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Successful Turkish Get-up Core Training

When I got first introduced to kettlebells back in 2002 I quickly fell in love with them. It wasn’t because I was looking to be a secret Russian strength athlete, or thought it made my training really hardcore. What I fell in love about the potential of kettlebells was how they could combine strength and conditioning that I had done with athletes with corrective exercise and still make it all accessible to anyone and any fitness level. A great example was when I first saw the Turkish get-up.

core training


Having taught kettlebells all over the world, including Moscow itself and the U.S. Marines, I loved what we could learn about functional training and core training with kettlebells. 

A great name, I loved how it was described as a core training exercise for wrestlers that also required shoulder stability in so many unique ranges of motion. I think when you do your first Turkish get-up you instantly think your core training wasn’t living up to par! That is why so many people start making the Turkish get-up as a staple in their training. Well….kinda.

What has happened is that the Turkish get-up has become pretty polarizing. You have one group that thinks it solves everything there is to do about core training, there is the group that thinks it is just too complicated to implement in most fitness programs, and there are those that are kinda blah about the whole thing. So, who is right?

As with most things in life, the truth is somewhat in the middle. Can the Turkish get-up be very powerful in teaching functional core training? Yes! Does it solve everything that one needs for proper core training? No, nothing as a singular movement really does.

Having this experience with kettlebells early on helped me really shape how I wanted DVRT to be different. That is mostly not in the implement or even the exercises, but the thought of having a system rather than being overly reliant upon any one exercise. When it comes to helping people benefit from what the Turkish get-up can teach us about core training, this one difference is pretty profound.

Step 1: Break it down

When I played basketball, my coach required us to start every practice by standing about 5 feet from the hoop and shoot with one hand. The point was to break down our shooting mechanics into the most fundamental aspects as possible. Only by owning the each aspect of shooting could we really become the best players possible. Learning the Turkish get-up is somewhat similar.

The BIGGEST mistake people make is that they want to do the whole movement. They believe that the benefit comes in performing the whole exercise from day one. Not only doing the whole movement, but doing so with an arm overhead! Why?!

Let’s address each component of this issue. When core training gets to the level of complexity that the Turkish get-up creates, most people flat out give up. It’s too overwhelming, confusing, hard to coordinate. People find exercise hard enough, make it super complicated and you are asking for someone who will get very frustrated! The reality is that like shooting, each phase of the Turkish get-up can teach us something about core training. One of the most important parts is the lateral hip hinge and lunge that we get.

It is at this point of the Turkish get-up where we get tons of dynamic lateral core training and hip strength. Think of a side plank that is on overload! There are so many great aspects of mobility, strength, and stability that come from these transitions. This idea I got from DVRT Master, Troy Anderson, years ago was to work from the top down. Believe it or not, learning this phase of the movement from here actually makes the core training of the Turkish get-up far more accessible for people.

But wait Josh, you aren’t holding a weight overhead! I know, I actually find this version of using our Ultimate Sandbag better for most people in both learning the Turkish get-up and core training. Now, I know the cynic will be thinking, “you just trying to get us to use Ultimate Sandbags!” Well, yes, but for good reason.

For one, most people lack the ability to get their arms overhead. The lack of mobility, core strength, and other issues keep people from being able to and feeling good about holding overhead. Plus, when you think about it, why would we start people with the weight in the MOST unstable position when learning such a complex movement?!

I know, I know, you use a shoe to teach people the Turkish get-up. However, may I ask, if people simply lack the movement, strength, and stability, what is the shoe going to fix? Just something to think about, trust me, I did it too but was determined to find a better way!

DVRT Master, Greg Perlaki, demonstrates how we can layer progression on my first example to create a powerful core training exercise that builds mobility, lateral strength, and even shoulder stability (think about what is happening on the down arm) to build on qualities of functional fitness that will make learning the Turkish get-up more reasonable.

Breaking down the Turkish get-up into parts makes building layers of it that much more simple. Just like my basketball coach would have us step back further and further from the basket every few weeks. As the saying goes, we had to earn our progressions! The same works in fitness and building success in your training. Instead of getting fixed on specific exercises, we should be thinking of the qualities that make up the movement.

Another example is using feedback. That is what Greg shows below. It isn’t just using a band, but doing so while keeping tension in the Ultimate Sandbag by pulling the elbow into the ribs. Here we teach how to “pack” the shoulder and how tension makes us stronger. Plus the band keeps giving us constant feedback upon where our movement compensation lies and where we are proficient!

Step 2: Don’t get stuck on an exercise, think of the movement

I’ve written many times how I have a 1974 strength training book that talks about the Turkish get-up. In it the author, USC professor John Jesse, has about two sentences describing the Turkish get-up. Basically, lay down and stand back up. Now, just because it was written this way (oh yea and without the Turkish part) doesn’t mean we haven’t found better ways to perform the movement. However, it should remind us that what we are trying to teach the body about core training and movement should supersede the desire to do the exercise. This may sound like an exercise in semantics, but hopefully what you are seeing in this post is that we have way more options available to us than one may first think.

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Not getting married to an exercise, but thinking about a movement allows us to think about building success many different ways. The REAL beauty of the Turkish get-up is that it combines stability, mobility, and strength all at once. Typically when we think about strength training we don’t have these other elements, especially as it comes to building strength in all sorts of postures and positions. Good training is magical to the body, not one exercise. A great example is what DVRT Master, Paige Fleischmann, demonstrates this very point. The ability to get up and down from the ground shouldn’t be dictated by any one form, but by training a thoughtful wide array of different strategies. This is how we build real world core training and strength that really transfers to life!

Want to find out more about how we use strength training for life to build better movement? Check out our new DVRT Dynamic Warm-up program with 3 FREE Gifts for a special price HERE for a VERY limited time!