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