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Mastering the Turkish Get-Up for Total Body Power

March 20, 2007 04:08 PM

The Turkish Get Up (TGU) is a classic drill and display of power and coordination. It fits in with the Bent Press and proper squat as exercises you won't see in 99% of gyms in the world. A century ago it was a different story, but we all know what happened-strength took the back seat to looks.

I first came across the TGU while reading Dinosaur Training in the summer of 2000. I was a senior in high school, a power lifter from the Power House Gym I lifted at recommended the book. I worked in a few months of TGU with sand bags, and noticed a distinct increase in shoulder strength and flexibility.

Skip ahead 5 years. I started heavily combing the DD web site, purchased several books and DVDs. Every one of them quickly pointed out the benefits of this outstanding drill.

IN the summer of 2005 I was sent to LSA Anaconda in Northern Iraq. I had time to do 3 things-work, sleep, and lift. I took up a PTTP program with the Deadlift, Side Press and TGU. When I returned home in the spring, I had gained 30 pounds, put on 120lbs on my DL PR, and lifted ? of my body weight in the TGU (150lbs @ 200) I was solidly hooked to the Party's methods.

The TGU is an outstanding drill for the entire body. By selecting the correct variation and implement, you can focus on certain areas of the body. I will outline several styles I use in my pursuit of a 250lbs TGU. I don't know about you, but the thought of standing up with that much weight in one hand pumps me up.



Lunge Style: This is my preferred stance. As you get off the floor, you assume a 3 point stance. Straighten out your body, and then stand up with either a forward or rear lunge. Lean back in to the weight as you stand. Make a white knuckle fist with your free hand as you rise. Grunt hard and maintain high intra-abdominal pressure. I find this stance is easier to get back down to the floor as well.

Over Head Squat Style: With this style, you will assume a low bottom position over head squat and stand up. A lot of people will not have the flexibility to complete this lift in this style. If you do, then power to you. I have found this style in conjunction with the bent press to massively increase total body power.


Barbell TGU (Grip and AB emphases)
This exercise was labeled a "circus trick" when I mentioned it on the forum. I think that's fine, because I have always enjoyed seeing unusual feats of strength. To be sure, this is the most dangerous of the three main methods I use. However, I feel that the pay off for the hands and wrist make it well worth using. For this you will load up a barbell and lay it parallel to the body. I suggest an empty bar at first; some people may only need an easy curl bar. Roll to your side, and wedge your arm under the bar. Now use your free hand to assist you in pressing it out. You will have to have your hand dead center. It helps to brace the bar with your working side knee as you find the center of balance. You must maintain a very solid grip. Because of the lack of equipment, this was only way I could perform the TGU for the 6 months. It is my pet version. The amount of weight you can lift is enormous. The limiting factor will most likely be fear of dropping the weight. Practice somewhere that you are comfortable throwing it down. Ensure you watch your working hand at all times.

Dumbbell TGU: Easier then the Barbell, but not as easy as the kettlebell. The DB TGU is not a bad choice, but I don't recommend it often. The reason if that weight tends to drift a lot on newbies when they learn this, and they go from stable to a mess before the realize it. Just an observation I have made, maybe it will work great for you. Same rules apply as in other styles.

Sand Bag TGU: Exceptionally difficult. Balancing the weight is a nightmare. Start light, and this will take your shoulder stability to a new level. A slight variation I use is a standard sized sand bag packed full of chains. It is spill-free, but not as hard (relative to the sand)

Kettle Bell TGU: Preferred way to execute the drill for most people. The weight sits on the arm, allowing you to punch up with both the shoulder, and lever the weight off the arm. I would like to suggest several variations of this drill.

  • -Bottoms up KB TGU: I love BU drills. They allow you get a great grip work out, and make cheating impossible. This drill is executed exactly like a normal TGU, except the KB will be upside down. I find it more challenging to start standing up, do a BUP and then go down and stand up. It puts the grip under tension for a long time. Don't expect to be able to do too much right away. Be smart as you select your weights, the 16kg goes a long ways on this. Please be very careful and be ready to bail on the attempt if you lose control.

  • -2 Kettle bells in one hand TGU: This may fall a little close to "stupid human tricks" but some times I will knock out my reps with two KBs in hand instead of one heavy bell. Please be VERY careful. This one is for the start of the day, no grip or shoulder work before hand, and as always, stay away from failure. I have lifted 2 32kgs like this, and my forearms were super pumped from it.

  • -DL TGU: This is a favorite of mine to strengthen the hips and hamstrings. Place a KB on your non-working side, preferably a heavy bell. When you get to your kneeling/low squat stance, grab the bell and dead lift it as you stand up. Keep your eyes on the working hand as usual. This is similar to the low windmill drill.

  • -2 Hands Anyhow TGU: Same start as the DL TGU, except you will use a lighter bell, and as you stand up you will grab the bell and press it to arms length, same as the two hands any how bent press. I suggest you throw out the lighter weight when it is time to get back down.

  • -COC TGU: I got this idea after watching the Diesel Crew videos off their outstanding website. Take a gripper in your non-working hand, and crush it for the duration of the set. I find this makes it easier for most weights due to improved irradiation.

  • -Jump Stretch bands/chains with the TGU: I have been working this after inspiration for the West Side Barbell methods. A barbell with chains is the best way I have implemented this. I don't have access to enough chain to make it heavy enough yet, but I think it is an intriguing possibility to go from 75 pounds at the bottom to 175 at the top.

  • -X-vest/or body armor method: Not rocket science here. Putting on a heavy vest makes it harder while sparring the shoulders. Combine this with the DL method and you can really be moving some weight. I used a 45 pound RBR body armor vest and two 48kg kettle bells, that is definitely helping my vanilla TGU's.

I recommend either using these methods as part of Pavel's Enter the Kettlebell! program, or the classic Power to the People! No need to try and reinvent the wheel here.

I'm not one for complex arguments on why you should or should not do something. Pick one you like. It will pay off in both your day to day activities and on what ever sports field you enjoy. Let me know what you like, and please pass on your own ideas to me on the forum.

SSgt Adam T. Glass is a Security Forces craftsman stationed with the 18 SFS in Okinawa Japan. He competes in arm wrestling, strongman and Greco-roman wrestling. Feel free to contact him at