The BEST Exercise for Learning the Squat

Legs 3 min Read

Written by

Keith Hansen

Your heels come off the ground.

Your chest collapses.

Your knees hurt.

Your squat sucks.

This post is going to tell you the best exercise you can do to fix your funky squat.

The Goblet Squat to a Box

The goblet squat to a box is the single best exercise you can do to learn proper squat mechanics.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, that comes through the doors of my gym learns to do a goblet squat on a box before ever touching a barbell.

Why is it so good? Because good squats aren’t down and up. Good squats are out and back.

Knees out. Butt back.

Why it works

The box part of the equation give you a target. Something that let’s you know when you’ve squatted low enough. How low is low enough? That’s going to change over time, but for now it’s the height you can lower yourself to with complete control.

It also reminds you to put your butt back. Don’t sit on the edge of the box. You know you are sitting back far enough when middle of your hamstrings touch the box first, not your butt.

What does the goblet(kettlebell, dumbell) do? This provides a counter-balance. It isn’t necessary, but it usually helps people that tend to lose their balance when squatting. It should be light to start–about 20lbs.

How to Goblet Squat

-Set your heels shoulder-width apart

-Angle your feet about 30 degrees.

-Hold your kettlebell or dumbbell high on your chest with your shoulders back

-Keep your chest up and facing forward, never toward the floor

-Slowly, sit down on your box/bench/couch/chair like you are sitting down to dinner with your knees in alignment with your toes.

Remember: you should be able to control the entire descent and your hamstrings should touch the edge of your box first.


If your butt touches the box before your hamstrings you are sitting on the edge. Sit back further.

If you can’t sit down with complete control your box is too low. Start with something higher.

What is complete control? A 5 second descent at an even speed. If you plop down at the end then that isn’t complete control. Descend painfully slowly.

Prioritize proper depth over weight, but prioritize form & control over depth.

Check out the Serious Guide to the Low Bar Squat for all the answers to your squatting questions.

Keith Hansen

Keith was an All-State wrestler in high school and in 2007 hung up his singlet to attend Florida State University to pursue a B.S. in business management. He wasn't sure what industry he wanted to be involved in at the time, but soon realized after graduating in 2011 that fitness was the ever-constant activity in his life. Keith began studying to become a personal trainer and in 2013 earned the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Personal Trainer certification. After a short stint as a big box gym trainer he realized he wanted to bring something different to Tallahassee. Keith competes in Powerlifting, Olympic Weightlifting, and Crossfit.