Get Up – Get Strong!
I love the Turkish Get Up. It’s an old time strong man type movement that carries a massive amount of benefits and is a worthy inclusion in practically every training program.
The thing with the Turkish Get Up (TGU) is that it looks fairly straight forward but in reality is incredibly technical and warrants a high degree of skill to master it – especially when things start to get heavy.
Gray Cook, physical therapist to Navy Seals and NFL players said “The Turkish Get Up is the perfect example of training primitive movement patterns – from rolling over, to kneeling, to standing and reaching. If I were limited to choosing only one exercise to do, it’d be the Turkish Get Up.”
The movement itself involves taking a kettlebell from the floor from a lying position, face up with said kettlebell pressed at arm’s length. The objective is to get to standing and safely back down again while keeping the kettlebell at arm’s length and with minimal adjustment to position on the way up and down.
There is a high degree of concentration required in performing the TGU. When weight is added it requires even more focus and body awareness and control which increases as the weight climbs.
The movement in itself is one of the most beneficial exercises that can be performed for many reasons. Here’s a few.
– With no weight it becomes a useful mobility drill which can improve hip/thoracic/shoulder mobility in addition to improving unilateral leg strength and general body stability. It is a useful teaching aid in teaching older or less mobile clients how to get up should they fall down.
-With light weight in addition to being a fantastic mobility movement it also makes for a superb warm up drill.
– The TGU can be used on recovery days for higher reps and light weight to help restore and recover tight and aching muscles.
– The TGU is an AWESOME strength movement that improves the co-ordination, strength and stability of the entire body but specifically the shoulder, spine, trunk, hips and legs. Yes it does have BIG carry over to lots of seemingly unrelated tasks.
– Every rep of the Turkish Get Up is another opportunity to practice finding the correct positioning so that minimal adjustment is needed on the transition up or down. It almost becomes a moving meditation – completely in the moment.
I have been working on the TGU since October 2013 as I wanted to include it as part of my pressing routine for added stability and strength.
My initial plan looked like this:-
TGU Pyramid 12 – 28kg – 1 rep each side at each weight adding weight and or reps at the top end as perception of ease increased.
Then single arm pressing ladders of 1-3 reps * 5
TGU – 24kg for 5 singles each side
Single Arm Speed Pressing 16kg 2 reps each side for 8-10 sets.
TGU – 10 minutes of continuous reps – up/down with 26kg Kettlebell adding weight as perception of ease increased.
Single Arm Pressing Ladders of 1-5 reps * 3
In addition over the week I included a healthy dose of Goblet Squats, Swings and Sandbag Carries.This worked nicely for a good few weeks and both lifts began to feel better.
Around November time the 40kg bell was becoming the top weight on the pyramid and it was slowly becoming easier.
A visit to the Kettlebell Fever The Strength Matters Summit in December with follow up trip for monkey business to the awesome The Commando Temple saw me hit a personal best 44kg each side on the Turkish Get Up. I was chuffed with this lift and so onwards to the 48kg Beast bell was the next logical step.
My practice at home had always been limited to a degree by the fact that for 99% of the time I train on my own and don’t have a spotter on hand. With a heavy, near max weight then it’s always best to have someone with quick hands or failing that really take time in becoming comfortable with one weight before moving on to the next.
My kettlebells only went as high as 40kg so for Christmas I treated myself to a 44. All my training to this point had been using comp style bells but due to lack of availability in the UK at the time I plumbed for a kettlebell of different design with a much bigger base and smaller handle.
Sadly the investment set me back a good few weeks. The different design of the bell completely threw out my mechanics and after a couple of failed attempts and near misses my confidence took a hit.
I gave my good mate Rob Blair a call and asked his advice for the next stage as Rob had been doing very nicely with the 48kg and above. The answer was simple and straight to the point (as is usually the case with Rob!) – “Get the 40 and get that f*cker over-head and walk with it!” Of course, I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it myself but sometimes the simplest answers are right there in front of you!
I modified my program which by now had become less about the press and more about the Turkish Get Up – as Pavel says – Keep the Goal the Goal so all other distraction was removed from the program.
It looked like this:-
TGU Pyramid up to 40kg for 2-3 singles each side (adding singles each week up to 6 each side).
Waiter Walks 40kg Push pressed into position 20m each arm for 2-6 sets.
Bat Wings done in 10 second holds * 3 for 3 sets.
Single Arm Pressing ladders / swings / goblet squats
TGU 10 minutes of work – 36-40kg depending on feel.
Racked Walks with 32kg single or double 28’s 20m * 5-8 sets.
Weighted chins in ladders of 1-3 * 3
I had tried 4 days per week but it felt too much on the back of the forearm and I would slip into feeling stale. 3 Days seemed to be the sweet spot. It worked like a dream and 10 minute sets became the norm with the 40kg bell and pyramids up to 44kg became more common place.
Into April 2014 and I felt ready to have a bash at the BEAST or 48kg Bell. There is a problem with the 48kg bell aside from the weight and that is the fact that it’s called the Beast. As Paul Mcllroy said “It’s just another weight” once you get out of the mind-set of “Sh*t, it’s the Beast so it must be hard” then psychological progress can become easier.
I attempted it with my mate Gary on the camera and managed to muscle it up – it was far from pretty – encouragement going forward! The program continued to work like dream and now the “Beast” which was once the dream goal for the TGU has become something of “Normal” for me. That’s what I LOVE about strength – when seemingly impossible feats become the norm….There is still room for improvement but isn’t there always?
Since I started my Get Up journey I have enjoyed numerous benefits that have happened consequentially from working on heavy Turkish Get Ups.
My mobility and stability have improved hugely. Now a 40kg kettlebell over head is no big thing and the 48 feels as comfy as 48kg resting on the back of the forearm is ever going to feel.
The most noticeable area that improved was my tyre flipping. In December I just about managed to flip the 350kg tyre with a big struggle and several failed attempts.
I tried it again in March and it practically flew over. I remember Rob asking me what I had been doing and I simply replied “it’s the Turkish Get Ups.”
It’s been a great journey so far – the next mile stone is the 56kg bell. It’s a way off for now but if this beast journey has taught me nothing else it’s that time spent in the Turkish Get Up is time well spent.
Get Up – Get Strong.
Thanks to my brother Adi for the superb digital artwork.
More of his work can be found by visiting The A.V-S Digital Art and Photography.