The kettlebell Turkish get up is a functional exercise that requires and improves total-body stability. It also works most muscles of the body as you’re starting from a lying down position and ending standing on your feet. You need strength, coordination, total body stability, flexibility, mobility, and positional awareness to complete this movement. We consider this one of the best techniques to learn for all-around fitness.
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Total body
- Type: Strength, functional fitness
- Mechanics: Compound
- Equipment: Kettlebell
- Difficulty: Intermediate, advanced
Turkish Get Muscles Worked
The kettlebell Turkish get up is pretty much a total body movement. We’ve included brief descriptions of the muscles involved.
This is the largest and most superficial muscle that makes up majority of the size, shape and appearance of the butt and hip muscles. It’s also one of the butt muscles that also include the gluteus medius and minimus.
The gluteus maximus is a very important muscle for function and aesthetics. The butt primarily extends and externally rotates the thighs and it plays an important role in helping us to maintain an upright posture.
Lying to standing requires a decent amount of glute activation.
The quadriceps or quads for short is the large group of muscles that make up most of your upper leg mass. It has four heads; rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedialis.
These muscles help to flex the hips and extend the knees during movements such as squats. They’re also important for posture, walking, and the function of the spine and pelvis.
The kettlebell Turkish get up squat style primarily targets the quads and other leg muscles.
The hamstrings is a three-headed muscle group consisting of semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris.
This muscle group is located on the back of the upper leg opposite the quads and functions to extend the hips and flex the knees. It’s important to note that the short head of the biceps femoris only crosses the knee joint and not the hip like the other two muscles.
The hamstrings play an important role in standing but also explosive activities such as sprinting and jumping.
Additionally, this three-headed muscle is active during the gait cycle to resist knee extension, plus it stabilizes the knee joints and has other functions too.
The calves are the lower leg muscles consisting of the gastrocnemius and soleus. The gastrocnemius is the larger of the two and what most people think of when it comes to the calf muscles.
It’s the very visible muscle right below the knee that has two heads; medial and lateral and it gives the lower leg a lot of its shape. It joins with the soleus to form the Achilles tendon near the lower portion of the leg.
Then you have the soleus; a large muscle located deep to the gastrocnemius.
The calf muscles plantarflex (point the toes down) the foot and ankle. They are also important for posture, and athletic movements. Although they do have an uneven ratio of fast and slow-twitch fibers.
The gastrocnemius is composed of mostly fast-twitch fibers that make it better suited for quick and explosive movements. The soleus contains more slow-twitch fibers and is, therefore, better suited for endurance-type activities.
The core consists of many different muscles that include the rectus abdominis, also known as the abdominals or abs, the obliques, deep core muscles, and spinal erectors.
The abs are the most familiar core muscle to most people and it functions to curl the pelvis and rib cage toward each like when you perform a crunch.
The obliques are located on either side of the abs and are responsible for rotation or twisting the torso. Then you have the deeper core muscles such as the transverse abdominis and internal obliques that help to draw the belly button to the spine and stabilize the trunk. This creates a rigid core which is important for safe heavy lifting and even playing sports for example.
Then you have the back extensors that allow us to stand up straight from a bent-over position and lean backward.
The kettlebell Turkish get up will challenge the abs muscles majorly.
The deltoid or shoulder muscles consist of three heads – anterior (front), lateral (side) and posterior (rear).
When contracted, all three heads with abduction (arm moves away from the midline of the body) of the arm past 15 degrees although they cannot initiate this motion due to their anatomy. The anterior and posterior heads stabilize the arm while the lateral head lifts the arm up from 15-100 degrees.
The shoulders along with the rotator cuff are responsible for movement of the arm in front (flexion), above and behind the body (extension).
These muscles also compensate for lost arm strength like due to a rotator cuff tear for example, and the delts prevent dislocation of the glenohumeral joint such as when the arm is adducted and carrying weight (e.g., deadlift, groceries, etc).
You need plenty of shoulder stability to perform this exercise as you must keep the arm extended and stable throughout the entire movement.
How To Do The Kettlebell Turkish Get Up (Squat Style)
This isn’t a simple exercise like a biceps curl or even a basic squat. There are many more elements involved as you start from your back and end up on your feet. We’ve included step-by-step instructions to help you understand how to properly execute this technique.
Choosing your kettlebell weight
Before you start training, it’s important to find a proper weight. This will be easier to do for more experienced exercisers. However, if you’re trying the kettlebell Turkish get up for the first time, grab a very light kettlebell to learn the movement before you use a more challenging weight.
- Grab your weight and sit on the floor.
- Holding the kettlebell in front of your body, lie down, press the kettlebell into full arm extension above your chest using an overhand grip and bend the same side leg so your foot is on the ground and the other is extended. For example, if your right arm is extended while holding the kettlebell, bend your right leg and place your foot on the floor. The other leg should remain extended. Keep your eyes on the kettlebell throughout the movement.
- Keep your core tight, shift your body toward the non-working arm and roll onto the left elbow.
- Bring the arm into full extension by placing your palm on the ground.
- Press through your foot and bend the other leg so both feet are planted on the ground, then stand up while keeping the arm holding the kettlebell extended overhead.
- Maintaining the same body position and squat back down.
- Place the palm of the non-working arm back on the floor, extend the leg opposite the arm holding the weight (keep the same side leg bent), sit your butt on the floor and lean into the non-working arm/elbow.
- Lie back down while keeping the arm extended above your chest.
- Repeat the exercise for the desired number of reps.
Here’s a video tutorial.
Kettlebell Turkish get up tips/what not to do
- Remember to alternate sides. For example, do a set holding the weight in the left hand, and then do the same for the right side. This is important to prevent imbalances as the kettlebell Turkish get up is an asymmetrical movement by nature (1).
- Start with a light weight and ensure you’ve performed each part of the movement properly before you add more weight.
- It’s very important that you keep the core muscles tight, back neutral, and glutes activated throughout the entire movement. This will help to keep you stable, make the movement more efficient and prevent injuries.
- The movement should be performed slow and controlled. This is not the movement to rush because it takes away from the functionality benefits of the exercise.
- Your eyes should remain in the direction of the kettlebell from start to finish.
- The arm holding the kettlebell should be fully extended from the start of the movement to the very end.
Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Benefits
There are many benefits to be had by introducing this movement into your training regime.
Stability and flexibility
Stability and flexibility are essential components of functionality and health. Without either you can forget about making progress, becoming well-rounded, and having longevity.
This is especially true for the shoulder joint that is an area often prone to injury and a lot of times that’s because it’s not as stable or strong compared to other joints in the body. Exposing the joint to strength-promoting movements carefully and with good form will make it stronger and more stable, and therefore enhance your training experience and prevent pain and injuries.
Athletic and functional carryover
The Turkish get up and its variations closely replicate real life scenarios whether you play sports, have a career that requires you to get down and dirty and have to do daily tasks.
As we get older, it tends to become harder to be as functionally strong and capable. It’s best to maintain this for as long as you can and that means you should be performing similar movements regularly. Keeping up with and even improving motor skills is a vital component of well-being.
A lot of us would be surprised just how incapable we really are when it comes to performing such complex movements. The kettlebell Turkish get up (squat style) is not only something most of us should try but it’s fun to challenge others with these types of functional exercises too.
Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Drawback/s
There aren’t many drawbacks, however, we should mention the possible cons of the kettlebell Turkish get up (squat style).
You need to have a decent level of fitness
If you lack mobility, flexibility, coordination, and shoulder stability, then this exercise could be hard or impossible to do. It does require at least a decent level of fitness and there are many different elements involved. With that being said, most people can work up to it and practice partial movements or not use any weight to progress into the Turkish get up and its kettlebell variations.
Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Variations
Here are a few variations that you can try for some variety.
1. Kettlebell windmill
Why do we love this exercise? Because it’s so beneficial overall. Before you do the Turkish get up and its variations, this is a good place to start because it requires a similar technique but is done from a standing rather than lying position.
Learn how to do it and more here.
2. Turkish get up
The basic Turkish get up is a different variety than the squat style version we’ve talked about here today. It’s not majorly different compared to the squat style version but they are not the same.
Learn more about it and how to do it with our full Turkish get up guide.
How To Incorporate The Kettlebell Turkish Get Up Into Your Training Regime
The order in which you include this technique isn’t as important as just taking some time to throw it into your routine. Although, you don’t want to carelessly throw it in as this could cause injuries. But rather, take the time to practice and perfect it.
You can do it alongside any workout program or as part of a specialized functional training regime.
It would make a great addition to kettlebell only workouts, and if you train to be more athletic and stronger from the ground, this is something you should be doing.
Sets and reps
As for sets and reps, well this depends on the person and their goals.
At a minimum, we recommend doing at least one set of a few reps. Use a light kettlebell and make sure you are doing the exercise properly. Then, when you’re confident, you can ramp it up to 2-3 sets and use a more challenging kettlebell.
The reps aren’t as important although you do not want to go too light or heavy either.
Determine the appropriate number of reps based on what you want to achieve.
It’s time to get up with the kettlebell Turkish get up (squat style). It’s one of the best functional movements you can do including all of its variations and it’s definitely worth learning.
Whether you’re an athlete or seek longevity and a long-lasting functional body, it’s important that you do things that require the entire body to work together to achieve a specific outcome and this is a technique we’d recommend.