath in.
  5. Slowly lower yourself under control by sitting back and bending your knees at the same time.
  6. Keep your knees out over your feet/ankles, and don’t let them cave inwards.
  7. Squat down as low as you can comfortably. Do not force the movement lower than you can. (When you can’t go any further properly, your lower back will round downwards, which is called a butt wink.)
  8. Push through your whole foot as you exhale, and stand back up.
  9. That’s one rep.

Remember, it will take time to develop good form. Your brain will need to rewire, much like learning how to dance. All you can do is try your best, go to sleep, and let your body figure it out. You’ll magically get better over time.

Work within the range of motion that you have. Don’t force yourself to go deeper. You’ll be able to squat deeper over time with practice.

Common Goblet Squat Mistakes

After a few years, we produced this video on the most common weighted goblet squat mistakes we were seeing:

Setting Up The Stance Wrong

Your feet should be positioned in line with your knees. Don’t stand duck-footed, and don’t stand with your toes pointed in. Try and stand in a powerful position as if you were going to jump as high as you can.

If you’re getting knee pain because your knees keep going way too far beyond your feet because you’re taller, you can try standing a bit wider and angle your toes out a bit more, and this will mechanically make your legs shorter and make it easier to keep your knees over your feet.

Choosing Too Heavy Of A Weight

When someone picks too heavy of a dumbbell, chances are they’re not going to squat very deeply. They might squat just a little bit, and that’s not going to challenge the glutes and quads very well. 

The deeper you squat, the more it’ll stretch the glutes, and the better it’ll be for your butt. So lighten the weight, and choose a dumbbell that you can do 8-12 reps of pristine form with.

Squatting Too Deep For Your Ability

Some women want to squat deeply because they know it’ll be better for their glutes. Unfortunately, if the range of motion isn’t there yet, they’ll force it by bending their lower back down, which looks like the butt dipping down and tucking in. It sort of winks at you—which explains why it’s called the “butt wink.”

You don’t need me to tell you that rounding your lower back isn’t going to give you more glute gains. That’s just going to get you a sore lower back.

So don’t force a deeper range of motion than you currently have. Give yourself time and patience. It can take a few months to get comfortable with this exercise. Make sure that you are breathing properly, getting warm before you do the exercise, and using the right weight.

If you really want to free up some range of motion quickly and fast-forward the process a bit, foam-rolling your glutes and hip muscles can help. Here’s a good demonstration from Marco on how to do that:

Knees Caving In

Sometimes when a woman stands too wide, as they drop down into the squat, the knees will cave in. You want to make sure the knee is always stacked on top of your foot at all times. Another way to think about it is to make sure your knee is tracking in line with your second toe.

If your knees keeps caving in, even with some effort, you can:

  • Choose a lighter weight
  • Stand in a more narrow stance
  • Try foam rolling to loosen up the surrounding muscles

Using Dumbbell Goblet Squats In A Workout

Use A Moderate Rep Range

In research, to optimize for muscle growth and muscle size, you want to choose a weight that you can do 4–40 repetitions with. The sweet spot in real life, though, is often the 8-12 rep range. The dumbbell goblet squat is no exception. 

If you find yourself squatting under 5 reps, use a lighter weight. If you can do more than 20 repetitions, use a heavier weight. That will guarantee that the workout is helping you gain both muscle size and muscle strength and not making endurance adaptations.

Challenge Yourself But Stop Shy Of Failure

Ideally, you’ll stop your set when you’re just about to fail and have a rep or two left in you. But if you’re a beginner, it’s hard to know exactly how hard you’re pushing yourself. If you aren’t sure if you’re taking your sets close to failure, try doing more reps. Try pushing yourself all the way until you can no longer do any more goblet squats with perfect form. That way, you’ll know what it feels like. You might be surprised that you were a lot stronger than you thought. Next time, stop right before that point of failure.

Start With Two Sets, and Add More When Needed

Start with just a couple of sets, then over time, add more sets as you get stronger. We recommend doing two sets in the first week. Practice your form, find the right weights, and take your time learning the movement.

Next week, if you aren’t too sore at the start of each workout, try adding a set to each exercise. If that goes well and you feel ready for more, add another set next week. You can do around 3–6 sets per exercise. Most people will do best with 3–4 sets. If you ever start to feel worn down, or if you’re coming back after a long break, start the cycle over again, going back to just two sets per exercise and rebuilding from there.

Rest 1-2 Minutes Between Sets

How long you rest between sets of dumbbell goblet squats isn’t that important. Whether you rest for 2 minutes or 10 minutes, you’ll still stimulate a similar amount of muscle growth. The important thing is that you rest long enough to catch your breath, ensuring that your cardiovascular system doesn’t limit the performance of your muscles.

We want to challenge your leg muscles, not just your heart (though your heart will get a good workout, too!).

The main reason to rest for just a couple of minutes is to keep your workouts shorter. You don’t want to spend all day in the gym. But if you need more rest or get interrupted partway through your workout, no problem. Just pick up where you left off.

If you want to blast through your workout even faster, you can do the lifts in a circuit/superset. Do a set of goblet squats, rest a minute, then do a set of raised push-ups, rest a minute, then do your second set of goblet squats, and then do your second set of raised push-ups. That way, you’re still giving different muscle groups plenty of time to recover between sets, but you’re doing another exercise during the rest period.

Free Routine For Female Beginners: Goblet Squats With A Full Body Workout

If you don’t have a workout, you might be interested in our full Bony to Bombshell program. A sample beginner’s workout for women, with some priority given to the goblet squat exercise, could look like this:

  1. Dumbbell Goblet Squats: 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
  2. Raised Push-Ups: 2 sets of as many reps as you can.
  3. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift: 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
  4. 1-Arm Dumbbell Row: 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
  5. Lateral Raises: 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
  6. Bonus Glute Work: 2 sets of glute bridges or hip thrusts



Full Body Workout

Get the workout as a Google spreadsheet. You’ll be able to pick from exercise alternatives, fill out the sheet, and get our beginner’s warm-up.

Plus, we’ll make sure you’re on the Bony to Bombshell newsletter, and send you all of our best women's muscle-building content.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Dumbbell Goblet Squats

Here are some of the most common questions we’ve gotten from women about the dumbbell goblet squat:

Q: For the dumbbell goblet squat, how heavy should my dumbbell be?

A: The weight of the dumbbell depends on your own level of strength. You will need to do trial and error, and the weight you use will depend on how fit and strong you are to start. Don’t let your ego choose. Pick a weight you can handle properly.

As a beginner, start with a weight that feels comfortable yet challenging. As you get stronger, it’ll get easier, and it’s time to raise the weight. Try to find a weight that will let you do 8–12 reps per leg with good form.

Keep in mind that if you pick something very light, like 5 pounds, it might make the goblet squat harder. That is because the weight is too light to be a good counterbalance, allowing you to squat deeply. So don’t be afraid to lift heavier than you might think. It might help your form improve.

Q: How often should I do goblet squats?

A: That depends on your goals, but we’re also big fans of this lift, so we might be a bit biased. If you want to master it, you can do this one every workout, realistically. 

But if your goal is just to get general quad and glute growth, you’ll want to pair that exercise with other lower-body exercises for balanced growth. Think of things like dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts and glute bridges.

Illustration of a woman doing a goblet squat.

Q: Can I do a dumbbell goblet squat at home?

A: Of course. You can do the dumbbell goblet squat at home if you have a dumbbell (or kettlebell). If you find that it gets too easy with the dumbbell you have, you can always do a slightly different variation to challenge yourself.

Q: How can I modify the dumbbell goblet squat? What are some variations?

A: If you’re new to the dumbbell goblet squat, stick to the classic form. You can get great muscle growth just by being patient, putting in the effort, and using heavier and heavier dumbbells over time as you get stronger. Even advanced lifters still use this lift, but they might be using 50-60-70 pound dumbbells.

But if you’re just looking for some variety…

Goblet Squat Alternative—Offset Dumbbell Goblet Squat

Goblet Squat Alternative—Double Dumbbell Front Squat

Goblet Squat Alternative—Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

What Next?

If you liked this article, you’d love our muscle-building newsletterWe’ll keep you up to date on all the latest muscle-building information for women. Or, if you want us to walk you through the process of building muscle, including teaching you the lifts, giving you a full workout program, a complete diet guide, a recipe book, and online coaching, check out our Bony to Bombshell Program.

Jared Polowick, BDes, CPT, has a degree in design from York University and is a certified personal trainer. He co-founded Bony to Beastly, Bony to Bombshell, and Outlive.

Marco Walker-Ng is the co-founder and strength coach of Outlift, Bony to Beastly, and Bony to Bombshell. He's also a certified trainer (PTS) and nutrition coach (PN) with a Bachelor's degree in Health Sciences (BHSc) from the University of Ottawa. His specialty is helping people build muscle to improve their strength and performance, with clients including college, professional, and Olympic athletes.

How to build 10 to 20 pounds of muscle in 90 days. Even if you have failed before

FREE women's Muscle Growth MINI-COURSE

Get our 5-part female bulking mini-course that covers everything you need to know about:

  • How women should train for muscle growth
  • How to gain weight as a skinny woman
  • How to get stronger, healthier, and better looking

Leave a Comment