Happy Shoulder Turkish Get Up

In the late 90s coaching legend Steve Maxwell showed Pavel Tsatsouline the Turkish Get Up…. the end!

Turkish Get Up

Turkish Get Up

Well, if you knew who those two extraordinary strength aficionados are that’s probably where I could end this quick post but for everyone else here goes.

In relation to the TGU, Gray Cook states in his acclaimed book Movement, ‘We consider the TGU a basic screen and fundamental exercise. It’s a screen because its seven steps can expose nicely packaged movement problems that can be viewed up close in a particular pattern of movement. This is much better than trying to pick out imperfection during the execution of an entire seven-step TGU.’

He goes on to say, ‘As a fundamental exercise, the TGU can be used as a pre-workout systems check, a neuromuscular warm-up, a physiological warm-up, dynamic stability training, symmetry training and a functional cool-down. The TGU can also be used on a recovery day in place of a light workout to smooth out the kinks.’

As the Turkish Get Up gets more and more exposed in the mainstream it can often be seen demonstrated with rather poor technique not intended for an exercise of such prowess.

Like any technical exercise, proper instructor is vital and can be sought from your friendly, local StrongFirst certified Instructor.

This video from StrongFirst demonstrates the standards for the Turkish Get Up (and the other main kettlebell lifts)

Video for TGU at 4:40

As awesome a wholistic movement as the TGU is, some people find the start position a pain in the shoulder no matter how well seated and positioned their arm is in the shoulder, ‘packed’ as it’s referred to.

‘Enter the Bench Press’

Much like a flat back bench press can cause similar pain due to restrictions of movement in the scapula, the fix for bench press is the same for the start of the TGU.

IPF competition bench press

A seasoned powerlifter may be able to attain quite a large arch in his or her back. I am not suggesting we aim for this!

Reasonable arch

This is probably a more reasonable arch for a guy with good back health.

guy bench arch

A flat back somewhat restricts the positioning and movement of the scapula owing to the pressure on the floor. The scapulas socket houses the proximal end of the humerus and allows it to move as required. If the scapula is restricted, the shoulder is put under undue stress during arm movements which = pain! ‘Boo’

A reasonable arching of the back to drive the traps into the floor allows the scapula to move more effectively which = 🙂

An extreme competition style arch is not what I’m recommending, rather a more reasonable arch as seen in the photograph above.

When setting up for the Turkish Get Up, I assume the arched position whilst on my side and then roll to my back maintaining the arch, press the Kettlebell without pain needless to say, then continue the Get Up as normal.

If there is pain in assuming an arched back then perhaps this isn’t for you or maybe some thoracic spine mobility is required. A functional movement screen could identify this.

Here’s my video of the arched back TGU set-up. You’ll see the arch is minimal and really quite simple to attain.

If you’ve any questions about this or any aspect of the Turkish Get Up please get in touch.

Play safe, train wise.



The recommendations and ideas on this post are not medical guidelines, but are intended for educational / interest purposes only. You must consult your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program, if you have any medical condition or injury that contraindicates physical activity.

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