When it comes to lower body exercises, Goblet Squats and Lunges are two popular options that often find their way into workout routines. Both exercises are known for their ability to target the quads, glutes, and hamstrings and both definitely have their advantages.
However, the question is whether one exercise is better than the other. Specifically, are Goblet Squats better than Lunges? Or, at the very least, can Goblet Squats be done in place of Lunges or vice versa?
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at the benefits of Goblet Squats and Lunges, and compare the two exercises to help you determine which one is right for you. I’ll explore the muscles each exercise targets, the mechanics of the movements, the variations of each exercise, and the potential benefits and drawbacks of both.
- Kettlebell (Dumbbell can be used as well)
- Quads (Rectus Femoris, Vastus Medialis, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Intermedius)
- Glutes (Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius)
- Hamstrings (Biceps Femoris)
- Spinal Erectors
- Secondarily: Shoulders, Biceps
- Grab a kettlebell and hold it at chest level, cradling the bottom of the bell in both hands*.
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, chest out, lats engaged, eyes straight ahead.
- Before descending into the squat, fill the abdomen full of air and brace the core.
- Start the start by pushing the hips back first.
- Bend the hips and knees, keeping the chest up and knees pushed out until the thighs become parallel to the floor.
- Now push the feet through the floor and drive yourself back up to the starting position.
- Repeat for the designated number of reps.
*It’s also acceptable to hold the kettlebell on each side of the handle (as shown in the image above).
As with any squat, the most important aspect of the movement is to keep the core braced to protect the spine and to maintain proper posture – chest out and lats engaged.
Make sure to use full range of motion, even when doing Goblet Squats during high-tempo circuits.
Benefits of Goblet Squats
Goblet Squats have several benefits, including:
Improved Core and Upper Body Strength
Holding a weight in front of the chest during a goblet squat requires the use of the core muscles to maintain proper posture and balance. Holding a weight in front of the chest also engages and works the upper back, shoulders and arms.
Improved Squat Technique
The goblet squat is a simpler squatting movement that allows people (especially younger lifters and/or beginners) to focus on proper form and technique, which can lead to better form and technique when performing more advanced squatting exercises.
Goblet Squats can be performed with a variety of equipment, including dumbbells, kettlebells, and even sandbags, making them a versatile exercise that can be done at home or in the gym.
Goblet squats are a relatively easy exercise to learn and execute, which makes them a great option for beginners and young athletes with limited experience with weightlifting.
I’m specifically targeting Dumbbell Lunges here because I believe they are more beginner-friendly than Barbell Lunges, but most of the same concepts will apply to both variations. (More on Dumbbell Lunge vs Barbell Lunge)
- Secondarily: Grip (Forearm Flexors)
- Grab two dumbbells, one in each hand
- Squeeze the shoulder blades and engage the lats to create a stable back to help with bracing the upper body
- Once you’ve created enough room for yourself from the dumbbell rack (or wherever you pulled them from) you can begin the movement.
- Step forward with one leg, giving yourself enough room to drop into a lunge comfortably without feeling overextended.
- Keep the chest as upright as possible and drop the back knee to roughly one inch from the floor.
- Now drive through the heel and midfoot of the front foot to drive yourself back up tall.
- Repeat on the opposite leg and alternate back and forth until all reps have been completed.
Coaching Points (Fixes to Common Mistakes)
When you step out, make sure to keep the feet shoulder-width apart. If you’re feeling very off-balance in your lunge there is a good chance that you are stepping the lead foot directly in front of the back foot (essentially placing yourself on a tight rope).
Keep the front foot flat on the floor when in the lunge position. One of the most common mistakes is raising up onto the ball of the front foot. One of the reasons for this is often the next most common mistake that I see with Dumbbell Lunges…
Make sure to take a big enough step. Often times I see athletes take way too small of a step. This leads to lunge being extremely cramped and can lead to a whole host of other issues (like coming up on the ball of the foot as mentioned above).
Benefits of Dumbbell Lunges
Single Leg Movements like Dumbbell Lunges are an extremely important addition to any athlete’s workout regimen, regardless of sport.
Many (if not most) athletic movements are often done on one leg. This includes sprinting, jumping and cutting.
Single Leg Exercises help improve leg strength, balance, stability and also show any strength imbalances the lifter may have from one side to the other. Single Leg Exercises can also be part of the solution if and when an asymmetry is found.
Goblet Squats vs Lunges: Which is Better?
Now, let’s look at both exercises side-by-side and discuss if one is potentially better than the other for some common lifting goals.
Better For Developing Size and Strength: Lunges
Lunges are better than Goblet Squats for developing strength.
The reason why really has more to do with logistics than it does with the two movements themselves. Let me explain.
Most of us are going to be pretty limited in the size of the kettlebell we’re going to have access to. A 2-pood (approx. 72 lbs) is likely the biggest kettlebell (if we’re lucky) that most of us will be able to use. On the other hand, it’s way more common to have dumbbells that range up to 100 pounds (or more).
Combine that with the fact that Lunges are a single-leg exercise and you can see how the ability to scale Lunges as your strength increases is much higher than with Goblet Squats.
Goblet Squats, as a strength exercise, lose their effectiveness pretty early in the progression of an athlete (or anyone). However, lunges with 100-pound dumbbells can challenge even very advanced lifters.
Better For Beginners: Goblet Squats
I don’t think that Lunges, especially Dumbbell Lunges, are a bad exercise for beginners to do. They’re relatively easy to learn and safe (you can even remove the dumbbells if necessary and do bodyweight lunges) to do.
However, Goblet Squats are one of my favorite exercises to use to teach proper squat form in the weight room.
Goblet Squats can teach beginners how to set up in a proper starting position, how to brace the core and how to squat all with a safe amount of weight that is easy to hold and use. This technique (flat back, core engaged, etc) can then translate to other squat variations, lifts from the floor like Cleans and Deadlifts and even upper body lifts like Barbell Rows.
I’ve just spent the last section of this article comparing which is better, Goblet Squats or Lunges. The truth is, they both can have a place in your strength training program.
Goblet Squats can be a tremendous teaching tool to learn proper squat form and how to brace the core when squatting with weight. They can also work perfectly in a warm-up for leg day or as part of a metabolic circuit at the end of a workout.
Lunges, on the other hand, are one of the best single-leg movements there are. Lunges will develop the quads, glutes and hamstrings independently of one another which can help reduce any muscular asymmetries.
So, my suggestion would be to figure out how you can incorporate both Goblet Squats and Lunges into your training program.