How to Do the Turkish Getup

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Turkish get up gif

 VeryWell / Ben Goldstein

Targets: Total body

Equipment Needed: Kettlebell

Level: Advanced

When it comes to total body training, there are few exercises that target your entire body the way the Turkish getup does. The beauty of this kettlebell exercise, in which you move from a lying position, to a kneeling position, to a standing position, before returning all the way to the floor again, is that it requires you to link separate movement patterns together in a manner that takes you through all three planes of motion—sagittal, transverse, and frontal. This is different from most strength training exercises, which typically utilize only one or two planes of motion, and it ultimately helps build strength in a way that transfers seamlessly to everyday life.

Think about it—as you go about your day, you walk, you twist, you bend over, you sit down and stand up, constantly transitioning from one thing to the next without thinking about how your major muscle groups function as a unit to enable these transitions. It's not like your quadriceps live in a bubble where they don't have to coexist and work alongside your other muscles—rather, your quadriceps work with your hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, and your core to perform "basic" movements like walking. And this concept applies to all movements and all muscles. A well-balanced musculature, strong core, and strong stabilizers at the hips and shoulders all help make you more efficient in everyday movements while reducing the likelihood of injury.

Exercises like the Turkish getup not only hit every major muscle group, but they provide a way to "practice" transitions in a controlled way. This can help you identify and shore up any weaknesses or imbalances that you have while building strength that can transition to functional day-to-day movements and more athletic endeavors.

If you're just starting out with the Turkish getup, consider practicing the exercise as part of your warmup routine. Performing just a few repetitions without weight is sure to get your heart rate up while preparing you for the meat of your workout. Once you've mastered proper form and you're ready to start adding more resistance, include getups as part of your regular strength training routine. Start with a lightweight kettlebell and increase resistance as you improve.

Benefits

The Turkish getup really does target almost every major muscle group, and due the to transitions between lying, kneeling, and standing, there's a particularly strong focus on the core and the stabilizing muscles of the hips and shoulders.

Two of these transitions require a strong hip hinge, which places a particular focus on the hips, glutes, hamstrings, abs, and low back. The squat and lunge positions target all the major muscle groups of the lower body. And because you're holding a weight over your shoulder, moving through a range of motion while also stabilizing the weight to prevent injury, you engage your shoulder, triceps, upper back, and the small stabilizing muscles of your chest and shoulders.

There's a cross-body sling between each hip and the opposite shoulder, and by performing the Turkish getup, which focuses on hitting each shoulder unilaterally while requiring the hips to perform hinges, you have the ability to strengthen this cross-body sling and improve core power and stability. This provides greater core strength and rotational power that can be helpful for twisting movements, especially during athletic activities.

Shoulder Stability

Beyond the development of total-body strength and coordination, one of the biggest benefits of the Turkish getup is how effective the exercise is at improving shoulder stability and mobility. The shoulder joint is the least stable joint in the body, and it's particularly prone to injury due to this instability. Add to that the fact that many people have limited shoulder mobility due to constant slouching (desk jobs, looking at cell phones, using bad posture while watching TV) and the tendency to overwork the chest and shoulders while failing to balance opposing muscle groups by working the upper back, and you wind up with a double-whammy: An instable joint with limited mobility. The end result is often injury and chronic pain.

The Turkish getup requires you to hold a weight perfectly stable over your shoulder (developing shoulder stability) while working through a range of motion as you transition between lying, kneeling, and standing. This range of motion requires the engagement of the upper back, helping identify where you lack proper shoulder mobility. Over time and with practice, the Turkish getup can help improve this mobility while balancing the opposing muscle groups that surround and support the shoulder.

Alleviates Muscles Imbalance

Finally, because the Turkish getup places such a strong emphasis on identifying and shoring up muscle imbalances and weaknesses, particularly through the hips, core, shoulders, and upper back, the exercise can help improve posture while reducing the likelihood of experiencing low back pain. These two benefits together can give you a stronger, more confident and agile stride that allows you to move through everyday life with greater ease.

Step-by-Step Instructions

You don't need much space or equipment to perform the Turkish getup. Just make sure you have enough room to comfortably move from a lying to a standing position. You may want to use an exercise mat to make your time on the floor more comfortable. Otherwise, all you need is a kettlebell. Remember, if you're new to the exercise, start with something light and add resistance once you feel confident with the movement.

turkish get up 1
 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Lie on the floor on your right side, your knees bent and your legs stacked, one on top of the other. Hold the kettlebell in both hands directly in front of your chest (elbows bent), your right hand gripping the handle, and your left hand covering your right hand. At this point, you're almost in a fetal position.

Turkish get up step 2
 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Roll onto your back, bringing the kettlebell to your chest as you do. Press the kettlebell up into the air as you extend both arms. Bring your right arm perpendicular to the floor, and pull your right shoulder into its socket as you lock out your right elbow. Once the kettlebell is stable and secure, extend your left arm and leg on the ground, angling them roughly 45-degrees from your midline. Your right knee should remain bent with your right foot planted on the floor near your glutes.

Turkish Getup Step 3

Take a deep breath and press through your right heel for support as you roll to the left, pressing up onto your left elbow.

Turkish Get up Step 5
 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Exhale, then press all the way up onto your left palm, coming to a seated position, fully extending your left arm as you come to the seated position. As you sit up, the arm supporting the kettlebell should remain fully extended, your humerus "locked" into the shoulder socket, and the kettlebell always staying perpendicular to the floor. This means as you come to a seated position, your arm moves from a position extended over your chest to a position extended directly over your shoulder.

Turkish Get up Step 5
 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Squeeze your glutes and extend your hips, lifting them as high as you can, as though you were performing a bridge exercise. Take a breath in before you perform the hip extension and exhale as you lift your hips. Keep the kettlebell extended directly over your shoulder, perpendicular to the floor. With your hips extended, you should be supported by your left arm, your right foot, and the outer edge of your left foot.

Turkish Get Up Step 6
 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Sweep or draw your left leg (the extended one) under your body, bending your knee and bringing it behind and in line with your left hand, planting your knee and your shin on the ground in a modified kneeling position. As you perform this leg sweep, the kettlebell should remain perpendicular to the ground, which means your right hip and shoulder will rotate up toward the ceiling, and the arm supporting the kettlebell will likewise move in its position so it's adducted from the midline of your body to form a 90-degree angle with your torso. Essentially, your arm should look like half of a "T," pointing toward the ceiling. Keep your eyes on the kettlebell throughout the movement.

Turkish Get up Step 7
 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Take a breath in, make sure your core is engaged, and as you exhale, remove your left hand from the floor and lift your torso to an upright position so you're in a kneeling or "lunge" position. Allow your left shin and foot to sweep naturally around so your hips are square with one another. As you come to this kneeling position, keep the kettlebell perpendicular to the floor. This will mean adjusting the position of your arm to an overhead press so it's extended straight overhead from the shoulder. Once you're set, adjust your eyes so you're looking straight ahead.

Turkish Get Up Step 8
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Press through your back foot and front heel and engage your core, leveraging yourself up as you step your back foot forward, coming to a standing position as you extend your knees and hips fully. Keep your eyes forward-facing. Exhale as you stand. When you're standing, your feet should be roughly hip-distance apart. You've now completed half of the getup, and now need to reverse the movements to return to the floor.

Turkish Get Up Step 7
 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Step backward, planting the ball of your left foot on the ground. Keeping your eyes forward-facing, your core engaged, and your right arm fully extended over your shoulder, bend both knees and lower your back knee slowly toward the floor. Once your knee is on the floor, point your left toes so the top of your foot is flat on the ground.

Turkish Get Up Step 6
 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Rotate your left knee and lower leg about 90-degrees so that it's perpendicular to your right knee.

Engage your core and, as you keep the kettlebell perpendicular to the floor, carefully tip from the hip to place your left hand on the floor directly in front of your left knee. Keep your eyes on the kettlebell as you perform this movement.

Turkish Get Up Step 5
 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Sweep your left leg back under your body, keeping your hips lifted and your abs engaged, extending your leg so you're supported in a "tripod" position with your right foot, the outside of your left foot, and your left hand. Make sure you continue looking at the kettlebell as you go and that you keep the kettlebell perpendicular to the floor throughout the movement.

Turkish Get Up Step 4
 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Lower your hips to the floor, coming to a seated position.

Turkish Get Up Step 3
 Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Roll down onto your left elbow

Turkish Get Up Step 2
 Verywell / Getty Images

then slowly roll all the way to the ground so you're lying down, the kettlebell in a "chest press" position, still perpendicular to the floor.

Turkish Get Up Step 1
Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Use your left hand to help bring the kettlebell back to your chest then bend both knees before rolling to your left side in a fetal-like position. You've completed one full repetition to the right side. repeat on the left side.

Common Mistakes

Failing to Keep Tension in the Muscles Throughout the Exercise

To avoid shoulder or low-back injury, it's incredibly important to keep your core—all of the muscles between your hips and shoulders—engaged and "turned on" throughout the exercise. This means keeping your abs, glutes, hips, back, chest, and shoulders activated as you move. Because so many muscles are involved in the getup, it's easy to "forget" about one muscle group as you focus on the prime movers for a given segment of the exercise. Your best bet to make sure you're maintaining proper form is to work with a trainer as you learn the movement. If that's not an option, though, consider videotaping yourself doing the exercise so you can compare your form to that of an expert, looking for areas of weakness in your own form.

Moving Too Fast

The Turkish getup is not designed to be performed quickly. This is especially true as you're learning. Take it slow. Give yourself several seconds per action, really focusing on your form. A single getup could take as much as a minute from start to finish. By taking your time, you're more likely to keep your muscles appropriately engaged and to avoid injury by "yanking" or "jerking" your body unnaturally from one position to the next.

Not Keeping Your Arm Fully Straight

The arm supporting the kettlebell should remain fully extended and "locked" at the elbow and wrist to help prevent injury to the arm, especially the shoulder. If your elbow is bent or if your wrist bends backward, it becomes significantly more difficult to support the weight of the kettlebell safely. This puts you at risk of placing extra strain on the shoulder joint or potentially dropping the kettlebell.

By fully extending your elbow and wrist, keeping your humerus "pulled in" to the shoulder joint, and keeping the kettlebell perpendicular to the floor through all phases of the movement, you actually end up using your entire "stacked" body, including your legs, hips, torso, and shoulder, to support the weight of the kettlebell, rather than relying only on the strength of the supporting arm.

This becomes increasingly important as you increase the resistance of the exercise. Try watching yourself perform the exercise in a mirror to make sure your elbow and wrist remain straight and locked.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

Rather than performing the entire Turkish getup, break the exercise into smaller "bites" and practice each segment individually. For instance, practice moving from the lying position to the kneeling position, then back again. Then practice moving from the kneeling position to the standing position. As you develop greater strength you can start linking the segments together to perform the full getup.

Up for a Challenge?

If you feel comfortable with the mechanics of the full Turkish getup, make it more challenging by performing the movement "bottoms up." This means holding the kettlebell so the "bell" (weighted) portion of the kettlebell points straight up toward the ceiling throughout the movement. This requires more strength and stability because the kettlebell's bell will naturally want to rotate down toward the floor and it requires more focus, grip strength, and engagement of stabilizing muscles to prevent the bell from rotating. Decrease your weight the first time you try this variation—it's more challenging than it sounds.

Safety and Precautions

The complex nature of this exercise means that there are lots of ways to mess things up and end up getting hurt or exacerbating a previous injury. This is not an exercise for beginners—you need a good baseline level of strength and coordination before adding it to your routine. Consider working with a trainer who is well-versed in the movement to make sure you're performing the exercise correctly. And if at any point you feel sharp or shooting pain, discontinue the exercise or pair it back and work on the segments that don't cause problems. As you get better over time, you may be able to add the elements you couldn't initially perform into your routine.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

Was this page helpful?