The Turkish get-up is a deceptively simple-looking exercise that can be challenging to learn, but it is incredibly effective for developing total-body strength. A long-time favourite of the wrestling and martial arts communities, the Turkish get-up (TGU) has become a staple of many workout programs, thanks to the incredible popularity of kettlebell training.
The Turkish Get-Up enables you to identify asymmetries between the left and right side of your body. For runners, this is a huge injury-proofing benefit. Once you dial in this movement and each of its steps along the way, you will start improving your overall mobility, stability, and the often-overlooked time under tension.
The get-up gives instant feedback as to what you need to work on. Think about this for a moment. The get-up requires you to hold one arm in a stable overhead position while moving through multiple planes of motion, finding points of stability in the anterior, lateral, and overhead positions, all while supporting yourself with one hand and transitioning from lying to kneeling to standing.
I recommend to start with only bodyweight and practice the TGU with no resistance to learn the proper movement sequencing and coordination before progressing to using an external load. The TGU is typically performed with a kettlebell, but it can be done with almost any weight, including a dumbbell, Sandbell or barbell.
The following steps are for performing a TGU holding a weight (or practice weight) in the right hand:
- Press the weight into position: Lie on your right side and hold the kettlebell with both hands so that your right hand is wrapped around the handle and your left hand is on top. Pull the kettlebell close to your body as you roll on your back and extend both arms to lift the kettlebell over your chest. Release the left hand and lay it on your left side at an approximately 45-degree angle while you bend your right knee and place your right foot flat on the floor. (Note: Throughout the entire movement, maintain a strong, tight grip on the kettlebell as if you’re trying to squeeze water out of a sponge.)
- Roll to elbow: With your right arm extended and your left arm to the side, lift your right shoulder off the ground as you curl your trunk to end up on your left elbow.
- Post to hand: From your left elbow, push your left hand into the floor as you maintain a straight spine and come up to an almost seated position.
- The bridge: Push your right foot into the floor as you straighten your left arm and left leg to lift your hips off the floor. (Note: Push the hips into full extension while leaning on the left arm.)
- The sweep: As you hold the bridge position with your right foot pressing into the floor, bring your left leg back and place your left knee on the floor (Note: During this phase, your arms should make a straight line from the floor up to the kettlebell to ensure optimal strength and stability of the shoulder girdle.) Remove your left hand from the floor as you move into a kneeling position with your left knee and right foot on the ground.
- Kneeling to standing: Continue to hold your right arm overhead as you press your right foot into the ground and swing your left leg forward (performing a lunge) to bring the feet next to one another.
- Return to the ground: Step back with the left leg and slowly lower to a kneeling position. Place your left hand on the floor and move your left leg to the front of your body as you hold the bridge position between your left hand and right foot. Slowly lower your hips to the ground before rolling all the way back to a supine (face-up) position.
Tips for Perfecting the Technique
- At the start of the exercise, if the right arm is holding the weight in the air, then the right knee should be bent and the right foot placed on the ground.
- Cook stresses that it is essential to take the time to learn each phase of the TGU and to not hurry the learning process.
- Don’t rush the movement—focus on bracing the abdominals to maintain spinal stability while moving through each step of the exercise.
- Breathe normally—breathing should be natural and relaxed.
- Your body follows your eyes. It is best to look up and keep your eyes focused on the kettlebell during the movement to help you keep your spine long as you transition to the standing phase.
- Practice the kneeling-to-standing portion with your arm extended overhead to develop a strong and stable shoulder that can support an extended arm throughout the entire movement.
- Because so many muscles are involved in the TGU, you will sweat a lot while practising and learning the movement, so be sure to use a non-slip floor or stretch mat.
- The transitions from the arm post to the bridge and from the bridge to the sweep and kneeling require sufficient hip mobility. Therefore, it may be necessary to stretch the hips before practising the exercise.