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Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up: Training Tool for Injury Prevention and Performance Enhancement

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Abstract and Figures

The kettlebell is a popular device for exer-cises designed to enhance athletic perfor-mance, and for injury rehabilitation. 1,2 The girya, Russian for "kettlebell," is a cast iron weight that resembles a cannonball with a handle. 3,4 Kettlebells range in weight from a few pounds to over 100 pounds. Weight selection is dependent upon the nature of the exercise, or the user's level of experi-ence and strength (Table 1). The kettlebell first appeared in the Russian dictionary in 1704. 3,4 Originally used as a counterweight for market produce scales, it became a popular training tool among Rus-sian strongmen and weightlifters, known as gireviks or kettlebell men, in the early 20th century. 3,5 The unique shape and off-set center of gravity permit the use of curvilinear movement patterns and the development of centrifugal force. 5,6,7,8 The kettlebell's shape places the weight in a hanging position, which keeps the force of the weight directed downwardly, helping to maintain a vertical body position throughout performance of the exercise. 9 University multistep, progression-based total body exer-cise that is performed by "getting up" from a supine position to a standing position. 8,9 The origins of the TGU can be traced over 200 years to Turkish wrestling training. 6,9 Before allowing a wrestler to proceed to the next stage of training, he was required to get up from the ground nimbly, while holding a kettlebell overhead and maintaining con-trol. 9 Today, the TGU is included in training programs because of its versatility, the chal-lenge it presents to maintenance of stability, and the demand that it imposes for develop-ment of strength throughout the entire body. The TGU can serve as a corrective exercise, a movement screen, or a conditioning workout. 9 Given the step-wise nature of the movement, it can also be used to elicit adap-tations in untrained and injured individuals or to challenge well-trained individuals who require a high-intensity stimulus (Table 2). © 2012 Human Kinetics -IJATT 17(4), pp. 8-13
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8 JULY 2012 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ATHLETIC THERAPY & TRAINING
The kettlebell is a popular device for exer-
cises designed to enhance athletic perfor-
mance, and for injury rehabilitation.1,2 The
girya, Russian for “kettlebell,” is a cast iron
weight that resembles a cannonball with a
handle.3,4 Kettlebells range in weight from
a few pounds to over 100 pounds. Weight
selection is dependent upon the nature of
the exercise, or the user’s level of experi-
ence and strength (Table 1). The kettlebell
first appeared in the
Russian dictionary in
1704.3,4 Originally used
as a counterweight for
market produce scales,
it became a popular
training tool among Rus-
sian strongmen and
weightlifters, known
as gireviks or kettlebell
men, in the early 20th
century.3,5 The unique
shape and off-set center of gravity permit the
use of curvilinear movement patterns and
the development of centrifugal force.5,6,7,8
The kettlebell’s shape places the weight in a
hanging position, which keeps the force of
the weight directed downwardly, helping to
maintain a vertical body position throughout
performance of the exercise.9
A popular kettlebell exercise is the Turk-
ish Get-Up (TGU), which can be defined as a
Trent Nessler, PT, DPT, MPT, Report Editor
THERAPEUTIC EXERCISE
Adam Ayash, MS, CSCS and Margaret T. Jones, PhD, CSCS*D • George Mason University
multistep, progression-based total body exer-
cise that is performed by “getting up” from
a supine position to a standing position.8,9
The origins of the TGU can be traced over
200 years to Turkish wrestling training.6,9
Before allowing a wrestler to proceed to the
next stage of training, he was required to get
up from the ground nimbly, while holding
a kettlebell overhead and maintaining con-
trol.9 Today, the TGU is included in training
programs because of its versatility, the chal-
lenge it presents to maintenance of stability,
and the demand that it imposes for develop-
ment of strength throughout the entire body.
The TGU can serve as a corrective exercise,
a movement screen, or a conditioning
workout.9 Given the step-wise nature of the
movement, it can also be used to elicit adap-
tations in untrained and injured individuals
or to challenge well-trained individuals who
require a high-intensity stimulus (Table 2).
© 2012 Human Kinetics - IJATT 17(4), pp. 8-13
The kettlebell has become a popular
training tool for injury prevention and
performance enhancement.
The “Turkish Get-Up” is a challenging
total-body exercise that can be used as a
movement screen, corrective exercise, and
conditioning method.
Key Points
Key Points
Table 1. Suggested Kettle-
bell Loads for TGU
Experience
Kettlebell Load
(Male)
Kettlebell Load
(Female)
Beginner 8-12 kg 4-6 kg
Intermediate 12-16 kg 6-8 kg
Advanced 16-24 kg 8-12 kg
Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up:
Training Tool for Injury Prevention
and Performance Enhancement
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ATHLETIC THERAPY & TRAINING JULY 2012 9
Injury Prevention and Performance
Enhancement
Functional exercises are often incorporated in training
regimens to prevent injury and enhance performance.10
The TGU has application in developing hip and shoulder
stability, flexibility, and strength in the core, hip, and
knee musculature.2,5,6,8,9,11 Core stability is believed
to be critical for injury prevention and the transfer
of power throughout the kinetic chain during move-
ment.12,13 During the TGU, the core is challenged to
resist spinal rotation, flexion/extension, and side bend-
ing (Figures 1– 8). Holding a kettlebell overhead creates
an asymmetrical load that places a rotary demand on
the core musculature to stabilize the torso. Suggested
loads for TGU are presented in Table 1.
Movement Screen
The TGU has application as a movement screen for
gluteal function.9 The primary gluteal muscle is the
gluteus maximus, which is responsible for generating
power for hip extension.2 Proper technique for most
athletic movements requires generation of power for
hip extension.12 Limited gluteal activation is thought
to result from inadequate hip mobility caused by
hypertonic antagonist muscles, which may lead to
utilization of compensatory movement patterns.2,12
For example, lumbar extension may compensate for
Table 2. Sample TGU Workout Progressions
Experience Exercise VolumeRest
Beginner* 1. Iso (lated) Get-Up
Steps 1-7 individually
3-5 reps of each step alternate
(R/L)
30-45s between steps
2. Half Get-Up
Steps 1-3 then reverse
3-5 reps alternate (R/L) 30-45s between reps
3. Full Get-Up 3 reps alternate (R/L) 30-45s between reps
Intermediate 1. Get-Up to High Bridge Steps
1-4 then reverse
3-5 reps alternate (R/L) 30-45s after every other rep
2. Repeat Get-Up 3-5 reps of each step consecu-
tively (R/L)
1-3min between (R/L)
Advanced 1. Full Get-Up 5 reps alternate (R/L) or con-
secutively
None
2. Circuit + Full Get-Up 1-3 reps as part of circuit rou-
tine (R/L)
Varies based on sport or train-
ing goal
Select one of the sample workouts based on experience level.
*All beginner workouts should first be completed using only bodyweight. Upon the successful completion of Beginner Workout 3, athletes can attempt TGU with a
kettlebell and progress load accordingly.
Complete two sets for a given TGU progression (1R/1L). Actual number of reps will vary based on the steps included in the progression.
Figure 2
Supine Press: Pack the shoulders and brace the core. This is
necessary for proper body alignment throughout the Turkish Get-Up.
Figure 1
Pre-roll: Assume a side lying position prior to initiating the roll
to press movement. Grip the kettlebell with the right hand over the left.
10 JULY 2012 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ATHLETIC THERAPY & TRAINING
Figure 5
High Bridge: Extend the hips to full extension while stabiliz-
ing the kettlbell overhead.
Figure 6
Leg Sweep to Knee: A challenging step requiring shoulder/
hip mobility and stability that also tests spatial awareness. Sweep the
leg under the body from High Bridge. Plant the knee in line with the
ground-supporting hand while maintaining focus on the kettlebell.
Figure 3
Press to Elbow: Incorporate an upward diagonal rolling motion
while driving the kettlebell vertically to get up onto the opposite elbow.
Figure 4
Elbow to Hand: A continuation of the rolling motion during
the Press to Elbow movement. Extend and place the ground-supporting
arm almost directly under the shoulder in order to enhance the base
of support and reduce strain on the glenohumeral joint.
a lack of hip extension, which may impose stress on
the lumbar spine, or the hamstrings may assume a
role as the primary hip extensors, thereby increasing
risk for muscle strains.
The TGU high bridge (Figure 5) can be used to
assess gluteal strength, because the gluteal muscles
must be activated to raise the pelvis into full hip exten-
sion while the core stabilizes the torso. Inability to reach
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ATHLETIC THERAPY & TRAINING JULY 2012 11
this position may indicate decreased hip extension and
compensatory lumbar extension. Excessive lumbar
extension may be an indicator of core instability. The
TGU high bridge, the knee to half-kneeling (Figure 7),
and half-kneeling to stand (Figure 8) exercises can be
used as movement screens to provide an indication
of gluteal performance inadequacy that should be
addressed when designing an exercise program.
Corrective Exercise
The TGU can also be used to improve glenohumeral
joint stability. Control of the shoulder is largely depen-
dent on the rotator cuff musculature and scapular
stabilizers.1,14,15 During movement, the muscles of
the rotator cuff stabilize the humeral head within the
glenoid fossa.1,15 The scapula provides a base from
which the rotator cuff muscles can provide dynamic
stabilization of the glenohumeral joint.14,15 Inadequate
scapular stabilizers and over-active anterior mobilizers
may place the scapula in a suboptimal position that
restricts glenohumeral range of motion, particularly
external rotation of the humerus.15 Dysfunctional
movement patterns, coupled with the stress of repeti-
tive and explosive overhead movements (e.g., pitching
a baseball or serving a volleyball), may increase risk
for injury to glenohumeral ligaments, tendons, and
muscles.1,15
The TGU strengthens muscles that stabilize the
scapula in an optimal position. The trapezius, rhom-
boids, and serratus anterior must be simultaneously
activated to pull the scapula into a position of depres-
sion and downward rotation. The base of support for
the body mass will be suboptimal when the ground-
supported shoulder is in a suboptimal position (i.e.,
protracted scapula, elbow out of line with shoulder),
and the resulting movement pattern will force the
upper arm to work harder to stabilize the kettlebell.
Hip flexion and thoracic spine extension initiate the
movement of the upper body from the ground as the
kettlebell is pushed upwardly in a vertical direction
(Figure 2).6 The act of gripping (or “crushing”) the
kettlebell for control should recruit muscles of the
arm, chest, and shoulder to stabilize the humerus.6
The TGU can enhance shoulder stability by improv-
ing scapular stability, thoracic extension, and rotator
cuff strength.6,9
Figure 7
Knee to Half-kneeling: Shift the hips while maintaining a stiff
core in order to move the torso into vertical alignment.
Figure 8
Half-kneeling to Stand: An advanced lunge variation that
requires asymmetric overhead stabilization of the kettlbell. Reversing
the Turkish Get-Up will begin with a reverse lunge down to the half-
kneeling position.
12 JULY 2012 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ATHLETIC THERAPY & TRAINING
Conditioning Method
The TGU can also be used as a sport-specific training
tool. 9 The movement progression includes elements
of traditional exercises, such as the side plank (Figure
1), bridge (Figure 5), and lunge (Figure 6), with the
Performing the Turkish Get-Up
Step 1. Roll to Press: Lie down on the left side with knees flexed at ~90° and the upper arms against the
torso. Grasp the kettlebell with the right hand placed over the left, and with the elbows flexed at ~90° (Figure
1). Roll onto the back and keep the bell close to the body. Extend the right leg with the foot in dorsiflexion.
Place the right arm palm down at 45° in relation to the trunk. Bend the left knee to 90° and plant the foot.
Press the bell overhead with the left arm (Figure 2).
Step 2. Press to Elbow Support (Figure 3): Prior to sitting up from the supine press position, retract the
shoulders to establish and maintain proper scapular position on the thoracic spine, brace the core, and look
at the kettlebell. Roll diagonally and upward onto the right elbow while driving the kettlebell straight up with
the left arm. There should be a straight alignment between the right elbow and the left hand. The core must
resist lateral flexion, in a manner similar to proper performance of a side-plank exercise.
Step 3. Elbow Support to Hand Support (Figure 4): Continue to drive the kettlebell upward. Extend the right
arm and push up onto the right hand. The left arm remains in a vertical position with the elbow extended
and the wrist maintained in a neutral position during the transition. Plant the right hand directly under the
right shoulder, with the fingers pointing outward and the right elbow extended.
Step 4. High Bridge (Figure 5): From the hand-supported position, thrust the hips upward without hyperex-
tending the lumbar spine (driving with the right hand and left heel). At the top of the high bridge there should
be a vertical alignment between the left hand and the right hand. The left leg should not be rotated inwardly.
Step 5. Leg Sweep to Knee Support (Figure 6): From the high bridge position, sweep the right leg under the
body and kneel on the right knee in a position close to the weight-supporting right hand. Be sure that the
left knee does not rotate inwardly. Maintain the vertical alignment between the left and right hands. Keep
the eyes on the kettlebell during the leg sweep.
Step 6. Knee Support to Half-Kneeling (Figure 7): Drive the right hand upwardly and bring the torso into
a vertical orientation. Rotate the lower leg of the right extremity 45° counter-clockwise to assume a lunge
position. Align the left arm with the left ear while maintaining retracted shoulders and a forward-facing head
orientation. Contract the right gluteal muscles to create a stable base of support, and make sure the right
foot is dorsiflexed with the toes tucked.
Step 7. Half-Kneeling to Standing (Figure 8): Push from the toes of the right foot and the left heel. Keep the
eyes directed straight ahead and stand up. Finish in a standing position with the gluteal muscles contracted,
shoulders retracted, and the left arm extended overhead in alignment with the left ear.
Step 8. Reversing the TGU: Standing to Half-Kneeling. Execute a reverse lunge, stepping in a backward
direction with the right leg. Place the right hand on the ground as the lower right leg is rotated 45° in a clock-
wise direction (Figure 6). Sweep the right leg back, bypass the High Bridge position, and proceed directly to
the hand supported position (Figure 4). Continue reversing to the elbow supported position (Figure 3) and
finish the descent, slowly rolling back (think one vertebrae at a time) into the supine press position (Figure
2). To complete the exercise, lower the kettlebell to the ground.8,9 The left arm should remain extended in
a vertical position throughout the descent from the standing position.
addition of an overhead load.16 By utilizing slow and
controlled total-body movement, a large amount of
muscle mass is recruited. Kettlebell workouts have
been shown to increase metabolic demand.7 An ath-
lete, such as a wrestler, may benefit from performing
multiple repetitions that alternate from one side to the
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ATHLETIC THERAPY & TRAINING JULY 2012 13
other. The TGU can incorporate sport-specific move-
ment patterns, such as rolling over, reaching, lunging,
and getting up from the ground.6,9
Practical Applications
Space availability, time, and client performance
capabilities must be considered when designing an
exercise program. The TGU requires limited space and
equipment, but it is a complex exercise that requires
instruction and practice for mastery. Practicing each
TGU step prior to kettlebell loading is recommended.
The High Bridge (Figure 5) and Leg Sweep to Knee Sup-
port (Figure 6) are difficult steps that require practice.
A useful coaching technique is to practice the TGU
while balancing a shoe on top of the fist (Figure 9).
Muscle tension must be maintained throughout the
body in order to balance the shoe, thereby developing
a foundation for control of the overhead load imposed
by the kettlebell. Following performance of three
perfect “shoe” repetitions on each side of the body, a
load can be added (Table 1). Table 2 presents sample
training routines. After proficiency is demonstrated for
three repetitions on each side at a given load level, the
intensity or volume of the exercise can be increased.
Athletic trainers and therapists should exercise caution
when progressing the exercise to heavier loads.
be performed in a slow and controlled manner, hold-
ing each position for 2–3 seconds, which will increase
body awareness and permit correction of improper
body positioning. Maintaining spine alignment while
maneuvering the kettlebell to an overhead position
makes the TGU an ideal exercise for enhancement of
sport skills that require core stability and transfer of
force from the core to the extremities.4
References
1. Brumitt J, Meria E. Scapula stabilization rehab exercise prescription.
Strength Cond J. 2006; 28:62–65.
2. McGill SM, Marshall LW. Kettlebell swing, snatch, and bottoms-up
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Strength Con Res. 2012; 26(1):16–27.
3. Pabian PS, Kolber MJ, and McCarthym JP. Postrehabilitation strength
and conditioning of the shoulder: an interdisciplinary approach.
Strength Cond J. 2011; 33:42–55.
4. Tsatsouline P. Enter the Kettlebell! St. Paul, MN: Dragon Door Publica-
tions, Inc.; 2006.
5. Fable S. Kettlebell comeback. IDEA Fitness J. 2010; 7:25–27.
6. Cheng LA, Jones B, Cook G. Kettlebells from the Ground up: the Kalos
Sthenos. Chatham, VA: Gray Cook and Functional Movement Systems;
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Strength Con Res. 2010; 24:1034–1036.
8. Lurie S. Kettlebells for Dummies! Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, Inc.;
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9. Cheng LA. The Turkish get-up progression. In: Russian Kettlebell Chal-
lenge Instructor Manual. Tsatsouline P, ed. St. Paul, MN: Dragon Door
Publications, Inc.; 2009.
10. Jones MT, Trowbridge CA. Four ways to a safe and effective strength
training program. Athl Ther Today. 1998; 3:4-9.
11. Liebenson C, Shaughness G. The turkish get-up. J Bodywork Mov Ther.
2011; 15:125–127.
12. McGill SM. Core training: evidence translating to better performance
and injury prevention. Strength Cond J. 2010; 32:33-46.
13. McGill SM. Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance (4th ed). Waterloo,
Canada: Backfitpro Inc.; 2009.
14. Morgan WE. Core stiffness and cross fitness: without the stiffness
there is no fitness. Dynamic Chiropractic. 2009; 27:6.
15. Oatis CA. Kinesiology the Mechanics and Pathomechanics of Human
Movement. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2004.
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function. Sports Med. 2006; 36:189–198.
Adam Ayash is an adjunct instructor at George Mason University in
Manassas, VA. He also works as a strength and conditioning coach in
the sports performance field.
Margaret Jones is an associate professor with the Sports Medicine
Assessment, Research and Testing Laboratory at George Mason Uni-
versity in Manassas, VA. Research interests lie with strength and power
development for athletic performance.
Figure 9
Shoe Balance: Maintaining a shoe on top of the fist is a
useful technique for teaching beginners to keep the arm vertical and
to maintain tension throughout the Turkish Get-Up.
Summary
The TGU offers a challenging exercise that may
decrease injury susceptibility. The TGU exercise should
... Throughout this transition, the individual will perform a variety of movements that resemble common resistance training exercises (e.g., lunge, overhead press, bridge, and side plank). The combination of these various movements has shown to improve core, hip, and shoulder stability, balance, flexibility, and strength (3,9,11). Although not limited to a specific population, individuals unable to successfully perform the exercise, due to the complexity of the TGU, should become proficient with the movement patterns addressed further within this article before adding an external load. ...
... Due to the complexity of the movement pattern, Ayash et al. (3) recommends the TGU as a movement screen for gluteal function. For example, the high-bridge portion can be used to reinforce proper hip extension patterns, thus preventing compensatory habits (e.g., lumbar extension replacing hip extension). ...
... The TGU was described for patient self-management, to teach "the motor control needed for daily activities, occupation, and sports" [122] and specifically for integrating mobility, stability, symmetry (left, right, front, back), coordination, balance and strength [123], as a therapeutic exercise for injury prevention and performance enhancement [124], as a strength and conditioning tool for a variety of athletes [125], and as a component of kettlebell training to develop strength and power [126]. Only one article written for instructional purposes illustrates each of the 'big 6' techniques as descried by Tsatsouline [127]. ...
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