9 Goblet Squat Alternatives To Transform Your Quads


The goblet squat is an efficient alternative to the traditional barbell squat. Needing only a kettlebell, it’s a great exercise you can perform pretty much anywhere.  

It’s a squat variation that’s widely accessible, offering many benefits such as improving your back squat technique and increasing both your mobility and strength.  

But it’s not the only squat variation that’s worth incorporating into your training program.  In this post, we’re going to suggest some fantastic goblet squat alternatives that will elicit similar results for building muscle and increasing your lower body strength.

Recommended Reading – 9 Best Quad Focused Exercises To Build Leg Strength & Size

What Makes A Good Goblet Squat Alternative

An ideal goblet squat alternative is one where the resistance is placed just in front of your body.  What this does is force your torso to remain more upright, similar to when doing front squats.  This will involve a similar squat pattern so you’ll be engaging the same muscle groups.  

When it’s executed with proper form, the big advantage of the goblet squat is that it minimizes stress on your lower back and knee joints.  However, there is a downside!  

When performing any front-loaded squat variations (including the goblet squat), you won’t be able to squat with heavier weights, so it has its limitations if increasing strength is your main goal.  

Squatting with your upper body in a very upright position limits the contraction of your hamstrings.  At the bottom of the goblet squat, your hamstrings remain in a shortened position so that the bulk of the weight load is shifted onto your quads making it a quad dominant exercise. 

This means any alternative exercises to the kettlebell goblet squat should offer the following:

  1. Quad Dominance: Any goblet squat alternative should place more emphasis on your quads to target them effectively and pack on muscle.
  2. Less Spinal Loading: They should minimize stress on the spine, particularly the lower back, to reduce the risk of injury.
  3. Joint Health and Comfort: You should consider goblet squat alternatives based on your ability. They should suit your mobility while factoring in any existing limitations or conditions that you might have.
  4. Equipment Availability: Consider the equipment you have access to and choose an alternative that fits your available resources. This will most likely depend on whether you train at home or in the gym.

9 Goblet Squat Alternative Exercises For Developing Your Quads

Some of the best alternatives to the goblet squat include front squats and belt squats. Like the goblet squat, they increase the load on the quads while reducing it on the spine and lower back.  

Let’s look at these exercises, along with some other goblet squat alternatives, in more detail.  

The belt squat is one of the best exercises to target the quads and the most significant benefit is that you can squat with no load on your spine.  This is because the weight is attached to a belt around the waist rather than being supported by your upper body as in goblet squats. 


Without the need to stabilize the weight with your arms and upper body, you can concentrate entirely on engaging the lower body muscles allowing for a better mind-to-muscle connection and increased focus on the quads.

The unique setup of the belt squat encourages a more upright torso, similar to the posture encouraged by the goblet squat. This upright position helps in achieving greater squat depth safely, thereby enhancing the activation of the lower body muscles through a full range of motion.

By holding a barbell across your upper chest, the front squat allows you to place more weight load onto your quads with less on the glutes and hamstrings.  But what it also does is reduce spinal loading.  This is because you’re forced to keep your torso in an upright position as the weight of the barbell will naturally pull you forward.  

front squat exercise

It should be mentioned that the front squat might feel somewhat uncomfortable if you have limited wrist flexibility. If you encounter this issue, consider adopting an alternative grip by crossing your arms to hold the barbell.

Lunges are a great alternative to the goblet squat as you don’t need much in the way of equipment and you can do them pretty much anywhere.  They significantly engage your quads, and because you’ll be holding a pair of dumbbells down by your sides, they place less stress on the spine when compared to squatting with a barbell. 


Reverse lunges are particularly effective for focusing on the quads while minimizing knee strain.  If you struggle to maintain balance when doing this exercise, you could try stepping back and slightly out as this increased distance between your feet can give you a little more support.  

The Bulgarian split squat is a unilateral lower-body exercise meaning that you can work each leg at a time.  The benefit of this is that you can work on any imbalances to strength and muscle size without having to bear any weight load across your back.  


When compared to the Goblet Squat you can achieve a deeper knee flexion of the working leg. This increased range of motion leads to greater stretch and contraction in your quad, intensifying muscle engagement and promoting strength and hypertrophy.  When doing this exercise make sure you maintain an upright torso throughout.  

The hack squat, which is performed on a hack squat machine, is a highly effective exercise for engaging the quads. Utilizing the hack squat machine provides support for the upper back, thereby reducing strain on the lower back. This makes it an excellent alternative to the goblet squat.


The sled of the hack squat machine runs up and down on rails which helps to keep you in a fixed position.  What’s more, the large footpad allows you to place your feet at a biomechanical advantage to better work the quads. 

The Spanish squat allows you to put more emphasis on your quads while reducing stress on your knee joints.  This makes it a good option for those who want to develop stronger legs, particularly to the quads, but have knee problems. 

You perform it by placing a glute band (these are a looped kind of resistance band) around your knees and anchoring it at knee height to something fixed such as a squat rack.  This adds resistance but also helps you to execute the squat correctly.  To increase the resistance, you can hold a dumbbell (or kettlebell) just in front of your chest.  

When compared to the traditional squat, you need to sit back into position rather than squat down as you normally would.  This prevents your knees from going over your toes and transfers weight load to your quads.  You stop descending once your upper legs are parallel to the ground and at the bottom of the movement, your knees and hips should be bent to a 90-degree angle – similar to if you were doing a wall sit.  

Step-ups are an excellent exercise for beginners, ideal for targeting your quads and glutes. They also contribute to enhanced core stability and strength. To perform this exercise with correct form, you should have access to a step-up box that is a minimum of 12 inches in height.

The focus of this exercise should be on your front leg (which remains on the step throughout).  You should drive through the front leg to step up while keeping your torso upright without pushing off from your back foot.  This is a common mistake and all it will do is reduce tension to the target muscles. 

Another reason we love the step up as a goblet squat alternative is that you can really focus on the eccentric contraction.  As you lower your back foot down to the floor, you’ll need to do this fairly slowly and with control.  This allows for even greater contraction of your leg muscles. 

The leg press can be a great way of targeting your quads making it a good alternative to the dumbbell goblet squat.   But how you place your feet on the footplate will determine how much quad activation you can elicit.  Positioning your feet lower down can allow for a greater range of motion so that your quads must work a little harder to extend your knees as you press back up to the starting position.  

goblet goblet alternative

A narrower stance places more tension on the front of your legs, including the quadriceps, whereas a wider stance tends to engage more of your inner thigh muscles (adductors) and glutes to a greater extent.  Another big plus of the leg press is that your upper body is fully supported throughout the exercise meaning there’s no load on your lower back.  

A good tip when using the leg press is to keep a slight bend to your knees, even at the top of the movement.  This ensures you’ll be keeping tension on your quads throughout while putting less stress on your knee joints.  

OK, so we know it’s not your typical squat variation but let us explain.  As mentioned above, two of the key considerations for any good goblet squat alternative are quad dominance and less spinal loading and the leg extension achieves both of those, making it a good alternative to the goblet squat.  

You need to do them on the leg extension machine, but these are pretty common in most commercial gyms.  While it’s a great alternative and places much of the load on your quads while in the shortened position, it’s important to know that it can put a lot of stress on your patellar tendon (this attaches your kneecap to your shin bone), so bear this in mind if you have any pre-existing knee issues.  

Goblet Squat Alternatives To Avoid

So we’ve looked at the best, now let’s briefly look at some of the squat variations that don’t make for a perfect goblet squat substitute. 

While this exercise does isolate more of your quads, it should only be performed as a bodyweight exercise due to its complexity.  So, while it can increase strength, it won’t do much in the way of muscle gains.  It’s worth noting that they can also help improve strength in the tendons of your knees which can be beneficial if you lack mobility to your knee joint.  

Depending on your fitness level, drop squats can be great for quad development when you’re just starting out, but they have their limitations when it comes to progression.  As you need to hold a single dumbbell just in front of your thighs, you’ll probably need to stick with lighter weights.  And, the heavier the dumbbell, the better grip strength you’ll need making it difficult to progress in terms of weight load.  

​In Closing

When it comes to your leg day training, always remember to keep things varied.

Goblet squats certainly have their place in a well-rounded workout routine but by including some of our alternatives you can keep testing your muscles, prevent any plateaus, and make your workouts more fun! 

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