This Exercise Gives You More Bang for the Buck Than Any Other
Find out how to do the TGU and why it is so beneficial for your body. Levi Markwardt is an expert kettlebell instructor and unconventional trainer.
How do I “Get Up?”
First, make sure you’ve warmed up. Your shoulders, hips, t-spine, etc. are all heavily involved. I will also break the get-up into pieces (arm bars, windmills, lunges, etc.) and use them individually to prepare for the get-up as a complete movement.
Of course, standard lunges, pushups (creating tension), and pull-ups (hollow position) are all excellent movements to add to a warm-up for the get-up. Other stretching drills like 90/90 and the Bretzel are valuable additions as well.
Turkish Get Up Steps
STEP #1: Flat on back, right arm vertical, shoulder packed, elbow and wrist locked. Right knee bent and right foot flat on floor. Left arm and leg approximate 45⁰ angle from body (I personally coach the get-up in 5 steps assuming the load is in the right hand)
STEP #2: Drive right arm up towards the ceiling while using right foot to drive body through left shoulder and onto left elbow
STEP #3: Straighten left arm, keep eyes on load
STEP #4: Low sweep – lift hips as needed by pushing down with right foot and left arm. Place left knee where left hip was while eyes are still on load
STEP #5: Slight side hinge and transition to tall kneel position – eyes forward once stable
STEP #6: Stand to lockout. Once standing, pause briefly to show control before reversing process. Reverse steps on return to ground (follow picture top left clockwise)
Tips & Positioning for the Turkish Get Up
Use both hands to lift the KB (or DB/BB) off the ground to the starting position
Do your best to maintain a neutral position with the wrist
Wrist and elbow on loaded side are locked and shoulder is to remain packed throughout
The heel of the foot on the loaded side stays planted during the low sweep, the lunge, up to standing and the reverse of these actions
The loaded arm is to remain vertical
Important TGU Tips
It’s important to progress slowly as you learn the steps. Take your time and control your breathing – time under tension is a good thing, especially in the beginning. I’d also encourage you to use different types of loading – kettlebell, barbell, dumbbell, etc. Each implement will offer different feedback. But wait until you’re confident with a kettlebell or dumbbell before progressing to a barbell.
If you find yourself at a sticking point in your practice, break the steps down again. With new clients, I often teach the get-up one step at a time. Meaning, we’ll start on our back and work on transitioning to the elbow, then return to the floor. Elbow, then back to the floor. Then we’ll go from floor to elbow to arm straight, then back to the elbow, and back to the floor. Slowly adding a step until it becomes automatic.
This takes as long as it takes. In my coaching experience, the low sweep (step #3) seems to give people the most trouble. If that’s you, practice without loading until you can do it with your eyes closed. Then progress to a lighter load.
The get-up is a skill, like anything else you’d practice. The more time you spend on it, the more efficient you become. Sounds pretty obvious, right? But like anything these days, it’s easy to rush the steps or not spend the necessary time practicing the get-up as a skill. Personally, I program the get-up (for myself) like many others would squats or deadlifts. For me, it’s not just a warm-up/cool-down movement. It gets my full attention. I’ve programmed it for volume and for 1RM attempts, depending on where I am in my own training.
So, for example, let’s say you’ve become confident and efficient in the get-up. You can move through all 10 steps (five up, five down) in half a minute or less and feel stable and confident in each position. From here, I’d recommend adding sets on the minute. Meaning with a clock running – you perform one get-up on the right then rest until the top of the next min, when you’d perform one get-up on the left.
If you were to follow this format, alternating sides each min, you’d have 10 reps (five per side) in a shade under 10 minutes. Once this is easy (completing each rep with good form in sub 25 seconds) – add a rep each minute. You can either do one per side each min or two consecutive reps on one side each minute. Do NOT expect to double your workload in 10 minutes on your first attempt. Maybe you can keep pace for five or six minutes and then have to drop back to one per minute alternating sides to finish out the 10-minute session. Slowly work towards hitting that goal of 20 reps in ten minutes (this example).
Once you can complete 20 in ten, add weight. So this program format would be “sets, reps, weight.” This format is something I picked up from Mark Reifkind (Chief Instructor Strength Matters) and have used variations of this to really take my get-ups to where they are now. By the way, there’s nothing magical about ten minutes. You may need less time in the beginning, or more.
Same with loading. Start where you are. But following this basic formula (and slight modifications of time/reps/load) I’ve taken my get-up from a 20kg kettlebell to a shade over 91kg on a barbell. At that time, 20kg was all I could handle. If you give the get-up the attention it deserves, you will respond! Consistent practice will give you results.
How to Advance Your TGU
For those familiar with the get-up, I also like to use chains and bands to really help me focus and increase difficulty. You can find examples on my YouTube Channel. My thought is, “If chains and bands can help the ‘big 3’ power-lifts improve, then they can help my get-up as well.” And they have! I also play around with different variations – the crossover and the overhead squat, for example.
More ways to increase time under tension is to add snatches at the top of the get-up or even a waiter carry for time or distance. Just like one would program different variations of the deadlift (deficit, rack pulls, etc) to increase their 1RM, I take that same approach. But again, you must be competent in the regular version discussed here. You can get very, very strong and efficient practicing regular get-ups and the “sets, reps, weight” format from Coach Rif.