bad teeth

With the growing popularity of one of my absolute favorite exercises I thought I would do my part to give you a little rundown of the history and proper form so you don’t end up eating a kettlebell.  What I am talking about is the kettlebell Turkish Get-Up (TGU).

The price of a mouthguard: $7

The price of a 32kg kettlebell: $180

The price of your dental work when you drop a 32kg bell on your face: $6,000+

Mastering the Turkish Get-Up: Priceless.

The objective of the TGU is simple, go from a prone or lying down position with a weight in a fully extended arm to a full standing position and back down again.

It stems back over 200 years and was used as a write of passage for Turkish wrestlers in which a beginner would not be allowed to advance in their training until they could perform a 100lb get-up.  They would have to masterfully and gracefully go from a lying position to a standing position with the bell above their head.  If you look at most Americans, they have enough trouble getting up without a weight.  Go figure.

The benefits of the Turkish Get-Up include total body core strength, flexibility, stability, balance, strength, symmetry, body awareness and coordination.  Many of the things that most people lack and are unaware they lack until they attempt this exercise.

I have seen several variations over the years but the one I have chosen to follow is the “hardstyle” or RKC style as I was originally taught.  I don’t view this as being “better” than other versions but it does have a definitive “corrective” component and is good for pointing out weaknesses and imbalances.

Personally, I use it as sort of a diagnostic test with many of my clients to point out things that they should be working on to correct imbalances and weaknesses.  It is not an exercise of strength but rather of “balance” since it involves your entire body and “core”, although doing a TGU with a 40kg bell displays some pretty great strength.

As a general guideline, I never do a kettlebell TGU with a client that can’t do it naked.  To clarify (and to avoid lawsuit)  this means empty handed.  Other implements work as well such as a shoe and what I was taught with, a cup of water.  I tried this method with a client and quickly reverted back to the shoe as I was the one who ended up getting wet…

Here is a step by step breakdown of the TGU with a few things in-between that you should be looking out for:

Start by lying on your side at full length and grasp the kettlebell with both hands.

This is more for safety than technique.  Practice good form from the start to avoid looking like a meatball when you advance to using the heavier bells.

Roll flat on your back keeping the kettlebell against your chest.

From start to finish, your wrist should remain flat in order to develop wrist flexor and grip strength.  If you can’t maintain good wrist position then decrease the weight of the bell.

Good 🙂

Bad :*(


Keeping your wrist flat, press the bell straight above your chest. Keep your lat and your pec engaged to stabilize your shoulder.

If the bell is in your left hand, lower your right hand to about 30-45 degrees (your hand should be in line with your hip). Bring your opposite foot up to just outside your hip keeping the knee UP.

These placements are very important as it sets you up for the rest of the exercise.

Go up to your right elbow keeping the arm with the bell straight up. (1) Note the hand still by the hip, (2) right leg does not move, and (3) opposite knee is still pointed straight up.

Diagnostic tip #1:  If the extended leg pops up off the ground when you are going up to your elbow, you may have a core weakness that needs some work.  That leg should remain almost motionless as you move to your elbow.  The knee that is bent should also not collapse inward as you come up.

Push up to your hand which is still by your hip.

Press your hips up to full extension. There should be a straight line between the kettlebell and opposite hand on the floor to maintain balance.

Diagnostic tip #2: If you are unable to fully extend your hip then you may have some work to do on hip extension.  Squeeze those glutes!

Sweep your right leg through bringing your knee behind you. Your knee/hip should be close to your hand.

Use your core and a smooth movement to bring your torso upright to the half-kneeling position. 90 degrees at both knees and tall in the spine.

Diagnostic tip #3: You should not have to push off the ground to get to this position as your core should do all the work.  If you aren’t able to do this smoothly you have some core work to be doing.

Put all your weight on the front foot (heel to midsole) and stand straight up without hesitating. Keep your lats engaged (shoulders back and down) keeping the bell straight up.

Step back with the same leg you stepped up with and return to the half kneeling position.
Rotate your rear leg slightly inward and bring your hand to the floor near your hip in a controlled movement. Keep your eyes on the bell.
Bring your rear leg through and extend your hip up once again.
Sit down in a controlled motion, your knee should still be pointing up.
Return to your elbow.
Move down to the floor, control your core.
Grab the bell with both hands.
Bring the bell down to your chest.

Roll the bell off to your left. Bring your body OVER the bell and repeat on the opposite side.

As you can tell, it is an easy exercise to f%$& up so the only way to fully master it is to practice, practice, practice.  I usually begin my clients by performing 5 sets on each side empty handed until they master the execution then move to a 8kg bell or other light object.  Dumbbells work if you don’t have access to kettlebells.

Once you are able to cleanly perform 5 sets on each side then I suggest trying multiple reps on each side without putting the bell down.  This really hammers down on shoulder and core stability and will help you advance to heavier weights.

If you are interested in learning more about this extremely badass core exercise then I recommend checking out Kettlebells: From the Ground Up, The Kalos Sthenos by Gray Cook and Brett Jones.  It is seriously the most comprehensive guide to the get-up I have ever seen.

Written by Steve