We’ve all been guilty of switching to autopilot during a workout—half-assing the moves, mind wandering to all the other to-dos for the day. Problem is, when you rush through reps, you cheat yourself of an exercise’s full muscle-building or fat-burning potential. Samantha Ciaccia, C.S.C.S., knows this all too well, especially when it comes to squatting. Below, Ciaccia shows you how to slow things down with a goblet squat variation that’ll improve your mind-muscle connection, prevent injury, and fire up your core at the same time.
In the video above, Ciaccia breaks down the kettlebell goblet squat, noting one major mistake: People tend to bounce. This happens when you move passively through the squat, allowing speed and momentum to take over. Your trunk rocks at the bottom of the movement, then you swing up to the top, often causing the low back to arch unfavorably. It boils down to a lack of muscle awareness (i.e. which muscles should be activated) and control (i.e. controlling how those muscles do the work), says Ciaccia.
The good news is the fix for this form faux pas is actually quite simple. While Ciaccia breaks down several tips in her video—including remaining upright with your chest lifted, knees tracking over toes—the real “a-ha!” cue she shares is moving the weight away from your body. By doing so, you extend the lever (in this case, your arms) which requires much more control over the exercise. In a traditional goblet squat, you’d rack the weight (a kettlebell or dumbbell, for example) near your body at chest height with elbows pointing toward the floor, arms tucked by your sides—this keeps the center of gravity, well, center. By moving the weight out in front of you, you’ll need to move slower and fire up your core like crazy to keep your pelvis tucked and remain stable throughout the entire movement.
“When you slow down movement patterns, you’re giving your brain time to think about what muscles need to be used to then turn them on,” explains Ciaccia. “Once this becomes more habitual, it becomes safer to start lifting under heavier loads and/or at a faster, controllable speed. There’s nothing wrong with moving weight quickly, but only under the impression you’ve already established how to activate those muscles.”
Even if you aren’t guilty of the aforementioned squat bounce, moving the weight away from your chest is a great way to turn a goblet squat into a serious core burner. “The farther you push the weight out in front of you, the more you need your core to stabilize,” Ciaccia says. (Note: This modification requires a lot of shoulder strength, so you may want to avoid if you have shoulder issues.)
For the record, you need core strength for everything, but particularly for the goblet squat, adds Ciaccia. A strong core helps protect your spine from injury (like herniating a disk or straining a muscle), she says.
Try this tweak for yourself and take back control of your squat—your abs will thank you.