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How To Do A Proper Heel-Elevated Goblet Squat To Build Your Quads

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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When it comes to building strong and defined quadriceps, the goblet squat is a tried-and-true exercise that targets the muscles of the legs and helps improve overall lower body strength. However, adding a heel elevation to the goblet squat can take this exercise to the next level by placing additional emphasis on the quads. In this article, we’ll delve into the benefits of the heel-elevated goblet squat and provide a step-by-step guide on how to perform it correctly to effectively build your quadriceps.

How to Do the Heels-Elevated Goblet Squat

Heel-elevated goblet squats offer a dynamic way to target and strengthen your quadriceps while enhancing your lower body stability. Elevating your heels adds an extra dimension to this classic exercise, optimizing the engagement of your quads. Follow these simple steps to master the heel-elevated goblet squat:

A woman performing heels elevated goblet squats
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The Setup

Place a weight plate or wedge under each heel, lifting them by around 1 to 2 inches.

Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell vertically close to your chest. Keep your elbows pointing downward and your grip secure.

Stance and Posture

Position your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned outward.

Engage your core by gently drawing your belly button in towards your spine.

Maintain an upright chest and relaxed shoulders, preserving the natural curve of your lower back.

Initiating the Squat

Start the squat by simultaneously pushing your hips back and bending your knees.

As you descend, focus on distributing your weight through your heels to maintain stability.

Ensure that your knees track in line with your toes, avoiding any inward collapse.

Reaching the Bottom Position

Continue your descent until your thighs are parallel to the ground, or slightly below, while keeping your heels elevated.

Keep your upper body as upright as possible, preventing any excessive leaning forward or rounding of your back.

Ascending from the Squat

Propel yourself upward by pushing through your heels and engaging your quadriceps.

Exhale during the ascent, and keep the weight close to your chest throughout the movement.

Repetition and Control

Perform your desired number of repetitions, paying equal attention to both the lowering (eccentric) and lifting (concentric) phases.

Prioritize controlled movements to maximize muscle activation and minimize any jerky motions.

Tips for Success

  • If you’re new to this exercise, begin with a lightweight or even no-weight to practice your form.
  • Maintain a constant engagement of your core to provide stability and protect your spine.
  • Focus on driving through your heels during the entire range of motion to effectively target your quadriceps.
  • If you encounter discomfort or instability, consider adjusting the height of the heel elevation or opting for a lighter weight.
  • Aim to incorporate this exercise into your leg workout routine with 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
  • Always ensure a proper warm-up before attempting the heel-elevated goblet squat to prevent injuries.

By following these steps and tips, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the heel-elevated goblet squat and achieving stronger, more defined quadriceps. Remember, consistency and proper form are key to reaping the full benefits of this exercise while minimizing the risk of injury.

A man performing heel-elevated goblet squats with a dumbbell
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Source: @rxrealm

10 Heels Elevated Goblet Squat Variations & Alternatives

1. Narrow Stance Smith Machine Squats

Stand inside the Smith machine with your feet close together, narrower than shoulder-width apart.

Hold the barbell across your upper back and shoulders, gripping it slightly wider than shoulder-width.

Lower yourself by bending your knees and hips, keeping your back straight and chest up.

Focus on pushing through your heels as you rise back to the starting position.

This variation targets the quadriceps with an emphasis on the inner thighs.

2. Sissy Squats

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands resting on your hips.

Lean your upper body backward at an angle while bending your knees, moving your hips forward.

Lower yourself until your thighs and torso form a straight line, or your thighs are slightly below parallel.

Push through your heels and return to the starting position, keeping the tension on your quads throughout. Repeat the sissy squat move.

3. Hack Squat Machine

Position yourself on the hack squat machine with your shoulders under the shoulder pads and your feet elevated on the platform.

Grip the handles and unlock the safeties, then lower yourself by bending your knees.

Focus on pushing through your heels to extend your knees and return to the starting position.

This machine variation isolates the quadriceps while offering back support.

4. ½ Rep Leg Extensions

Sit on a leg extension machine with your ankles secured under the padded bar.

Extend your legs fully, then lower the weight only halfway down before lifting it again to the fully extended position.

Finally, lower the weight completely to complete one repetition.

This technique increases time under tension and intensifies the work on your quadriceps.

5. Short Step Walking Lunges

Take shorter steps compared to traditional lunges to keep the focus on your quadriceps.

Step forward with your right foot, lowering your body until both knees are at 90-degree angles.

Push through your right heel to return to the starting position and repeat on the other leg.

6. Narrow Stance Leg Presses

Sit on a leg press machine with your feet positioned shoulder-width apart or closer.

Place your feet high on the platform to ensure your heels are elevated.

Lower the weight by bending your knees, then press the weight back up through your heels to engage your quads.

7. Barbell Hack Squat

Stand upright with a barbell behind your legs, gripping it with an overhand grip.

Squat down by bending your knees and hips, keeping your chest up.

Push through your heels to rise back up, engaging your quadriceps and glutes.

8. Backward Sled Drags

Attach a sled to a harness around your waist.

Walk backward while pulling the sled, maintaining a slight squat position.

The eccentric loading of the quadriceps during the drag emphasizes muscle engagement.

9. Landmine Lumberjack Squat

Insert one end of a barbell into a landmine attachment or corner of a room.

Hold the other end with both hands in front of your chest.

Squat diagonally across your body while keeping your heels elevated and your core engaged.

10. Wall Sit

Stand with your back against a wall and slide down until your thighs are parallel to the ground.

Hold the position, ensuring your heels are elevated off the floor and your thighs are engaged.

Focus on maintaining the correct form and hold the position for a set duration.

Common Heels-Elevated Goblet Squat Mistakes To Avoid

The heels-elevated goblet squat is a valuable exercise for targeting your quadriceps and improving lower body strength. However, like any exercise, performing it with incorrect form can lead to ineffective results and potential injury. To maximize the benefits of this exercise and minimize the risk of mistakes, it’s essential to be aware of common errors and how to avoid them. Here are three key pitfalls to watch out for:

Not Letting Your Knees Travel

One of the most crucial aspects of the heel-elevated goblet squats is maintaining proper knee alignment. Allowing your knees to cave inward as you descend into the squat can put unnecessary strain on your joints and compromise your form. This mistake can potentially lead to discomfort and injury over time. To avoid this error:

Focus on Your Knees

As you squat down, ensure that your knees track in line with your toes. Imagine your knees following the same path as your toes to maintain alignment.

Engage Your Hip Muscles

To prevent your knees from collapsing inward, engage your hip abductor muscles (outer thighs) by actively pushing against the resistance.

Upper Back Rounding

Maintaining a strong and stable upper back is crucial for proper squat form, especially during the heels-elevated goblet squat. Allowing your upper back to round can compromise your posture and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise. To prevent this mistake:

Keep Your Chest Up

Focus on keeping your chest lifted throughout the movement. This helps maintain a neutral spine and prevents rounding of the upper back.

Engage Your Upper Back Muscles

Imagine squeezing your shoulder blades together as you hold the dumbbell or kettlebell close to your chest. This engagement will help you keep an upright posture.

Improper Foot Placement

Correct foot positioning is essential for stability and targeting the right muscles during the heels-elevated goblet squat. Placing your feet incorrectly can throw off your balance and diminish the exercise’s benefits. To ensure proper foot placement:

Evenly Distribute Weight

Make sure your weight is evenly distributed between both feet. Avoid shifting too much weight onto your toes or heels, as this can affect your stability.

Maintain Heel Elevation

Ensure that your heels remain elevated throughout the entire movement. Placing too much weight on your heels or allowing them to come down can alter the exercise’s mechanics.

A man performing heel-elevated goblet squats with a kettlebell
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Muscles Worked by the Heels-Elevated Goblet Squat

The heels-elevated goblet squat is a versatile exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, making it an efficient choice for developing lower body strength, stability, and overall functional fitness. By understanding the specific muscles targeted during this exercise, you can tailor your training regimen to achieve your fitness goals more effectively .Here’s a breakdown of the key muscle groups worked by the heels-elevated goblet squat:

Quads (Quadriceps)

The quadriceps, a group of four large muscles located at the front of your thigh, are heavily engaged during the heels-elevated goblet squat. The elevation of your heels shifts the emphasis onto the quads even more, making them work harder to extend your knees and lift your body weight. This exercise targets the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris muscles that make up the quadriceps group. Strong quads contribute to functional movements like walking, running, and climbing stairs, as well as enhancing athletic performance.


While the primary focus of the heels-elevated goblet squat is on the lower body, your core muscles play a crucial role in maintaining stability and proper posture throughout the movement. Holding the dumbbell or kettlebell close to your chest activates your core, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis. This engagement helps you stabilize your spine, protect your lower back, and improve overall balance during the squat. Strengthening your core through this exercise enhances your overall athleticism and supports better posture in daily activities.

Upper Back

The heels-elevated goblet squat also engages the muscles of your upper back, which play a role in maintaining an upright torso during the movement. To prevent rounding of the upper back, your rhomboids, trapezius, and posterior deltoids work to keep your chest lifted and your shoulders in proper alignment. As you hold the weight close to your chest, these muscles are activated to provide stability and support, contributing to a strong and confident posture.

A man performing heel-elevated goblet squats with a barbell
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Benefits of the Heels-Elevated Goblet Squat

The heels-elevated goblet squat is a potent exercise that offers a range of benefits for individuals looking to enhance their lower body strength, overall muscle development, and posture. By incorporating this exercise into your fitness routine, you can achieve well-rounded results that extend beyond just your quadriceps. Let’s explore the advantages of the heels-elevated goblet squat in detail:

Targeted Muscle Growth

The primary advantage of the heels-elevated goblet squat lies in its ability to specifically target your quadriceps. By elevating your heels, you shift the focus of the squat onto the front of your thighs. This alteration in mechanics intensifies the workload on the quadriceps, promoting muscle growth and strength in this crucial muscle group. Strong quads are not only essential for functional movements but also contribute to better knee stability and joint health.

Easy to Perform

One of the notable benefits of the heels-elevated goblet squat is its accessibility to individuals of various fitness levels. The exercise is relatively straightforward to perform, making it suitable for beginners while still offering a challenge to more advanced athletes. The use of a dumbbell or kettlebell held close to your chest provides added stability, making it easier to maintain proper form throughout the movement. This simplicity allows you to focus on targeting the intended muscle groups without the complexity of more intricate exercises.

Reinforces Good Posture

Maintaining good posture is essential for overall health and well-being, and the heels-elevated goblet squat can play a role in reinforcing proper alignment. Holding the weight close to your chest encourages an upright posture, preventing the rounding of your upper back and promoting a neutral spine position. As you engage your core and keep your chest lifted, you build strength in the muscles responsible for maintaining optimal posture. This positive posture reinforcement extends beyond your workout, contributing to improved body mechanics in your daily activities.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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