Some days, it feels hard enough to get up off the couch and stand up, period. Now try starting on the ground, kettlebell in tow.
"It's a total-body movement that works your core as well as overhead stability," says Lacee Lazoff, a certified kettlebell instructor and New York City-based personal trainer. The Turkish get-up may look (and feel) a little wonky at first, but Lazoff praises it for its mobility benefits. "The movement helps work your range of motion in multiple planes."
Turkish get-ups help build mobility in your hips and upper back and stability in your lower back, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Plus, the exercise can help improve stabilization and strength of the core muscles surrounding the spine and the strength of your entire shoulder area.
Here's the thing: The movement itself actually has a slew of different steps. Below, Lazoff outlines how to get the Turkish get-up done right, plus easy modifications to scale up or down.
How to Do a Turkish Get-Up
- Lie in the fetal position on the floor, facing your right side. Hold a kettlebell in your right hand, with your arm bent and the kettlebell in the "racked" position, meaning the ball portion is resting against the back of your hand and wrist.
- Roll over toward the left, putting both feet on the floor with your knees bent.
- Straighten both arms upward, pressing the kettlebell straight up over your shoulder.
- Lower your left arm and leg to your left side, both at a 45-degree angle.
- Keep your right arm straight; it should stay extended alongside your ear for the entirety of the movement. Turn your palm inward slightly to help you maintain the proper form, Lazoff says.
- Roll onto your left elbow, bringing your right shoulder off the floor. Keep the kettlebell straight over your shoulder.
- Keep your hips on the floor as you straighten your left arm, pushing your torso further upright.
- Reposition your right foot so that you can support your weight on your left hand and your right foot, using core strength to keep your body steady.
- Use your core to lift your left hip off the floor, bringing your left leg underneath you and slightly behind your hips, so that you can kneel on your left knee. The ball of your left foot should be in contact with the ground.
- Shift your torso to get into a lunge position, left knee still on the floor. This will bring your left hand off the floor, while the kettlebell remains straight up over your right shoulder.
- Stand up, bringing your left leg forward, so that you end up with your feet hip-width apart.
- Reverse the motion, step by step, to end lying face-up on the floor.
- Carefully bend your right arm and bring the kettlebell back to the floor to complete the repetition, using your left arm for an assist as needed.
Start with just 2 to 4 reps of the Turkish get-up, and work up to more, according to the ACE.
Master Turkish Get-Up Form First
It's critical for beginners to master the movement pattern of the get-up before adding weight. Practice doing the movement with either a shoe on your palm or holding a lightweight yoga block, Lazoff says. When that feels right, you can pick up a kettlebell.
If you don't feel comfortable doing the movement in its entirety, break it down into phases. Once you master the basics, string them together, she adds.
Focus especially on the phases that commonly trip people up. "I see a lot of people in the gym struggle with stepping up from the lunge or stepping back down into it on the reverse," Lazoff says. "This phase requires some solid hip and adductor strength."
How Heavy Should Your Kettlebell Be?
Reach for something that feels challenging but comfortable. If you have a range of options available, choose a weight that's lighter than what you would use for a traditional kettlebell swing. (You can also use a dumbbell if you don't have access to kettlebells.)
Turkish Get-Up Variations
To Make It Easier:
- Use just your body weight instead of a kettlebell.
- Only do part of the movement: Stop when you reach the kneeling phase (Step 10, above) and then reverse the movement and repeat.
To Make It Harder:
- In either the kneeling or standing position, bring the kettlebell to your chest, then press it back up over your head before continuing with the movement as usual.
- Skip Step 13: Complete multiple reps without returning the kettlebell to your chest. "That will be a challenge for sure," Lazoff says.