A Corrective Approach to the Turkish Get Up

The TGU is a flow state drill that targets 7 specific movements and requires not only mobility and stability, but strength and endurance, built from the ground up; which makes it an effective drill for strength and corrective coaches alike.  We can classify it as; corrective, functional and a competent way to lift. It can help restore movement patterns and build strength. As a corrective tool, I most often use the half get up to improve shoulder or thoracic spine dysfunction and I use the half get down to improve hip and thoracic stability, as well as rotational compensation.

The 7 Stages in the Get Up:

Much like neurodevelopment, the TGU is built from the ground up, moving the human structure through primitive postures, to foundational ones. Breaking down the stages will ensure your client’s success, as well as understanding of the benefits the TGU can provide.

(1) Fetal Position to Press, (2) Press to Elbow Position (3) Elbow Post to Hand Post (4) Post to High Pelvis (5) High Pelvis to Hip Hinge Bend (6) Hip Hinge Bend to Half Kneeling, (7) Half Kneeling to Standing.

From the Agatsu E Book Series

From the Agatsu E Book Series

From Movement to Mastery, the benefits include:

  • Improved shoulder stabilization and neuromuscular control
  • Improved thoracic mobility
  • Improved multi segmental stabilization of the spine
  • Improved hip stability , in supine, half kneeling and standing neurodevelopment postures
  • Improved reflexive lumbo pelvic control
  • Improves balanced symmetry between right and left sides, as well as upper and lower quadrants
  • The TGU can be used for critical postural feedback and mechanical awareness


Remembering that a screen is not an assessment, always use your best judgement; if there is pain or a red flag for potential risk, the client is not ready to perform the TGU. We know that from the joint by joint approach, problems with the neck could mean problems stemming from a different area of the body altogether. Problems in the shoulders, could mean sloppiness in the cervical spine or stiffness in the thoracic spine.

Let’s presume you have already performed the full FMS screen and have been working on your clients prerequisites for the TGU. This would include soft rolling upper and lower body patterns, and ensuring that you re screen that major patterns within the complex make up of the Turkish get up or get down. This would include:

From the Functional Movement Screen:

  • The shoulder mobility screen – which we know showcases not only the shoulders, but active flexion and extension in the thoracic spine.
  • The active straight leg raise screen – as this will showcase a client’s ability to perform flexion and extension at the hips, as well as lumbo pelvic control and hip disassociation.

Selective Screens:

  • Screen breathing patterns in both unloaded/relaxed, and performance breath – breathing patterns places emphasis on the diaphragm and significant load to the thorax.
  • Thoracic Spine Screen– screening the thoracic spine is critical, as this is required for proper packing of the shoulders and rotational stability coming from standing to half kneeling, as well as getting up to half kneeling with load. You can perform this right after the breathing. If you have not screen the prone press up and TSPU you can move into this easily through this sequenced screen.
  • Cervical Spine screen – to ensure there are no pre risks in the upper neck or tissue supporting the head.
  • Screen your client’s grip.  Grip strength can determine neurological restrictions in the hand related to the shoulder and ability to pack and move around the load in the get up.


A Corrective Approach to the TGU:

As movement prep, I warm my clients up with a little foam rolling to rehydrate and warm tissue. From there we review upper and lower body rolling patterns, working in biofeedback tools where necessary. From there a set of open and closed chain joint mobility sequences to help promote flow state movement and breath. The tool or type of equipment also matters. A dumbbell or power block doesn’t can wobble; whereas using a kettlbell will offer you more because of the nature of its design. The handle and offset center of gravity helps to pull the body into vertical, because of the placement of load. When the weight hangs from your hand, within that vector of gravity means less risk and more stabilization.   Reviewing where needed; the hip hinge, coassack lunge or shibox progressions depending on which style if TGU I may use (RKC vs EKG).

The Arm Bar & Ceiling Reach:

When we look at the structural anatomy and physiology of the shoulder we can deduce that it does two things; (1) compresses (as in the arm bar and TGU) and (2) it distracts (as in a single arm deadlift or snatch). The TGU focuses on compression of the joints. Both of these drills ask us to practice vertical placement of weight through the shoulder blade. Shoulder packing requires the shoulder girdle, the breath and the body to support load. Getting the joint stable and centered, so the client can work on the proprioceptive vertical. One addition to this drill to ask the client to rotate the load in the ceiling reach until they find a spot that feels stable. Adding onto this, we can then ask the cline, still in supine to rotate the head (cervical spine) from side to side; which helps build their ability to disassociate between their neck and shoulders, while at the same time improving movement and proprioception. Moving onto the hip drive in the arm bar,  you can teach the client to connect the vertical compression and shoulder packing to the initial hip drive required to start distributing load in the first stage of the get up. Teaching the client to drive from the hip, transferring that load to the shoulders encouraged clients to understand the connection between the shoulders and the hips. Practice stacking the shoulders in the finish position and driving the floor away (turning on as much tissue as they can). This is a whole body exercise right from the beginning, to the end.

Half Get Up:

The half Get-Up is an excellent exercise for those who have dysfunction or compensatory movement in the shoulders, and thoracic spine. For those who require motor control and stability in the upper quadrant, this drill can be incorporated with neck and shoulder rotations, just like we performed in the arm bar and ceiling reach; which require total body engagement.  Learning this first part of the Get-Up places a high priority on breathing, as opposed to powering through the movement; therefore, cues like “bringing the sternum forward, driving out of the posted elbow will all help the client connect to the ability to expand in breath.  The aid of the kettle bell intertwines the grip, breathing, and core to pack the shoulder and display balance under a load. It is at this point you, as the coach, can further explore restrictions that can then be cleaned up as you slow this process down. One cue I use often for clients to “move your body around the kettlbell,” when you start keep your eye on the bell, move your body around the bell vs moving the bell to match your body. This prevents the athlete from pushing the bell forward, when they move from underneath the bell, it becomes an extension of their body. The half get up down slowly, allows us to provide the structure with a sensory rich environment to explore greater awareness and stabilization.

Pay attention to the Grip:

Most often the grip is practically ignored in today’s training. Yet, we know from primitive patterning; strong hands lead to a strong body.  The hands also fire neurons to the brain, when you make a fist and your body recognizes fight or flight and will naturally pack the shoulder. The hands tie into the neurological system, as do our feet. They are the two most neglected sensory feedback tools we own and are a central nervous fatigue marker.  Practice exercises in the vertical and horizontal positions to strengthen your grip. Once you have mastered this, then move into practicing static holds, bottoms up in half kneeling, as this will also start to improve more hip stability needed to hinge in the half way position prior to loading into standing.

Leaders in the evolution of the TGU:

The Turkish Get Up is one of the oldest known lifts, which requires a great deal of both mobility in the joints, extensibility in the tissues and stability in movement to endure moving from the ground up. I have found that a hybrid between the traditional TGU and the integration of the shin box bridge in the Evolution Kettlebell Groundwork series, as well as the attention to mobility and preparing tissue to move in Agatsu Kettle bell Trainings can significantly increase a client’s success and awareness towards the flow of this movement. It connect each stage as well as the breath. The links to these can be found below.

Next week we look at the other half of the TGU from the perspective of top down, vs ground up.


About the Author: Sarah Jamieson

Sarah Jamieson has written 155 posts on this site.

Sarah is the owner and head movement coach at Moveolution; a Vancouver based consulting company focused on the integration of movement and recovery science. Bridging the gaps between the clinical and performance fields Sarah’s passion stems from lifelong passion of Yoga, Jujitsu, and Qi Gong; which she integrates into her coaching practice. She is a full time social change maker, a ‘run-a-muker’ of everything outdoors and repeatedly engages in random acts of compassion.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...