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STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND ‘GET UP’!

By Muhilan Kandhasamy
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Long, long ago, before the time of CrossFit, Spartan Races, and Ironmans, physical challenge was viewed all so different. There were no resistance bands, medicine balls, or adjustable dumbbells. Squat racks were not created, and you better believe there were no special gloves or sporty clothes to complete that cute gym attire. This was a time where moving around anything and everything to become stronger was the name of the game.

Famous Strongmen like Sig Klein, Eugen Sandow, G.W. Rolandow, Artur Saxon, and Arthur Rigoulot; some pioneers into the world of strongmen training, and regimented physical training. Vaulting over 3-foot high hurdles with 130b in hand, bending steel bars, ripping through decks of 52 cards, and a one fingered-560b deadlift are just a few to name. But in order to fully execute, what do all of these heavy and off feats require? Developed strength, and quality of movement.

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Aside from fancy mustaches, sexy singlets, and hard laboring work, in Russia the emergence of a revolutionary tool was born; the Kettlebell. If you never read my blog on kettlebell training (where I cover its history and relevance) read it here!

In 1704, the Girya was officially recognized by the Russian Dictionary, and literally just means “handle bell”. But, it wasn’t invented to be swung around all fancy-shmancy like they are today. Originally, it was a counterweight measurement during market trading (grains, dry goods, ect.) to ensure the right amounts were being sold. So, you get a bunch of farmers and laborers moving around these big steel cannonball things, and guess what happens? They start to have some fun with it! Not before long, it became a very efficient tool to gain strength, and thus, their performance debut had been discovered!

For those old time strongmen, they had a ‘right of passage’ entrance exam that you had to pass before moving on to anything else, kinda like needing to do something cool and rebelious to be a part of the cool kids table at lunch. Completing a 100lb Turkish Get Up on both sides was required and is an unbelievable feat to accomplish, not many are able to still!

One of the most popular and underrated movements (until recently) with a kettlebell is the Get-Up. There are many unique ways to do a get up, but the popularized and most standard version, known as the Turkish Get Up, is our focus today! Schools of thought such as Dragon Door, StrongFirst, or RKC are phenomenal at providing ways to develop essential movement progressions in order to achieve mastery with kettlebell training; one of which being the Turkish Get Up.

*QUICK PAUSE* If you are one of the readers thinking, “What in the hell is this guy talking about? A Turkish what?”, here is an excellent demonstration from SFG Master Zar Horton, directed by Lance Coffel:

Turkish Get-Up Basics

Senior SFG Lance Coffel puts Master SFG Zar Horton through the (Turkish) Get-Up. This is the basic instruction. More detailed instruction and troubleshooting is presented at both the one-day SFG Course and the 3-day SFG Certification. Standard: 1.

WHY SHOULD I BE DOING THESE?

  • Single Leg Hip Stability During Low/High Sweep Bridge
  • Closed Chain Shoulder Stability
  • Spacial Awareness & Focus
  • Thoracic Extension and Rotation
  • Shoulder Mobility
  • Active Flexibility
  • Multi-Planar Coordination & Control
  • Rotary & Linear Stability
  • The linking of Extremities to our Entire Body Under Loaded Resistance
  • Fun Party Tricks

There are more, but I think you are starting to see just how fundamentally important they can be to assist performance, and human body progression as a whole. I find the best introduction [in layman’s terms] for a TGU is, “A really complicated way to just stand up”. It is not classified like a bench press or other big lift, because it involves more than one movement type, muscle group, or steps to complete. It is a highly complex movement that has an ENORMOUS carryover into heavy lifting, body control, and mental stamina. Don’t be fooled though, I have seen some of the strongest men I know be humbly rejected by even a 30b kettlebell by trying to muscle it up. The core control, taxing focus, and shoulder stability components are enough to break a mental sweat equal to your physical.

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Before we dive into its breakdown, I forgot to highlight one super duper important tip…relaxation. Staying composed and meticulous on precise movement is key when dealing with so many moving parts of the get up. To be frank, trying to do this quickly and aggressively will result in decreased benefits, and a potential trip to the emergency room (trust me, I’ve experienced it firsthand). This is completely opposite of going for a 1RM deadlift, when you are getting jazzed up, getting psyched up, bumping loud angry music, and rip that damn bar off the floor with all of your might! Versus Controlled, steady breathing, and precise placement will determine your execution here. The two opposing forces of movement; the yin and yang of physical enhancement, both are correct in their own respect!

BREAKING IT DOWN TO GET ON UP

Since the Turkish Get Up demo is done with my left side holding the bell, that’s how I will describe the listing of steps. The same exact process for the right side, just substitute in right anywhere you see left!

Step 1: Lie on your left side and secure the handle tightly. With both hands, roll onto your back and press the kettlebell toward the ceiling. Active and engaged, the left arm remains energized until you return to the floor at the end.

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Step 2: Whichever arm is loaded, the same knee will be bent, foot flat to the floor. The opposite leg should take a 45º angle, and the right arm to match is (as if they were parallel). At this point, it is important to keep your eyes GLUED to the bell. Imagine looking over your thumb as a gun sight directed right at the ceiling, and don’t lose that focus the whole way (that is how I ran into real trouble, please take my word). It’s as if you are telling it where to go with your eyes!!

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Step 3: ROLL over onto the right elbow/forearm and PRESS through the left foot to bring your hips over to the right. Be sure to keep the bell over your left shoulder. I personally find this the most challenging part of the whole movement! A big misconception is by trying to ‘sit-up’ with just your abs, and that will lead to helpless leg flailing and a lot of wasted energy to get there, don’t do it!

This step alone is a great use for single leg glute extension practice; by using your bent leg as your driving force versus your core. This will improve gluteal muscle firing ability, and remove the chance of placing stress on the lumbar spine.

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Step 4: LIFT the right elbow from the floor by ENGAGING the palm into the floor to create proper torque in the shoulder girdle, almost like a predator becoming gripped into the earth. At this point, the left bicep should be alongside your ear, and eyes still through your thumb site.

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If this is your first time ever practicing a Turkish Get Up, this is a good place to stop for now. Become proficient with set-up, the roll and being tall in this position. Just like laying foundation for the house, there is no sense building a roof without proper structure. Trying to devour the entire meat and potatoes of this in one shot can be confusing and ultimately not as beneficial as breaking it into more reasonable chunks.

Step 5: LIFT your hips from the floor, taking a 3-point elevated bridge (Right hand, Right heel, Left foot). With your hips up, slide your right leg through and get the knee directly beneath the hip, creating a straight line between your Right hand, knee and foot. If you’ve stuck with me thus far, give yourself a nice pat on the back

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This is the technically odd and demanding part of the lift. People will stare with jealously of your awesomesause-ness (it’s a word, google it). You can lift your hips as little or as much as you need, it is dependent on how much space you need in order to tuck your right foot underneath your hip. *This is a kneeling HIP HINGE!! Hips = Unlocked, Core = Strong, Buns = Nice.

Having a straight line from the bell to the root hand is essential. If your shoulders are rolled forward or askew in this position, it is a set up for over stressed biceps tendons. Visualize the shoulders being loaded into their sockets.

Step 6: Once stable, shift your weight back over your hips until the right hand can come off the floor. Assume a tall torso stance, left fist high and mighty, with strong left side body. To then get the leg parallel, we ‘windshield wiper‘ or swivel, the right leg to square off the hips. Note, I keep my unloaded arm out to the side and engaged to remain ‘taught’ throughout get up. It serves as my reminder to maintain tension from toes to nose.

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Step 7: We are so close!! With your core and hips braced, press FIRMLY through the left foot (and the right toes) into a standing position. Stand tall, keep holding that fart, and crack a smile! This can seem like a very simple step, the lunge, but with the load overhead creates a very difficult variation.

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Step 8: Congratulations!! We made it all the way to the top…but now we need to get back down to the floor without dropping the weight on our skull! All you need to do is follow the steps in reverse order, and you will find yourself back on the ground in no time, which is easier than doing most other things backwards.

Oh, and be sure to do this on the other side too. Nobody wants to be totally kickass and awesome with just one side of the body…I mean, unless you’re into that kind of thing, then rock on!


Just because this is, like, the coolest lift in history, still doesn’t mean it is for everyone off the bat. If you are unable to safely control the weight in an overhead position, perform it without any weight at all. Also, underdeveloped body awareness is a prerequisite to a potential shit storm. Regardless of the minor roadblock preventing you at the moment, remember that it is not permanent! We all have the ability to become more optimized physically, and to reach new heights of feats to conquer. That being said, just like most other movements, there are regressions and tips that ‘build up’ to become acclimated and confident:

SHOE BALANCE DRILL

Since the Turkish Get Up demands our attention constantly, many blunders occur when trying to manipulate our sliding leg to underneath while keeping balance, I’ve seen far too many people let the loaded arm have a mind of its own. In order to grease the groove, take away the weight, check the ego, and take off your shoes. Place something light and flat (like a shoe) atop your fist, versus holding a weight in your grip. This feedback is better than a lie detector, drug test, and SAT all put together, you cant bulls**t this one even if you tried. If you deviate from the optimal arm positioning, support, and tension demanded, it will fall to the floor, and worst case scenario is it bumps your head. It is a much safer alternative than with a weight, and is always a great addition to any warmup! As tedious as it may seem, this is a great drill to polish this movement pattern or get your entire body firing, for both novice and advanced levels. Take a step back once in a while to retouch on the specifics, there is nothing wrong with sticking to the basics!

GO BOTTOMS UP

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Rather than loading with a kettlebell with it resting on your forearm, choose a lighter weight and hold it Bottoms Up. Literally, you are holding it upside down. A fancy circus trick? Maybe, but it does a really good job at keeping the shoulder girdle stable, improving grip strength, and hammering in the importance of maintaining a stable overhead position. It will flip over quite easily and give a nice bruise to your forearm if you aren’t meticulous, so take your time and be smart!

UTILIZE TECHNOLOGY

We all have the ability to use, borrow, or steal a video recording device. Maybe you’re a little behind the 8-ball and have a VHS monster machine weighing 20lbs to lug around, but hey, it’s something! If we do not have a coach to oversee our movement quality to provide feedback, the next best option is to use video! I did not start consistently using this until about a year ago, and it has also been the most I have learned, progressed, and experienced change in m entire athletic career. Anyone who has borrowed my phone will see the 293 videos on my phone (yes, I just checked to be accurate), 90% of them being exercise related. When you are going through a movement, there are already 86 things to think about, plus breathing, and you know, trying to be alive? So why not be able to pause, pinpoint, and breakdown what you want to improve at any time you’d like?! Plus, if you wind up doing something super cool, unique, or powerful, you can brag and keep it to show everyone how bad-ass you are!

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Before I came to Orca Empire, using kettlebells for their real purpose was not on the agenda. Seeing them swung, racked, cleaned, or manipulated was extremely rare. We have an entire day dedicated to learning, exploring and gaining the unique benefits from them, and they love it! Injuries and nagging pains have decreased, mobility and overall strength have skyrocketed, and it is a new spark for those who needed it. We have people getting up with 55lb flawlessly, others are just trying them for the first time up to Step 4 with a yoga block balanced, and everywhere in between. There was a plethora of doubt and frustration, and it is a tough lift. But not once did anyone give up, refuse to do them, or claim it was useless. They would take a step back, then 2 forward, then back, and climbing their way up that mountain in front of them until they could reach that peak of accomplishment they were originally searching for. But once they got there, the excitement settled, and in the distance was another peak hidden by the clouds. For that became their new mission. You see, if you just set one goal and reach it, the search usually ends there We become very satisfied in ‘doing it’ that we forget that passion we built up that was our fuel engine along the way. Never let your tank run empty!

The importance of experiencing what your body can achieve shouldn’t be limited to machines, follow-along DVDs, or a repetitive cycle. Our potential is so much greater than what we even dream we can do. So eliminate the “I’m not ready”, “I can’t do that”, or “That looks impossible” and replace it with “Let’s try that together”, “Can you show me how to try”, and “Time to try something new today!”. I promise you, what you are able to overcome and achieve is just beginning to crack the eggshell of your existence, regardless of where you are on your journey. Each day is a fresh chance to experience, each thought bringing a new perspective, and each step drawing you closer to that outcome you have been telling yourself you want, but always just out of reach. So with this, I challenge you to do something new, scary, or what you haven’t conquered in the past and face it head on; believe in yourself you can, and you will!