How to Make Turkish Get Ups More Challenging

Kettlebell Training

The Turkish Get Up is not only one of the premier kettlebell exercises, but one of the best exercises on the planet.

In the past, I’ve done my best to avoid playing favorites with exercises, but if I could only choose one exercise, it would be Turkish Get Ups. 

Blending total body strength, joint range of motion, movement transitions, functionality and options to modify for a cardio training effect, the Turkish Get Up exercise checks a lot of boxes all in one shot.  

In this article, I’m going to share how to add exercises to an already complex exercise, to make it, well, more complex.  

Many Exercises Rolled Into One

Boiled down, a single repetition of Turkish Get Up is made up of a diagonal crunch, modified lateral plank, hip lift, kneeling windmill, lunge, and static overhead carry.

Every pattern listed is performed concentrically and eccentrically.   

Start in a lying position.  Roll up to the elbow, then the hand.  Lift the hips, bring the leg underneath, windmill up to kneeling.  Lunge to stand up.  Reverse the flow.  

The only major movement pattern Turkish Get Ups don’t really address is upper body pulling.  

Non-issue.  

I’ll show you how to include bent-over rows to get your pulling work in.  

There is an infinite number of ways to reorganize traditional Turkish Get Ups without losing the incredible benefits of the exercise.  

Since the main positions of Turkish Get Ups include lying, kneeling and standing, we can slip exercises into each of these positions to create a brand new movement challenge.  

Here are some examples of exercises that can be added to the traditional Turkish Get Up pattern to increase the movement complexity.

Turkish Get Ups w/ Cleans, Pressing, Squats and Z-Press

Once in a standing position, the exercise options are limitless.  

The kettlebell clean and press is a staple combination.  Descending down to the floor with an offset loaded kettlebell front squat gives the body a dose of asymmetric loading.  

Once seated, get tight and press the kettlebell overhead.  

Expect the Z-Press to be the limiting exercise with regard to weight selection.  

Pressing from this position is far more strict compared to other overhead press variations.   

 

Turkish Get Ups w/ Cossack Squats and 1-Arm Swings

I place a high value on being able to squat in different ways.  

People have beaten the mechanics of the basic bilateral squat to death.  

Cossack Squats require pretty aggressive hip mobility and strength in an uncommon pattern that a lot of people just don’t train.  The adductors will be singing.  

Once standing, the hand-to-hand 1 Arm Swings deliver a short burst dose of loaded conditioning and indirect core training.

Turkish Get Ups w/ Squats

Normally, Turkish Get Ups are performed with a lunge to stand and return to the lying position.  This variation removes the lunge completely, using squats instead.

Caution:  Must have sufficient shoulder/t-spine mobility and stability for this.  

 

Turkish Get Ups w/ Bent Rows

One knock against calling Turkish Get Ups a “total body exercise” is the lack of upper body pulling.  This variation provides a solution by including bent over rows.

 

Turkish Get Ups w/ Pistol Squats and Z-Press

Pistol squats, the slang description for unsupported single leg balance squats, are one of the best squat variations I know.

Improving single leg performance is great for sport and daily living.

At the halfway point, it’s time to return to the floor.  This variation leverages an overloaded eccentric pistol squat for the descent mechanism, which is pretty challenging and effective way to return the ass to the ground.

Once settled, press the kettlebell overhead with a strict Z-Press.

In my own training…

… I engage in exclusive Turkish Get Up workouts several days per week.  

To be clear, the “work” part of these workouts ONLY includes Turkish Get Ups, nothing else.  

Mobility exercises come first to prime my body.  

I pull out the kettlebells, set the timer, turn on the music and start moving.  

These sessions start with a lighter weight kettlebell, gradually bumping up in weight every 4-5 minutes.  

I like to finish the session with a heavy kettlebell, testing my will, focus and ability to stay organized physically while the fuel tank runs low.

Controlled movement while under fatigue is an underlying goal of most of my training.  Explore new movements while fresh, morph the basics for conditioning and mental tests. 

Yes, these sessions can be monotonous, but they are free of bullshit and any unnecessary exhaustive decision making in the gym.  

The work is non-stop.  I’ll take rest for a sip of water and to towel off the sweat, but always getting right back into the work.

Fatigue is going to set in as time passes.  This is understood and accepted.  

When the body becomes fatigued, movement quality degrades.  

Maintain awareness about how fatigue impacts movement, blurs the mind-body connection and also how to continue moving with quality.

If rest is needed, it is taken.   

Expanding movement capacity is best done while fresh.  But don’t forget how to program your body to move well when tired.  

The key is to know thyself, which means knowing your current fitness level and when you’re about to overstep your capacity to exercise safely.  

 

General Tips/Insight/Common Sense

The question of “how many reps should I do” varies greatly from person to person.

I prefer to set a timer (anywhere from 10-20 minutes) and begin working.  You might only be able to go for 5 minutes.  Who cares.  Celebrate the effort and build on it.  

Focus on QUALITY repetitions.  Take breaks as needed to execute quality reps.

Despite the soul-sucking marathon workouts found in at-home DVD’s, magazines and on social media, it’s unnecessary to beat yourself into a pulp every single workout.  

Deliver a potent dosage of movement, get on with your day.  Rest, recover, regenerate, grow stronger. 

Learn each add-on movement in an isolated fashion.  Do not Z-Press in the middle of a Turkish Get Up having never performed a Z-Press before.  Do not attempt swings, cleans, rows, etc… having not practiced each of these exercises in isolation.

Make sense? 

Always dabble with light weight first.  Playing with new movement combinations while flinging a heavy kettlebell increases the risk of disaster.  We can mitigate the risk of injury by using lighter, more manageable weight.   

Again… move with quality.  There’s a time and place for high intensity, balls to the wall, aggressive exercise with a little less emphasis on precise movement.  

Turkish Get Ups are not an exercise to rush through. Embrace the slow, meticulous grind.  Move with purpose, grace, soft hand/foot touches and strength in transitions.  

Breathe. 

Don’t forget to breathe.