Performing traditional barbell squats may pose significant physical challenges for some clientele based on their prior medical/injury history or simply be too technically demanding at first. For those reasons, I like to employ goblet box squats to train clients how to squat properly with lower loads in a more predictable pattern without spinal compression or undue shoulder strain.

Begin using an 18-inch box and comfortable starting weight. Grasp one end of the dumbbell with the palms up and position it so the thumbs are about at the height of the sternoclavicular joint. The feet should be shoulder-width apart and the heels resting 1-3 inches away from the box. Keeping the elbows tucked, draw the navel in toward the spine and slowly squat down to the box. Lightly touch the box without fully sitting or plopping down. Pause, and then extend the hips and knees to return to the upright position.

The ideal cadence is 2/1/1 with emphasis on proper form. Cue away from any frontal plane col-lapse in the knees or excessive forward trunk lean. Perform 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions for lower body strengthening. The depth of the squat can be increased or decreased based on the client’s response in terms of discomfort and perceived exertion.

1. Increase the load (heavier dumbbell and/or weight vest)
2. Decrease the height of the box
3. Lengthen the eccentric cadence

1. Reduce the load
2. Increase the height of the box

This exercise is an effective way to increase lower body strength and teach proper squat form. The 18-inch box allows for about 90 degrees of knee flexion for most clients, and the height can easily be adjusted based on the individual’s needs and ability. For clients who struggle with patel-lofemoral pain, low back pathology (degenerative disc disease, herniated disc or spinal steno-sis), anterior shoulder instability or rotator cuff pathology, and those who cannot perform a tradi-tional back squat with good form, this exercise offers a safe alternative. Additionally, a mirror and/or tactile cues can be used to provide feedback to help maintain proper knee and spinal alignment during the exercise. This exercise may serve as a good foundation to squatting as well as a bridge for novice users who want to move to more traditional barbell squat patterns in the future.