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What is the Turkish get up?

Douglas Bonderud
Douglas Bonderud

The Turkish get up is an exercise made popular by early 20th century strongmen. It is now used in training programs to maximize full-body lifting power, shoulder flexibility, and grip strength. This exercise can use a kettlebell, barbell, or dumbbell, and involves transitioning from a prone position to a standing one, while keeping a weight held above the head. It is a one-handed exercise that can be performed using either the left or right hand.

To perform a Turkish get up, lie prone on the floor with a dumbbell in the left hand. The right arm should be flat on the floor at 90 degrees from the body. Raise the left hand off of the floor until the weight is directly above the face. Pull the left heel in toward the buttocks, and roll slightly onto the right side of the body, pushing down with the right shoulder and arm. Once stable on the right elbow, and with the left foot tucked in to the buttocks, raise the body and slide the right leg backward and under the body to achieve a kneeling position. Drive the body up into a standing position.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Once standing, the steps of the exercise should be performed in reverse order. One repetition is completed once the body is in the prone position again. It is crucial that during the entire Turkish get up sequence, the eyes are not taken off of the weight. The weight will at all times be above the head and if it becomes too heavy or stability is lost, the exerciser should abandon the attempt. Do not try to recover, simply drop the weight away from the body and stand up.

If using a kettlebell — a circular weight with a handle attached — to perform a Turkish get up, the circular portion will rest on the back of the forearm, while the movement is being done. This allows for greater stability and, therefore, a heavier weight to be lifted. When using a barbell stability will be very poor, and it is essential that the bar be gripped in the center. Extremely heavy barbells can be lifted in one hand by an experienced athlete, and can total up to three-quarters of their body weight.

The major advantage that the Turkish get up has over other strength-training exercises, such as the bench press, is its ability to enhance multiple body functions. This exercise requires balance, stability, and strength, and uses both arms and the core. Performed routinely, the Turkish get up can result in improved overall weight-lifting performance and better shoulder flexibility.

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      Woman holding a book