The Turkish Get-up is one of the best exercises out there for injury prevention and strength. The movement can be done unweighted, but is most commonly combined with a kettlebell for a kettlebell Turkish-get up.
Kettlebell Turkish Get-ups can be dangerous at first – after all, you are laying on the ground, holding a weight directly overhead. As you learn about this movement and continue to practice, take your time!
Patience and consistency is key.
What is a Turkish Get-up
In the simplest sense, a Turkish Get-up (TGU) is when you lay on the ground while holding a weight straight over your head, then stand up. Then you reverse that entire movement until you arrive safely back on the ground.
Don’t let this short description fool you. This is actually quite a complex movement, one which involves not only a number of physical skills, but also physical and mental coordination at the same time.
The Turkish Get-up requires shoulder stability and control, core strength, and leg drive. Learning this exercise will teach you how to move with control and coordination.
Where did the TGU get it’s name
I wasn’t able to find one agreed upon origin of the Turkish get-up, although I did come across a number of different theories:
1. Legend has it that when old-time strongmen were asked to take on an apprentice, they would send the applicant away, telling him not to return until he could perform one Turkish Get-up using a 100-pound weight.
2. It is also believed that ancient wrestlers in what is now Turkey invented the get-up to prepare for their grueling competitions. History also reports that Turkish Janissaries used the get-up as a part of their strength training regimen.
3. Russian soldiers used kettlebells to prepare for war. It made them strong and provided them with the endurance they needed for battle.
Regardless of where it got it’s name, one thing is certain – the Turkish Get-up will get you fit in a hurry.
What are the benefits of the Turkish Get-up
If you want to expose your weaknesses and imbalances, this is the exercise for you. 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 for 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.
How to do a kettlebell Turkish Get-up
Remember, this is a complex movement. Slow down. Breathe.
When you first start, practice bodyweight only. Then, try a shoe on top of a closed fist. It will help you identify balance points without the danger of a weight overhead.
Don’t worry if you feel confused or frustrated at first. It’s a lot of steps to remember. It takes time to walk your body through each step and remember the correct positioning.
With patience and time, you’ll master the TGU soon enough!
- kettlebell or other weighted object
- Lay flat on the ground on your back. Bend your right knee and place your foot flat on the ground.
- Holding the kettelbell in your right hand, make sure the kettlebell is on the outside of your arm and press it straight up in the air. Keep your arm "stacked," with wrist, elbow, and shoulder all in a straight line.
- Place your left hand out from your body at a 45° angle with palm down.
- Keeping the kettlebell directly over your right shoulder, press through your right foot to sit up and lean on your left forearm.
- Press off your left forearm and into your left palm, continuing to keep the kettlebell stacked directly over your right shoulder.
- Press hard through your palm and your foot. Squeeze your butt and press your hips high to the ceiling. Aim to make a straight line with your body from your left heel to your left shoulder.
- Swing your left leg under you, kneeling on your knee. Your left hand, left knee, and left ankle should now be in a straight line.
- Press off your left hand while swinging your left foot behind you. You should now be in the bottom of a lunge, with the kettlebell still directly over your right shoulder.
- Press through your right foot to stand, bringing your left foot next to your right and standing tall.
- Keeping the kettlebell stacked directly over your right shoulder, you're now going to reverse all the steps! Step backwards with your left foot and lower into a lunge.
- Lean to the left, placing your hand on the ground and swinging your left foot in line with your left hand and left knee.
- Press into your left hand and right foot and swing your left leg straight back in front of you.
- Sit down on the ground.
- Lower yourself to your left forearm.
- Staying slow and controlled, lower yourself back down to a lying position, keeping the kettlebell stacked over your shoulder.
- Slowly lower the kettlebell back down to the floor.
- Switch to the other side and repeat.
Ready to step up your TGU game? If you feel super strong and stable with your kettlebell, try using odd objects. Things with different shapes and weights can challenge your stability in different ways. Some people even do them with kids and other small adults!