Exercise Technique: The Turkish Get-up With a Kettlebell : Strength & Conditioning Journal

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Exercise Technique

Exercise Technique

The Turkish Get-up With a Kettlebell

Leatherwood, Matthew D. BS; Whittaker, Adam BS; Esco, Michael R. PhD

Editor(s): Dawes, Jay PhD, CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT*D, FNSCA

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Strength and Conditioning Journal 36(6):p 107-110, December 2014. | DOI: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000096



The Turkish get-up (TGU) is a multijoint exercise designed to increase muscular fitness throughout the entire kinetic chain as the body uses a combination of several successive movements to complete the exercise with proper technique (3). The TGU is effective for increasing strength, balance, and core stability (3). The TGU is a complex movement that combines features of the 1-arm overhead press, side crunch, side bridge, and lunge (1,6).


Since the TGU recruits a vast majority of muscle groups, it is a full body exercise. The movement puts major emphasis on activating the deltoid, rectus abdominis, external obliques, erector spinae, gluteal group, quadriceps, and hamstrings (4).


Because of its combination of several sport-specific movement patterns, the TGU can be implemented into many types of training programs. For example, it initially involves a rolling movement and then challenges the ability to stand up from the floor against an external load. Because of these characteristics, this exercise can be incorporated into training programs for wrestlers and mixed martial artists. Tactical officers could benefit from the exercise as well since it simulates realistic situations of combat: that is, supporting heavy loads overhead. The exercise is also beneficial for athletes whose primary movement involves a significant amount of core and upper-body stability with lower-body dynamic movement (e.g., football linemen). Furthermore, stability exercises like the TGU may increase core strength, which is important for optimally transferring power across the extremities (7). Therefore, the movement may be incorporated into the strength and conditioning program for a variety of athletes.

The TGU may also be used as a corrective therapeutic exercise as it may improve shoulder and scapular stability, as well as rotator cuff strength by keeping the bell overhead resisting unwanted movements in multiple planes (1). Therefore, the TGU may be effective in preventing or rehabilitating overuse injuries due to excessive overhead movements experienced by some athletes (e.g., pitchers, quarterbacks, javelin athletes, volleyball players, etc.) (1,3,5,6).

It is preferred to externally load with a kettlebell (KB) rather than a dumbbell. The former has been shown to pose a greater challenge to coordination and stability compared with the latter (3). Therefore, this column will explain the proper exercise technique for performing the TGU with a KB.


The TGU can be performed on either side of the body. However, this column will describe the movement with a focus on the right arm extended with left leg support (see Supplemental Digital Content 1, https://links.lww.com/SCJ/A147). Once the desired repetitions are completed with this version, the steps can be repeated for the opposite side.

  • Step 1: Laying to Press

Begin by laying on the right side of the body with both knees and hips flexed at 90° and grasp a KB with the hands. The elbows should be flexed at approximately 90° with the KB pulled inward to the chest (Figure 1). Roll onto the back extending the left leg while keeping the right knee flexed. Remove the left hand from the KB and place the left arm at approximately 45° flat on the floor with the palm pronated. Press the KB overhead by extending the right arm (Figure 2). After the arm is fully extended, it should remain in this position throughout the entire movement. This should be accomplished through the isometric actions of the musculature that surround the elbow (e.g., triceps) and shoulder (e.g., rotator cuff, deltoid, scapular stabilizers) joints. In addition, keeping the eyes fixed on the KB during each step of the movement will help to ensure that the arm does not deviate from the desired position.

  • Step 2: Hand Support
Figure 1:
Starting position.
Figure 2:
Laying position with kettlebell pressed overhead.

While keeping the right arm extended, shift the weight of the body onto the left elbow. The right hip should abduct allowing the knee to be pointed upward. Then, extend the left arm to support the body with the left hand. The left hand should be pronated and planted firmly on the floor directly under the left shoulder (Figure 3).

  • Step 3: The Side Bridge
Figure 3:
Hand support.

While maintaining the support of the upper body with the left arm, isometrically contract the rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique, and transverse abdominis (i.e., “abdominal bracing” (8)) and lift the hips upward until a side -bridge position is achieved (Figure 4).

  • Step 4: Leg Sweep to Lunge Position
Figure 4:
Side bridge position.

Supporting the body with the left hand and right foot; flex the left knee to 90° so that it makes direct contact with the floor underneath the hips. Keep the right arm extended and bring the torso to a vertical position, breaking contact from floor with the left hand. In this position, the body should be upright in a lunge position with KB directly overhead (Figure 5).

  • Step 5: Stand-up
Figure 5:
Lunge position from leg sweep.

From the lunge position, contract the gluteus maximus and quadriceps, then extend the knees and hips of the right leg to stand. The unsupported left leg should move forward and the left foot should be placed next to the right foot (Figure 6).

  • Step 6: Reverse
Figure 6:
Standing from lunge position.

Reverse these steps to the original position by first stepping backward into the lunge position while keeping the right arm extended and KB overhead (Figure 5). Place the left hand firmly on the floor directly under the left shoulder and extend the left leg (Figure 4). Flex the left arm and bring the elbow in contact with the floor (Figure 3). Then, roll onto the back (Figure 2).


The number of repetitions will vary depending on the goal of the athlete and their familiarity with the KB and the TGU movement. The most important aspect of this movement is performing proper technique, which may require no external load at first. Depending on the training status of the athlete and how well he or she progresses through the movement, coaches can determine sets, reps, and load accordingly. However, basic recommendations for muscular strength can be followed initially, such as performing 2–6 sets, ≤6 repetitions per side, with 2–5 minute rest periods between each set (2). The chosen load should accommodate the desired number of repetitions while ensuring the maintenance of proper technique.


As stated previously, the TGU is a complex, progression-based movement. Beginners should practice each step in isolation before executing the movement in unison, preferably while being supervised by a strength and conditioning practitioner. At first, the TGU can be performed without an additional load or while balancing a light weight object on top of the wrist, such as a shoe (1). Once the movement is successfully performed following either manner, a dumbbell could then be implemented because it is less challenging to coordinate and stabilize since the load is centered instead of offset like the KB. If all steps are completed with proper technique, a light KB should be introduced with increasing load following the principles of progression.

Because of the complexities of the movement, it may be best to incorporate the TGU toward the beginning of a training session, especially for beginners. Advanced lifters could perform the TGU in the later portion of a workout, since sport-specific scenarios may involve executing related movements under states of fatigue.


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2. Baechle TR, Earle RW. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. National Strength and Conditioning Association. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2008. pp. 399–405.
3. Crawford M. Kettlebells: Powerful, effective exercise and rehabilitation tools. J Amer Chiropr Assoc 48: 7–10, 2011.
4. Floyd RT. Manual of Structural Kinesiology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 205–226–371, 361–371, 2012.
5. George R. Functional movement in action: Introduction to the Turkish get-up. Dynam Chiropr 31: 1–7, 2011.
6. Liebenson C, Shaughness G. The Turkish get-up. J Bodywork Mov Ther 15: 125–127, 2011.
7. Shinkle J, Nesser TW, Demchak TJ, McMannus DM. Effect of core strength on the measure of power in the extremities. J Strength Cond Res 26: 373–380, 2012.
8. Vera-Garcia FJ, Elvira JL, Brown SH, McGill SM. Effects of abdominal stabilization maneuvers on the control of spine motion and stability against sudden trunk perturbations. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 17: 556–567, 2007.

Supplemental Digital Content

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