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Master the Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Steps

By Greg Brookes

Along with the Kettlebell Swing the Kettlebell Turkish Get Up delivers huge results. The Turkish Get Up, Turkish Stand-Up or Kettlebell Stand-Up is very different from the Swing in that it focuses on your small stabilising muscles and develops a solid functional movement foundation.

During human development we earn our right to progress onto more demanding movements. Babies learn to roll before they can crawl, and crawl before they can walk.

In today’s society of quick fixes, we are all too impatient and don’t want to earn our movement pattern skills anymore. Beginners often advance too quickly and end up injuring themselves.

The Kettlebell Turkish Getup will not let you progress too quickly. It will stop you in your tracks. If you have a weak core, poor mobility or weak stabilising muscles then you won’t be able to complete this multi-joint compound movement.

OK, it’s time to see what you are made of and to earn your right to move like an athlete.


Quick video of the Kettlebell Turkish Get Up:


8 Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Benefits

1 – Shoulder protection & rehabilitation

The shoulder joint is a very vulnerable area of the body, you have to have both good shoulder stability and shoulder mobility.

To keep the shoulder stable and in the correct position, it has small stabilising muscles which collectively make up the rotator cuff muscles.

These small stabilising muscles are often neglected in favour of the larger better-looking prime mover muscles called the deltoid muscles.

The Kettlebell Turkish Getup helps develop shoulder stability by strengthening the rotator cuff muscles. These smaller stabilising muscles ensure that the larger shoulder muscles have a solid platform to work from.

Failure to develop the shoulders in the correct order of stabilisers first and larger prime movers second are one of the most common reasons for a shoulder injury.

The TGU strengthens muscles that stabilize the scapula in an optimal position. The trapezius, rhomboids, and serratus anterior must be simultaneously activated to pull the scapula into a position of depression and downward rotation.” (Jones & Ayash 2012)

2 – Develop a functional core

Each hip joint is connected to the opposite shoulder via a muscular sling system that crosses the body. Get Ups develop this cross-body sling system and so naturally improves your rotational strength for racket sports, running and more.

Core stability is believed to be critical for injury prevention and the transfer of power throughout the kinetic chain during movement. During the TGU, the core is challenged to resist spinal rotation, flexion/extension, and side bending.” (Ayash & Jones)

3 – Safeguard against back pain

Turkish Get Ups are great for mobilising the hips and upper back. Flexibility in the hips and upper back ensures that the lower back does not have to rotate excessively protecting it against potential back issues.

The added core conditioning that you receive from the Turkish Getup also ensures that the lower back is better stabilised during movement.

4 – Improve posture

As you progress through the Turkish Getup you realise that alignment is essential. Completing Get Ups without good body alignment is very difficult. If your posture is not as good as it should be the Get Up will certainly highlight that and put your body into a better position.

5 – Full body integration

When performing the Turkish get up muscles are worked throughout the entire body. The real beauty of this exercise is that every major muscle group has to work with each other to complete the full-body movement.

The Getup is complex. It requires constant cross-overs between the left and right sides. Stabilising muscles must hold tight as larger prime mover muscles work in sync with them.

Joints must also be supple enough to align the body correctly throughout the movement.

6 – Assessment tool

We all have movement issues through the different planes of motion whether it is lacking adequate movement through the joints, weak core muscles, dominant large prime mover muscles, poor balance, or bad proprioception.

Get Ups will quickly highlight your problems and help you to overcome them. I frequently use the Turkish Getup as an assessment tool with clients to see an instant snapshot of their current movement skills.

7 – Improve overhead strength confidence

During Turkish Get Ups the kettlebell is constantly overhead. Developing stabilising strength and confidence through this movement will dramatically boost confidence for other kettlebell exercises like the Snatch.

As mentioned strong shoulder stabilising muscles are vital for shoulder health. Spending time developing the stabilising muscles through the Getup will provide a much healthier and stronger platform for your larger shoulder muscles.

If you struggle to press heavy weights overhead then this is the exercise for you.

8 – Warm Up

Due to the huge amount of muscle engagement and mobility required to perform Turkish Get Ups this exercise works well as a warm-up. A few Kettlebell Turkish Getups before each workout will prepare you nicely and also give you a quick snapshot of your daily health.

If you find the Get Ups warm-up challenging one day then you may want to reduce the amount of intended exercise for that workout.


How to do a Turkish Get Up

kettlebell turkish get up form

The Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Steps

Here’s how to perform the Turkish get up step by step using the proper form.

Throughout these instructions, I’m holding the kettlebell in the right hand and keeping the right arm locked out straight. The left hand and left arm are used to assist in standing and then returning to the starting position.

1 – Arm Extension

From the Fetal position roll onto your back and help the kettlebell into the straight extended arm position. Don’t take your eyes off the kettlebell.

Rotate your right arm until it sits nicely in the shoulder joint. Use the left hand to adjust the kettlebell position so it lays comfortably against the back of the forearm.

Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Step 1
Step 1

Common Mistakes:

  • Bent wrist – keep the right wrist straight, do not let it cock backwards
  • Shoulder not down in its socket – pull the right shoulder down and into the floor
  • Arm not locked out – you’re stronger when your arm is locked out, straighten it
  • Bad arm alignment – make sure that your right arm is at 90 degrees to the floor

2 – Knee Bend

Bend the right leg and place the left arm at a 45-degree angle. Ensure the sole of the right foot is in contact with the floor.

Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Step 2
Step 2

Common Mistakes:

  • Foot position – keep the foot at hip width, not too wide or too narrow
  • Shallow bend – ensure you bend the right knee adequately enough so you are not limited in the seated position.

3 – Sit Up (Half Turkish Get Up)

Squeeze the handle tight as you sit up along the line of your left arm, first to your left elbow and then to your left hand. Keep the kettlebell arm down with the shoulder in its socket and the opposite shoulder away from your ear.

Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Step 3
Step 3

Common Mistakes:

  • Side rolling sit up – don’t roll to the side to sit up, sit up at an angle following the line of your arm
  • Standard sit up – don’t sit up straight towards your hips, sit up at an angle following the line of your arm
  • Relying on the arm – try to avoid overloading the arm as you sit up, as you get stronger you should barely use the arm
  • Jerking sit up – stay smooth as you sit up, don’t rock up and use momentum
  • Using the kettlebell – don’t lean the kettlebell forward to help pull you up
  • Raising the heel – keep your outstretched left heel on the floor, failure to do so means you are overusing your hip flexors
  • Keep shoulder down – keep the kettlebell shoulder deep in its socket
  • Collapsing the chest – lift the ribcage and open up the chest, important for posture
  • Sinking bottom shoulder – create distance between the bottom shoulder and the ear

Assessment Indicators:

Failure to sit up smoothly without jerking or using the kettlebell will indicate a weakness in the rectus abdominis and core muscles.

Practice the Single Leg Deadlift to complement this and develop strength in this part of the movement.

Problems sitting up tall without keeping the bottom left leg straight could indicate tightness in the hamstrings. Work on hamstring flexibility if necessary.

4 – Hip Extension

Push from the right heel of the bent leg and drive your hips in the air and into full hip extension.

There should be a straight line from the kettlebell to the bottom hand. Create distance between the bottom shoulder and the ear and open up the chest. Squeeze your gluteus maximus tight.

Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Step 4
Step 4

Common Mistakes:

  • Not fully extending the hips – push the hips up and squeeze the glutes tight
  • Raising the bottom heel – extension should come from the hips, not the toes, keep the heel down
  • Arching lower back – don’t extend from the lower back push up through the hips, squeezing the glutes will help
  • Sinking bottom shoulder – keep the shoulder and ear as far apart as possible
  • Disconnecting upper shoulder – keep the top shoulder down and deep in its socket
  • Bad arm alignment – if there is not a straight line from the kettlebell to the bottom hand you will find the weight very heavy

Assessment Indicators:

Failure to correctly extend the hips could be due to tightness through the hip flexors or quads (rectus femoris) if so mobilise and stretch them.

Failure to extend through the hips but through the lower back could be from weak glutes. Practice the Glute Bridge and Single Leg Deadlifts.

5 – Sweep

Sweep the left leg back and through to a half-kneeling position. Try to bring the leg straight through rather than around in a semi-circular movement. Keep your eyes focused on the kettlebell at all times. You will notice some nice rotational mobility here.

Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Step 5
Step 5

Common Mistakes:

  • Don’t combine with step 6 – ensure you define this step without moving too quickly onto the next one
  • Not opening the hips – take the knee back as far back as possible, don’t cramp yourself up, create some space
  • Lifting front heel – keep the heel down as you pull the leg through
  • Bad shoulders – as with earlier steps keep the bottom shoulder away from your ear and the top packed down
  • Moving hand – keep the hand planted, it should not need to move, only sweep the leg

Assessment Indicators:

With this movement, we are looking at the hips. Tight hips will prevent the sweep from coming back through smoothly. Hip flexor stretches and hip openers will help improve the movement if necessary.

6 – Half Kneeling

Taking the hand off the floor straighten the body by folding sideways at the waist. Take your eyes off the kettlebell and look forwards.

Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Step 6
Step 6

Common Mistakes:

  • Arching the lower back – keep the glutes tight and hips forwards
  • Not folding sideways – pull yourself sideways hinging at the waist. Do not rotate into the upright position
  • Standing straight up – ensure you perform this step before standing up or you miss an important core exercise
  • Caving at the chest – look forwards and pull the ribcage up
  • Folding forwards at the hips – push the hips through with glutes tight, do not crease forwards and collapse the hips

Assessment Indicators:

Failure to fold at the waist and straighten sideways could be a core weakness. Practice the movement perfectly without a kettlebell to improve your strength.

Having difficulty kneeling tall with the hips through and chest raised could be tight hip flexors and/or weak glutes and/or weak core stabilisers.

7 – Standing

Drive from the front heel and stand. Steady yourself and then reverse the movement, step by step.

Turkish Get Up Step 7
Step 7

Common Mistakes:

  • Not pulling from the heel – don’t push from the rear leg to stand, pull yourself up from the front
  • Forward leaning – often if your stance is too narrow then standing looks ugly, improve on your Sweep (step 5)
  • Floating shoulder – keep that kettlebell shoulder deep into its socket as you stand
  • Bending arm – stay strong and keep that top arm locked out

Assessment Indicators:

Fundamentally you are performing a kettlebell overhead lunge position from the bottom during this movement. If you find this movement tricky then practice your deep lunges without a kettlebell and also the overhead warm up exercise.

The Get Ups Descent

As you reverse the movement take your time. You are essentially performing the movement backwards. There is one exception with the descent, you do not perform the hip extension as shown in step 4.

A Full Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up should take at least 30 seconds to complete.

Once you reach step 2 you can either sit back up again and repeat the movement or you can take the kettlebell back to step 1 and to the floor.

Beginners should definitely practice returning the kettlebell back to the floor and then changing arms and repeating.


Practicing and Progressing the Kettlebell Turkish Getup

As you can see, the Turkish Get-Up is quite a complex movement, but it becomes a lot more manageable when you break it down.

Here is how I suggest you practice and develop the movement:

Step 1 – Half Turkish Get Up without Kettlebell

As with all exercises, you should only load the movement when you can perform the exercise with proper form using just your body weight.

Start practicing the Turkish Getup from steps 1 – 3. You will finish at the Sit up position and then return slowly back to step 1 again.

Practice on both sides until the movements from steps 1 to 3 are very smooth. You will be getting a great core workout if you take your time and perform the movements correctly.

When you can perform 10 repetitions smoothly on each side move on to step 2 below.

Step 2 – Full Turkish Get Up without Kettlebell

Once you have mastered the half get up progress onto the full get-up still without using a kettlebell. Keep the whole movement slow and controlled.

Practice the full movement holding a cup of water. When you can complete the Turkish Get Up without spilling any water, move on to the next step below.

Step 3 – Half Turkish Get-Up with Kettlebell

Similar to step 1 but this time you are going to use a kettlebell. You can start with whatever weight you feel comfortable with but usually, Men start with a 12kg / 25lbs kettlebell and Women use an 8kg / 15lbs.

Watch my Half Turkish Get Up Tutorial:


If you find all this is too much then go back to the Naked variations above until you are ready.

When you can perform 5 smooth repetitions on each side without putting the kettlebell down in between reps move on to the Full Get Up below.

Step 4 – Full Turkish Get-Up with Kettlebell

Now you’re ready for the big time, the complete Turkish Get Up with a kettlebell. Perform just 1 repetition at a time, then put the kettlebell down and change sides.

Watch my Full Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Tutorial:


When to increase the kettlebell weight?

You will probably have a good feeling as to when it is time to increase the kettlebell weight.

As a guide, I usually find that when a client can perform 5 repetitions smoothly on both sides without unlocking the arm then it is time to start introducing the next weight.


6 Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Variations

1 – Reverse Get Up

The Reverse Get Up is much more practical than the Regular Get Up because it starts and finishes from the standing position.

I like to use this Get Up variation with my clients and during my kettlebell classes because it is easier to flow from a standing exercise straight into the Get Up.

Watch my Reverse Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Tutorial:


2 – Alternating Swings

Once you have mastered the Reverse Turkish Get Up you can then add exercises at the top of the movement between each Get Up repetition.

Using alternating swings is a great way to not only add some cardio into the movement but also change hands and give the arms a rest.

alternating kettlebell swing

Turkish Get Up Workout 1:

  • Reverse Turkish Get Up Left x 1
  • Alternating Swings x 10
  • Reverse Turkish Get Up Right x 1

Related: 4 Steps to Master the kettlebell swing

3 – Windmill

Just as we added the alternating swings at the top of the movement you can also add the Windmill at the top.

Using the windmill will add extra attention to the stabilising muscles of the shoulder but also work more into the hamstring flexibility and core muscles.

Ensure that you are strong at the Full Get Up before attempting this because your shoulders will have to work harder and for longer before getting a break.

Kettlebell Windmill Exercise
Kettlebell Windmill Exercise

Turkish Get Up Workout 2:

  • Reverse Turkish Get Up Left x 1
  • Windmill  x 5
  • Reverse Turkish Get Up Left x 1

Related: 4 logical progressions of the kettlebell windmill

4 – Snatch

If you want to spice up your Get Ups then adding a Snatch at the top of the movement will certainly do the job.

The kettlebell snatch is a full-body cardiovascular exercise that will allow a few seconds for your shoulder to rest between Get Up repetitions.

Kettlebell Snatch Exercise
Kettlebell Snatch Exercise

Turkish Get Up Workout 3:

  • Full Turkish Get Up Left x 1
  • Snatch  x 10
  • Change sides or repeat

Related: Ultimate guide to the kettlebell snatch

5 – Side Plank

I’m not usually one for making exercises overly complicated but I do like this advanced version of the Get Up.

When you get to step 4 of the Get Up stack one foot on top of the other as if performing a side plank. You will be performing a side plank on one hand and have a kettlebell in the other so balance and alignment are important.

Practice this variation without a kettlebell before trying it out loaded.

6 – Two Hands

Take your kettlebell Turkish Get Up to the next level by using 2 kettlebells, one in each hand. The movement is slightly different because you sit up with both legs out in front of you and then swing one leg behind and underneath you to stand up.

Try this variation without kettlebells first to see just how much hip mobility and core strength you need.


Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Workout

1 – Ladder

For beginners, I like to start with the Turkish Get Up ladder workout. The ladder workout moves through every step of the Get Up so it ensures that no part of the process is missed out.

You will find that by practicing this TGU workout you will quickly identify the areas of the Get Up that require further attention.

Here’s how it works:

  • Step 2 to Step 3 – 1 rep
  • Return to Step 2
  • Step 2 to Step 4 – 1 rep
  • Return to Step 2
  • Step 2 to Step 5 – 1 rep
  • Return to Step 2
  • Step 2 to Step 6 – 1 rep
  • Return to Step 2
  • Step 2 to Step 7 – 1 rep
  • Return to Step 2

Basically, you are adding an extra step to the movement each round until you complete the full Turkish Get Up. Remember, the arm should never unlock and you should not put the kettlebell down between steps.

After you have climbed the ladder to the top you can change hands and repeat the same process on the other side.

If you want to take this Turkish get up workout to the next level then you can climb back down the ladder by removing one step at a time back to the beginning again.

2 – Swing and Get Up

It is a great idea to combine kettlebell training’s 2 finest exercises into one workout. Practicing this workout will give you the best of both worlds, great cardio and fat burning from the swing and full body strengthening and conditioning from the Get Ups.

Here’s how it works:

  • Reverse Turkish Get Up Left – 1 rep
  • Two Handed Swings – 20 reps
  • Reverse Turkish Get Up Right – 1 rep
  • Two Handed Swing – 20 reps
  • Repeat 3 – 5 rounds

How many Turkish get ups should I do?

I recommend that you work up to performing a total of 10 Turkish get ups per day, that’s 5 reps on each side.

Unlike other kettlebell exercises the Get Up can be performed most days providing the load is not consistently too heavy.

If you have a rest day but feel that you want to do something more, practicing your Turkish Get Ups is an excellent choice.


Conclusion

The Turkish Get Up is such a beneficial exercise that everyone should be using it. You will not only protect your body from future injury by performing the Get Up but you will also improve your core strength and better your posture.

Practice the Get Up until it looks and feels effortless and it will pay you back tenfold.

FAQ

Can you get ripped with just kettlebells?

Yes, kettlebells are an excellent tool for both increasing muscle size and definition as well as burning fat and improving your cardio.

How do you hold a kettlebell in a Turkish get up?

The kettlebell is held with a locked-out arm overhead during the entire Turkish get up exercise. Ensure the kettlebell rests comfortably against the wrist and forearm.

How many calories do 20 minutes of Kettlebells burn?

Based on an American Council on Exercise (ACE) study the average person can burn 400 calories in just 20 minutes with a kettlebell provided they use the correct exercises.

How’s your Turkish Get Up? Got questions? Let me know in the comments below…

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    1. Scott Otterson Avatar
      Scott Otterson

      Really good!

    2. Dwight Avatar
      Dwight

      Thank you, Greg, for your solid advice on a plan to ‘jump’ from 16kg to 24kg on the TGU. I’ll start on the plan and post my results later.

    3. Dwight Avatar
      Dwight

      Hi Greg-

      Your KB circuits are great – been using them for over a year now. I have all of your workout plans, and agree that the TGU is probably the most all-encompassing exercise in kettlebells.

      My question is how to build up strength to jump to the next major KB weight – I say ‘major’ because I don’t want to have to buy a whole bunch of weight increments.

      I have a 16kg, 24kg, and 32kg (1pood, 1-1/2pood, 2pood). I’ve been doing the TGU with the 16kg for about 5 months, and have pretty much mastered it. (5 sets of each side, 5x week – I’m 57, btw.)

      (Also, I worked up to the two-handed swing with the 32kg, then later dropped to 24kg but did it one-handed, and now can do one-handed swings with 24kg (sets 1,3,5) and 32kg (sets 2,4), doing 10-12 swings on each arm for one set. I’m working up to do 32kg for all 5 sets gradually.)

      However, the jump to the 24kg for the TGU is significant – can I use a series of your exercises from the Muscle Building program to gradually build up my strength so I can eventually jump from the 16kg to 24kg for the TGU? What do you recommend?

      Again, I don’t want to have to purchase an 18kg, 20kg, 22kg, etc., but would rather have a plan to incorporate other strength-building movements to get me ready to jump from 16kg to 24kg on the TGU.

      What exercises in your portfolio do you recommend I do with my existing three KB’s to prepare for the 24kg TGU?

      Thanks a bunch!

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Great question Dwight, I’d start by practicing overhead holds with the 24kg. Work up to 60 seconds on each side. Once you can manage this comfortably you can then practice overhead lunges and the overhead warm up exercise along with the windmill. I’d also recommend you work on the half get up with the 24kg as well as the reverse half get up which will take you down to one hand on the floor then straighten back up and stand again. Take your time performing only a few reps each day.

    4. Tom Avatar
      Tom

      Great , clear demo of the Turkish get up. Thank you. Thought I was half way fit until I tried it . Will keep working at it.

    5. Reilly Avatar
      Reilly

      Hi Greg,

      You said a common mistake one makes when moving into half kneeling is:
      “Not folding sideways – pull yourself sideways hinging at the waist. Do not rotate into the upright position.”

      Am I rotating, or am I pulling myself sideways?
      https://youtu.be/cKwCNQeT4jo

      Also, why do you discourage Step 4 hip extension on the descent?

      Much gratitude for the great content.

      -Reilly

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Hi Reilly, I checked out your video…unfortunately that weight is too heavy for you at this stage, you are making quite a few compromises with you technique just to get through the movement. Break everything down step by step with a lighter weight and you’ll become much stronger and improve your mobility too. Your first challenge is to sit up without your other leg raising from the floor, that is a strong sign of a weak core because your hip flexors are doing most of the work hence why your foot comes up. All the best.

        1. Reilly Avatar
          Reilly

          Hi Greg,

          “Break everything down step by step with a lighter weight…” Will do.

          Thank you very much,

          Reilly

    6. Kevin Burgess Avatar

      Hi Greg, TGU is one of my favorite exercises to do with my clients. This is a fabulous article describing progressions and workouts! Thank you so much for this. I will certainly share it with clients and other trainers to spread the word about your products. Best Regards,
      Kevin

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Thanks Kevin, pleased you liked it. Yes, I think it’s one exercise that needs to be used a lot more.

    7. Rob Wakeford Avatar
      Rob Wakeford

      Hi Greg

      Just wants to say thanks for this incredibly valuable information. This article along with last weeks on the swing are fantastic. Also thanks for all the free info on your website.

      After many years of Kettlebels, weights etc I have gone right back to basics with light bells and am completely revitalising by work outs and my body as a result.

      Cheers

      Rob

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        My pleasure Rob, pleased the new approach to training is paying off. All the best.

    8. Joel Kurtzhalts jr. Avatar
      Joel Kurtzhalts jr.

      Dear Mr. Brookes,

      I am reading through the pdf of your “12 week advanced kettle program“. I am looking at the first day of week 2. For the Turkish get up, under the “Time (secs)” column it says ‘1 rep each’. Does this mean literally only one rep for each side of the body, and that completes that set? Or have I misunderstood? Thank you for clarifying.

      -Joel

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Thanks for purchasing the program. Yes that’s right Joel, but remember that this is at the end of the circuit. You will complete the circuit a total of 3 times.