Some exercises prove so simple and effective that we often take their existence for granted. The goblet squat has for me, been one such exercise. Over the past five years I’ve helped numerous friends begin their journeys into the lifting world with the aid of this trusty mechanism. While not everyone is as enthusiastic about the Goblet Squat as me, the exercise is a great primer for people learning about correct squat mechanisms. Furthermore it has proven a godsend in opening my hips before a heavy set of squats on leg day.
So what exactly is a Goblet Squat? Who invented it and how did it rise to popularity?
Unlike previously covered exercises which proved difficult to describe (looking at you Clasp Pulldown!), the GS is a straightforward movement. Begin with a kettlebell or dumbbell at chest height, squat down while keeping the chest up and push the knees out, come back up. Simple right? Well yes if you’ve been squatting for a while but for newcomers it can prove a finisher in and of itself. As always I defer to someone far more talented than I to demonstrate how it’s done.
Disclaimer – I did choose this video because the man’s surname is Maximus. I defy you to find a tougher sounder name.
Returning to the question at hand, you may be surprised to learn that this simple movement, akin to the front squat which has existed for decades, is a relatively recent addition to the gym goers arsenal. In fact, it only appears to have come about in the late 1990s/early 2000s.
Who Invented the Goblet Squat?
So cards on the table, I was a little disappointed with how straightforward this search was. You see usually google credits someone as an inventor when a rudimentary knowledge of the Iron Game reveals that the true inventor came several decades previously. So for example, some websites cite the 1960s as a time when treadmills were invented despite the fact that treadmills were used in prisons in the early nineteenth-century. My learned skepticism means that whenever the internet categorically credits someone as a pioneer, I begin to dig a little deeper.
Well despite my best efforts, it does appear that Dan John, a coach I have immense respect for, created the Goblet Squat. According to his own article on the subject, John stumbled across the idea for the GS when he was confronted with a problem that anyone who has ever coached a newcomer to the gym has encountered. How do we teach the basic movement needed for a squat? John’s situation was slightly more problematic as he was faced with teaching hundreds of students a squatting motion in a relatively short space of time. In his own words, he largely failed in this endeavour.
Unperturbed by his difficulty, John continued to search for understandable and easy exercises that could be done by anyone. His eureka moment, oddly enough, came during a set of KB swings. In John’s own words
Somewhere between a Zercher and a potato squat was the answer. It came to me when I was resting between swings with the weight held in front of me like I was holding the Holy Grail. I squatted down from there, pushed my knees out with my elbows and, behold, the goblet squat!
Sadly I have been unable to find a definitive moment for his discovery although an article from 2001 credits John with teaching them at this time. It is likely then that the GS came about some time in the 1990s.
If you read nothing else in this article please, please, please take the time to look at John’s own explanation of the Squat’s origins, filmed in 2003.
Seriously, what is not to love about this man? Not only is he knowledgeable, but he has a great sense of humour. I digress…
Tracing the Goblet Squat’s Popularity
Very crude but it is interesting to note the surge in Google Searches emanating from the United States concerning the Goblet Squat.
You’ll see a pretty large uptake around 2010. This is understandable. Aside from a series of articles by John around this time, others, both high profile coaches and training organisations had begun to promote the goblet squat. I have neither the time or the skillset required to fully tease it out but I suspect that a Men’s Health article published in 2012 on the Goblet Squat proved influential in increasing the public’s knowledge of the movement.
For coaches, I suspect that John’s own profile in the lifting community and endorsements from others such as Chad Waterbury helped boost the exercise’s credibility. Likewise personal training courses, such as ACE, began to promote the exercise at this time as well. Aside from a sexy celebrity endorsement, which I’m sure exists, the Goblet Squat pretty much checked all the boxes. It was endorsed by trainers, certification agencies and popular health magazines.
More importantly however, the Goblet Squat could be done by virtually everyone as part of a warm up, a circuit or an exercise in and of itself. It’s versatility ensured it’s popularity. I doubt the Zercher Squat would have proven as marketable had John remained teaching that.
Do you use the Goblet Squat? Let us know in the comments below!
As always… Happy Lifting!
Great exercise and great post. This is a brilliant exercise full stop, but has really helped me gain confidence to squat after a lower back injury.
Hi there, thanks so much for stopping by. It really is fantastic isn’t it? I use it religiously now as part of my warm up. As you say it’s a good way to build confidence back in the squat.
I hope that injury is healed up now by the way!
I just had this sent to me…thank you! I actually laughed a few times reading this. A lot of people have claimed the GS. One invented it in 2009…just a few years after my article on in in Men’s Health!
Hi Dan, I hope this mail finds you well. As you can probably guess I’m a big fan of your writing and still refer people to your work/rest/play/pray article whenever they’re burnt out. Delighted to have brought on some chuckles!
Heheh…as a 65-year-old who began bodybuilding in 1971 at age 15 and been at it for fifty years (despite the gradual deterioration due to aging and accumulated injuries), as well as been a zealous student of iron game history…well, one conclusion I have is that probably anything claimed since 1940 to be a new exercise or new protocol is NOT new nor innovative.
What’s often happened since those formative years of 1890-1940 is “re-discovery” of techniques, exercise, protocols, even exercise machines, which had already been used before 1940.
For example, an exercise called by some name before 1940 would be neglected or forgotten as years passed; later, someone would coincidentally have a eureka moment for essentially the same exercise, sincerely assume he invented it, label it with a new name, and it would be popularized as “original” among a new generation. It’s rare in history that someone does indeed invent the wheel; history is typically re-invention, re-labeling, re-discovery.
I’ve experienced this so often during my five decades of wide reading and research into the history of physical cutlure, weight lifting, powerlifting, bodybuilding, and gym culture that I’ve learned to be cautious about attributing any exercise or protocol, or even an exercise machine, to an origin dated after 1940.
100% with you. I think the majority of my posts are simply – this is a lot older than we usually say it is … the end!
Nice Humor, and knowledge. TYVM
Thank you kindly! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Great article, I watched Recon Marines doing this exercise with dumbbells in Kuwait in ’91. Like Glenn Pendlay said of “his” rows, an old, excellent exercise only recently popularized. Now I have a REAL new exercise idea that involves picking up a calf daily, and you progress as it grows…
Thanks Marty. That is awesome to hear. A cow and progressive resistance? It’ll never work!