TURKISH GET-UP

In 1996 I was fortunate enough to attend the Navy SEAL Hand to Hand Combat Instructor Course. The biggest lesson I learned was to target a man’s body from any angle and waste no movement trying to get into a “favorite” position. A lot of that was about dropping the ego and quit looking for the “big shot” that was going to knock a guy out and win you free drinks for the rest of the night. No matter what position your body was in, you found a way to inflict pain and suffering on your opponent.

Fast forward approximately one year and I found myself training with the great Egan Inoue. When I would grapple with him, it was no longer about me finding ways to attack from all angles...it was more about me defending myself from all angles. I was now on the other side of the fence! Not only did I have to defend strikes that came from the least expected places, I had to develop a bodily sense to know whether one of my limbs was being manipulated for a submission attempt or something else like a guard pass. Once that was somewhat established the strength was needed to pull the endangered limb out of harms way! I know that some of you will have a nice cliché saying about technique versus strength but you know as well as I do that, while technique cannot be ignored, sometimes you just have to muscle yourself out of a bad situation.

So, the question arises: “How do we train ourselves to be strong at all angles?” There is the obvious conventional way of training via lifts in the Power Rack: squats, dead-lifts, overhead press, dips, weighted pull-ups/chin-ups, Olympic lifts, etc. These are all great exercises and have been proven to develop incredible amounts of strength in athletes. But, do they necessarily have a specific cross-over benefit to your chosen sport? I don’t think anyone can argue that they don’t have an impact, but is it the most effective way to address the Specific Physical Preparedness aspect of your training?

If you haven’t read Scott Sonnon’s Clubbell Training for Circular Strength, I suggest you do so immediately. On page 68 you will find a quote by Dr. Hartle which addresses the “big lifts” and their impact on athletic performance:

Most weight programs focus on the big lifts to enhance their athletes’ sports performance and decrease incidence of injury: squat, bench press, dead-lift, power clean, etc. While these lifts will enhance an athletes performance on the field, they are all done essentially in a singular plane aspect. They will allow an athlete to jump higher, run faster, hit harder, etc., but all sports will require the athlete during practice and competition to utilize their body in one, two, or all three planes of motion at the same time. This means the athlete needs to have the motor units of the rotary and angular/diagonal muscles ready to assist the prime movers as they function in a near-maximal or maximal state and are ready to function when called upon.”

When I think of being strong at all angles I think of being strong even when you don’t have conventional means of supporting yourself. In my opinion, very few exercises represent this type of challenge more than the Turkish Get-Up (TGU). I first did a version of a Turkish Get-Up many years ago when I first started taking Karate at the YMCA. Our sensei would make us keep our hands in front of our faces so we couldn’t use them on the ground for support. This demanded flexibility in the knees and hips and a good sense of balance so you could get up without leaning too far over and exposing your face or any other targets.

Turkish Get-Ups also came into play when I was training with Egan as he also made us get up from the ground without the use of our hands, and I started using a weighted version of them when I did sandbag workouts as well. With sandbags you have the option of either holding the bag against your chest as you get up or you can hold the bag over your chest when you’re on the ground and, as you change positions, move the weight over your head and proceed in that manner.

Now we’re going to take the Turkish Get-Up and perform a two-handed version of it with Clubbells! Before we start, I highly recommend that you read these precautions:

  • If your just starting this exercise, use only one Clubbell.
  • If at any time, you feel that you can't hold the weight...push it away from your body!
  • Start with a light enough weight that will allow you to learn the movement first...then add the pounds.

If you don't have Clubbells, you can certainly perform this exercise with Kettlebells and/or Dumbbells!

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Obviously, I’m starting with the Clubbells overhead. In Pavel’s Russian Kettlebell Challenge, Steve Maxwell begins his Turkish Get-Up from the bottom and you can certainly do the same with Clubbells, I just prefer to begin them standing. To get to this position you can clean the CB’s to order, bring them to the Back position, and then perform a Head Cast or you can simply Snatch them to the over head position. It all depends on how difficult you want to make this for yourself! (pic 1)

Notice that I’m looking up at the Clubbells in the first photo. You should maintain a constant awareness of their position throughout the entire exercise. The ground will be there whether you are looking at it or not so learn to move your legs without looking at what they are doing so don’t get caught looking at your feet!

In the second picture I drop down to one knee while keeping the CB’s overhead. Not too bad so far, right? If you look closely, you can see that I've positioned my right foot just behind my left ankle. This is going to, not only going to help my transition down, but also make the same transition as I work up.

Still looking at my Clubbells! (pic 2)

In the third picture you can see that I’ve maneuvered my legs out from underneath my body and I’m sitting flat on my butt. This is where many people experience difficulties with shoulder flexibility and they are unable to maintain the upright position with the Clubbells. When I'm working with clients on this exercise, I stress that the lower back should feel like you're doing squats, ie; tailbone out (towards the center of the earth in this case), sternum towards the sun, and shoulders down and in.

Remember that you’re struggling to maintain balance with the Clubbells while moving so you need to be gripping them so hard you’ll leave finger-marks in the handles! (pic 3)

I’m lying flat on my back in the fourth picture and this is probably the easiest position of them all. See how my shoulders aren't pulled forward, like I'm trying to squeeze my pecs or biceps together? Keep your shoulders FLAT on the ground so that you ensure you're engaging your back muscles.

I make it look easy, right? However, don’t get too complacent, remember that you only hold these positions for a few seconds each! (pic 4)

 

From the prone position it’s simply a matter of reversing the steps and coming back up to your feet. Remember that your shoulders are under constant stress holding the Clubbells up so be careful, especially when you first sit back up!

If you’re going to “lose” the Clubbells at any stage of the exercise, there’s a good chance that it will be when you sit back up. You really have to be crushing the handles, I just can’t state that enough! (pic 5)

From the seated position you must work one leg back under yourself as you maneuver body forward to come up on one knee. You can see that I brought my right knee forward as I'm coming up during the lift. Switching support legs is just one way to make this exercise more challenging. (pic 6)
Once you’ve got your knee up it’s all about standing back up!
Inserting an exercise like the Turkish Get-Up in the beginning of a workout like Perpetual Motion can have a dramatic impact on your fitness level!

Contact me if you have any questions: SCRAPPER@hawaii.rr.com

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