The Turkish get-up, known mostly as a shoulder and core exercise, is actually an incredible overall physique builder. The problem? People that do get-ups fall into one of two camps:
- Some don't see the physique benefits because they go too light.
- Others use way too much weight, sacrificing form for the sake of a social-media circus trick.
For physique development, fall somewhere in the middle. A half-bodyweight Turkish get-up is a worthwhile goal. Accomplish that, and you'll have an envious physique, great body control, and unstoppable functionality.
So, how do you work up to this goal? The following drills can be used to both improve your technique and bust through your current level with the get-up. Before getting into them, here's a quick refresher on technique (for the right side using a kettlebell):
- The right arm is locked out with the wrist straight, and the shoulder packed. The right leg is bent with the foot flat on the floor, while the left leg and arm are both out at roughly 45 degrees.
- Drive through the right foot and pull through the left heel and hand to raise up onto the left elbow. Eyes stay focused on the weight.
- Externally rotate the left hand and straighten the left arm while keeping the chest proud and the shoulder pulled back.
- Drive through the right heel and extend the hips to move to a high bridge.
- Slide the left leg underneath the body and bring the left knee to the floor. The left knee should be on the same line as the left hand. The legs form an "open half-kneeling" position where the legs are perpendicular to each other.
- Hinge hips slightly and move to the lunge position. Now your gaze is straight ahead and not on the weight.
- Stand up from the lunge with the arm locked out.
- Step back from the lunge and reverse steps, 6-1. Return to the starting position in control.
Plateau Busting Variations
One-Fourth and One-Half Turkish Get-Up
Not everyone has the shoulder mobility to move safely overhead with resistance. Performing the first portions of the movement to the elbow or the bridge still allows you to reap the benefits of the lift. With fewer steps, it also makes learning the move less intimidating.
Most get-ups go awry with a rocky start. These shorter variations help to dial in the technique where it matters most. Since these are shorter movements, they can also lend themselves to slightly higher reps.
Heavy Waiters Walk with Assistance
Use two hands to assist in pressing a challenging weight to the locked-out position. This will allow you to build confidence with heavier poundages and will carry over to the get-up. Keep the elbow locked out, your trap relaxed, and your working arm in line with your ear. Avoid overarching through the lower back.
Waiters Split Squat
Focusing on certain segments of the get-up can be a great plateau buster. It's common for lifters to rush through the lunge portion with sloppy technique, so this is a simple way to dial that in.
Again, use two hands to assist a weight overhead that you otherwise wouldn't be able to press with one arm. Maintain the overhead locked-out position while performing split squats with the same-side leg of the locked arm. Adding an element of hip flexion will also put a greater demand on the mid traps and thoracic extension.
Doing the get-up from the top down allows you to focus on being crisp with your technique because there are fewer steps. It also minimizes the fatigue associated with completing the entire movement. Experiment with slightly heavier loads than your full get-up.
Lifters often try to rush through the components of the get-up, so they ultimately never really learn to "own" each part of it. For this drill, you add a step each time but always return to the beginning.
This move is best suited to light to moderate loads. It's excellent for building volume with the individual components and significantly increases time under tension for the shoulder.
Mix Up the Implement
Rotate the equipment you use periodically. With the offset weight distribution of kettlebells, heavy weights will actually limit your ability to keep a vertical arm because you need to counteract the backward pull of the kettlebell. A dumbbell can be a great way to remedy this and add some variety. Using a barbell will also create a huge stability and grip demand to balance the weight.
Strive to achieve balanced strength standards among all three options. Barbells and dumbbells will also allow for smaller increases in weight than typical kettlebell sizes.
The "perfect plan" to work towards a half-bodyweight get-up is actually using no plan at all. Just inject some of these drills into your upper-body warm-ups as a main lift on a push-focused day or as an accessory.
Every 4-6 weeks rotate in a different variation. Keep the reps low, allow for ample rest, and focus on the quality of execution. Take advantage of the days where you feel strong and be more conservative on days when you're not. Over time, slowly nudge the weights up.