Improve Your Athletes Turkish Get Up

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joe DeLeo

Joe DeLeo is a full time Strength & Conditioning Coach at Lawrence Memorial Hospital Performance & Wellness Center in Lawrence, Kansas. He coaches inside a sports performance and physical therapy clinic at Rock Chalk Park. He works with athletes returning directly from sports rehabilitation as well as athletes focused on performance in the sports of baseball, basketball, golf, soccer, swimming, track & field, and volleyball.

In October of 2018, Joe was named the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Portuguese Rowing Federation. 

// The Turkish Get-Up Body Movement

The Turkish Get-Up (TGU) is one of the most versatile exercises you can do. For the general population, it can help people re-learn how to get off the floor and back down to the ground with control, which is particularly beneficial for older folks. In terms of athletic development, the get-up requires you to move through multiple archetypal patterns, including the lunge, hip hinge, and overhead press. As you cross the midline in the sweep, you’re challenging your vestibular system, while the rolling element taps into the neurodevelopmental sequence. The get-up can also serve as a gateway into other movements. For example, if you emphasize the high kneel position, it can set you up well to try the kettlebell windmill and then the bent press. I not only utilize the get-up with the rowers I coach, but also with baseball and softball players, swimmers, and athletes in just about every other sport. It brings together movement integrity, alignment, and posture. 

The get-up is a true total body movement. “For the fitness and medical professional, the TGU serves as a fundamental movement primer, a corrective exercise, a conditioning system, and a movement screen. It is a useful tool to both detect and address movement pattern asymmetries and weaknesses,” says Gray Cook. (1)  It gives you a unique appraisal of left-right symmetry, which can be especially useful for athletes who usually favor one side or another (think baseball pitchers, football quarterbacks, etc.) Not to mention developing mobility in the t-spine, ankles, and hips, as well as shoulder stability. If you’re working with athletes/clients who are pressed for time, the get-up gives them a lot of bang for their buck. When combined with the ballistics of the kettlebell swing, it provides 90 percent of what most people will need from an athletic point of view. This is why Pavel’s Simple and Sinister program is a classic one-two punch.

Get-Up Technique Errors and How to Fix Them

A lot of people are intimidated by the get-up because it’s so technical. Yet rather than seeing this as a deterrent, I see it as an opportunity to pursue lifelong progress and mastery. That being said, there are quite a few common errors people make that can hold back their get-up, and even put them at greater risk of injury as they lift heavier bells. Here are a few I see a lot, along with how to correct them:

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1. Fetal Position to Roll Fail

One of the most pervasive errors in the get-up occurs when an athlete is lying on their side. They often hold the bell too far up their torso toward the chest and collarbone, rather than it being lower down next to their stomach. This means that when they start their roll, their arm is already up. This not only means that their forearm is flexed toward their feet, but also sets them up for other compensations later in the lift and means they have to fight the bell to keep their arm in an optimal position.  

The fix is pretty simple. It starts with making the athlete aware that success in the get-up requires a solid setup. I want them to establish a positive habit of starting out by pulling the bell into their stomach. Then they need to wait until they roll to their back and press with their elbow from the floor. This will ensure their active arm is at 90 degrees and puts the individual in a more biomechanically efficient position. They might be able to get away with a poor first segment when using an 8 KG bell, but I tell them that they should imagine that they’re trying to do a get-up with a 36 or 48 KG weight, and to move accordingly with lighter weights. We’ll work on getting the fetal position right, and then rolling and extending the active arm correctly.

2. Spine Bending, Not Hip Hinging

Another common error occurs during the transition up from the floor or back down onto it. Here, instead of hinging at the hips as they move from the sweep into the lunge, the athlete flexes their spine. This places an undue load on a structure that isn’t designed to bear it, which can become painfully obvious over time as they progress to heavier weights and/or more repetitions. 

I often have to demonstrate this mistake. Then I’ll have the athlete assume the open half-kneel position and practice sweeping into the lunge. We’ll go through the whole sequence on the way up, and then again back down. I want them to feel their weight shifting underneath them, so I’ll often have them close their eyes as they do it. Just taking away one of their senses really helps them focus on that weight shift by increasing their kinesthetic awareness. First we’ll do this unloaded and then I’ll have them use a light load with a spotter making sure they don’t drop the bell.

3. Active Arm Askew

Even if an athlete doesn’t make the first two mistakes, they might well fail to keep their arm aligned correctly. In a textbook get-up, the biceps should stay above the head as if there was an imaginary line going from behind the ear up that arm and all the way to the bell. Yet as people transition through the stages of the get-up, their arm often drifts, moving it away from their center of mass. This not only makes the lift harder, but also jeopardizes their shoulder health as they lose alignment. 

To call attention to this technique no-no, I’ll often have the athlete see what’s going on in a mirror. After they’ve seen what’s going wrong, I also want them to feel it, so I’ll have them pause at the various transition points. First I’ll have them try to keep their arm in proper alignment. Then we’ll go again with the arm slightly out of position. You can do this unweighted, but recognize that when the athlete holds a bell aloft again, their positioning is likely to change. So have them pay attention to their arm and shoulder positioning with a weight after they recognize the error, which will increase their proprioception and increase the likelihood of making the necessary correction.

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