You can choose from many movements to improve your health and have fun. Learn how to do the Turkish get-up and what the effects are.
Turkish get-ups are a relatively technical exercise where you get up from the ground while holding a weight, typically a kettlebell, in the air.
This movement can be a fun way to improve muscle endurance around the shoulders, core strength, balance, and mobility.
One downside of Turkish get-ups is that they are technically challenging and can take a while to get used to. Individuals who want to start getting benefits quicker may prefer simpler exercises.
Additionally, many people are also interested in building a lot of muscle mass in a short amount of time. For this purpose, the Turkish get-up is typically not ideal.
How to do a Turkish get-up
The walkthrough below assumes that you have a kettlebell. Below the steps and the demonstration video, you can also find a few other equipment options for doing this exercise.
Once you have the kettlebell, take the following steps to do a Turkish get-up:
- Lie down on one side with a kettlebell on the ground in front of your chest.
- Roll onto your back with your hand on the kettlebell handle. Keep your body in about a straight line for now.
- Press up the kettlebell by stretching your arm. From this point on, keep your arm with the kettlebell slightly less than stretched and pointing in the air.
- Put the foot of the leg of the side with the kettlebell flat on the ground and the arm of the opposite side at about a 90-degree angle to your side.
- Raise both of your shoulders but the side of the kettlebell just a bit more. Lean on the forearm of the other side. Make sure you keep your shoulders from slumping. Keep them in about a straight line.
- Extend/stretch the arm of the side opposite from the kettlebell so that you are leaning on the hand.
- Raise your hips in the air so that you have enough room below you for the next step.
- Move the leg of the side opposite to the kettlebell under you and put its knee on the ground.
- Tilt your upper body sideways until it is straight up. Keep your spine about straight. Your hand stops being in contact with the ground.
- Turn the lower leg of the knee that is on the ground until it is pointing forward horizontally to the upper leg of the other side.
- Stand up by pushing with the front leg.
- You can either do a reverse Turkish get-up by going through each of the steps backward or repeat the same number of repetitions with your other hand holding the kettlebell.
Turkish get-ups are a unilateral exercise that works one side at a time.
That means you want to do the same number of repetitions on the other side too to avoid muscle imbalances.
That aside, a kettlebell is an equipment option that feels comfortable and is helpful for keeping your wrists straight.
However, you can also do Turkish get-ups with your body weight, a dumbbell, a sandbag, a medicine ball with a handle, and other compact one-handed weights.
When it comes to form and technique, the walkthrough steps below highlight some of the most important attention points.
If you are not able to do the Turkish get-up in a controlled motion this may be a sign that you are using too much weight and/or that you need more practice (likely with lighter weights).
Turkish get-up progression
The Turkish get-up is mostly a technically challenging movement but resistance training beginners may also struggle with certain steps in terms of muscle strength.
The three steps that are the most challenging in this area are keeping the weight in the air (starting at step 3), the weighted sit-up to raise your shoulders (in step 5), and tilting your body sideways until it is upright (in step 9).
To get better at keeping the kettlebell in the air, you can do shoulder exercises like shoulder presses. If mobility and flexibility are the issues you want to start with stretching exercises before doing the Turkish get-up.
Secondly, to get better at the strength part of the weighted sit-up, you want to do bodyweight sit-ups, or if that is still too hard, a simple core exercise like crunches or a bird dog.
To strengthen the oblique muscles that tilt your body sideways, you can do side bends or even simply hold a weight in one hand and use your oblique muscles to keep your body upright.
Keep in mind that you don’t want/have to go straight to heavy weighted Turkish get-ups.
You can start with bodyweight Turkish get-ups without a kettlebell. If that does not go well, do the exercises above. If it does go well, you can give light weights a try and build up from there.
Turkish get-ups muscles worked
The big list of muscles worked with Turkish get-ups includes your deltoids (shoulders), a variety of scapular muscles, forearm muscles, chest, triceps, latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), core muscles, hip flexors, glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thighs), hip abductors (outer thighs), hip adductors (inner thighs), quadriceps (front thighs), and calves.
The muscles that will have to work the hardest relative to their strengths during the Turkish get-up include the deltoids, scapular muscles, wrist muscles, and core muscles.
You may also be interested in the article with the main muscles worked in Turkish get-ups for each of the separate steps.
Keep in mind that just working the muscles above a bit during Turkish get-ups is typically not enough to see results.
You still need to implement enough repetitions, sets, and resistance for your training goals too.
Turkish get-up workout examples
How many Turkish get-ups you should do depends on things like how much time you have, your training goals, your personal situation, etc.
Something else to note is that Turkish get-ups are not the most well-studied exercise out there. The guidelines below are helpful but not perfect and can be adjusted for your personal situation.
That being said, an example Turkish get-up workout for training mobility is 6 to 10 Turkish get-ups on each side for 3 to 6 sets.
To train mobility you want to use a relatively light kettlebell or just your body weight and really focus extra much on getting the technique of each of the steps right.
Most people can do Turkish get-ups in a mobility training manner every day.
For endurance and strength, an example workout is around 3 to 6 Turkish get-ups per side for 3 to 6 sets. In this case, you want to use a weight where you can just barely complete the sets.
That being said, if you are new to this exercise you preferably want to start too light instead of too heavy.
Additionally, you typically want to give your body at least 24 hours to 48 hours of rest in between Turkish get-up workouts for endurance and strength.
Turkish get-up benefits
While Turkish get-ups will not help you become the biggest guy or gall in the gym, they can still offer many other positive effects.
Some of the benefits of Turkish get-ups are:
- Stronger muscles: Doing enough Turkish get-ups with kettlebells that are heavy enough can help you strengthen your muscles.
- Can help with losing weight: Because they can help you use up more energy and build some muscle mass, you can say that Turkish get-ups can help you lose weight. Keep in mind that other changes may be necessary too.
- Balance & coordination: Similar to many other skills, you can train balance and coordination by challenging yourself in these areas. Turkish get-ups can help with this.
- Can improve mobility and flexibility: By safely pushing your boundaries in mobility and flexibility, Turkish get-ups can help you move these limits.
- Helps you avoid muscle asymmetries: Working out your muscles one side at a time can help avoid muscle imbalances.
- Can improve athletic performance: Shoulder mobility and strength play an important role in a variety of sports. Improving these things with Turkish get-ups can lead to better performance in certain sports.
- Can help you avoid injuries: Weak muscles and bad mobility increase your injury risk. By doing Turkish get-ups in smart ways, you can avoid this risk.
Turkish get-ups are not the most effective option for all these benefits.
However, this somewhat unique combination helps you check off a lot of training boxes in one exercise.
Something to note is that Turkish get-ups can be hard in areas like your shoulders, back, knees, wrists, and ankles.
People with any issues with these body parts may want to start with other strengthening exercises or at least bodyweight Turkish get-ups first.
As you strengthen your muscles, joints, and tendons over time, you can consider the full kettlebell version of Turkish get-ups again.
Turkish get-up alternatives
While they have their benefits, not everyone likes the complete package of Turkish get-ups. If this applies to you too, you can consider one of the alternatives to Turkish get-ups below.
- Single-arm overhead lunges
- Woodchop exercise
- Balance board exercises
- Cuban presses
- Specific stretches
These alternatives have their own unique benefits. Which of these deserve a spot in your exercise routine depends on why you were considering Turkish get-ups in the first place.
Are Turkish get-ups a good exercise?
Turkish get-ups can be a good exercise for improving shoulder muscle endurance, core muscle strength, mobility, and balance.
Make sure you use a kettlebell weight and a Turkish get-up routine that aligns with your strength levels and training goals.
One thing to note is that this is a relatively technically challenging exercise. If you don’t like this, there may also be simpler Turkish get-up alternatives that can be more effective for your training goals.
Lastly, keep in mind that personal preference matters too.
Turkish get-ups may be the number one exercise for building a lot of shoulder muscle mass in a short amount of time.
However, you may find them a lot more fun than standard shoulder compound exercises.
In that case, you can still choose Turkish get-ups.
What are Turkish get-ups good for?
Turkish get-ups are good for training shoulder muscle endurance, core muscle strength, mobility, and balance.
Is the Turkish get-up the best exercise?
While Turkish get-ups have their benefits, it is hard to call them the best exercise ever either.
Are Turkish get-ups functional?
Turkish get-ups are considered to be functional because they work your body in ways you could encounter in your regular daily life.