The Best Exercise You’re Not Doing: The Turkish Get Up


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Though it looks like something well suited for the turn-of-the-century strongmen sporting leotards and handlebar mustaches, the Turkish Get Up is perhaps more in vogue today than it has ever been. This exercise, most commonly performed with a kettlebell, has many intricacies, even though the overall  goal of the exercise (to go from laying on your back, to standing, and back down onto your back, all the while holding a kettlebell in the air) may seem relatively simple. Read further to discover the history of the Turkish Get Up, its numerous benefits, as well as a quick tutorial on how to properly perform it.


The History of the Turkish Get Up

Though no one is completely sure of the exact origins of the Turkish Get Up (TGU), most believe that it originally developed as an exercise utilized in training Turkish wrestlers several hundred years ago. It is rumored that during the Cold War, at the height of the Eastern Bloc’s domination in Olympic weightlifting, many coaches told prospective athletes that they had to be able to perform the TGU with 100 pounds on each side before they could even begin training with them.

Now, with the proliferation of the kettlebell as a common training tool, you can find people in CrossFit boxes, strength and conditioning facilities, professional sports, and even outside in local parks and beaches doing the TGU.


The Benefits of the Turkish Get Up

It may appear akin to a circus act (in fact, YouTube is filled with videos of men performing the TGU with their spouses as the weight implement!), but the TGU has numerous benefits, including:

  • A strong stabilization requirement since you are essentially holding the kettlebell fixed in the air while manipulating your body around it. Many progressive clinicians are using this exercise is the rehab of patients with low back, shoulder, and neck problems because of the great stabilization demands.
  • The TGU teaches you have to properly align your body. If you align yourself poorly you will quickly reach your ceiling with this exercise. Poor alignment, especially during movement, is the biggest driver for orthopedic injuries, so learning proper alignment via the TGU could theoretically enhance injury resiliency.
  • The TGU highlights any significant right/left asymmetries that one might have since it is performed one side at a time.
  • It is perhaps one of the best core exercises out there, and can sculpt a midsection out better than any crunch or sit-up ever could.
  • Due to the fact that the weight crosses the body’s midline several times during the exercise, the TGU requires more brain activation and has longer-term benefits than most other gym exercises.
  • The TGU involves numerous fundamental movement patterns. Think of it this way- would those old “I’ve fallen and can’t get up!” commercials be necessary if everyone performed a couple TGU every day?
  • It requires a high level of focus, making an hour in the gym fly by unlike that brutally boring hour of treadmill time you dread.
  • The TGU is a full body exercise, ensuring that you get the most out of your exercise sessions.
  • The TGU can make you very strong. It is not unheard of for some to perform the exercise with a 135 pound barbell!
  • It’s just plain fun and definitely gets peoples’ attention!


Performing the Turkish Get Up

Although the TGU has many more benefits than your standard line of Nautilus machines, it does not come without risks, especially if performed incorrectly. The following tutorial should be descriptive enough to get you started on your path to TGU success, but it could never replace the valuable guidance of a knowledgeable trainer.

With that said, click the arrows to see how you can get started performing the TGU:

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About Dr. Taylor Levick

Taylor Levick is a chiropractic physician and performance coach based out of the Daytona Beach area. Dr. Levick brings over a decade of experience in personal training to his clinical practice, where he is able to combine the methodology he was exposed to through his chiropractic education at Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida, extensive post-graduate studies and seminars, undergraduate studies in exercise physiology at the University of Florida, and devoted self-learning into a truly unique approach that benefits not just athletes, but people of all walks. In an effort to “walk the walk,” Dr. Levick is heavily invested in his own health and fitness, and regularly seeks to push the limits of his own performance. In addition to owning his own private practice, Dr. Levick personal trains clientele and is the general manager of Impact Fitness and Health, and is a part-time faculty clinician for Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida Clinic. When not working, Dr. Levick enjoys staying active and taking advantage of Central Florida’s year round nice weather.

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