It takes a very special kind of exercise to require you to move through more than a half-dozen distinct movements twice per rep. The Turkish get-up does exactly that. While most moves have you raise a weight and lower it, the Turkish get-up does this unilaterally and across multiple planes of motion.
Learning the Turkish get-up can be a lot to handle, but it’s well worth the effort. The Turkish get-up offers a legion of benefits for a host of training goals. Want to get stronger across your big lifts? Grab a kettlebell and perform some get-ups. Looking to improve your overhead mobility and stability in one fell swoop? Turkish get-ups. Searching for a unilateral movement that will increase your full-body strength, coordination, and help prevent injuries all at once? Learn the Turkish get-up and integrate it into your program to kickstart pretty much any gym goal you have.
Strengthen Barbell Lifts
The Turkish get-up puts your body through nearly every move you’ll have to make in your major barbell lifts. You’ll achieve hip extension through your one-legged glute bridge. Knee dominant movement will come in during the overhead lunge. You’ll press the bell overhead to begin the lift, and be forced to maintain a packed shoulder with solid overhead mobility and stability during your entire movement. Your anti-rotation stabilizers in your core will also be engaged the entire time.
Performing the Turkish get-up properly is about making sure your movement quality remains high, all while you’re getting stronger. Because of this focus on technique, properly-performed Turkish get-ups have been shown to have a strong potential to strengthen complex barbell movements by reinforcing both form and strength across the entire body.
In order to maintain solid overhead strength and stability, you need enough thoracic mobility to establish and hold a good position. Why is all that necessary? One of the fastest ways to injure your shoulders is to not have enough positional strength to successfully complete an overhead attempt. Your hips also need adequate mobility to prevent strains during moves like squats and deadlifts. And pretty much all heavy lifts require core strength to keep your torso rigid and safe.
The good news is that Turkish get-ups build the mobility, stability, and strength that you need all across your body. Sure enough, this move has been shown to help prevent injuries by building up hip, shoulder, and core resilience.
If you’re a lifter whose idea of cardio is a set of eight squats, you might want to work on increasing your work capacity and conditioning. That doesn’t mean condemning yourself to hours on the treadmill if traditional cardio isn’t your jam. Instead, you can turn to Turkish get-ups for a one-move conditioning workout that will have you breathless in all the best ways.
This single move comprises many smaller steps that take you from lying on the ground to standing up and back again. Because of all these steps, the Turkish get-up provides a low-impact but high-intensity conditioning workout all in itself. Just a two to three sets of a three to four reps on each side are likely to leave you so exhausted you’ll be wondering why you didn’t choose the treadmill.
Even the most complex barbell lifts generally require a maximum of two or three fundamental movements. The clean & jerk, for example, involves a hip hinge, a pull, and a vertical press. That’s a tremendous amount of movement to integrate into one exercise. But the Turkish get-up offers even more moves.
With a get-up, you’ll be moving through a hip hinge, a knee-dominant move, and transforming a horizontal press into an isometric vertical press. And because it’s unilateral, you’ll be actively resisting rotation the whole time. It’s rare that you get to practice so many cornerstone movements in a single rep of an exercise. The Turkish get-up packs it all in there to help even out your program and any movement asymmetries you might have.
The Turkish get-up is a unique, dynamic full-body move that trains your shoulder isometrically. Once you press the weight up to begin the movement, your shoulder remains still throughout the lift in an isometric hold — even while the rest of your body is moving from the ground to standing and back.
This hold makes the Turkish get-up a potentially powerful tool to help rehabilitate athletes after shoulder sprains. Athletes can keep their shoulder still while strengthening it isometrically. At the same time, they’ll also develop full-body strength, coordination, and endurance.
Each phase of the Turkish get-up comes with unique benefits for both your weighted and unweighted side. (4) When you’re holding the kettlebell in your right hand, your right shoulder is receiving the benefits of pressing and stabilizing overhead. The grip strength in your right hand is challenged as you keep your wrist steady and make sure the bell is balanced. But the kettlebell isn’t the only weighted challenge your body has during the get-up.
While the bell is in your right hand, you’ll build strength by pushing your bodyweight up onto your left elbow and hand. Your left leg will weave under your body to come into a lunge position, which trains increased mobility, coordination, and strength.
When the weight switches hands, all these benefits switch sides, too. Therefore, you won’t only be fighting against strength asymmetries with the Turkish get-up. It also helps you to develop unique benefits on each side, all during the same rep. While one side is working on shoulder stability and thoracic mobility, for example, the other side is getting better at coordination and supporting your body weight. By improving your unilateral strength and coordination, you’ll be reducing all kinds of asymmetries that can negatively impact your big lifts.
Very few lifts require quite as many discrete steps as the Turkish get-up. Your left and right sides won’t ever be doing the same things during the same rep. This means that you’ll have to form a lot of complex neuromuscular connections to keep yourself stable, balanced, and coordinated. Without this coordination, you won’t be able to complete a proper get-up. The more you practice the move — and the heavier you’re able to go with good form — the more you’ll increase this full-body coordination.
This coordination won’t just improve your get-up abilities. It’ll translate over into more complex lifts — think snatches and cleans — because you’ll be learning so much more about your body and how it moves through space. The better you know your body and how it moves, the more effectively you’ll be able to train complex barbell lifts.
During the Turkish get-up, if you don’t keep your glutes engaged, your back will be prone to unintentional hyperextension. If you don’t continually engage your core, your rib cage will flare. Both lower back hyperextension and rib cage flare are compensations to avoid during your big lifts like the deadlift, overhead press, and squat. The Turkish get-up allows you to practice maintaining a rigid torso — with no undesired rib flare or hyperextension — which will help promote a stable spine during your big lifts.
Everything from your wrists and shoulders to your hips need to have adequate stability to make this move effective. If your hips aren’t stable enough to support a unilateral glute bridge, you won’t be able to complete a rep. Similarly, without adequate overhead stability through your shoulders, you won’t be able to properly complete the overhead lunge portion of the lift. In these ways, the Turkish get-up will reveal the places where you might want to improve your joint stability.
By practicing the get-up — first, unweighted and with very light weights, and then with heavier weights — you’ll be able to address these issues with your joint stability. If there are one or two parts of the lift in particular that are giving you trouble, you can practice those segments in isolation until they feel more natural and stable.
Improve Thoracic Mobility
The Turkish get-up promotes a great deal of joint stability at pretty much every juncture. However, to perform it properly, you’ll also need to develop solid thoracic mobility. You’ll be performing a kettlebell windmill and a unilateral overhead lunge during each rep. That means you’ll develop enough mobility in your upper back to ensure that you can stabilize the weight overhead above a packed shoulder. This thoracic mobility carries over nicely into moves like overhead carries, overhead squats, snatches, and even clean & jerks.
How to Perform the Turkish Get-Up
Performing a get-up doesn’t only take a lot of technical skill — it’s also a lot to learn in terms of how many steps there are to performing it. To get started, practice each step on its own until you can master it. Then put a few steps together at a time until you have the whole thing committed to muscle memory.
Exhale each time you engage the next pressing or pushing movement. Inhale as you take small pauses between each aspect of the movement. Even when you flow through all of these steps seamlessly, you should maintain slight pauses between moves to breathe, stabilize yourself, and maintain excellent form.
- Lie in a fetal position, facing the kettlebell on your right side. Grab the bell with your right hand. Tuck the curve of the handle into the padding between your thumb and index finger. Carefully roll onto your back, allowing the bell to roll into a lying version of a front rack position.
- On the ground, extend your left leg and arm both out and away from your body at about 45 degrees. Bend your right knee at about 90 degrees and plant your right heel into the ground. Carefully press the bell up with your right hand. Pack your shoulder by retracting your right shoulder blade. Make sure your right wrist, elbow, and shoulder are all in alignment.
- Drive both heels and your left hand into the ground as you peel your left shoulder off the floor. Make eye contact with the bell and keep your feet on the floor as you rise up onto your left elbow, then your left hand.
- Ground down with your right foot and extend your hips into a three-sided glute bridge.
- Slide your left leg under your body until your knee is planted underneath your hips, as for a lunge.
- Still maintaining eye contact with the bell, trace your left hand up and toward your left side to bring your torso upright.
- Windshield-wipe your left leg into a regular lunge position.
- Lunge up to standing.
- Stabilize at the top, then reverse each step until you’re lying down again.
How to Program the Turkish Get-Up
The way you integrate the Turkish get-up into your program depends not only on your goals, but on your experience level with this move. If you’re just beginning to learn this exercise, break the steps down into different segments and program each one into your warm-up. It’ll help with mobility and can also help activate the muscle groups you’re working that day.
For example, peeling your shoulder off the floor and rising onto your elbow and hand without letting your feet pop off the ground takes a tremendous amount of core strength. That makes this part of the move a great option before core-intensive workouts. Rising into your three-sided glute bridge might be especially useful when warming up for deadlifts, while coming into your overhead lunge may be particularly helpful while preparing to squat.
If you’re slightly more experienced with the Turkish get-up but can’t move weight with it yet, try programming a few sets of two or three reps per side in your warm-up to activate your muscles and ramp up your heart rate.
Once you’re able to move significant weight with the get-up, it can become a more central part of your conditioning and strength routines. Program a few sets of three to four reps per side when you want to get in a conditioning session that will make you stronger all around.
Get On Up
Regardless of your goals, the Turkish get-up can likely help get you there. Want to improve your conditioning? Turkish get-up. Want to get stronger, more mobile, and more stable all at the same time — across your entire body? You guessed it — the Turkish get-up. You can use this powerhouse of a move to help get you closer to pretty much any training goal. Just make sure you’re taking it step-by-step and keeping your form locked in the whole time.
- Collum, Connor MS; Weeks, Macy MS; Schnetzer, Allyson MS, LAT, ATC; Snarr, Ronald L. PhD, CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F Turkish Get-Up: Correcting Common Kinematic Errors and Translating Movements to More Complex Lifts, Strength and Conditioning Journal: February 2022. 44(1): 119-127.
- Ayash, A., & Jones, M. T. (2012). Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up: Training Tool for Injury Prevention and Performance Enhancement, International Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training, 17(4), 8-13.
- Shaw T. Clinical application of the Turkish Get-Up to an acute shoulder injury in a competitive Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athlete. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2019 Jul;23(3):628-633.
- St-Onge E, Robb A, Beach TAC, Howarth SJ. A descriptive analysis of shoulder muscle activities during individual stages of the Turkish Get-Up exercise. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2019 Jan;23(1):23-31.
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