The Turkish Get-Up

To build total-body strength and develop coordination and stamina, there's not better move than the Turkish Get-Up. Here's how to do this move.
By Mike Carlson, NASM- CPT, CFL1,

Legend tells us the Turkish get-up was used in early weightlifting and strongman communities to prepare young lifters for serious training. While that tale might be apocryphal, we do know this: The Turkish get-up uses so many muscles in your body that by the time you finish a heavy set, even your hair will feel tired. A slow and deliberate move that must not be rushed, the Turkish get-up demands a calm smoothness and control that gets tossed aside in competitive WODs. That’s a shame because for total-body strength as well as coordination, stamina, balance, accuracy and flexibility, the Turkish get-up is hard to beat. Try adding it to the end of a strength session or use it as part of a dynamic warm-up before your WOD.

1. The Setup

Begin on your back with a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand, your working arm pointing straight up toward the ceiling and your same-side knee bent with your foot flat on the floor and your heel close to your butt. Look at the dumbbell for the entire movement in order to keep your shoulder packed and the weight directly overhead. Additionally, be sure to keep your wrist straight at all times.>/p>

Tip: When grabbing the weight to get into the start position, make sure to set your working shoulder back and down. Your shoulder blade and rear deltoid should be strongly braced against the floor and your elbow in close to your side when you get the weight into position.

2. The Sit-Up

Leading with your chest, roll your weight up on to the opposite elbow and continue to shift your weight up to your hand. Actively push with the shoulder of the hand that’s posted on the floor, creating space between that shoulder and your face. From this position, drive through your hand and your opposite heel to extend your hips and lift your pelvis off the floor. When shifting that leg, your arms should be stacked and the weight supported in a straight vertical line.

To get back to the floor, return your gaze to the weight as you bring your right foot behind you and place your right knee on the floor. Hinge at the hip and post your right hand in front and to the side of your right knee. Do not place it behind you. With your weight on your right hand, swing your right leg underneath you and extend it. Slowly come down to your right elbow and then onto your back. When both shoulders touch the floor, that means one full rep has been completed.

3. The Stand-Up

With your hand posted strongly on the floor, you now have enough room to sweep your straight leg underneath your body and come to one knee. Focus on “being tall” and creating length through your spine. From this lunge position, come to your feet. Bring your back foot forward to line up with your front foot. It’s at this point that you can stop looking at the dumbbell and instead look straight ahead.

The Turkish get-up is most often done with either a dumbbell or kettlebell and occasionally with a barbell for a more advanced challenge. A slightly easier version is the sandbag get-up, in which you carry the weight draped over one shoulder. If you have access to a sandbag and have never done this exercise before, that’s a good place to start.

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