The Turkish get-up
As with so many other areas of life, the fitness industry is always looking to be bigger, faster, better. Exercises become more and more complex and gym equipment must be state of the art or else considered useless and obselete.
The reality is that we have both the knowledge and equipment we need to get fit, but you can only sell so many barbells, dumbbells and treadmills. Why do a simple squat with your feet on the ground when you can do it standing on a vibrating platform so you can really “activate your core”?
I’m a big fan of simplicity and using methods which have been tried and tested over the years. People managed to get fit and strong before the advent of Jane Fonda, commercial gyms and zumba with nary a powerplate in sight!
One of the oldest, yet most complete and valuable exercises around is the Turkish get up. Physical therapist, strength coach and all around movement guru Gray Cook says that if he could do just one free weight movement for the rest of his life, it would be the Turkish get up.
The Turkish get up is simplicity itself. You lie down, press a weight overhead and then stand up with it. Done correctly, you will work on posture, side to side symmetry, shoulder and neck movement and hip and low back interaction. You also add flexibility and core work to your training in a very natural way – through movement. Rather than trying to isolate areas by stretching the hamstrings or doing sit ups or planks for the core, why not work everything together? After all this is exactly how our bodies move.
As an added bonus, all you need to perfom the movement is a bit of space and a kettlebell or dumbell (kettlebells can be hard to come by in commercial gyms, but either are fine).
Here is my guide to the Turkish get-up. Start off light, a 3-5kg dumbell is all you need at the beginning.
Start out laying on the ground as below. Imagine that you are holding a glass of water in your hand, and the aim is to stand up without spilling that water.
From here roll up onto the elbow. Make sure the arm is fully locked out and in a solid position. Don’t let the arm bend or shoulders wobble.
Now push up so both arms are straight and stable.
From here transition into a side plank. Make sure to stay tight and contracted and don’t allow the hips to sag.
From the side plank, bring the front leg under the body so the knee is planted firmly below the hip.
Now go into a fully kneeling position, being careful to keep the lead arm straight and locked out.
The final step of the first phase of the movement is to simply stand up, again keeping the lead arm in an overhead position at all times.
Having completed the first part of the movement, everything is now reversed. Each step is identical but from the top down.
Incorporate the get-up into your warm-up routine or use it as a diagnostic tool. Any side to side imbalances or stability problems will become readily apparent. The get-up is a slow, considered movement and as such does not lend itself well to lots of reps or high loading at high intesity. Use it judiciously to prepare yourself for heavier work to come or even as an every day exercise to incorporate more movement into your day.