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Strength Exercise of the Week: 1-arm Bottoms-up Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up

Written on April 3, 2013 at 1:20 pm, by Eric Cressey

I’m a big fan of the Turkish Get-up.  It’s one of those exercises that affords so many benefits – core stability, hip mobility, scapular control, rotator cuff control – that you could make a list a mile long and still forget a few of the positives.  It is, however, one of those exercises where every rep takes quite a bit of time to execute, and there are a lot of cues to remember.  In fact, in referring to Turkish Get-ups the other day, a 17-year-old Cressey Performance athlete remarked:

“It’s like solving a damn puzzle every step of the way and that’s just to do one rep…stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in my program.”

I like to think of it as “exposure to a rich proprioceptive environment,” but I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree!  With that said, regardless of what you call it, it’s important to not let people rush through the get-up, as it should be more “segmented” to ensure that they don’t miss out of the benefits.  Young athletes, in particular, will want to speed through it and try to make it one fluid movement.  One of my favorite ways to prevent rushing is to simply switch to a bottoms-up kettlebell get-up.

Going bottoms-up increases the stability demands at the upper extremity, and in a more unstable environment, you have to move a bit slower. Additionally, this serves as a great challenges to the scapular stabilizers, rotator cuff, and grip musculature.

The next time you find yourself rushing through the get-up – or dealing with a client or athlete who is going through it too quickly – try going bottoms-up; it should clean up some of the issues you’re seeing.

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20 Responses to “Strength Exercise of the Week: 1-arm Bottoms-up Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up”

  1. Doug Parra Says:

    Great tip. People can also take off their shoe and place the sole on the palm of their hand and be instructed not to let it fall off. The “naked” Get Up. It works great if you do not have a light enough KB for someone to a bottoms up get up.

  2. Eric Cressey Says:

    I agree, Doug. I don’t like the shoe quite as much because you don’t get the reflexive rotator cuff activation (irradiation) that comes from gripping the KB. Still a good option, though.

  3. Wendy Breault Says:

    Bottoms up is an awesome idea with the teens, I’m going to use this. They do like to rush through, and they don’t like the frequent reminders to slow down. good stuff, thanks!

  4. Deana Says:

    Would you be able to explain ‘reflexive activation (irradiation’ please Eric.

    Thank you for the fantastic posts.

  5. Jim Mara Says:

    Eric, great exercise. My only critique would be to make sure the elbow is extended, the person demonstrating has a slight bend which could interfere with keeping the shoulder packed during the entire movement. Keeping the shoulder packed is how you gain the benefits of the lift for the scapula, t- spine and shoulder mobility. Lastly, using an appreciable amount of weight will cause people to slow down through the 7 steps in the get up rather than relying on the bottoms up position to do that, although its an awesome variation. Just increased risk of things going south.,

  6. Eric Cressey Says:

    Jim,

    Valid point, except there are actually a lot of people (Greg included – and a lot of baseball guys we see) who can’t fully extend their elbow. They just work with what they’ve got and go from there! Thanks for the input.

  7. Mark P Says:

    Great post, Eric. I’m assuming all of the benefits for shoulder stability attained form the bottoms-up walk will carry-over to this exercise?

  8. Avi Says:

    This has nothing to do with this blog post, but a while back you wrote about putting some cocoa butter in the fridge, then taking it out and eating it “like a piece of a white chocolate.” Well, I finally tried it. WOWOWOW. I did not expect it to be that awesome. Thank you.

  9. Craig Leonard Says:

    Love the get up in all forms, one of my favourite stability and strength builders of the shoulder.

    Eric, when executing a TGU with a standard grip (not a bottoms up) would you also keep the wrist in a neutral position so at the top of the movement there’s an emphasis on externally rotating the shoulder?

  10. Brian Bochette, PT, CSCS Says:

    Great post Eric. I agree that “exposure to a rich proprioceptive environment” is critical to developing quality movement and athleticism. The TGU is a phenomenal proprioceptive experience and the complete antithesis to the often misguided approach of tuning out your body while you pound through mindless repetitions. I would add that the TGU also has the benefit of fitting into Gray Cook’s concept of self-limiting exercise. Poor form with a heavy TGU quickly turns it into an impossible task, and this is particularly true with the bottoms up version. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but I think that these concepts are so important that they are well worth repeating.

  11. Russell Andrews Says:

    Eric, Great exercise, maybe my favorite, the Get Up corrects many movement pattern weaknesses because of the different positions the Athlete must navigate through with resistance. I seen many Athletes increase pressing strength just from this exercise, without focusing on pressing, due to increasing overall total body strength. To gain strength, many Athletes have the “bench, squat, curl, etc” mindset. There is genuine full body strength to lie flat on your back holding a heavy kettlebell at arms length, stand up, and then lie back down. Check my Son out here.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrQOu6IjQsI

  12. Rees Says:

    LOL. Funny kid.

  13. simon Says:

    I love the TGU, but find that it often seems to tweak my lower shoulder (not the arm holding the KB). I have kind of whack shoulders, but I’m always reading that the TGU is a great shoulder rehab exercise. Am I just going too heavy, or is there a cue eg, on placing the lower, supporting hand, that helps with that shoulder? I do make an effort to keep that lower arm supinated (?), ie rotating my thumb away from my body. Thanks, S

  14. Loren Says:

    Good point on the bottoms-up kb. I have a client who rushes thru because of ego (despite my disapproval), and this bottoms-up technique will help bring him down a peg or two. ha ha.

  15. Brian Seelos Says:

    Great tip. We did get-ups at our box this week and I saw people struggling with them, mainly because they are unfamiliar with them. I’m going to suggest this next time. Thanks Eric.

  16. Tony Says:

    Fantastic idea, using the bottoms-up approach! I have a method that I believe improves on the shoe version, though it doesn’t have the grip/irradiation aspect: it is by doing the TGU with a medicine ball that is too big to control well with the palm. This forces the arm to remain vertical or else the ball falls off. The weight of the ball adds a bit of additional challenge compared to the shoe, and the increase in concentration is phenomenal. That said, the TGU with the bottoms-up grip looks to eclipse that :-)

  17. Steven Head Says:

    @ Doug Parra, Eric, When doing a naked get-up using a shoe, the shoe should be atop the fist, not in the palm which would ‘promote’ a flexed wrist (a no-no) and would not give the more immediate feedback of falling as readily when one strays from proprioceptive vertical….

  18. rick wolcott Says:

    Eric,

    Like you need my input on your business or time. However an book or e – book on common coaching cues you use for a variety of exercises would be awesome.
    Thanks for all your hard work!

  19. Eric Cressey Says:

    Thanks, Rick! We actually do something like this with Elite Training Mentorship. Each month, I upload several coaching tutorials. Check it out HERE.

  20. Scott Gunter Says:

    I’ll keep it short today, but great variation. I love subtle changes that can alter complexity significantly. Great shoulder exercise in general, now with a twist of grip strength.

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