A Goblet is not a Holy Grail, however it can be a tool that has many uses.

When one individual slowly carves a methodology with a tool on one coast and gets great results. It’s a good thing. When a person on the other coast is unknowingly doing the same thing and getting superior results, our ears perk up. That’s what happened. I first read in Easy Strength, by Pavel and Dan John about Mark Toomey’s Goblet Squat program. Mark’s squatting max was around 315 x 5. He could keep it in that range with a Goblet Squat program. Here were the ingredients.

  • Every fourth day
  • Volume day was 8 to 10 sets of 10 reps
  • “Heavy” day was 5 sets of 5 reps

That’s it. Quick and dirty. Adjust the weights when they become “easy” and progress again.

That workout stuck in my head. If someone promises, “something for nothing”, I’m careful to protect my wallet, but I was intrigued.

Here is commentary from the Strongfirst forum by Mark himself on what exactly happened. It’s rather vivid.

“I had struggled to get through 315 on a back squat until I used the goblet squat as part of a continuity of training. Squatting repeatedly in an effort to get over 300 had probably led me to over-training (yes, it’s a problem for all of us). The goblet squat enforced in my training something I had really neglected to focus upon and that was very tight abdominals in both the negative and the positive power drive. The goblet squat also taught me to use a slightly wider stance than I had been using before. My left knee was pretty badly damaged back in ’83, to the point they almost took my leg from the knee down. Surprisingly, a wider stance not only made the squat possible, but for the first time in over twenty years, I could train heavier with a bar than I had previous to my injury. Now, I had gotten up to 315 before, but it was one of those, “I got here, wrecked my body doing it, so let’s never go here again” and I never was able to work up past three reps in a set. Now, here’s the funny part. Using heavy goblet squats helped my barbell back squat, but they really helped my deadllift. How? Two reasons, first the ab thing, but then, the 48kg goblet squat really forced me to recruit my traps, something I had been lacking in my deadlift prior. I’m convinced that getting my traps “turned on” (not a very scientific term, I know) is what took me over 500 lbs on the dead.” [ http://www.strongfirst.com/topic/question-for-mark-toomey-about-goblet-squat-routine-from-easy-strength/ ]


Months later I was corresponding with the Green Ghost, Eddie Kowacz. After years of knee surgeries [12 of them] he elected for total knee replacement. He went through rehab and is now training hard. I asked him about the knee and he said it’s, “not like a real knee and he’d never go through that again,..”. Then I asked him how he was training now that his lower body work was not isolated to density, volume, deadlifting. Here is his answer-

Just tonight I did 10×10 Goblet Squat using the 70 lber.  Next workout will be 5×5 with the 150 lber.

Going heavy with DLs 1-2 times weekly is ideal!

Grinds are either 1 arm KB presses or close grip push-up handles with weight vest! Other pull day is usually DB dead cleans using 80s.

So lightening strikes twice? Interesting. Two, grizzled strength guys using a simple workout to cover their needs. Maybe this was something to look at.

I also became aware of the rehab journey of Strongfirst’s Mark Reifkind. He too had a total knee replacement. He had a background in gymnastics, biking, running, bodybuilding and powerlifting, Westside Style. He had access to every tool and this is the workout he was choosing. Count the sets, look at the volume too.

Goblet squat
16 kg x 5 x 2
20 kg x 5
24 kg x 5
32 kg x 3 x 5 sets
24 kg x 5 x 5 sets

Definitely a PR since I’ve never done this workout before but it was cool. Could have easily done the 32 for 5’s but the idea was not to push it.

So a quick summary of the, “Goblet Squat used for developmental or maintenance versus mobility” program.

1. Two days or an A and B workout.

2. Volume Day. Density Style. 8 to 10 sets of 10 reps.

3. “Heavy” Day. Not “Squat” heavy, but heavy for Goblets. Do this 5 X 5.

4. Frequency is every third or fourth day.

5. Conditioning would be secondary so don’t rush it. Rest periods however are another variable when training this way.

6. Try 90 down to 30 seconds of rest depending on your needs.  

The devil is in the details and in this case, the Goblet. If you do an image search on Bing or Google nearly 90+ percent of the photos that come up are WRONG. They simply use a dumbbell or kettlebell as a counterbalance. It’s like it’s a substitution for a back squat or front squat. The idea of the goblet squat is to ALLOW movement to occur that builds perfect squatting form. The knees are pushed by the elbows for both stretching/mobilizing and to get used to the torso fitting between the thighs. At the bottom of the squat, along with “prying” and stretching the adductors, the hips can circle or do figure eights to “create space” in the gluteal area.

For the definitive article about the Goblet Squat, I’d recommend Dan John’s T-Nation article. He covers all the bases and it’s easy to understand and implement. —  http://www.t-nation.com/training/goblet-squats-101

Realize too, that the Goblet Squat has been around for eons. My Indonesian Martial Arts instructor. Harold Koning, PhD. used it in his conditioning program for decades, without the addition of weight. Here is a photo, I believe of Iyengar doing an extreme “prayer squat”. This only shows that lots of sharp people looking for solutions often arrive at similar destinations.

So if your body is in a current state of protest over heavy squats,.. Give the Goblet Squat, Heavy/Volume Program a look.

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