The Turkish Get Up (TGU). Let us start at the beginning with a history lesson: What is the origin of the Turkish Get Up? I have no idea. The Internet, in its unverified fashion, mumbled something about a heavy TGU as a prerequisite in order to join the Turkish wrestling teams. Also, some Old-Timey Strong Men used the TGU to impress Old-Timey regular men. So if you own a time machine or know any Turkish wrestlers, ask and/or challenge them to a wrestling match. The winner gets a free time machine, and/or the actual history of the TGU. Mustaches and leotards are mandatory. Lesson over. Class dismissed.
Why do Turkish Getups? Hippocrates said, “That which is used – develops. That which is not used wastes away.” And the TGU uses every muscle/bone/ligament/tendon/hair-follicle in the human body. It’s pretty much the only exercise you need to do for the rest of your life. So you might as well get good at it. And you’ll never be cool until you hit a 48KG getup. That is a harsh, social axiom that I just made up. You wanna be a doctor? 48KG TGU. You wanna run for President? 48KG TGU. You wanna be my friend? 48KG TGU!
There’s a lot of literature I want to quote regarding strength training regimens, but let’s start with this: Dan John’s Easy Strength. 40 consecutive days of training using only 5 exercises at sub-maximal loads. When I did it, I didn’t hit everyday, but I was able to come close with 5-6 sessions per week. Before I started this program, I had successfully performed 3+3 TGU’s with the 32 KG bell, and my one rep max was 40KG. The 40KG was challenging, but I felt I could do more. Throughout the first 20 days, I ONLY used the 24KG. By the second half of the program, I upped the weight to 32KG. I stuck with around 10 reps total, but I completed variations of how I trained those 10-ish reps. So I did stuff like this: 1+1 x 5, 3+3 & 2+2 with a rest in between, 5+5 and done, etc… As Pavel emphasizes, “Train same but different.” Stave off mundane daily routines! Don’t let your brain and muscles get bored.
I never considered how to test myself upon completion. I knew I’d be stronger, and the rest really didn’t matter. In fact, I only attempted a Beast TGU (48KG / 106LBS) on a whim after a staff meeting, dressed in my summer workplace uniform of off-white linen pants and a polo shirt (I’m going through a Miami Vice, Don Johnson phase). I knew in my gut that I had the movement down. My muscles and nervous system were itching to go. I could hear The Beast calling to me across the gym, “Come to me, Daniel. Lift me precariously over your head. Do it! You’ve got health insurance!” (Medical Disclaimer: If you experience hearing the voices of weight lifting equipment of any kind, do not attempt to lift them. Please seek immediate medical attention).
So let’s go over some of the elements that made my strength gains possible: One-Leg Romanian Deadlifts (RDL) & Reverse Lunges. Personally, I find the RDL more challenging unloaded — balance is a big weakness of mine. For those of you with a tight lower-back and/or hamstrings, this maneuver is a hell of a stretch. And when this becomes boring without weight, put a kettlebell in the hand opposite of the supporting leg. This will create the holy-sh*t-I’m-supporting-a-kettlebell-on-one-leg sensation that you are acutely aware during the reverse lunge portion of the TGU (I’m not comparing the movements, I’m comparing the sensations). It helps kill the anxiety, and soon, you’ll feel as comfortable bearing weight on 1 leg as you will on 2.
Next up: The Reverse Lunge. Loaded. Try this: press a bell overhead, lunge backward, press the bell from the kneeling position, lunge to standing & rack the bell. Repress and repeat. For the purpose of our goal, the bell-leg combination will match that of the TGU, meaning the pressing arm is on the same side as the supporting leg. Benefits: Time under tension, developing comfort bearing weight one-footed, and doing a lot of presses. And really reach back on the lunge — get that extra millimeter. A shallow reverse lunge is a recipe for an awkward and dangerous get-down portion of the TGU.
If I had to put together an Easy Strength regimen tailored to beef up your TGU specifically, I would train the TGU along with isolating the movements that comprise it into their own exercise. But, like any good workout or training program, it needs a good name. And I’m stuck between “OttomanFit” or “Easy Turkey”. I’ll get back to you on that. But, here…take a weight you have mastery of (24KG for me), and do variations of the following for 20 days. Increase the bell size IF NEEDED, and continue for another 20.
OVH Carries – 24KG 15:15 SEC x 5 per arm
Reverse Loaded Lunges – 24 KG 3+3 x 5 (press from racked one day, from OVH the next)
Windmills – 24KG 2+2 x 3
2-Hand Swings – 48KG 5×10
Turkish Get-Ups – 1+1 x 5
Here’s my logic: (1) OVH Carries will make your shoulders beefcake and test isometric stamina; (2) Reverse Loaded Lunges test stability, and is the most difficult part of the TGU – master it; (3) Military Press – pressing the weight from both standing and the lunge will, well, as they said in Latin: “Repetitio mater studiorum est” (Repetition is the mother of all learning); (4) Windmills – stability, mobility, isometric confidence; (5) 2-Handed Swings – heavy as possible. Swinging the 48 KG was a boost to strength and to my psyche, as if the swing was the first step to conquering the Beast.
Upon completion of this OttomanFit (or Easy Turkey) 40 day cycle, test your one 1RM. Continue with caution! If you just got done with a 24KG Easy Turkey cycle, your test day should start with the 32KG. Way too easy? Hit the 40KG. Still bored? Maybe the 48KG is for you. Proceed with caution! The TGU is not the exercise with which to push your luck. Listen to your gut. If it’s not sure, don’t do it. But if it’s itchin’ to go, give it a shot. A spotter couldn’t hurt either 🙂
Dan Byrnes is a Level 1 Kettlebell Instructor through Steve Maxwell (maxwellsc.com) — who is a world renown fitness expert and one of the founders of Dragon Door. Hooked on all things kettlebells, and searching to fulfill and long term interest in teaching, More importantly, Dan has decided to continue his personal and professional training under Janelle Pica, owner of Primal Fitness Pittsburgh LLC, and he plans to complete the Beast Tamer Challenge and his Strong First Level 1 Kettlebell certification in 2016.