The Turkish Get Up for everything

The Turkish Get Up (TKGU) is one of the best yet most under-used exercise you can find in the gym. This is largely down to the complex, technical nature of the movement. It is a great tool for injury prevention, warm up, strength gains, conditioning,  fat loss, movement development and screening. At Actuate Personal Training we have had great success using it with athletes, beginners and post surgery rehab clients.

So here, I will give you a simple, step by step guide on how to perform the Turkish get up and how to programme it into your training.

The TKGU can be explained as simply getting from a lying down position to a standing position. Whether you have a weight in your hand or not is totally dependant on your goal and ability but start without a weight. If you decide to use a weight later on then a kettlebell is the best place to start as the weight is centred over your arm. Dumbbells are a little harder and then a barbell for a really grip and core workout. Needless to say, don’t drop it on yourself! Keep your eyes on the weight the whole time.


The first half – the half get up

Stage 1: The sit across Turkish get up 1

  • lie on your back with your right leg bent and foot flat on the floor
  • lift your right arm up so it is pointing to the ceiling (this is the position your arm will stay in throughout) and keeps your eyes firmly on your hand or the weight if you have one
  • keep your left left straight and your left arm out to the side
  • from here, sit across to your left, rolling onto your left forearm, keeping the right hand pointing up, think about sitting across not sitting up
  • now sit up right, sliding your left hand closer to you as you transition from your forearm to your palm

Stage 2: The side plank

  • this is key, most people and trainers perform the Turkish get up without this position, they simply miss it and therefore miss one the most beneficial aspects of the exercise. Turkish get up 2
  • from the sitting tall position, still with the left leg out and right knee bent, push your hips up towards the ceiling by driving through your right heel and using your straight left leg and straight left arm for balance
  • your body should be in a t-shape, with your arms in a straight line from floor to ceiling and your left leg forming a straight line to your head

Stage 3: Reverse back to the start

  • slowly lower your hips until your are sitting on the floor
  • slide your left hand out so your resting your forearm
  • lie across until your flat on your back

The second half – the stand up

Once you have mastered the half get up, get to the side plank position and then…

Stage 1: tall kneeling

  • pull your left leg through the arch that your left hand and right foot have created. You are aiming to get your left knee close to your left hand
  • once you have planted your knee take your left hand off the floor and straighten your body up. You should be in a tall kneeling position with the right foot planted on the floor, knee bent at 90 degrees, left knee on the floor, bent also at 90 degree. Right hand still pointing to the ceiling.

Stage 2: stand up

  • make sure your left foot has the toes pulled back so your ball of the foot is making contact with the floor
  • from here stand up by driving the right foot into the floor, using the left leg for balance
  • bring the left leg to stand parallel to the right, keeping the right hand overhead

Stage 3: get back down Turkish get up 3

  • now you just move in reverse, step back with the left leg and lower the left knee to the floor so you finish in the tall kneeling position
  • put your left palm on the floor to the left of your left knee and push it into the floor
  • kick your left leg through the gap so you end up in the side plank position from the half get up then follow the steps above to finish
  • keep your eyes on your hand or the weight the entire time


This is a great exercise for many reason and can be used in lots of ways. Here are a few suggestions of how we use the Turkish get up with clients.

For a warm up and mobility drill (it also gets your brain working): No weights, just perform the whole movement with the hand pointing up in the air. Perform 5 on the right side and then 5 on the left.

To ramp it up a little you can then hold a light dumbbell in the hand overhead and repeat. If you want to add an extra mobility element you can perform a windmill once in the standing position.

For strength training: It sounds simple but go heavy. You will need to start with a light weight and build up but it should be a little less than you can military press with one arm. This rep should be ultra slow. Pausing, breathing and tensing at each stage before moving on to the next. Get a heavy KB or even a barbell if you can handle it. Do one rep on each side with a 3 minute rest in between.


30kg barbell getup

A post shared by Luke Thompson (@twellstkd) on

For conditioning and fat loss: Find a kettlebell that you can comfortably perform the Turkish get up with, nothing too heavy. Now perform 20 reps in 5 minutes, alternating left and right each time. If you can do it and not be dying in a puddle at the end you need to go heavier. And then try 30 reps in 5 mins. You have been warned, this is ridiculously hard!

The Turkish get up is very technical and should be carried out under the supervision of a trainer, at least when you first start out. Master the basics. Once you can do it well with no weight then work on using a light kettlebell. Only progress when you are ready. For more information or a hands on lesson on technical exercises like please don’t hesitate to get in touch.