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Build Total Body Strength With the Turkish Getup

Sean Hyson, CSCS
Photo credit: Philip Friedman

From Men's Health

Lifting a weight from the ground over your head is about the most challenging strength exercise you can do, which is why variations of it appear in Olympic weightlifting competition (the snatch and clean and jerk).

But the Turkish getup makes the movement even more difficult by forcing you to kickstart that process from the lowest position possible, on your back. From a supine position, you hold a weight aloft, and then proceed to come up to a standing position as efficiently as possible while keeping the weight above your head the entire time.

True to its name, the getup is believed to have been popularized by wrestlers and soldiers in Turkey centuries ago, and was valued for building stability and strength throughout the body. The long range of motion involves virtually every muscle, and balancing the weight overhead places big demands on the shoulder and core in particular. In fact, a 2019 study found that the Turkish getup might be especially beneficial for athletes whose sport requires higher levels of shoulder stability and rotational strength, such as volleyball and hockey players, as well as shot putters.

The Turkish getup is usually performed with a kettlebell, but Sean Garner, creator of the Men’s Health 6-Week Sweat Off fitness program, suggests you start with your body weight alone until you’ve mastered the form.

Even without using extra weight, you’ll still build core strength and the ability to control your body in multiple planes of movement, which is sure to benefit you in any sports you play, and help to prevent injury in and out of the gym. Here, Garner breaks the Turkish getup down into the following steps with a little help from Men's Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

How To Do The Turkish Getup

Photo credit: Philip Friedman
  • Step 1

Lie on your back on the floor. Extend your right arm straight over your chest, making a fist with your hand. Bend your right knee to place your foot flat on the floor. Extend your left arm 45 degrees from your side, palm facing down.

  • Step 2

Press your fist toward the ceiling as you drive your left elbow down into the floor—as if you were performing a dumbbell rowing exercise. Use this twisting action to raise your torso off the floor and place most of your weight on your left elbow. Keep your eyes focused on your right fist the whole time. Repeat Step 2 once or twice more to make sure you own the position. When you’re confident you’re doing it right, go on to Step 3.

  • Step 3

Press your left hand into the floor to extend your elbow. Repeat Step 3 once or twice more.

  • Step 4

Press your right heel into the floor to raise your hips up to full extension—keep your core braced to avoid over-arching your lower back. Repeat Step 4 once or twice more.

  • Step 5

Raise your left foot off the floor and swing it back, lowering your knee to the floor so it’s in line with the left hand. Keep looking at your right fist overhead. Your arms should form a straight line from hand to hand. Repeat Step 5 once or twice more.

  • Step 6

Rotate your left leg like a windshield wiper so it points straight behind you and you end up in a staggered, split stance (as in the bottom of a lunge). Straighten up your torso so it’s vertical. Lean forward while keeping your abs braced to make your left foot light. Extend your right leg and move your left leg forward to stand up tall—finishing with your right arm overhead as if you were holding a torch.

  • Step 7

Press your right arm upward to create tension in your shoulder, and step the left leg back as in a reverse lunge, lowering your left knee to the floor. Keeping your core braced, shift your hips to the right as you reach down and plant your left hand on the floor. Continue to look at your right fist overhead.

  • Step 8

Kick your left foot through the space between your arm and your hips, planting your heel on the floor. Your hips should be extended and your eyes still fixed on your right fist.

  • Step 9

Lower your hips to the floor and bend your left elbow. Lower your torso to the floor until your right shoulder rests.

All of the above equals one rep. Perform 3 to 5 reps, and then switch sides and repeat.

Photo credit: Men's Health

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Want more workouts like this from Garner and a program to follow for a healthier body? Check out the 6-Week Sweat Off, available on the All Out Studio streaming service alongside other stellar workout programs from Men's Health.

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