Turkish Get Ups reinforce total-body movement.
TGU’s are Swiss army knife of sorts, serving as a movement assessment or an effective strength and cardio builder.
I’ve dabbled with longer duration TGU workouts (5+ minutes continuous), which can provide an impactful form of low impact, externally loaded cardio.
The general premise of a Turkish Get Up is to move from a lying position to a standing position. Once at the top, repeat the process in reverse, return to the lying position.
That’s it. Lay down, stand up, lay back down.
Is there some technique to it? Absolutely. But the goal is to stand up and lay back down efficiently.
Toss in some Kinstretch and now we’re talking.
Popularized by the kettlebell crowd in the early 2000’s, Turkish Get Ups still seem to fly under the radar with the mainstream. It could be due to the learning curve, the unknown benefits or the fact they aren’t easy.
Over the last 10+ years, Turkish Get Ups have been embedded in my weekly training.
When workout time is short, 20-25 minutes of continuous Turkish Get Ups paired with Kettlebell Swings is a staple movement session. Allocate 10-12 minutes for Turkish Get Ups (alternating each side) and the remaining time for Kettlebell Swings.
Traditionally, a kettlebell is the tool used to add load to the Turkish Get Ups. However, a variety of training tools can be used (should be used). Dumbbells and sandbags work quite well as alternatives.
If there was an “Original” variation, it would likely look something like this:
Steps to the Turkish Get Up
Ascending to standing position:
Step 1: Punch and roll
Step 2: Elbow support
Step 3: Hand support
Step 4: Hip lift
Step 5: Straight leg slides underneath body
Step 6: Stand up via lunge motion
Descending back to floor:
Step 1: Reverse lunge
Step 2: Lower hand to find the floor
Step 3: Bring leg through to the front (extended)
Step 4: Raise hips and pause for moment
Step 5: Drop butt to the floor, supporting weight on extended arm/hand
Step 6: Lower to elbow, gently rolling to starting position.
- The ascent to the standing position is essentially the “concentric” portion of the exercise, muscles activating to move from one step to the next.
- The descent back to the floor is made up of a series of “eccentric” steps, as the goal is to control each step, lowering back to the lying position softly.
The traditional variation is loaded with benefits, but there are ample opportunities to tweak the Turkish Get Up and create a new training experience.
I’m a big believer in discipline. It should be the foundation of any fitness regimen. That being said, if you’re bored out of your mind, it’s time to play around other variations.
Adjusting the speed, adding or removing load, adding or removing steps to make it easier or more complex, using different training tools (or no training tools), volume, duration, etc.
Here are 3 Turkish Get Up Variations that will inject a fresh challenge to your next workout…
#1 Turkish Get Up + Squat Ascent/Descent
“Build the deadlift, maintain the squat”.
Ever heard this? Well, you can both maintain and build the squat pattern with this unique variation.
The traditional Turkish Get Up generally uses a lunge variation to move from the tall kneeling position to standing, also from standing back to kneeling on the way back down.
This variation uses a squat to stand up and get back down, with subtle tweaks in technique.
Small changes can change a lot about an exercise. Sorting out how to maneuver the feet underneath the body can take some practice, so again, start with no weight or lightweight.
Dropping into the squat on the way back down is a little more forgiving. Once you’re low enough to touch the hand to the floor, support yourself between the arm and the opposite side leg. Slide the foot out in front, lower back to the floor.
It took me a while to warm up to the squat as the stand up/sit down pattern. With a little practice it’s improved my movement capacity quite a bit. Exposing the body to progressively new and challenging patterns is great for expanding movement capacity.
Beware: User must have sufficient shoulder/thoracic mobility and squat pattern grooved for this. Balance a shoe on top of the palm of the hand or fist, or use light weight to start. Take a video of your attempts.
#2 Turkish Get Up + Press at Every Step
Adding a press at each step of the Turkish Get Up makes the exercise very taxing for the upper body.
Pressing in uncommon body positions is also quite humbling. Many people will find pressing early on in the exercise, posted on the elbow and hand, to be a new and challenge experience. Start with lighter weight. Don’t go for broke right away.
Overhead pressing from the half kneeling and standing position will be far more familiar for most people.
Assuming you press at every step as I did in the video, there will be a total of 11 presses.
That’s a lot of upper body work.
Considering the volume, lighter weight should be used, along with decreasing the reps.
2 reps on each side equates to 44 presses. Arms will be rubber if overdone.
If I’m using this variation, I’ll do 2-3 reps on each side of the “Press at Every Step”, and move on to more loaded variations. Keep the weight on the lighter side here.
Tip: Use a weight that you’re able to press in the weakest position, as this will dictate the load you’re able to use.
#3 Turkish Get Up + Clean – Squat – Press
Adding a clean, squat and a press can create a broad training effect.
Perform the usual steps getting up to the standard position. Once standing, lower the weight down to the front rack position, execute a single rep of a clean, squat and press. Descend back to the bottom.
Tip: Make sure you’ve got experience practicing cleans before trying this variation.
Reps, Sets and Time for Turkish Get Ups
Suggestions for reps, sets and time will vary greatly from person to person.
Mostly due to fitness level and experience with the Turkish Get Up.
I used to read articles and think, “Just tell me what to do!”
But the reality is we’re all a little different, so it’s important to do what you can do, not necessarily what I can do or anyone else.
In general, start with lower volume (reps and sets) and progress from there.
Keep the focus on QUALITY.
I’ve been practicing Turkish Get Ups for 10 years. My body is acclimated to the stress, working long duration sets and heavier weights.
Start with 1 quality rep on each side, alternating sides. Using 1 repetition (instead of doing 2-3 reps in a row) gives you the best chance to move with quality, before the fatigue creeps in and starts breaking down your body position, etc.
Eventually, if you’re looking to support the weight for longer durations on the same arm, you can execute 2 reps on each side before changing sides.
Doing this will challenge shoulder endurance. It’s a nice strategy to improve shoulder endurance, just not where a person should start if new to the Turkish Get Up.
Turkish Get Ups using progressively heavier weights should always be practiced for 1 rep per side. I’m rigid about this. Treat it the same way as any other strength based exercise (deadlifts, squats, etc).
In general, as the weights go up, the reps go down. And vice versa.
The combination of reps and sets gives you volume. Don’t over do it. Fitness is a long-term game, not a one and done WOD of the day. Play the long game.
That being said, start with anywhere from 3-8 sets in a workout. If performing 1 rep per side for 6 sets, that’s a grand total of 12 Turkish Get Ups.
Doesn’t sound like much, but consider that a Turkish Get Up is a very long, drawn out exercise. It’s not a 1 second time under tension type deal. It’s 10-15 seconds, maybe even longer if you’re working a slow tempo.
Time is my preferred method for practicing Turkish Get Ups.
Set the timer and work until the timer goes off. Keeping a steady work tempo, I don’t have to count repetitions. Instead, the focus is on the movement, body position, breathing, tension, tempo, etc.
The important stuff.
How long can you go?
In the past, I’ve set a timer for as long as 25 minutes and started the work. Yes, 25 minutes. It’s not a world record, but it’s a long time to be grinding out Turkish Get Ups continuously with minimal rest.
During this time period, I will generally warm up with a light kettlebell (24kg/28kg) and bounce around with using a 32kg kettlebell and 40kg kettlebell. I take brief rest periods to wipe away the sweat, drink some water and change the music track.
For most people, I’d suggest beginning with 5-8 minutes using the timer method. Don’t overdo it.
Quality over quantity.
Tomorrow is another day to train, play the long game with fitness.
Closing It Out…
The Turkish Get Up is one of my top picks for building total body performance.
Joint stability and mobility, core strength, lower body strength, breath work, tension and relaxation techniques are all benefits associated with Turkish Get Ups. There’s a potent cardio training effect when worked for extended periods.
The number of Turkish Get Up variations are virtually limitless. I shared three. I could have listed fifty more.
Slip a press in here and there, clean the kettlebell at the top, squat, swing, row, etc. Adding exercises, tweaking movement tempo, weight used are just a few of the small adjustments that can be made.
Variations are only limited by creativity. To be safe, consideration should be given to fitness level, knowledge and experience.
Finding time to train can be difficult. Life, career, kids, social activities all require time. It’s tough to balance it all. Having a 4 month old daughter (as I write this) I know first hand how quickly the time to play around in the gym get’s whittled down.
When you find yourself short on workout time, leverage a quality session of Turkish Get Ups. 10-12 minutes of continuous Turkish Get Ups is a highly effective, total body workout.
Mix it up, alternate how you get up, tempo, speed, add exercises to the reps, etc.
*** Remember, start with lighter weight, lower reps to groove technique and build strength and work capacity.
Give each of these variations a try and let me know what you think.
*** M(EAUX)TION is active the following social media platforms…
– YouTube (longer exercise demos)
– Instagram (daily training, flow, exercises, workouts, life etc)
– Facebook (fitness news, research, science, brain training, nutrition, etc)
Cheers to you,