Squat variations can focus on slightly different areas of your body. Find out what muscles goblet squats work and whether you can expect muscle growth.
Goblet squats require you to hold a dumbbell, kettlebell, or other weight in front of your chest. By doing this, you engage a variety of extra upper body muscles and keep your upper body more upright.
In turn, goblet squats mainly work your quadriceps to lift your body and your biceps, front deltoids, trapezius, and forearm grip muscles to hold the weight.
If these upper body muscles fatigue before you have a good leg workout, it is possible that goblet squats will not do much for you in terms of quadricep muscle growth and/or strength increases.
That aside, goblet squats also work muscles like your glutes, hamstrings, erector spinae, and calves to some extent. Likely not enough to see a lot of growth and/or strength increases.
What primary muscles do goblet squats work?
Goblet squats are a compound leg exercise which means it engages different muscles in this area. That being said, of the muscles involved, this squat variation mainly works your quadricep (front thigh).
By holding a dumbbell or other weight in front of you, you can keep your upper body more upright. This leads to more quad engagement and less glute, hamstring, and lower back muscle engagement.
Additionally, to keep the weight in position, you work muscles like your biceps, deltoids, trapezius, and forearm grip muscles.
If these muscles fatigue too soon, goblet squats will not be a very good quadricep exercise.
Quadriceps (front thighs)
Squat movements, including the goblet variation, mainly work your quadriceps This is a group of 4 different muscles that are located in your front thighs.
The quadricep muscles are responsible for stretching your legs aka knee extension.
Since these are strong muscles, you typically have to do squat variations with a relatively high amount to be able to grow and strengthen them.
This can be an issue in goblet squats because the muscles that have to hold the weight in place are a lot weaker.
Biceps, trapezius (upper shoulder), forearms, and deltoids (shoulders)
The characteristic detail of goblet squats is that you hold a dumbbell, kettlebell, or other weight in front of your chest.
To do this, a variety of muscles including your biceps, trapezius (above your shoulders), forearms, and front deltoids (front shoulders) have to work.
Most people do not set out to do goblet squats to work these upper muscles.
However, because they have to work so hard compared to their relative strengths, it is fair to include these muscles in the primarily worked category.
As mentioned, this can potentially be a downside of goblet squats. Many people will not be able to get enough weight to grow and strengthen their quadriceps up to chest height and keep it there.
What secondary muscles do goblet squats work?
Goblet squats also work a few secondary muscles to some extent. These will have to work a nice amount but they will likely not fatigue before the main muscles.
Additionally, you should not really expect too much growth in these areas.
Glutes and hamstrings (butt and back thighs)
The glutes and hamstrings are responsible for tilting your upper body backward or preventing it from collapsing forward.
These muscles have to work to some extent in squat variations because you have to keep your upper body tilted forward to avoid falling backward.
That being said, most of the upward force will still come from the quadriceps.
Additionally, by holding the weight in front of you during goblet squats, you can keep your body more upright.
In turn, this leads to less glute and hamstring engagement than a back squat where the weight rests on your upper back.
Erector spinae (lower back)
The erector spinae is a group of muscles that keep your spine straight. Without these, your chest would “fall down” when tilting your upper body forward in the goblet squat.
Similar to the glutes and hamstrings, the erector spinae will have to work to a lesser extent in goblet squats because you keep your body more upright.
The calf muscles at the back of the lower legs are responsible for the plantar flexing of the foot. In simpler words, they help you push the front of your feet down.
At the bottom of the goblet squat movement, you point your lower legs somewhat forward.
To get out of this position, your calves will have to work to a small extent. However, the knee flexion from the quadriceps will help a lot with this too.
How to change your goblet squat form for different muscles
Interestingly enough, you can change your goblet squat form to make the exercise work your muscles in slightly different ratios.
For example, you can make goblet squats focus even more on your quadriceps by elevating your heels and/or using heavier weights.
On the flip side, you could make goblet squats work your glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae more by really tilting your upper body forward. In the direction of an inconvenient good morning.
How to do goblet squats for quadriceps
The first way to do goblet squats for your quadriceps is by increasing the weight you use.
By doing this, you are able to keep your body even more upright without falling back. In turn, the exercise focuses even more on these muscles.
Secondly, you can put your heels on an elevation like a weight plate or slant board. This allows you to fold your knees even more.
In turn, your quadriceps can go through a larger range of motion. This is typically beneficial for muscle growth and strength progress.
How to do goblet squats for glutes and hamstrings
As mentioned, goblet squats are not a great choice for working your glutes and hamstrings. This applies to squat in general but especially this goblet variation where you keep your upper body more upright.
Even so, in theory, you could make goblet squats focus more on your glutes and hamstrings by really tilting your upper body forward as much as you can without falling forward.
That being said, the weight in front of your chest makes this really challenging.
Partly due to the changing pull of gravity on your hands but also because your biceps, front deltoids, and trapezius will have to work even harder.
Since the glutes and hamstrings are relatively strong muscles, most people will not be able to grow and strengthen these with goblet squats. Even when making the modification above.
Do goblet squats build muscle?
To grow and strengthen muscles you have to challenge them with enough weight and repetitions and give your body enough rest and nutrients.
Goblet squats can definitely help you build muscle but in what areas this happens can vary.
It is possible that your upper body muscles that hold the weight fatigue before your quadriceps had a good workout. In that case, most of the muscle growth will happen in the upper body muscles.
On the flip side, it is also possible that goblet squats are mainly challenging for your quadriceps. In that case, you can build muscle in this area.
Goblet squats sets and reps
To build muscle mass with goblet squats, you want to do around 3 to 6 sets of 6 to 10 goblet squats with a weight where you can barely complete these repetitions.
Again, it is possible that you are not able to get enough weight to grow your quads up to chest height and keep it there. In that case, you may have to consider other squat variations or exercises.
For a different fitness goal like improving muscle strength, there are different set and rep recommendations.
More specifically, for this purpose, you want to do around 4 to 8 sets of 5 goblet squats with a weight where you are just able to complete the ranges.
Goblet squat vs sumo, front, and barbell back squat muscles used
There are a variety of other squat variations you can consider doing. You may wonder in what ratios goblet squats work your muscles compared to these.
Compared to sumo squats, goblet squats will mainly focus more on the upper body muscles that hold the weight and less on your inner thighs. Sumo squats also involve a bit more focus on the quadriceps.
Next, goblet squats will focus more on your upper body muscles than barbell front squats.
Besides that, these exercises both focus more on the quads and less on the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles due to the position of the weights.
Lastly, goblet squats focus more on the upper body muscles holding the weight and the quadriceps than barbell back squats.
Barbell back squats work your glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae a bit more.
Something interesting to note is that barbell back squats could still grow your quadricep muscles more if your upper body muscles fatigue too soon in the goblet variation.
How do you activate your glutes in goblet squats?
In theory, you can activate your glutes more in goblet squats by tilting your upper body more forward and back. Similar to an uncomfortable good morning.
What are goblet squats best for?
Goblet squats are mostly good for people who only have one good dumbbell/kettlebell and want to do a more quadricep-focused squat variation.
Do goblet squats make your thighs bigger?
Goblet squats can potentially make your thighs bigger if you implement the right amounts of weight, repetitions, and rest. The thigh muscle growth will likely mostly happen in your quadriceps (front thighs).