Ever try a Turkish Get-Up?

You may have heard of the exercise called the Turkish Get-up. While the exercise just recently has gained popularity all over the country from trainers to athletes, to your everyday fitness enthusiast, it actually has been around for hundreds of years. The story goes that the ancient Romans would have their prisoners perform Turkish Get-ups (TGU) for hours upon hours as punishment. Isn’t it funny how we now see this exercise as one of the best to help increase mobility, flexibility, and core strength?

An exercise like the Turkish get-up can be the perfect addition to your program to keep your core strong, shoulders safe and increase your proprioception. This highly dynamic movement has a huge carryover to lifting heavy things and live everyday life.

Here’s a short list of everything that we can get from within a single get up:

  • Single leg hip stability during the initial roll to press and during the bridge.
  • Both closed and open chain shoulder stability.
  • Shoulder mobility.
  • Thoracic extension and rotation.
  • Hip and leg mobility and active flexibility.
  • Stability in two different leg patterns – lunge stance as well as a squat stance.
  • Both rotary and linear stability.
  • The ability to link movement created in our extremities to the rest of our body.

Let’s elaborate a little more on a few of them that really can be beneficial:

It improves shoulder health By stabilizing a bell through multiple planes of motion, it requires stability in the anterior, lateral and overhead positions. Not to mention the other shoulder propping you up. The rotator cuff muscles are also called upon as you control the bell, making it an excellent rotator cuff strengthener.

It increases hip mobility Squats, deadlifts, running and most other lower-body movements require a good amount of hip mobility if you want to achieve full range of motion. The TGU requires you to move through large ranges of motion without compromising your structural integrity.

It strengthens your core Think of these exercises as the “super sit-up” with function. Keep in mind the core also involves the muscles around the thoracic spine, not just the abs. The whole entire torso, i.e. the core is called upon during the TGU. When you start to do the TGU with a heavy bell in your hand, you will feel your abs working, trust me.

The quick ‘how to’ guide

  • Keep in mind that there are books that describe how to do a proper Turkish Get-up. Yes, it is that complex and takes time and patience to understand and receive the full benefits. Below is simply a quick guide to get you started.
  • Start by lying on your side, for purposes of explanation we will assume you start on your left side.
  • While lying on your left side in a fetal position, with your left hand grasp a kettlebell or dumbbell.
  • With the weight in your hand and the free hand on top of the hand with the bell, roll onto your back and press the weight straight up like a bench press.
  • The right leg will go straight out in front of your while the left knee stays bent with the foot on the ground.  Then move your right leg out slightly to the right for a wider base.
  • Place the right arm on the ground to stabilize your body at about a 45-degree angle and use your left leg to help propel your body up off the ground. Do all of this while maintaining the weight up above you with the arm extended and shoulder packed (shrug shoulders down and back).
  • Next, take your right leg and kick it behind your body. If you can’t do this part of the TGU then stop there and go back to the beginning of the movement.  The knee should stay bent and be in line with the hand on the ground. Once the R. leg is behind you, rotate the leg until both knees are bent at 90 degrees. From this half kneeing on one knee) position stand up while maintaining the weight up in the air.
  • Now reverse everything you just did and go back to the side lying position.

Keep in mind:

  • Start with no weight and then add weight as technique improves.
  • For heavyweight, alternate arms for five reps each side. For moderate weight, I like two sets of two to three reps.
  • Please don’t perform reps with poor form. Quality over quantity on this one! You should have controlled breathing throughout the whole movement.
  • You are not performing a max squat; so don’t act like it during the TGU.

The Turkish Get-Up is a great exercise for anyone looking to improve his or her movement, performance in athletics or just plain feel better. Take your time with each movement and enjoy trying to master the movement.


Justin Grinnell B.S., CSCS is the owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing. He is also a certified nutrition coach. Reach him at 517.708.8828.


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