Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up
Turkish Get-up: So Good, You Don't Wanna Skip It
You'll notice a big difference between the Get Up and all the other movements in this fundamental series. That's because it is different, in a really great way. The Turkish Get Up (TGU) falls into the category of Grind Exercise. Do it a couple of times and you'll understand why.
You are simple getting off the ground in a controlled way with a kettlebell above your head. The TGU will test your abilities, highlight your weaknesses in structure and alignment and when done right will fix them.
Let's dig in and find out.
Turkish Get-up Form
First things first: do not start with a weight! You do not want to get lost in the sequence of movements with a heavy weight swaying above your head. Learn to get up with a light object (a shoe, a water bottle) or a very (we cannot stress it enough: very!) light kettlebell, and only then move to a heavier weight. Do not rush through the movement: take all the time you need to memorize the steps.
It is better to start with your weaker arm (let's suppose it is your left arm). If you can perform the movement with your weaker arm, you will be able to perform it with the strong one too. If the weight is too heavy for the weak arm, lower it.
1. Turkish get-up starts from a lying position. The bell stands on the floor, around your chest level, with its handle parallel to your trunk. Roll to your left side, put your left shoulder on the ground, and move your left hand all the way into the closer corner of the kettlebell handle (your hand should fill the entire "window" of the handle). Then, overlay your left hand with your right hand and use it to lever the bell up, rather than pulling it up with one hand.
2. Roll onto your back. Bend the left knee, place the left foot on the floor, extend the right leg at approx. 45-degree angle in relation to your body. (If you straightened your legs up now, you would find yourself in a half-starfish position). Make sure that the forearm of the loaded arm is perpendicular to the ground.
3. Press the kettlebell up: over your chest. You can use the opposite hand to help yourself press the bell up. Lock your elbow. From now on, your left arm must remain straight: do not bend your wrist, do not soften your elbow.
4. Put your right arm on the floor, palm-down, at approx. 45-degree angle in relation to your body. From this moment on, keep your eyes fixed on the bell (don't look down on the floor, don't check out other gym folks).
5. Roll to the right side, onto your elbow. Open the chest towards the ceiling. With your right palm flat on the floor, roll your right shoulder back into its socket and thrust your hips off the ground as hard as you can – until your left thigh and your torso form a straight line.
6. Bring your right knee back into a kneeling position, behind the level of your right hand. Lift your right hand off the ground – to bring your torso to an upright position. When you are upright, both your right and left knees should be at 90-degree angles.
7. Stand all the way up: with your left arm straight overhead, your right arm extended to the side (for balance), your torso and legs tight and locked out.
Sit back down (repeat all the movements in reverse order):
8. Return your right knee to the ground. Remember: keep your eyes fixed on the bell, do not look down on the ground.
9. Slide your right arm down your right thigh – to find the floor. Put the right palm flat on the floor.
10. Slide your right leg all the way through – to sit down on the floor.
11. Lower onto your right elbow, then onto your right shoulder, then on your back – until your torso is flat on the floor.
12. Bring the elbow of the left arm, holding the bell, down on the floor.
13. To put the weight down, grab the bell with the free hand and roll it off to the left side.
14. Repeat with the other arm.
Frequent Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
1. Too heavy. Even if you feel (or actually are) very strong, learn the movement with a superlight weight first: use a very light kettlebell or, if you do not have one, any other light object you can conveniently grip, for example, a small water bottle. Even better: make a fist, put a shoe on the knuckles, and learn to perform the get-up without dropping the shoe.
2. Too fast. Do not rush through the movement. Sooner or later, you will have a heavy bell hovering over your head. You do not want to lose control over it just because you are too eager to get done with the exercise. If you do not have the patience to go slow, you better find it – or avoid the Turkish get-up altogether.
3. Barbell grip. Your wrist should be straight and your knuckles should be pointing up towards the ceiling (as opposed to a barbell grip). If you hold your kettlebell with a barbell grip, you may put unnecessary stress on your wrist. Moreover, it may cause your shoulder to sway around in the overhead position.
4. Moving your supporting arm. Once you have placed the palm of your supporting arm at the 45-degree angle, do not move it until you get up from the floor. While on the floor, your palm should remain glued to that single point; otherwise, your body might find it hard to figure out where the support is.
5. Not looking at the bell. Keep your eyes fixed on the bell throughout the movement. Do not look down at the floor: you know where it is – right under your feet. If you look away from the kettlebell, you risk losing your balance. You don't wanna do that. Remember: heavy chunk of metal over your head?
6. Soft arm. Once you have extended the arm holding the bell, it must remain straight throughout the rest of the movement. The wrist, the elbow and the shoulder should be aligned. No "barbell" grip on the kettlebell, no soft elbow, no swaying of the shoulder.
7. Soft body. If you rush through the movement rather than doing it in a slow, controlled manner, your body might lose the necessary tension. Keep everything engaged: your legs, your arms, your core. If your form breaks, you also need to take a break. Do not perform the Turkish get-up under fatigue.
Non-boring History of a Non-boring Movement
A staple of old-time strongmen, Turkish get-up is not your classic, intuitive movement, where you simply pick heavy stuff from the ground or press it overhead.
It is a movement which you need to genuinely comprehend, memorize and learn, step by step, and then perform: slowly and thoughtfully, with precision and control.
Some sources link its origins to Turkish and Central Asian wrestling and grappling traditions: because a wrestler needs to be capable of controlling a heavy weight and outlive his opponent while down on his back. Some of them would even use a person as a weight instead of a barbell or kettlebell (talk about the ergonomics of gym equipment!). Be it as it may, you do not need to do it with a person. How about a time-tested USA Iron kettlebell?
Georg Hackenschmidt – an early 20th-century Estonian strongman and the first world heavyweight champion in professional wrestling – is said to have lifted 187 lb (85 kg) for one rep and 110 lb (50 kg) for five reps while sitting in the Turkish Style (All Round Body Strength by Charles A. Smith).
Because it builds strength from the ground up, Turkish get-up is a great exercise for any martial artist and cage-fighter.
It is also beneficial for skiers, runners, other track and field athletes, because it helps create a solid base throughout the whole body: from your legs, through your core, to your arms – to efficiently send the force from your lower to upper body, and in reverse.
But hey, let's talk about its benefits in greater detail.
Benefits of a Turkish Get-up
How easily can you stand up from а lying position? Do you even know how to do it right, in the most efficient manner?
Turkish get-up covers many movement patterns, which are (or should be) natural to a human: you roll, you lunge, you hinge, you balance, you stand up. The weight you are holding in one hand will ultimately help you learn the most efficient and energy-conserving way to do it: because if your alignment and trajectory are out of the ideal path, the weight will sway and demand you to correct it.
In a Turkish get-up, you will learn to control, balance and stabilize the weight, move slowly and confidently, transition from one movement to another and adjust your movements and trajectories – for a better output.
It is both hardcore and meditative: getting you into the flow and in control of your body and mind. It is an ultimate beast move without the explosive aggression of ballistic exercises.
Now you are ready to try this beast of a move. Show the world what you've got!