The Turkish Get Up

The Turkish get-up (TGU) is traditionally done with a kettlebell but dumbbells, sandbags, barbells and any other object that you can hold in your hands will suffice. There are various myths as to how it came about including of old-time strongmen who told an apprentice to return for training once the TGU could be performed with a 100 pound weight. It is also believed that ancient wrestlers in what is now Turkey invented the get-up to prepare for their gruelling competitions. Whatever legends surrounds this exercise, it’s truly awesome!

The TGU is often neglected or dismissed by people who do not understand how to do it or what it can do for the body. However, once you learn the movement, the benefits are huge.

The TGU is a tough exercise that exposes every weakness that you have such as asymmetries between the left and right side of your body. This exercise integrates every muscle in your body. If there’s a weak spot somewhere, you will find it very quickly—this is also one of the reasons why beginners especially have a hard time with the TGU. Personally I have done these with a 40Kg kettlebell and the workout is incredibly taxing physically and the mental concentration of moving with a weight also gives you a feeling of great satisfaction. As a martial artist I find this exercise beneficial for ground work as you’re moving under load.

If you break down the movement and do it correctly, you will see it has much to offer:

  1. a primitive rolling pattern,

  2. unilateral development,

  3. a lunge pattern,

  4. an overhead hold,

  5. two hip hinges,

  6. glute activation,

  7. core recruitment,

  8. improved leg drive, and

  9. rotator cuff stabilisation.

What will you gain from frequently practicing and performing Turkish get-ups?

  1. Improved shoulder stability and flexibility

  2. The ability to train the whole body as one unit

  3. A strengthened mid-section improving the reflexive stability of the core, and providing improved injury prevention

  4. Improved interaction of the muscular chains, intramuscular coordination, and improved interaction between the brain and muscles

  5. Improved fat burning capacity as large muscle groups are activated causing high calorie demands

The Turkish Get-up — Step-By-Step instructions

  1. Start on your back with the bell by your right side.

  2. Roll into the foetal position and scoop your right hand through the handle, using the left hand for assistance.

  3. Roll onto you back and press the bell to a full, locked out, straight arm position.

  4. Place your left arm and leg straight on the floor, about 45 degrees away from midline (like a snow angel).

  5. Place your right foot on the ground with your knee bent to 90 degrees and leading with the chest, drive into the ground with all three non-loaded limbs until you have rolled up on your left forearm.

  6. Keep both shoulders packed for the duration of the TGU and press through the palm of your hand until you left arm is straight (this is the “tall sit” position).

  7. Press yourself slightly off the ground as you swoop your left heel toward your right foot, bringing your left knee toward your left hand. As you place your knee on the ground make sure your left hand, left knee, and left ankle form a straight line on the floor.

  8. Hinge into the right hip, then drive to full hip extension (as if finishing a swing) into a ½ kneeling position.

  9. Make a “windshield wiper” motion with the left leg so that both legs are now parallel in the bottom of a lunge position.

  10. Dorsi flex the left foot (i.e. flex your foot so your toes are underneath you) and drive up to a standing position.

  11. Take a large step back into the bottom of the lunge position, and “windshield wipe” the left leg.

  12. Hinge at the hips and find the ground with your left hand (returning to that straight line with your left knee and left ankle).

  13. Kick the left leg forward to the tall sit position, then come down to your forearm.

  14. Roll down onto your back and into the foetal position to return the bell to the floor

That is one repetition, now you can see how demanding the exercise is. The video that is linked to the post will help you but due due to the complex nature of this exercise it is recommended to get professional help from a trainer qualified in Kettlebells.