Turkish Get-Up: Functional & Fun

The Turkish get-up is an excellent total body strength exercise formerly practiced by old-time strongmen and wrestlers. In the days of old, this was the first exercise given to aspiring weight-lifters to practice. It’s been said that no other exercises were given until the pupil could perform it with a 100 pound weight. Upon completing this goal, all the major muscle groups, small stabilizing muscles, tendons and ligaments of the practitioner have been significantly strengthened. In addition, the TGU has proven itself as an extraordinary exercise for developing strength, flexibility, and stability in the shoulder joint.

The Warm-up
The following exercise can be practiced by itself or in conjunction with the TGU. Not only is it a great shoulder and pectoral stretch, it builds strength at extreme ranges of motion.

  1. Lie on the floor, in a supine position (i.e. face up), next to an appropriate size kettlebell.
  2. Use both hands to press the kettlebell vertical – directly above your shoulder. Once in position, keep your elbow locked, wrist straight, and your eyes on the kettlebell.
  3. Post your foot close to your buttocks (same side as your working arm.) tgu185
  4. Push off the posted foot and roll over touching the knee of that leg to the ground. As you gain strength and flexibility in the shoulder, you can roll further prone – almost touching your hip bone to the floor as well as your knee. Be sure to keep your eyes on the KB. Rest your head on the supporting arm.
  5. Be sure to keep your working shoulder low, pulled into the socket throughout the movement, and the elbow locked.

tgu186

Tips:

  • Keep your reps low 3-5.
  • If something goes wrong, don’t fight the KB, just roll with it and let it drop to the ground. As long as you keep your elbow straight and locked, it will always fall away from your body.

The Turkish Get Up
Begin by following steps 1-3 described above.

  1. Lie on the floor, in a supine position (i.e. face up), next to an appropriate size kettlebell.
  2. Use both hands to press the kettlebell vertical – directly above your shoulder. Once in position, keep your elbow locked, wrist straight, and your eyes on the kettlebell.
  3. Post your foot close to your buttocks (same side as your working arm.)
  4. Allow the weight to drift slightly forward, then push off your posted foot and sit up. It is acceptable to allow your free arm to assist slightly in sitting up.
  5. From sitting, slowly move to the kneeling position. This can be done a number of ways. The main thing is to move slowly, keeping your working arm perpendicular to the ground and to finish in well supported, 3-point kneeling position (as illustrated in the following photograph).
    TGU demonstrated with 85lbs of live weight, Jeff’s 9 year old son, Michael.
    TGU demonstrated with 85lbs of live weight, Jeff’s 9 year old son, Michael.

  6. Slowly straighten your torso, then stand straight up.

    tgu013
    Performed at the Spring 2003, TN GS competition. Please, don’t try this at home!
  7. Now that the fist half of the TGU is over, simply reverse the steps until you have reached your starting point.

Tips:

  • Stay tight, move slow, keep your elbow locked, and your eye on the bell. This is especially important when transitioning from kneeling to sitting to supine positions. The combination of a bent elbow, a little momentum, and the sudden jolt of your back impacting the ground could cause the kettlebell to come crashing down. Unfortunately, the kettlebell trajectory ends right where your head lies. Spitting a few “Chicklets” would be the least of your worries.
  • Once safely back to the starting position, breath a sigh of relief than repeat for reps. Terminate the set by using both hands to return the kettlebell to the ground.
  • Keep your reps low 3-5 with moderate weight; singles with heavy weight. This exercise is best practiced in parts or with a spotter until all motions are mastered.

Rehabilitating Old Injuries
Mastering the TGU is well worth the investment of your time and effort. I’ve had a long history of shoulder subluxations/dislocations. I had two surgeries on my right shoulder (1985 & 1987) and one on my left (1989). Unfortunately, even after two surgeries, my right shoulder would continue to dislocate on a regular basis; sometimes while training, many times while sleeping. Talk about a rude awakening!

I was facing the grim option of a third surgery on my right shoulder, contemplating the ‘Law of Diminishing Returns’. Over a 15 year period, I diligently practiced every rubber band exercise and rotator cuff program known in the realm of physical therapy, but to no avail. In December 2001, Pavel taught me the TGU with a dumbbell. Kettlebells weren’t manufactured yet. I practiced this exercise with dumbbells, than later with kettlebells. Kettlebells are without a doubt superior and well worth the investment. Ultimately, I fabricated two 110 pound kettlebells. By Spring of 2002, I was performing singles with either hand, reaching my goal.

By God’s Grace and perfect timing, He placed the right person (Pavel) with the right exercise (TGU), when I needed it the most. Knowing what I know now, I’m thoroughly convinced that I could have avoided all three surgeries had I only known this valuable exercise.

My shoulders are more stable and stronger now than ever before. The range of motion completely restored. Best of all, I have not suffered a shoulder subluxation in years.

This success story has been repeated many times with the clients I train. Boxers, grapplers, NHB fighters, police officers, military personnel, and the average “Joe” or “Jane” have all reaped the benefits of the TGU.

Train Hard – Stay Safe!

“A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increases strength.” Proverbs 24:5