Breaking it Down Turkish Style: Refining the Turkish Get Up

The Turkish Get-Up (TGU) is a fantastic movement to have in your fitness routine. This ‘old-school’ strongman movement from days of yore has enjoyed a resurgence with the Kettlebell/Functional Fitness/CrossFit revolution, and this is a good thing… kind of.
As with everything, when it becomes popular, it can sometimes suffer from the ‘telephone game’ effect: the end interpretation can sometimes omit important details and lead to incomplete/incorrect transfer of information (or technique, in this instance). To that end, a TGU requires a perfect combination of strength, flexibility, coordination and technique to execute properly and safely. Because of there being a working cascade of mobility and stability through so many joints and muscle groups during just one complete repetition, there are huge training benefits to incorporating this movement into your routine.  On the flipside, because there are so many joints and muscles working together in concert, there are many chances for error in proper execution. Having taught this and similar movements over the years, I have tried to be detailed but succinct in my description of the TGU. In doing so, I hope this makes a seemingly complicated movement more digestible and easier to process from a segmented approach into an eventually smooth singular movement.

As the old adage goes, ‘there is more than one way to skin a cat’, and the same applies here. There are many fantastic and safe ways to learn and be taught the TGU. I simply have described the most biomechanically safe and efficient way that I have processed and explained the TGU to my patients and clients over the years. Once you feel comfortable following the ‘step-by-step’ (insert NKOTB joke here… Oh man am I ever dating myself… and no, I am not a fan!), try to keep it smooth and let one phase blend into the other. This is a movement that you DO NOT rush. Be present and focused and never sacrifice form. And KEEP your elbow LOCKED out and arm PERPENDICULAR to the floor at ALL TIMES. Is this the perfect way to execute a TGU? No. (Yes it is!) Are there lots of great instruction on Youtube/etc.? Yes. (Mine is better!)

Long story short and kidding aside, the TGU is a great way to develop shoulder/hip/pretty much full-body stability, mobility, strength and coordination in a biomechanically sound way. I hope this description dispels any uncertainty for anyone new to the TGU and compliments/hopefully refines your technique if you are a seasoned TGU veteran. I will not stipulate exact reps and sets, but perhaps a diet of 1-2 days a week of TGU 5×5 (with a good warm-up/build-up) can help if any of the previously mentioned benefits are needing a little emphasis in your never-ending/but always-rewarding journey toward optimal health.

See below for the proper steps you should take when performing a TGU.

Happy TGUing,

 

Andrew Thomas, MScPT, BScKin
Athletes Advantage Physiotherapy
located at Saint City Fitness

1

1. Start on your back with the KB just off of the working side shoulder with working side hip flexed and heel close and just off to the side of your butt cheek. Notice opposite arm is about 45 degrees away from body palm flat.

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2. Roll toward the KB and grip it with BOTH hands no matter how light the KB is so you do not try to bring KB toward you and risk injury to the medial aspect of the elbow.

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3. Roll back to starting position and ensure the web space between thumb and index finger is at the top facing curve of the KB handle to allow wrist to be in a neutral (not extended) position.

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4. Press the KB from your chest to full extension at the elbow and wrist in neutral. Notice again that the grip of the KB is ‘off centre’ at the upper curve of the handle. Maintain full elbow lock-out and neutral wrist through the entire duration of the lift. Your gaze is always upward toward the KB.

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5. Drive through the heel on the KB side to ROLL up unto opposite elbow. DO NOT sit up. The KB arm will be perpendicular to the floor AT ALL TIMES.

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6. Press through the opposite hand to fully extend the elbow as shown. Keep KB side elbow locked out, wrist straight, and arm vertical.

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7. With a 3 point base of support, extend KB side hip by pushing through heel. Strive for full extension (straightening) at hips. Lift butt/keep core tight.

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8. Bring the opposite leg through to achieve a ‘tripod’ of support with support hand flat.

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9. Once you have hinged up to an upright lunge position with a hip-width base of support as shown, drive hard through the front heel to come to full standing.

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10. From standing, feet hip width apart and elbow locked out, step back with opposite leg and lower back to the upright lunge position (keep feet hip width to ensure good base of support and keep your eyes on the KB).

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11. From the high lunge, you hinge at the hip and find the floor with your hand flat (eyes on KB at all times). Hand should be ~45 deg off of the back knee to form a ‘tripod’ of support.

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12. From the ‘tripod’ shoot the back leg forward to full extension at the hip.

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13. With your hips as fully extended (straight) as possible, lower yourself down to sitting and propped up on the supportive hand (elbow straight).

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14. From the upright sitting position lower yourself back and to the side, weight bearing onto your elbow.

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15. From the elbow, continue to travel backward and to the side to come to lying on your back. ** Do NOT sit straight back, let your shoulder travel towards your elbow.**

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16. From lying, elbow locked out, lower the KB back down to your chest. This is a good place to stop and repeat if you are doing successive reps on one side. Continue steps 17-19 if you are finished/switching sides.

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17. From here, bring the other hand over top of the hand on the KB. Keeping it close to the chest, roll toward the side the KB is held.

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18. Hold onto the KB with both hands until it rests on the floor. Regardless of the weight, keep the KB close to control it and minimize stress at the medial elbow.

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19. From here let go of the KB and either use 2 hands to lift it to other shoulder OR (safer option) spin your body around and leave the KB on the floor to do the opposite side.

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Now that is a perfect turkish get up!

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