Hacks for an Iron Clad Goblet Squat

by Mike Krivka on December 2, 2015


What is a hack? Hacks are shortcuts or enhancements and can be technical or lifestyle based. Think of hacks as inside tips to get the good stuff—the stuff that works fast and gets you to the tasty, rich and gooey center quicker! In this case, my goal is to provide you with hacks that will allow you how to get the most out of the kettlebell goblet squat.

What’s the Big Deal?

The goblet squat lies squarely within the realm of “simple but not easy”. But, don’t confuse the goblet squat with something that is so “simple” to master that it’s not worth your time. On the contrary—it is supremely important for all demographics, age groups and athletic abilities. Because it is so “simple”, it is easy to underestimate what needs to be in place for it to be maximally effective. Anyone looking at the goblet squat would immediately think “I can do that” …and they can. Once they get the feel for what the goblet squat really is, then they can then learn the specifics that take the goblet squat from simple to sublime.

By the way, if you don’t grasp the importance of the goblet squat yet, consider this: the goblet squat is part of both the HKC (Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification) and the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Certification). It is also one of the techniques Master RKC Dan John recommends to any and all of the athletes he trains—that should give you some indication of its value and application.

Hacking Away at the Goblet Squat

The following are a series of hacks that will allow you to get the most from the goblet squat. Take a look at the pictures so that you can effectively model the movement.

Elbows to Knees—It’s a Straight Line!

  • Don’t unload the torso by flaring the elbows outward or forward—you are supposed to feel the weight of the kettlebell on the front of your body, especially the stomach.
  • Where you start dictates where you end up—if you unload the torso by flaring the elbows, you will find it difficult, if not impossible to find the correct bottom position in the goblet squat.
  • Kiss your knees with your elbows—go down slow enough so that your elbows and knees barely touch; think of it as a caress! From some of the examples I’ve seen there would be a lot of bloody lips!
  • Tall and proud—with near vertical forearms, torso, and shins in the bottom position.
Mike Krivka Goblet Squat Elbow Position

Left: correct elbow alignment, Right: incorrect elbow alignment and posture faults

Find the Perfect Stance That Works For You

  • Heels in your armpits, or slightly wider is a good starting point. Going excessively wide is not going to help.
  • The toes may face straight forward or slightly turned out within 15-20 or so degrees, depending on each person’s individual hip structure.
  • Excessive external rotation should be limited. There may be mobility issues that need to be addressed if they flare excessively. This is a real problem especially if the feet rotate outward while squatting.

The Rack Is Where It’s At!

  • The kettlebell should not be resting on the chest—I know, I know, I know! It’s easier to hold it there but you are offloading the weight to the shoulders and neck.
  • Wedge it—the kettlebell should be held in a “wedge” created by the triceps locked into the lats and the elbows tight against the ribs.
  • Short of breath? The “wedge” should focus the load on the abs, lats, and pecs, not the shoulders and neck.
  • Heavy—the kettlebell is going to feel exceptionally heavy if held correctly in the wedge. Good! You’re doing it right!
  • Straight wrists—don’t break the wrists while holding the kettlebell. Broken wrists are going to adversely affect the movement down the line and you will be sneaking in compensations to correct them.
MikeKrivkaGoblet Squat Kettlebell Position

Left: correct elbow alignment, Right: incorrect elbow alignment and posture faults

It’s a GRIND, Damn It!

  • Lock down: “Lock down” your ribs before you start your decent. Some people call this bracing, but the end result is that you are clenching your abs, pulling your ribs down, and minimizing slack in the upper torso and thoracic spine.
  • Slow down: Slow way the heck down and pull yourself into the bottom position.
  • Hold it: Once you get to the bottom, maintain the tension. If you release it you’re going to be challenged to get it back and not comprise coming up out of the bottom position.

Bust a Move!

  • Don’t “pop and drop” into the goblet squat, this refers to the tendency for athletes to load forward through the hips and then throw them back to initiate the goblet squat.
  • Lock the ribs down first, this will keep you from even thinking about loading forward and backwards to initiate the movement.
  • Initiate with the hips—but not with a ballistic unlocking of the hips. The hips unlock and are pulled straight down.
  • Don’t drop—in no uncertain terms, do not drop into the bottom position of the goblet squat. Pull yourself slowly down into the bottom of the squat. Think G-R-I-N-D! I know it sucks, deal with it!

Start Strong to Finish Strong!

  • Where you start will either help you or hurt you. If you start in a bad position, chances are you are going to end up in an even worse one. With that in mind, your starting position for the goblet squat should be considered very carefully.
  • Down, not back: Pull yourself straight down leading/initiating with the hips. “Pry” the hips away from the elbows
  • Face the wall: The goblet squat can (and should be practiced) facing a wall. Start with the kettlebell touching the wall. Done correctly, you will still end up with plenty of space at the bottom.
  • Enough is enough: The goblet squat terminates when the point of the elbow touches just inside the knee; there’s no reason to go lower unless you are working on mobility.
  • Stack it up! From the bottom position, keep driving and maintaining alignment until all of the “parts” snap back into place. You should end up exactly where you are started!

Putting It All Together

The goblet squat is part of the “Trinity” in the HKC and “The Big Six” in the RKC for good reason. It looks so simple—and it is—but it will only be effective if you know how to efficiently load and unload it, as well as how to make the transitions smooth and flawless. Making the goblet squat look “simple” is not so much a factor that it is simple to do, but that the athlete has taken the time to properly cultivate the movement. Take some time to explore the points that were made above, get a feel for how the load is set and maintained throughout the movement, and I’m sure that you will come away with a new and profound appreciation for the goblet squat.

I look forward to seeing your thoughts and comments below. Until then, “Squat On Garth!”


About Michael A. Krivka, Sr. – Senior RKC: Michael A. Krivka, Sr. is a Washington, DC native who has been involved in Kettlebell training for over a decade and is currently a Senior RKC and member of the RKC Board of Advisors and the RKC Leadership Team under Dragon Door (where he has been listed as one of the top reviewed RKC’s in the world for the last five years). He is also the author of a bestselling eBook entitled “Code Name: Indestructible” and is in the process of finishing up several other eBooks on Kettlebells, body weight, and the integration of other tools into an effective strength and conditioning program. Mike has traveled extensively throughout the United States teaching Russian Kettlebells to military (USMC, USN, USA and USAF) and law enforcement personnel (FBI, DEA, USSS and CIA)… read more here.

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