The Ultimate Guide to Turkish Get Ups: How, When, & Why to Perform Them

Learn how Turkish get ups can improve mobility & stability of the hips, shoulder, and thoracic spine while improving core strength, coordination, & balance.

Yeah, you read this right.

The Turkish get up, while not often talked about in most fitness circles, is one of the most beneficial exercises one could do.

And today, we're discussing it at length.

So, once you take the time to get your jaw off the floor, continue reading, because it’ll do you good.

First: Let’s Make One Thing Clear

The strength and conditioning world – the industry that I belong to as a trainer – can become very polarized in their thinking, even in the name of science. If a movement doesn’t get you stronger or directly improve specific skills, it’s not worth your time.

The industry can be one track minded and very exclusionary sometimes, forgetting the fact that most recreational lifters need exercise for more than just strength in their big, quantifiable lifts. They need to get in shape too.

Related: 11 Most Important Components of Health & Fitness

Having good strength is only one piece of that pie, and beyond a certain point, strength in certain lifts become more and more specific to those particular skills, and not much else in life.

People who haven’t broken themselves out of this matrix will view movements like dead bugs, unilateral training, combination exercises, suspension training, and these – Turkish getups – as inferior and ultimately berate them as less important to your workout program.

These are the same lifters who are either poorly conditioned with a high body fat that they justify in the name of strength, or strong and lean, but broken, immobile, and heading down a path to a world of injury and more chronic pain.

Strength and conditioning experts shouldn’t forget about the conditioning part. That’s why movements like this matter. A lot.

The Turkish Getup: Benefits

Based on the above, you’ve probably guessed that it’s a great conditioning tool, but let’s dig a little deeper into that.

Conditioning doesn’t only mean getting your heart rate up and contributing to fat loss. A well conditioned body, joint and muscle means that it’s more properly prepared for multiple planes of movement, to be mobile, to be flexible, and to endure load over longer periods of time. It’s better equipped for basically any external stress that’s sent its way.

In the case of get ups, these provide plenty of benefits by exploiting the following capacities:

  • The strength endurance and stability of the shoulder capsule
  • Shoulder, hip, and thoracic spine mobility
  • Abdominal and oblique strength
  • Posterior chain activation
  • Coordination, balance, and spatial awareness

With all of that said, I’d go out on a limb and say it’s best that you use these. So allow me to show you how.

Step 1: Starting Position

Lie on your back, and bend one knee so that one foot is flat on the ground, and the other leg is straight outward. Make yourself nice and wide by spreading out your arms and straight leg.

Holding a kettlebell (with the weight on the outside of the forearm) or dumbbell in the same side hand as the bent leg, extend the arm so it’s pointing straight up to the roof. Keep your eyes focused on the bell, and your knuckles facing the ceiling. Now you’re ready to begin.

Step 2: Elbow, Hand

Using your abs in kind of a “sit-up” style, press into the floor with your free elbow and the heel of your bent leg, and get to a seated position. It’s okay if you use a bit of momentum. There’s no “cheat” here.

Make sure the loaded arm still remains straight, and keep your focus up on the bell. Once you’ve established your positioning while resting on your elbow, press once more with the grounded arm until you’re resting only on your hand and sitting upright.

Step 3: Hips Up, Leg Through

Once you’ve gotten to the seated position above, dig in with your planted hand and heel to create a nice high bridge. Squeeze your glutes and brace your core, to raise your hips up high off the ground. Pause there for a second. You’ve just created enough space for your free (straight) leg to travel under.

Carefully bring that leg through the underpass by bending the knee and pulling it through. Plant that knee down on the ground, under the body. You’re now free to release the grounded hand and get tall in a half kneeling position.

Here’s a Practice Run So Far

It makes sense to segment this lift into its components, and practice the first parts we’ve just covered first.

Use this video as a guide to walk through what we mentioned above, right up to the point where you’ll have to bring your leg through and kneel (you’ll see that part in the next video). Notice my eyes are positioned on the bell the entire time, and my hand faces the roof.

Ready to continue?  Good, there’s only one more step!

Step 4: Stand Up!

Still keeping your eyes up, focus on carefully standing without letting the elbow bend at all. This may be a bit more difficult than it sounds, so be conservative with the weight you choose at the beginning to groove this skill.

You’re essentially doing an overhead lunge in this phase, and that depends on strength of both the shoulder and leg.

Step 5: Now Get Back Down

Remember – the ground won’t go anywhere, so keep your eyes up and learn to reverse your actions by feel, and not by looking down. Once you break your focus, the bell will go down. You’ve done all the moves to get to the top, so getting to the bottom is straightforward.

Related: 3 Pieces of Gym Equipment You’re Not Using and Should

First, put the same knee (the one opposite your working arm) gently down to the ground, under control. Then plant the free hand down, to the side of the body. Not behind it. This will give your body enough space to create a bridge and pick up your planted knee, so it can travel through to its original straight-leg position, the way you started. Slowly kick it through, and then plant your butt down to the ground under control.

Next, slide your planted arm outward until the elbow contacts the ground, and then roll that down until your shoulders and back are on the ground too. You should be lying down again by this point, which means it’s time to put the bell down beside you, gently.

And That’s One Rep

Sounds like a lot, and it is. And here’s a visual of it in action so you can put it all together.

If you’re looking for more of a challenge, it’s fun to make lighter weight feel heavier by simply changing the implement you use to move this load. The hardest getup I’ve ever done involved a straight barbell.

Trying to stabilize the load from turning or tipping involved plenty of stabilizing strength, precision and overall mental focus. Here’s something to gun for:

Wrap up

Training doesn’t have to be all big lifts, all the time. In fact, you’ll be much better off as a trainee and an athletic machine if it isn’t.

Treat strength training as the entrée, but don’t forget your side dishes to round things out.

If you apply this approach, you’ll be happy down the road – you know… since you’ll be able to actually move.