Turkish Get-Ups: The Best Exercise You’re Not Doing

Ever noticed something about some of the most effective, and difficult lifts? They all have names that attribute them to somewhere in the old Soviet Bloc or that region of the world.

I’m not sure if it’s because that region of the world is full of hardasses like Ivan Drago, or that sport science was years ahead of us for so long that they were just on the cutting edge of a lot of muscle building movements.

I’m inclined to believe both. Just look at this list.

  • Bulgarian Split Squat
  • Zercher Squat
  • Russian kettlebell swing (or just a normal kettlebell swing)
  • Romanian deadlift
  • Russian twist
  • Russian lunges
  • Turkish Get-Up

As kettlebells have gotten more mainstream, various kettlebell exercises have as well. It first started with the kettlebell swing, and then transformed into this weird ass movement that involves getting up and down from the floor holding a kettlebell overhead the entire time. It looks cool as shit, though a bit tedious.

That’s the Turkish Get-Up, and it’s the best exercise you’re not doing.

The Turkish Get-up is one of those exercises that work really well as a “catch all” type movement. It develops shoulder mobility, leg strength, core control, and shoulder stability, all in one movement.

One of the big reasons to start working in get-ups is because of the shoulder mobility and stability. Because we’re bros, we usually spend way too much time doing pressing movements. Think the bench press, overhead press, incline, dip, etc.

All pressing and not enough pulling can wreck your shoulders. Which is usually why shoulder injuries pop up for bros after years and years of pressing. It’s an overuse injury. It’s also why bros have awful posture. All of that pressing and not enough pulling leads to shoulders that are slumped forward, back muscles that are inhibited, and posture reminiscent of a caveman.

Turkish get-ups are a great way to open the shoulders up, as well as force the shoulder to work through various movements while stabilizing a weight overhead. Done enough, and this can really help “open up” the shoulder girdle. Which is really just a fancy way of saying you’ll be able to wipe your ass pain free again.

Another big reason is training through various planes of movement. We’ve got three planes of movement, sagittal, frontal, and transverse. For those who don’t know, here’s a brief rundown of the planes of movement:

  • Sagittal: flexion, and extension – think bicep curls, presses, lunges, etc.
  • Frontal: abduction and adduction – think lateral raises, lateral lunges, etc.
  • Transverse: rotation – think wood chopping

We spend a ton of time in the gym in the sagittal plane, a little bit in the frontal, and not much at all in the transverse. This can lead to weak obliques, poor movement quality, and potential injury risk.

Luckily, the get-up gets us moving through every plane of motion, and drills proper body control in all three. This leads to better movement quality, stronger movement, better positioning, and a decreased risk of injury. Fucking Turkish geniuses.

How to get-up.

The get-up is a little weird the first time you give it a whirl, and it will take time to learn. It’s not a move you should ever worry about setting a new max for. If you’re trying to see how heavy of a kettlebell you can do get-ups with, you’re just asking to wreck your shoulders.

In the video above, I give a pretty decent rundown of what a get-up should look like. Though there are a few things that I screw up, which you should know about.

1: My hips need to be pointed more towards the ceiling at the bridge position. They’re tilted towards the camera far too much.

2: I’ve got some balance issues that need to be cleaned up, though that might be because this is at the end of a workout.

3: Getting from the floor to forearm position looks like a crunch, but it’s not. It’s supposed to be a hip and shoulder drive type movement. If you do a crunch, you’ll have a little bit of rocking like I do.

You should be pausing at each transition point for a brief second, and no matter what your eyes should never leave the kettlebell. This is because keeping your eyes locked in is a very good way to keep the kettlebell in the proper position, which is good for your shoulders. If it gets too far forwards or backwards, you run the risk of serious shoulder issues.

The biggest thing about the get-up is to take it slow, and very light to start. You should be drilling proper movement before even attempting to do a get-up with something over 20lbs. Trust me, 20lbs is a hell of a lot heavier than you think when you’re holding it overhead for a minute or two.

When should you do them.

I love performing get-ups at the beginning and end of my workouts. I like to look at them as a type of mobility warm up or cool down movement. I use them to ingrain proper movement, loosen up my shoulders, get my abs firing, and get mentally prepared for a lifting session.

I generally never do more than 3 per side in a set, solely because that’s exhausting for the shoulders and quality is far more important than quantity with this type of movement.

Give them a try, and video yourself while doing them. That’s the easiest way to highlight what you need to improve on, and is the very reason I put that video in this article. So I could let the Internet mouth breathers tell me what I need to fix.