You do it every morning – you wake up and move from lying on your back or side to upright and walking.  It involves every major muscle group and takes almost zero conscious thought.

There is an “exercise” that takes this simple movement and breaks it down into steps, adds resistance, and demands elegance.  The result is the Turkish Get Up – a perfect blend of stability, balance, and strength.  No inflatable balls needed.

The name supposedly came from a tradition of Turkish wrestlers.  Young men had to get up with 100lbs overhead to advance beyond beginner training.  Compare this to the average college male pinned to the couch under his pizza box.

A quality get-up has one overarching rule – it must be pretty.  There is no place for sloppiness. It should look easy – the hallmark of mastery. There are variations, but the idea is to start flat on your back, roll and post up into a tall sit position, get your free leg under your hip, and lunge up all while keeping one arm vertical to the ground.  It’s a condensed yoga session in one move.

Here is the Master of Movement, Gray Cook’s take on the TGU.

There are dozens of instruments working together in time to create the sounds of a symphony orchestra. Similarly, it takes every muscle group in the body working together to make a good get-up. The TGU has a rightful place among the other compound lifts – squats, deadlifts, cleans & presses, etc.  Like any exercise, once technique is dialed in, training load may increase.  Some even progress to raising their significant other overhead.

The Program Minimum as outlined in Enter The Kettlebell consists of only two workouts – a swing day and a Turkish get-up day.  That is all most people need to progress in their general fitness and is primarily how I trained for months while refining technique. A true 80/20 approach.

The TGU is a true “functional” exercise. It certainly has more real-life carry over than most stand-on-ball circus tricks.  A 57 year old client, rife with knee and shoulder injuries, could not believe how the TGU fundamentally changed his movement for the better. He even showed his dad how it could help him get up out of chairs without struggle!


Shoulder health – Shoulder injuries pervade the gym like no other.  Want to keep your bench and shoulder press on the up-and-up? Treat your rotator cuff with respect.

Flexibility – Like a series of yoga poses with optional weight.

Strength – The shoulders and triceps get a great workout. Besides, the old-time strongmen did them.

Core – Exercises like this show off what the abs and obliques are really for.

Mental Focus – Get ups require concentration. Lose focus and prepare for a tumble.

Calorie Burn – What other exercise takes up to a minute to complete one rep? That’s a lot of muscle dealing with a lot of time under tension.

The most popular TGU video on YouTube… Neghar helped train my get-up at my first kettlebell workshop.