Turkish Get Up – Roll-to-Hand

Going from the elbow to the hand in the Turkish Get Up used to be my least favorite step while performing the Get Up. Personally, I struggled with getting into proper position due to a limitation within my thoracic spine, but we’ll get into that in just a minute. This piece is going to be designed around breaking down what’s going on in the Turkish Get Up in what we call the Elbow-to-Hand, or Roll-to-Hand.

The Roll-to-Hand is the third step in the process of doing the Get Up. If you haven’t reviewed the first three articles on the Turkish Get Up, I’d take a minute to get caught up on “how to address the bell properly”, the “roll-to-press” phase, and the “roll-to-elbow” phase. You should be owning each one of those phases before you ever get here. Taking your time with the Turkish Get Up and piecing it together over time is the best way to learn it. If you’re experienced with the Get Up, let’s dive right into the details and common faults or restrictions we see in the “roll-to-hand” phase.

By now you’ve learned how to get to the elbow with the kettlebell overhead. You should’ve been practicing shoulder position, body awareness, proper placement of the kettlebell while overhead, and all the other little details we taught in the “roll-to-elbow” phase. The next step in the process of finishing the Get Up is going to change the primary base of support from the elbow to the hand. Also, your torso is going to become more erect in this position by simply extending the elbow and using the hand for your support on the down arm. Check out the video below to see how to perform this phase.

Now that you’ve gotten a chance to review the video, you should have a better idea of what I’m talking about as I begin to break down some of the common errors you’ll see in this phase.

The first thing you’ll notice with this phase is the amount of thoracic extension it requires. You won’t think about it that much if you’re not limited here, but if you are, this phase will definitely point out any restrictions within the thoracic spine. Also, if you’re limited within the T-spine, you’re probably going to find subtle ways to cheat during this phase as well. Here are some of the common cheats I see with people doing the Get Up when there is a possible shoulder mobility or thoracic limitation:

Not being able to lock out the elbow on the down arm – If you or your client can’t lock out the elbow on the base of support, you’re going to ask the supporting arm to do a lot more than it should have to. Performing the Get Up is more about position than it is about pure strength, but if you don’t have adequate mobility, you’re probably going to compromise by keeping the elbow flexed a little. Creating a little bit of elbow flexion takes some of the demand off the thoracic extension needed to be here, but it will force you to work harder than you should have to on the down arm.

Anterior Glide of the Humeral head – This is another main fault you’ll see on the down arm. After changing the base of support from the elbow to the hand, you’ll need to ensure the shoulder stays compressed and packed throughout. Letting the humeral head glide forward will only put stress on the labrum and structure of the shoulder. If you can’t maintain good shoulder position here, I’d recommend using the tip I’ll show below to fix most of the common errors seen in the “roll-to-hand” phase.

Positioning the hand too close to the body – When we teach the Get Up, we usually teach people to simply extend the elbow of the down arm to change the base of support from the elbow to the hand. If you choose to do this, your hand will always be positioned in the same spot. However, what we usually see is that people tend to move the position of the arm and they’ll position the hand much closer to the body. We prefer to just keep the hand in the same position so you can get used to being in that exact same spot. If you change the hand position, it’s highly unlikely to find that exact same position each and every time you do a Get Up. Keeping the same hand position will help your body learn this phase through consistency. It’s going to be in the same spot time-after-time, and this consistency will help dial in the form on this particular phase of the Get Up.

Now that I’ve explained the common faults seen, I want to cover one of my favorite strategies to help build this phase and keep them from happening. As I’ve previously discussed, many of these common faults will come from a limitation within the thoracic spine. Before working on this phase, be sure to hit the foam roller on the T-spine, lats, teres, and pecs. Ensuring to hit soft tissue work in the shoulder complex can help improve overall position in the “roll-to-hand” phase. Also, try adding a couple thoracic extension corrective exercises to your warm up. A couple of my favorite exercises that help increase thoracic extension are:

Bench T Spine Extension

Quadruped Rockback

After you do the proper soft tissue work within the shoulder complex and the corrective exercises designed to improve mobility within the thoracic spine, you can start trying to work on roll-to-hand phase of the Turkish Get Up. If you’re limited by mobility, you can still work on this phase of the Get Up, but you just need to know how to make an adjustment to ensure you’re in the proper position.

Turkish Get Up - Roll to Hand

After you complete the roll-to-elbow phase, instead of trying to work your way up to your hand, start propping up the elbow to slowly begin to extend through T-spine. You can start by simply rolling up a mat to create a 2-3 inch height increase. You’ll still be on the elbow; however, now you’re starting to get some extension through the thoracic spine. Go through some breathing, neck clocks, rotations, and “juice the movement”. After your comfortable there and can maintain good form, start adding more height to the prop. You can continue to roll up the mat, switch to using a yoga block, or finding other unique ways to increase the height of the down elbow.

Simply adding rolled up mats or yoga blocks is a great way to work on getting thoracic extension without compromising form. Only go as high as you can before compensation occurs. If you’re doing the soft tissue work and the corrective exercises listed above, you’ll be able to get up to the hand in no time. Don’t let a mobility problem stop you from owning this movement. Own your mobility and then learn how to stabilize by using the Turkish Get Up.


Train Hard & Train Smart!

Steve & Jared