The art of loaded squatting can be tricky to master. Look around most fitness and performance settings and you see plenty of loaded lunges, deadlifts, and often something that resembles a quarter squat, but you don’t often see a loaded squat performed though a respectable range of motion. Is it because it is scary to put a barbell on your upper back or hold to hold a barbell in the front squat position? Is it the way people are introduced to squats? There’s a good chance both reasons are players in this. However, our opinion is that it has more to do with the initial approach squatting.
Here’s how we progress the squat pattern:
1. Air squat
2. Driver squat (see HERE)
3. Kettlebell goblet squat (see HERE)
4. Kettlebell front squat
5. Barbell front and/or back squat
For those of you who don’t already know, the goblet squat is a squat variation unique and powerful in it’s effectiveness. It improves the fundamental squatting pattern by increasing range of motion in the hips and develops leg strength. The difference between the goblet squat and most other variations is that it allows participants to express a full range of motion with minimal loading of the spine. When performed correctly, it’s very effective at putting participants in the “right” position. This exercise can serve as THE squat a student performs in their training or simply be a bridge to the front and back squat.
Here are Goblet Squat Fundamentals:
The remainder of this post and series will focus on coaching the goblet squat.
Grasp a kettlebell by the horns and hold it in front of the torso at chest height. Take a shoulder-width stance with the feet turned outward slightly. Please not that you should NOT wear sneakers when performing the goblet squat. Stand as tall as possible, acting as if a puppeteer has a string attached to the top of your head and is pulling you up.
Be sure to firmly grasp the kettlebell and simultaneously engage your lats. A good cue to use, which accomplishes both, is “trying to break the kettlebell by twisting the horns away from the center”. If you aren’t able to figure this out, squat success may escape you.
Finally, push the kettlebell 4-6 inches off the chest.
Connecting with the ground
Its important your feet are as connected with the ground as possible (hence no sneakers). Keep more weight in your heels, but also spread the toes as far as possible and press them into the ground. Think about screwing your feet into the ground. Pretend your feet are on saucers and spin them out. This will help load tension through the hips.
Learning to pull into the Goblet Squat
This can be challenging to learn, but is critical! If you allow gravity to do the work for you in the descent of the goblet squat you will NOT maintain a tall torso. Therefore, its important you learn how to pull yourself into the squat with your hip flexors. This is a tough concept to master and even harder to teach.
Here’s a great drill to help students learn what it should feel like:
The Drive to the top
Once you have descended to a depth that allows your elbows to touch your thighs, briefly pause and drive back to the start position. Maintain a tall, rigid torso throughout the movement so that your hips and torso rise at the same speed.
Now that you have all this new information get a kettlebell and start performing goblet squats. In the meanwhile, we will work on additional posts which will address a variety of movement issues and coaching drill you can use to “fix” the squatting pattern including additional drills to help with that challenging concept of pulling into the descent.
The Goblet Squat is covered in detail in our Certified Kettlebell Instructor Level 1 (CKI-1) Seminar along with the kettlebell swing and turkish get-up. Our last CKI-1 in 2015 will be held onSaturday, 11/14/15 in Malvern, PA. Use coupon code SAVE25 for a $25 discount. Valid until 11/9/15. Our 2016 seminar schedule will be released shortly.