When you see a Turkish getup in the daily programming, do you dread it or are you excited? Have you ever wondered why we choose this rather complicated way of folding ourselves under the kettle bell, just to lift it overhead? And what about it exactly is Turkish?
Let’s name the beast first – the one arm getup is one of the oldest lifts that exist. It is believed that ancient wrestlers in what now is Turkey used this movement as a training lift to prepare themselves for competition. It may not immediately look like it, but standing up from the ground with a weight in one hand has huge potential at building strength, especially in the lifter’s shoulders. Long before equipment like the barbells and plates we use today, strongmen didn’t compare their heaviest bench press or even their back squat. They tested strength in terms of how heavy an object they could lift overhead, one or two-handed.
So – why do we do Turkish getups today, given we have all the possibilities to load a squat? Also there are more straightforward techniques of getting a weight overhead, surely? The answer lies in the complexity of the Turkish getup, which really is a sequence of movements woven together.
Here is how you do it:
Executed with proper form, the Turkish getup gives us a vast array of benefits:
1) Balance, Control, Coordination
The Turkish getup is a functional movement in the sense that is the safe and most efficient way of standing up from the floor with a weight in our hand. However, it’s not a skill we are born with. The hardest part for me was balance and coordination, learning where exactly to put hands and feet to let me move through the various stances. Once we add weight, the challenge is controlling the KB overhead as we move through the getup. This requires a great deal of stability in our midsection, extremities and shoulders and also body awareness of where we are in space whilst keeping the KB centered above our shoulder. Summarizing all these things you could say the Turkish getup not only makes us stronger, it also teaches lifting – how to move with precision, under load, through multiple planes.
2) It makes us better movers
When executing a Turkish getup under load, our feet push off the ground, producing a force that eventually shifts the KB overhead. The only way this power can transfer from the feet to the hand is through a rock-solid midline. We all know that bracing our abs and keeping them tight throughout a movement is essential for pretty much anything we do in CrossFit, or in fact as we move through life. The beauty of the Turkish getup is that we get feedback immediately – the weight we are holding overhead will feel unstable as soon as we let go of midline tension. Once we are used to keeping the abs engaged in a heavy getup, it will be a lot easier to hold a hollow position in a push up or pull up, and it may even let us move more weight in an overhead squat or deadlift.
3) Confidence getting under heavy weight
Possibly the best effect of performing heavy Turkish getups regularly is confidence in having big weights overhead. If you ever struggled with a 1 rep max Clean and Jerk or a heavy Snatch in the Olympic lifting program, you’ll know that believing in yourself can often make all the difference. Knowing you can do getups with a big weight will help you lift heavy things overhead in other movements as well.
Convinced yet? Here are the most important things to consider for safe execution:
- Overgrip: Grip the kettle bell hard, and slightly over grip it, so the weight is centered above your shoulder. Don’t let the weight pull your wrist into overextension.
- Elbow straight: Lock out the elbow. You want the weight to rest on the skeletal structures of your body which is only possible with a fully extended arm under the kettle bell. As soon as your elbow bends, you rely on your muscles to support the weight and we all know muscles fatigue. Don’t let that happen with a massive kettle bell hovering above your face!
- Shoulder packed into its socket: The shoulder supporting the weight needs to be screwed into its socket where it’s stable. Un-shrug and pull your shoulders away from your ears. Imagine you are trying to pull the shoulder blades into your back pockets.
- Ribcage locked down: Lock down your ribcage to your pelvis, by way of your abs. Hold this tension throughout the entire movement sequence.
As always, quality of movement goes before big weights. Start unloaded or with a light KB and focus on getting the positions and transitions right. There’s no harm in going slow and pausing in each of the positions to check you abs are engaged, the elbow is locked out and the shoulder is in a stable position. Once you’ve nailed the movement sequence, add weight. If you keep adding weight, you’ll primarily build your strength levels in legs, hips, midsection and shoulders.
For a little extra challenge to your balance and control skills, change the object you lift. Once you can perform Turkish getups with a 20kg kettle bell comfortably, try using an empty barbell. Make it light (10 or 15kg) to begin with and see what difference the new object makes. Turkish getups are a good travel workout as well. You don’t need much equipment or even gym-specific weights. As long as you can grip and hold an object with one hand you will be able to perform a getup with it.
Have fun! And let me know how you get on =)
Workout of the Day:
Every 90 seconds, for 15 minutes (5 sets of each), alternate between:
Clean (squat) x 1+1+1+1
(rest 10 seconds between singles)
3-5 Strict pull-ups (add load if possible)
3 rounds for time:
10 Hang power cleans 70/45kg
15 Burpee over the bar
Extra Credit – Oblique Development
Overhead walking lunge: 3-5 x 30m per side
Workout of the Day:
A) One-arm Thruster
10x each side @ 12kg, 16kg, 20kg, 24kg
B) Two-hand KB Clean & Press Team Ladder @ 2x16kg
P1: 5x C&J
P2: Hold KBs in Rack position until P1 is finished
Switch tasks, repeat
Five sets (25x C&P [each] total)
Do not set KBs on floor, hold in Farmer position if absolutely necessary
5x every 30 seconds for five minutes with “rest” in Plank/ FLR