The Hardstyle kettlebell Turkish getup is an elaborate (and weird) name for an elaborate (and weird) powerhouse of an exercise. It showcases many essential functional movement patterns (hinge, lunge, push, carry) and incorporates the three planes of motion.

The TGU has a wide variety of benefits including total body stability, mobility, and active flexibility. It features both closed and open chain shoulder stability, which is especially important since the shoulder joint is the least stable joint in the body. When done not like an asshole, the getup can help strengthen and mobilize the shoulder joint, which can help reduce the risk of shoulder injury. AND since we’re talking shoulders, thoracic extension and rotation are both challenged, which are hugely important to helping avoid shoulder, back, and hip injuries. It also makes the upper and lower extremities work reciprocally, promotes stability with the legs in two different patterns, and it develops upper body, trunk, and hip strength. Oh and that big toe gets some serious action, too. You guys know how apeshit I go for the big toe.

And yes, it does require some athletic capability. But some of the less sexy but hugely important benefits include stimulating the vestibular system (balance and coordinating head and eye movement), building kinesthetic awareness (body control and awareness), encouraging the proprioception system (proprioceptors are sensory organs that are kind of a “sixth sense” by giving us detailed and continuous info about about where we are in space), and overall coordination.

We can ALL benefit from working those use-it-or-lose-it skills as we age. Check out some of these scary ass statistics:

  • Annually, falls are reported by ⅓ of all people over the age of 65.

  • ⅔ of those who fall will do so again within 6 months.

  • Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 and older.

  • Approximately 9,500 deaths in older Americans are associated with falls each year.

  • ¼ of seniors who fracture a hip from a fall will die within 6 months of the injury.

  • The most profound effect of falling is the loss of functioning associated with independent living.

  • Fear of falling and an associated general loss of confidence can result in depression, isolation, and a decline in physical function caused by lack of activity.

  • A major source of complications is lying on the floor for a long time afterward, a risk that increases with age and declining muscle function.

  • A study from University of Cambridge in 2008 shows that lying on the floor for a long time after falling is strongly associated with serious injuries, hospitalization, and nursing home care.

    • During the year of the study, 60% of participants reported falling (most fell at least twice)

    • of those who fell, 88 % said they were alone at the time.

    • Four out of five needed help getting up

    • 30% remained on the floor for over an hour.

    • Those who lay on the floor for a long time were at the greatest risk for serious injury, repeated falls, hospital admission, and long-term care during the year of follow-up.

But wait there’s more! Did you know according to a study in 2019:

“It appears that there is adequate evidence to support the use of grip strength as an explanatory or predictive biomarker of specific outcomes such as generalized strength and function, bone mineral density, fractures, and falls, nutritional status, disease status and comorbidity load, cognition, depression, and sleep, hospital-related variables, and mortality.”

Translation: bitch grip strength will be the end of you!

Anyhoo, now that I’ve scared you into understanding why this complicated mf is so important for everyone, let’s learn it. It looks very intimidating, and yes, it’s definitely not simple. BUT believe it or not, it can be a lot easier to practice and master on your own than a lot of Hardstyle kettlebell ballistic movements (like swing, snatch, and clean). First off, it’s multiple movements woven together, each of them punctuated, which means you have time to think your way through it. And you can practice each of those individual movements on their own. AND each of those individual movements can be turned into even MORE movements, many of which I like to program for my strength athletes for either corrective, warmup, or accessory work.

Now this will come as a shock to you, but I can be a little, ahem, rigid in how I like certain movements performed. The TGU is traditionally performed with a kettlebell which naturally sits over the shoulder and guides the arm into a good lockout position, making it particularly effective. AND as many of you know, one of my (and your shoulders’) favorite things about the kettlebell is the way it forces you to have your shit together: you won’t be able to get away with sassy wrist and a floppy elbow for long. However, there is sooooo much going on when you’re learning it, you can do it with dumbbells (shudder) or even unweighted. Not having to worry about a ball of iron teetering precariously over your head can really help with focus (pro-tip).

I created my own version of a workout called The Furnace Drill as a step-by-step way to learn each phase of the Turkish getup starting from the top down. It’s not a misnomer, I can tell you that much, so you should be prepared for a workout. I recommend some experience with kettlebells and have been instructed on the basic goblet squat and swing. But don’t worry, you can scale it back easily!

If you have any injuries (especially neck, shoulder, wrist, or elbow) I recommend you learn it privately or in a more scaled-back workshop (TGU 101). If you have difficulty getting your arms overhead, I would also wait for the 101. And of course, talk to your doc first if you have any doubts or concerns. Don’t be a jackass and come to a workshop like this if you aren’t sure your body can handle it.

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