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January 13, 2022 11 min read

Although it might seem like a strange exercise, the Turkish get-up is a great addition to any workout routine. In fact, it is one of the most functional, strength building exercises you can add to your weekly program. 

It is an excellent choice for improving total body strength, balance, muscle coordination, and stability.

The Turkish get-up requires you to lift yourself off the ground from a prone position (lying on your back) to a standing position, while holding a kettlebell over your head the entire time. All while keeping proper form.

Here, we provide an appropriate deconstruction of this complicated exercise.

What Are Turkish Get-Ups?

Turkish get-ups or TGUs employ a wide range of movements that range from lying down to a sitting, lunge, and standing position in a series of fluid motions. All these are done while you clutch a kettlebell in your grip.

They are incredibly demanding and provide equally good muscle feedback. 

An exercise fit for gladiators, the Turkish get-up is thought to have originated from Turkish wrestlers and military men centuries ago. Given the amount of strength and endurance necessary to perform this legendary exercise, its history of being famous amongst cavaliers does not come as a total surprise.

More than 200 years on, and the Turkish get-up has come to settle in the bro-split of men looking to get shredded. 

If you can choose one  full-body exercise to perform, Turkish get-ups remain one of your best bets. Thanks to its holistic movements, this compound exercise targets and activates all the muscles in your body as you go through all three planes of movement.

That’s right, Turkish get-ups are one of few exercises that stimulate all major muscle groups in the body for the ultimate workout payoff. Turkish get-ups engage muscles in the upper body, core, and lower body in its ultimate muscle strength test.

Turkish get-ups use various weighted equipment like sandbags, dumbbells, and kettlebells to provide an added resistance advantage.  

While this makes an already complicated exercise even more difficult, it improves muscle strength and tolerance to high-intensity workouts. Overall, the Turkish get-up is an all-around exercise with numerous strength and muscle benefits. It is an excellent choice for athletes across all levels, regardless of their fitness level.

Muscles Worked In Turkish Get-Up

While many gym newbies ask what muscles they stimulate while performing Turkish get-ups, the real question should be, “What muscles are not being stimulated?”. This ultimate strength-training and mobility exercise packs a punch that will ripple throughout your full-body muscle groups. While it might leave you gasping for air, the integrated movements that make up the Turkish get-up lead to the activation and contraction of several muscle groups across all directions.

These muscle groups include the shoulders, back, hip, biceps, triceps, knees, and legs. 

Turkish get-ups work the shoulders during the lifting of the weighted equipment overhead. It works the muscles in the shoulder, activating and strengthening muscles like the rotator cuff muscles.

Since  rotator cuff injury is a predominant shoulder injury, Turkish get-ups deserve a spot in weekly program. It strengthens the deltoid muscles and the scapular muscles that help to stabilise the shoulders. This helps to improve lifting power, joint strength, stability and shoulder mobility. 

Turkish get-ups work the all of trunks and torso muscles.

The torso stabilises the spine and coordinates several functional movements. It enables the body to flex, extend, twist, and bend. Since all four actions are involved in the Turkish get-up, the core muscles like the transverse abdominis, erector spinae, and obliques are engaged.

It strengthens these muscles during the movements and the involvement of weighted equipment, leading to better stability, mobility, and endurance. 

TGU equally activates the glutes and hip flexors during the lunging, rotating, and lifting movements of the exercise. Besides aesthetic functions, the glutes help to stabilise the pelvis and aid in directional and rotational signs. Turkish get-ups use a wide range of motion to challenge and enhance hip mobility, increasing gluteal strength and improving stability. As an added advantage, the Turkish get-ups also engage the muscles in the upper back.

Benefits Of Turkish Get-Ups

Turkish get-ups target a whole lot of muscles that help to improve functionality.

Some of the benefits of this exercise include:

  1. Full-body workout: The most apparent benefit of the Turkish get-up is its ability to engage muscle groups that run across the entire body. It engages the upper body, core muscles, and posterior chain, providing a one-size-fits-all workout routine for your bro split. It leads to overall muscle strength and endurance.
  2. Core strength: A high percentage of core strength is necessary not just for navigating daily activities but also for levelling up on your fitness goals in the gym, especially in deadlift exercises. Core strength is a big part of every workout routine, and the Turkish get-up helps harness the strength in your core muscles.
  3. Better Posture: Turkish get-ups activate the abdominal and back muscle groups, both of which are directly affiliated with the spine. Strengthening these muscles that support the spine helps tighten and correct any lagging in them. It straightens the back, taking the improper load off it and providing good posture.
  4. Better mobility: Your shoulder joint, wrist joint, and hip flexors equally get in on the fun. Your body gains more mobility and flexibility as it moves through different planes of positions during the Turkish get-up.
  5. Reduced occurrence of muscle injury and pain: One good thing about muscle strength is its protection and strengthening of areas prone to injuries, one of which is the shoulder. A study shows that the  Turkish get-up is an excellent exercise rehabilitation for shoulder pain. It conditions the muscles and improves motor control and strength. This eases the pressure off the shoulders and reduces the pain in them.
  6. Enhanced coordination: Turkish get-ups require a great deal of stability and muscle coordination to complete each set without failure successfully. Continuously training your body by using Turkish get-ups help you to employ more graceful and fluid movements functionally, thanks to better body coordination.
  7. Increased shoulder overload: Turkish get-ups increase stability in each shoulder. This is due to the resistance of the weighted equipment on the shoulder. It strengthens the rotator cuffs, the attached upper back muscles and other supporting shoulder muscles.
  8. Unilateral arm corrections: many bilateral arm exercises do not give muscle groups on each arm equal efforts. The weights are often loaded unequally, leading to muscle imbalances on each side. The Turkish get-up isometrics loads each arm alternately, ensuring that each arm gets an equal amount of isometric loading. This leads to proper alignment, stability, and better muscle endurance.
  9. Cardio: When appropriately performed, TGU acts as a cardio exercise. It will get your heart beating fast, increase your resting metabolism, and help you burn calories more quickly. 

How To Do Turkish Get-Ups

The Turkish get-up is done in a series of steps that sum up to one exercise. There are two parts to it; the standing motion and the reverse motion. The standing motion comprises a series of small steps designed to drive your body from a fetal position to an erect position. The reverse movement is simply the reverse of the standing motion to get from an upright position to the starting fetal position. 

The Standing Motion

  • Place a kettlebell on the floor.
  • Begin on your right side. Lay beside the kettlebell, so it is close to your chest.
  • Bend your knees at about a 90-degree angle and stack them.
  • Keep your back straight.
  • Grip the kettlebell handle in your right hand and place your left hand over the top of the handles.
  • Bring the kettlebell towards your pelvic area.
  • With a slow and controlled movement, roll on your back while keeping the kettlebell clutched to your chest.
  • Spread out your legs.
  • Point your left leg straight out and flex your right knee until your right leg is at a 45-degree angle.
  • Point your left arm out laterally from your body, holding the kettlebell in your right hand.
  • Press the kettlebell overhead towards the ceiling.
  • Keep your right arm straight out and your wrist and elbows straight. Your elbows should be locked, and your knuckles pointed up.
  • Pull back your back muscles to engage your lats.
  • Engage your core by pulling your belly button in. Keep your back straight to engage the back muscles.
  • Tuck your chin as if you are holding an egg underneath it.
  • Using your right foot, push straight into the floor and into your left forearm on your side.
  • During this rolling movement, press the kettlebell further into the air, allowing your elbow to carry much of the weight.
  • Keep your left leg straight with your left heel pressed into the floor.
  • Keep your gaze on the kettlebell throughout the movement.
  • Straighten your left arm, so you are no longer on your forearm but resting on your palm with your fingertips pointing away from your body while your right arm is still extended. Your body should look T-shaped.
  • Turn your bicep outward to protect your shoulder. This will make the rotation easier and less stressful on your shoulder.
  • Immediately push your right foot into the floor to gain leverage, lifting your hip as high as you can go.
  • Sweep your left leg under your hip. Your knees should be directly under your hip, and your portion should be folded behind you in a way that the balls of your feet lay behind your right feet.
  • Straighten your hip into a proposal kneeling position. To do this, keep your right leg still, take your left hand off the floor and windshield-wiper your left leg until your hip is square and body is aligned.
  • Take your gaze off the kettlebell and focus on looking forward 
  • From this kneeling position, push through your right hip to a standing position while keeping your kettlebell arm outstretched and your left arm beside you.
  • Pause at the peak of this movement.

The Reverse Motion

The second phase of the Turkish get-up involves reversing all movements up until you get to the starting fetal position on the floor.

  • Kick your left leg behind you and sit back into a reverse lunge.
  • Windshield wiper your left leg back so it is on the inside of your right leg.
  • Look up towards the kettlebell and rest your left palm on the floor. Remember to turn your bicep outward.
  • Sweep your left leg wide out and straighten it.
  • Lower your hip to the floor and slide out your left arm.
  • Position yourself on your left forearm by pulling your elbow towards the floor.
  • Lower the kettlebell and roll back to the starting position on your right side.
  • That is one rep.

Turkish Get-Up Variations

As if the Turkish get-up isn’t cool enough, there are several variations that you can try out. Some of these variations are simple, while others might be even more challenging.

1. Weightless Turkish get-up

The weightless Turkish get-up is a simple variation. Unlike the staple version that requires you to hold weighted equipment, this variation makes full use of your body weight as a means of resistance. The weightless Turkish get-up is a great way to practice and perfect the movements of the exercise. It has a lower intensity than the weighted version. The weightless Turkish mirrors the moves of the basic Turkish get-up minus the kettlebell or dumbbell. To do this variation, follow the step by step initiative of the basic Turkish get-up without using any weight.

2. Half Turkish Get-Up

    The half Turkish get-up shortens the range of similar movement patterns by splitting the basic Turkish get-up in half. It targets the core muscles and reduces the stress on the hip flexors. The half Turkish get-up is a significant variation for beginners and gym-goers who suffer from hip injuries. 

    To do this variation:

    • Place a kettlebell on the floor.
    • Lie in a fetal position next to the kettlebell.
    • Grab and pull the weight close to your chest.
    • Roll on your back and keep your legs straight in front of you.
    • Press the kettlebell overhead.
    • Bend your right leg and plant your left foot on the floor.
    • Keep your left leg directly and back neutral.
    • Engage your core and spread your left arm laterally at a 45-degree angle with your palm down.
    • Drive your right foot into the floor and push up on your left elbow.
    • Raise your torso and shift your weight from your left elbow to your left forearm while keeping your left leg straight.
    • Rotate your arm until your bicep faces outward.
    • With your hand still in contact with the floor, push your hips off the ground and raise the kettlebell farther towards the ceiling.
    • Hold for a second before lowering yourself back to the ground.
    • Reverse the movement as you will in a full Turkish get-up.

    3. Double Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up

      The double kettlebell Turkish get-up is an advanced high-intensity muscle grappling workout routine. It is double the resistance, double the need for control, and double the effort. 

      To do this variation:

      • Grip a kettlebell in each hand.
      • Lay off your back, your fingers around the handle of the kettlebell, clutching them to my strength.
      • Bend your knees at an angle so that your feet are planted squarely on the floor.
      • Press both kettlebells overhead, locking out your elbows and wrists.
      • Lift your legs to get momentum to stand up. Rock forward and sit up, pressing the kettlebells upward as you do.
      • Spread your legs apart and bend your knees while still sitting on the floor.
      • Twist your torso to the right until both your knees are pointing out and you are sitting in between them.
      • Your right knee should be pointed to the right, and the balls of your right foot should be facing your left knee.
      • Once stable, sit up on your knees to gain leverage.
      • Bring your left foot forward until it is at a 90-degree angle with the floor, and you end up in a side lunge position.
      • Push up through your left foot, bringing your back foot forward as you rise into a standing position. 

      For the reverse motion:

      • Kick back your right knee into a reverse lunge.
      • While in your right knee, push your left leg straight behind you.
      • Sit back on your ankles.
      •  Twist your torso and sweep your legs out from under you until sitting straight up.
      • Lay down.
      • That is one repetition.

      Tips To Hold Form

      • Control your movement: The Turkish get-up is designed to be performed in a series of small steps that sum up to one big part. By taking slow steps, you can engage all muscles properly. Moving too fast leaves no room to commit the necessary powers properly.
      • Keep your arm straight: The arm pressing the kettlebell overhead should be locked at the elbow and wrist. This will ensure that the arm doesn’t sag and safely limit movement. Bending the arm opens you up for injuries in your elbow and joint.
      • Engage your core: Keeping your core engaged is a cue that helps to keep your back straight. In shifting from one position to the other, it is normal to relax your core reflexively. This would lead to rounding your shoulders and slouching your back to accommodate your movements, both of which are poor Turkish get-up forms. Keep your core engaged throughout the exercise as this would reduce your risk of injury and ensure your core muscles get the full workout they need. 
      • Always use proper weight: Incorporating too heavy weighted equipment into your routine will overload your shoulder muscles, resulting in poor form and injuries. Start with a manageable weight and slowly work your way up to heavier weights.
      • Warm-up: Engage in low-intensity warm-up exercises or stretches to prepare your muscles. You can include lightweight dumbbell or kettlebell exercises into your warm-up routine to brace your shoulder muscles.
      • Use a personal trainer: Personal trainers can spot your improper form before you do. They can help you to execute the Turkish get up perfectly and master it in no time. 

      Time to Get Up

      Turkish get-ups are an all-around exercise that might leave you feeling shaky but are worth it in the long run. The constant practice would lead to a stronger core, better back, sculpted abs, more muscular arms, and built legs.

      For the best result, pair the Turkish get-up with any  full-body kettlebell exercises for insane muscle strength and mass gains.