Thinking Outside the Gym – Why Goblet Squats CAN Replace Back Squat

By on October 13, 2023

The goblet squat (or racked kettlebell squat) is an exercise with tons of unique benefits. It changes the activation of the core to add anti-flexion, more closely mimicking the way we pick things up in real-life (i.e. in front of us). It massively improves ankle mobility, and can help to improve squat mechanics more broadly.

Best of all, perhaps, it lets us perform a weighted squat from home; without needing space for a huge barbell and power-rack.

Goblet Squat Jump

The problem? A lot of people dismiss the goblet squat because it doesn’t let them lift as much as the back squat.

And this is what I want to address in this quick post. Because I think it’s symptomatic of some much broader issues in “fitness.” It’s a sign of narrow thinking – of forgetting the reason we should be lifting weight in the first place. To

Even if you had access to two 100kg kettlebells (which is very rare) and put them in the racked position – your arms and core would likely tire out before your legs could. If you could even get into that position in the first place.

But the whole reason you can’t train the heavy back squat outside of the gym, is because there’s nothing you can get into that position, outside of the gym. 

In other words, the back squat is great for hypertrophy and for powerlifters trying to improve their numbers from a sporting perspective. But in terms of useful fitness, it is certainly not strictly required.

The back squat is also great for improving running speed and jumping height… but there are many other ways to get those same benefits (like the goblet squat jump).

So, why not learn to lift as much as you can, in a position you can actually get into? Your limit in terms of how much you can goblet squat is ALSO the precise limit in terms of how much you can squat in any kind of useful position…

Clubbell Movement Flow

In other words: this is the actual squat you might perform with resistance in the real world. Pretty much the only one, in fact!

So, don’t refuse to do this difficult, but highly practical movement, just because it doesn’t make you better at a less practical movement that you can already do really well. That’s kind of backwards, no?

Build the compound strength you need to perform heavy goblet squats and take that into the real world.

Worry less about adding 5kg to an already very impressive back squat, and instead enjoy the improved ankle mobility and core stability that – once again – can be very useful for athletic performance and every day movement. 

This applies to training across the board. Yes, powerlifting is a functional and useful form of training. But it’s not the whole story and you shouldn’t feel restricted to only those movements. Especially if your goal is to take that fitness out into the world.

Time to think outside of the gym, a little!

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.


  1. Nicolas Son says:

    This reminds me of helping out my step-dadcarry packs of 40 water bottles into the house. Usually it’s 7 to 8 packs. After doing goblet squats with a 50-60 lbs sandbag in front of me, carrying those water bottles felt great. It’s kind of funny sometimes how you’ll often squat and carry things that are positioned in front of you; it’s not always going to be on your back. Well, maybe on your shoulders, too. 🙂 This was a great article, Bioneer! Another perspective that I notice, too.

    • Trond Eikelia says:

      So would the zecher (?) squat/deadlift have some of the same benefits? If you only have a olympic barbell to train with?

  2. Austin Wakefield says:

    One of the many things I love about Sinicki’s training program (superfuctional training 2.0) and his take on fitness in general, is that you end up needing hardly any equipment. If you choose goblet squats over back squats then you can use almost anything as a wieght.

  3. Timothy Green says:

    Dear Adam,

    You have a dangling “.To” in the fourth paragraph. I like the article, as I couldn’t access a gym I found loadable sandbags very use full for the same purpose. Weight is easily (Cerberus strong-man bags) and incrementally adjustable and can be large, yet yo can still pick it up and carry/ squat in front of you. It is tough on the skin unless you are wearing long sleeves.
    Any more super hero workouts to come? What about dance and its cognitive benefits, varied movement in sequence performed to a rhythm, Dr Emily Cross. Similarly there is research on martial arts training an cognitive benefits -Dr Marie Beffa.
    Keep up the good work,

  4. Andrew Yaniga says:

    I am a great proponent of the goblet squat. In the gym environment I was frequently asked why are you doing that. I became known as the old man with the weird kettlebell routine. I am now 64 and continue to believe that functional strength exercises enhance longevity✌️

  5. Ivan Thompson says:

    I understand where this point is coming from but if you have access to a barbell could you not get the goblet squat benefits with a zercher or front squat?

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