The Turkish get-up – strength and mobility in one exercise
The Turkish get-up is slow and measured climb from the floor to your feet and back down again. An old-time strongman move and a modern functional exercise. You can do it with no weight – a naked get-up- or with as much weight as you can comfortably manage. With weight, the get-up will work virtually every stabilizer and prime mover muscle in your body – hard. The Turkish get-up is to mobility what the hardstyle kettlebell swing is to conditioning. It’s the best all-round mobility exercise you can do.
Getting up and down from the ground
When was the last time you sat or lay on the floor? Kids do it all the time. As adults, we use grown-up furniture like chairs, sofas and beds. We hardly ever get down on the floor. But spending time at ground level is a natural human behaviour. And getting up and down off the ground is a fundamental human movement pattern. And what we don’t use we lose. It gets more difficult, eventually challenging, and ultimately impossible. Falling down and being unable to get back up again is a life-threatening risk many seniors have to live with. But you should be able to get up and down from the ground confidently and comfortably all your life. And the Turkish get-up restores this essential movement pattern – and then some!
THE TURKISH GET-UP – STEP BY STEP
The get-up is a series of 6 sequential positions linked by fluid movement.
It’s performed in one direction and then repeated in reverse. You can start from the floor and return to the floor. Or you can start and finish standing.
Learning the Turkish Get-up
For your safety, learn the Turkish get-up sequence without a kettlebell. You don’t want to be tying your legs in a knot with a heavy kettlebell overhead.
Starting from the floor is the easiest way to learn the moves and their order. Begin by practising only half a get-up – from the floor to standing. Repeat the sequence until you’re completely comfortable on both your left and right sides.
Only then is it time to tackle the sequence in reverse.
What follows is a quick description of a Turkish get-up – not a how-to guide.
If you want to learn to do the Turkish get-up safely – check out our Beginners’ Kettlebell Class.
Lie in the foetal position facing the kettlebell. Grip it in both hands and roll onto your back bringing the kettlebell with you. With both hands press the bell overhead. Pack the lifting shoulder and arrange your arms and legs in the starting position.
Doing the Turkish Get-Up
The leg on the same side as the kettlebell is bent with the foot planted. Your other leg is straight and angled at 45° with the supporting arm parallel.
Focus your eyes on the kettlebell and keep them there.
Position 2 – The elbow prop
Plant the foot of your bent leg and power the kettlebell toward the ceiling as you roll up onto the elbow of your supporting arm.
Position 2 – the elbow prop
Position 3 – Tall sitting
Screw the supporting hand into the ground and come up into a tall sitting position.
Position 3 – Tall Sitting
Lift your hips as high as off the ground as you need to sweep your straight leg through to kneeling.
Position 4 – Kneeling windmill
Kneel with your knee, foot and supporting hand in a straight line on the floor. The kettlebell arm and shoulders should be stacked over the supporting hand.
Position 4 – kneeling windmill
Position 5 – The lunge
Straighten up, lifting the supporting hand off the floor.
Sweep the kneeling leg round into the lunge position
Only now let your eyes leave the kettlebell and look straight ahead.
Position 5 – the lunge
Position 6 Standing Plank
Keep looking forward and step forward into a tall standing plank with the kettlebell held overhead.
Position 6- standing plank
Repeat the moves in reverse to return to the starting position and the Turkish Get-Up is complete
Once you’re back in the starting position, use both hands to bring the kettlebell down to your chest. Roll over into the foetal position to return the kettlebell to the floor.
What does a Turkish get-up Look like?
So, put it together and what does the get up look like?
The short video below is a demonstration from two (slightly) different angles.
Benefits of a naked Turkish get-up
Without weight or “naked”, the get-up challenges your range of motion, improving your mobility as a result. But the full benefits of the get-up are subtle. And increased range of motion isn’t all it has to offer.
Naked Turkish get-ups
- Train your opposite limbs to work together – left and right hand, left and right leg
- Teach your left and right arms to coordinate with their opposite legs and vice versa
- Ask your left and right brain hemispheres to work together improving cross-body movement patterns like gait
- Develop your balance, stimulating all three of your essential balance systems – visual, vestibular and proprioception
- Sharpen your ability to shift your weight forward and back
- Enhance your spatial awareness
Before you start performing Turkish get-ups with a kettlebell you need to own it. If you’re not confident with the whole movement, doing only the individual moves or sections you do own with weight is a great option. Practice the other movements naked, and when you’re ready can you add weight to the whole get-up.
The benefits of a weighted Turkish get-up
Train the Turkish get-up with a kettlebell and you get all the benefits of a naked get-up and more.
Weighted Turkish get-ups
- Expose weakness in your get-up movement pattern, reinforcing linkage and eliminating strength leaks
- Strengthen your joints
- Promote upper and lower body stability – together and individually
- Teach you to pack your shoulder joints and get you ready for heavy pressing
- Develop the reflexive stability of your trunk and arms and legs
- Go heavy and it’ll really work your midsection, lats, shoulder stabilizers and shoulder girdle
Training the Turkish get-up
The focus is always on the quality of the moves, not adding weight and making it harder for the sake of it. A good get-up is a fluid display of strength, power and control. Aesthetically pleasing and beautiful.
The get-up should take anywhere between 30 and 60 seconds. Going slowly exposes any weaknesses. And if you can’t do it slowly you’re hiding something. You’re not ready to go heavier until you can do a get-up with your current weight very slowly.
If you can do a get-up with anywhere near a third of your body weight then you know you’re in good shape. Half your body weight is truly strong and a worthy goal.
It’s time to make the Turkish get-up part of your training
Getting up and down off the ground is a natural human movement. But the world we live in encourages us never to go below sitting height. The simple act of getting up off the floor is a restorative functional exercise. The Turkish get-up makes it truly powerful. And the movement can be adapted to suit all abilities. Using a kettlebell is the easiest way to add weight to a get-up, but anything heavy will do – barbell, dumbbell, sandbag, as long as you keep it safe.
The Turkish get-up. One exercise with so many benefits. Can you afford not to make it part of your training?
Hi, I’m Ralph
I’ve been training with kettlebells for 15 years and certified as a StrongFirst instructor in 2015. And I’ve been teaching kettlebells ever since.
Why StrongFirst? Because StrongFirst sets the standard for kettlebell instructor certification.
Kettlebells build the strength and mobility needed for life’s physical challenges. The essential fitness that’s vital for your long-term health and longevity.
I teach regular kettlebell classes in Edinburgh.
If you’re not local to Edinburgh, I can help you 1-2-1 online.