Breaking Down the Turkish Get Up: Roll-to-Elbow
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by Jared Woolever
The Turkish Get Up has been one of our favorite exercises for quite awhile now. I know I’ve been using it myself, and with nearly all my clients, for a little over 5 years now. Even though I’ve been doing Get Up’s for many years now, I still haven’t quite perfected the motion yet.
I know what you’re probably thinking… 5 years and you still haven’t mastered the Get Up?
Yeah… 5+ years later and I still work on dialing in the technical aspects of this move. Going through the full movement will certainly challenge you, and if you continually work on the fine details of the Get Up, you’re mobility, stability, and coordination will drastically improve.
This is actually the third piece I’ve written on the Get Up. I’m working on putting together an article for each phase of the Get Up. Learning the Get Up in phases is the ideal way of teaching this move, so I figured I’d break it down into the distinct phases we use ourselves, and with our clients, on a regular basis.
The phase I want to discuss here will be the Roll-to-Elbow. This is the third phase I’ll be covering, so be sure to catch up if you’ve missed the first two articles. You can check out those here:
Now that we’ve covered how to address the bell properly and how to put the bell into a good position on the press, let’s cover the first phase of actually getting off the floor. The Roll-to-Elbow is the first phase we actually begin to move with the purpose of getting upright. The Turkish Get Up starts on the floor in the fetal position and ends in an upright posture with both feet on the floor and the kettlebell still overhead. The Roll-to-Elbow phase is probably one of the toughest phases for most people to get, especially when you start using a substantial weight. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people struggling with this phase, and it’s simply because they don’t know the specific details on how to move with ease.
In the Roll-to-Elbow phase, you have to move from your back and get on to your elbow for support. Like I said earlier, this is the first phase the body will begin to move with the purpose of getting upright. This phase will be very difficult if you don’t learn how to roll onto your elbow versus doing a sit up to get on your elbow. I feel like I have to correct this more than just about anything else. Learning the roll in this phase will help set up the entire movement, so take your time and learn how to roll instead of sit up.
If you only learn one thing from this article, learn the roll! You’ll never be able to move big weights with this movement without learning the roll first. If you don’t take the time to learn this, either you’ll always be using minimal weight to perform your Get Up’s, or you’ll simply flop around on the ground as you continuously try to sit up into position. Once you learn the roll, this phase gets MUCH easier.
Once you master the rolling portion of this exercise, now you need to ensure the shoulders are in proper position. Once again, without proper alignment and positioning, you’re either going to struggle with this phase, or you’ll compensate to get through it using a weight that is less than impressive. The Turkish Get Up is way more about alignment, positioning, and set up then how strong you are. I’ve seen some very strong people look like clowns doing the Get Up. They may be strong as hell, but without the proper mobility and stability to tie it all together, they’ll always struggle through this movement.
Once you get on your elbow, you want to make sure your shoulders are in a good, safe position. This is another common error we see on a regular basis. Most people will either roll or sit up on their elbow, and then let the shoulder practically collapse. Once you’re on your elbow, you need to drive that elbow into the floor and keep the shoulders in a good “packed” position. If you collapse on the shoulder, you won’t have much support, plus you’ll put yourself at risk for getting an injury. Drive the elbow into the floor, create some extra stability, and save the labrum from excess wear and tear by having a sloppy shoulder.
Once you’re on your elbow, we recommend going through the exact same stuff we did after pressing it. We will have our clients learn the roll, learn how to create a solid, stable shoulder, and then take them through the small movements that will fine tune stability and positioning on the arm holding the kettlebell. After you get up to your elbow, try to do some neck clocks to ensure your not getting stability from accessory muscles. Try a few small circles. Try taking the shoulder through some internal and external rotations. Try to “juice the movement” by packing and unpacking the shoulder letting the bell move up and down a couple inches with each rep. Once again, if you didn’t catch the Roll-to-Press article, go back and review that one first. We cover these small movements in a video attached to that article, so please refer back to that if you need a little more clarification on these small, subtle movements.
The Roll-to-Elbow will take some time to learn and perform properly, so take your time and practice, practice, practice. To give a quick recap, first learn to roll versus doing a sit-up, then make sure your pressing the down elbow into the floor for extra stability, and finally check the shoulder holding the bell. Learning a proper roll and how to keep both shoulders packed and stable will help set up the rest of the Turkish Get Up. Stay tuned for the next article in this series, the Roll-to-Hand.