Why trainers love Turkish get-ups

“As babies, we transition from crawling to standing and these transitional patterns are an important part of the hardwiring of our brain,” he explains. Thanks to our deskbound lives, our ability to access these patterns becomes inhibited as we age. The Turkish get-up, though, is the grown-up version of learning to stand up—it takes you through majority of the possible ways the human body can move. And practicing the exercise regularly can help increase sports performance as well as mental function, per Zimmerman.

First, master the basic version of the exercise. Zimmerman recommends doing two to four reps on each side with a light kettlebell (or balancing a shoe on your closed fist if you’re a beginner) as a warm-up before any other workout two to three times a week. Then, scroll down to learn how you can increase the complexity of this move with five surprising variations.

Turkish get-ups demonstrated by Julie Wandzilak, Tier X coach at E Columbus Circle in New York City

Lie face up, one arm to your side, kettlebell straight up with your other arm, same side leg bent and other leg straight, both legs slightly away from the midline (1). Drive the foot of your bent leg into the ground to initiate a roll towards the down arm (2). Drive your elbow into the ground and then straighten out your elbow coming up onto your hand (3). Take the straight leg, bring it through and hinge at the hip to come to a half-kneeling position (4). Stand up (5). Go back down the way you came up. Repeat for all reps on that side; then do it on the other side. Trainer cue: Keep your eyes on the bell the entire time until you reach step 4.

TGU variation workout

“Do the following variations, one to two times each (on both sides), as one workout to serve as recovery for a more intense, heavy routine,” advises Zimmerman. Do one to two reps (per side) of each of the following moves, resting only as needed.

Leg sweep-through

From step 3, swing the leg through to the half-kneeling position (step 4) and repeat 2 to 3 times. That’s 1 rep. Repeat on the other side.

Turkish get-up with side plank

From step 3, bring one foot on top of the other so you’re in a side plank position. Hold for 5 seconds. Return to step 3. Repeat 2 to 3 times. That’s 1 rep. Repeat on the other side.

Turkish get-up with side plank and press

From side plank (above). Bring your top elbow down towards your rib cage and press the kettlebell back up. Repeat 3 times. That’s 1 rep. Repeat on the other side.

Bottoms-up get-up

Hold the kettlebell upside down and complete the entire get-up. That’s 1 rep. Repeat on the other side.

Turkish get-up with kettlebell single-arm press

During each phase of the get-up, press the kettlebell straight up into the air. That’s 1 rep. Repeat on the other side.