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The Turkish Get Up…One of the Most Complex and Beneficial Movement Patterns

The Turkish Get Up and I go way back.

All the way back to 2015 when I learned how to do one.

Ok so I exaggerated a bit. Having done my first Turkish Get Up four years ago, my love affair with this insanely effective movement pattern has actually been very short lived thus far…but I intend to keep the passion alive for all of my fitness eternity.

WTF is a Turkish Get Up and WTF does it do?

For the sake of ease, let’s just call it the TGU.

From a more simplistic standpoint, it’s a highly dynamic movement that immediately translates to lifting heavy sh*t. For lack of a less morbid description, the TGU entails a series of methodical movements that demand you transition your body  through multiple planes – from lying down to standing up and back to lying down – without crushing your head with the weight (usually a kettlebell) that’s stabilized overhead from start to finish.

But the better question is…what does it NOT do? The TGU wraps upper body strength, lower body strength, core strength, mobility, motor function, and overall stability into one magnificent movement. It requires focus, composure, control, and plenty of patience.

Why do a TGU?

I could write a novel on this, but let’s keep it basic for now…

  1. Promoting better mobility and stability. The TGU is unbelievable for overall mobility and stability throughout your core, shoulders, and hips. No other single exercise can hit all of this at once.
  2. They force you to slow the f*** down. These days, there seems to be a big emphasis on “more, more, more.” More reps. More time. More heat. More everything. But “more” does not mean “better”, and the TGU is exemplary of this. The TGU is not done for time. It demands control and coordination through a much slower pace than pretty much anyone operating in today’s “GO GO GO” fitness arena is prepared for. In fact, speed will more than likely destroy the movement quality of your TGU…so the slower the better.
  3. Cross lateralization. Huh? Sorry…nerding out over here. This basically means we get the right brain to work with the left side. Something we’re actually not challenged to do all that often, so there’s some great neurological development at play here. Not to mention, we’re challenged to move both unilaterally (one side at a time) as well as contralaterally (right leg ties to left arm, left leg ties to right arm)….all within ONE REP. What I’m saying is, the TGU takes your coordination to the next level.
  4. Hello, core work! I’ll admit, the obsession with “abs” drives me up a wall. I fully believe that you don’t need to do another crunch in your life to work your core and define your abs. You know when you perform a weighted squat, or a deadlift, or a push press? Core, core, core. Also…the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen” is absolutely true. But I digress. If there’s one movement that will put your core strength to the ultimate test AND effectively build it…it’s the TGU. Stabilizing a weight overhead while moving through various anterior, posterior, and lateral planes to stand all the way up and get all the back down demands a braced core all the way through.
  5. Time efficiency. Translation: you don’t need to spend an hour doing them to reap the benefits. This movement is so all-encompassing and challenging that less is often more. Whenever I’m short on time to get a full training session in at MAD, I’ll crank out 10 TGUs per side over the course of about 20 minutes…max.

Safety first, kiddos…

If you’ve made it this far into an article about one singular movement pattern…congratulations. Your attention span is greater than most. But the more important note I want to make relates to training your TGU. For your safety (and my peace of mind), please don’t just go picking up a kettlebell, slinging it overhead, and attempting a TGU if you’ve never in your life performed one.

If you’re eager, do some research (StrongFirst is the gold standard in kettlebell training and has an entire library’s worth of content surrounding the TGU). Watch videos. Start with a LIGHT weight. Better yet…start with a shoe balanced on top of a closed fist (this is how I learned it). Sounds ridiculous, but it’s actually very tricky to perform a TGU with a lightweight shoe and keep it balanced from start to finish.

As I said, the TGU is a complex and highly dynamic movement pattern…one which requires training. You’re best off first learning this movement from a fitness professional that understands it and knows how to coach it (note: there is a huge difference between someone being able to DO the movement, and someone being able to COACH the movement).

And if you’re NOT new to the TGU, but simply haven’t trained it in a while…what’s the hold up!?!?