Avoid the Turkish Get-Up

The Turkish get-up has reached new heights in popularity, taking on a mystique due to its unusual nature. Experts rank it highly for developing functional fitness. Despite reaching this status, it has a better alternative for every fitness component it develops.

The Turkish get-up associates with the kettlebell, a tool that encourages many poor explosive and overhead exercises. These mimic no real tasks you would do in your daily life or in a sport. Exercise should be simple and natural, relying on basic movements like pushing, pulling, squatting, running, and walking.

The Turkish get-up looks impressive. It requires a focus that will challenge you. It has a history in old-school strength feats.

While it may feel fun to perform and inspire awe in some that watch it, exercise should feel productive and safe foremost.

The Turkish get-up fails us for these reasons.


To follow by faith alone is to follow blindly.

– Benjamin Franklin

  • Shoulder impingement occurs.

Overhead pressing reigns as the main culprit but anything that places your hand above your head, especially with a load, can harm the shoulder. The Turkish get-up requires too much shoulder mobility, though some experts twist this as an advantage. Mobility in the shoulder exists for adjusting the arm’s position, not to handle a heavy weight.

  • It places shearing force on the knees, relying upon lunging.

Too much flexion of the knees takes place to get off the ground. This flexion without proportional bending at the hip places shearing force upon them. This rips the knees apart as if snapping sticks in half.

You have to split squat (not the safer version with the rear foot elevated) from the lunge position to get the weight back up. This awkwardness puts strain on the rear knee and likely some on the lead knee as well. Unilateral exercises also allow instability that can harm results.

This explains why many complain of knee pain when they perform it. This comes from the motion itself, not a poor execution. Muscles function strongest at the midpoint of a normal motion. The Turkish get-up requires force from some of the weakest positions. Your body would avoid this if it could, but you command it to do otherwise.

  • It uses the whole body poorly.

As a full-body movement, it overloads no specific muscle. The squat hits the lower body better. A push and pull address the upper body and core better.

You can get your heart rate up through better means as well. Consider sprinting or stairclimbing. These train the core as well through the serape effect. Though whole body engagement works best for cardio, the Turkish get-up occurs without enough movement to raise the heart rate much.

  • It requires movement at the core that can harm the spine.

It relies upon twisting, bending, and flexing to proceed through the exercise. The spine should remain in neutral to operate safely. Any flexion or extension of the spine, especially under a load, can lead to lower back issues. Keeping a good posture during exercise is vital. The Turkish get-up requires you to deviate from this to start the movement.

Could you perform a crunch or sit-up while standing? Our core exists to brace, not to move loads. The more powerful limbs exist to power a movement.

Core training should feel simple with core stabilization working more safely. No direct core work seems better still. The core gets addressed enough on the big three and through your intervals.

  • It places stress on the wrist.

The wrist can extend too much. It may feel tough to keep the force directed through your palm. This not only can cause wrist pain but the poor transfer of force harms performance.

  • The shift in weight can stress the elbow.

Transitioning from each phase throughout the movement requires you to place your weight unevenly. At one point, your elbow will extend fully with your hand on the floor. You then must lean most of your weight upon it, and this imbalance should not occur.

  • The weight may strike you.

Although free weights work best for lifting, you run some risks without good form and the right setup.

You need to put into place some safety mechanisms. For a barbell bench press or squat, a power rack prevents the bar from crushing you when you set the safety bars correctly. This allows you to train hard without fear.

No such setup can exist for the Turkish get-up. If you train to failure, you have no means to safely dispose of the weight. You also have to transfer the weight between your hands at the top, inviting another chance for disaster.

  • It relies upon endless form tips.

Good exercises should feel simple, not complex. Learning good form should come naturally and not occupy your thoughts, at least in time. The endless cues for the Turkish get-up will cloud your mind. This prevents you from putting forth as much effort and risks your safety.

  • It embodies functional training.

The Turkish get-up is just one strain of the plague that has infected all of fitness in the form of functional training. Functional training relies on exercises that demand the utmost coordination and balance. This means they stimulate less physical change.

Functional training uses bizarre movements to correct perceived deficiencies. Can you train your ability to handle high falls by jumping off cliffs? Why would your body ever use the Turkish get-up motion for anything close to a normal movement? In the case that you do perform a movement similar to this throughout your life, you did something your body never evolved to expect and could have done better instead.

Functional training has skills as the limiting factors for exercise. This reduces strength and endurance. They tend to focus on small stabilizers. Stabilizers have little capacity for growth and exist to support the large muscles. Bracing on the big exercises and including intervals works them plenty.

Linking force created from the lower body through the core and finally to the upper body describes a skill. This skill develops for specific activities, such as a boxer throwing a punch. It remains relevant to the skill and nothing else. The skills developed through complicated lifts fail to transfer to everyday activities.

Mixing skills with lifting instead is dangerous.

Avoid the Turkish Get-Up

Any one of these reasons alone would justify removing the exercise. Many choose not apply their critical thinking skills though. They never analyze the crazy exercises and methods that have corrupted training today.

Correcting poor posture or other problems should never take place under a load. Good form should eventually feel rather simple unless you choose poor exercises. You find yourself needing to think of ways to make an inherently unsafe exercise safer.

Mixing strength training with complex movement patterns threatens safety. Lifting weights should not teach skills. It should develop strength and size that can then apply to daily life or for practice for a sport.

Functional training justifies low-cost approaches to fitness. These sacrifice attention to form and hard work on the basics. It instead favors making money through large group training. The trainers use cheap equipment, focusing on having fun at the expense of staying safe.

Common sense in exercise has been fading for quite some time. The paradigm has swayed so far from a logical path that the experts will give bad advice yet claim the science supports them.

I suggest ignoring the groupthink. Work hard on sensible exercises that will allow you to reach your goals best. Avoid the Turkish get-up.

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