If you know us at Industrial Strength, and if you know me, you know we love our Turkish Get Ups (TGU). I even put it in the name of my podcast! You have probably heard me rave about the benefits of them for a long time now. Of course, like any exercise, you need to do them with pretty good form in order to get the benefits from the exercise. That is not unique to TGU, it is universal for just about every exercise – if you perform the movement with poor form, you are unlikely to get the benefits you want, and in the worst case scenario could end up hurting yourself or someone else in the gym. Here are four common mistakes on the TGU to help you stay aware next time you do them.
1) GRABBING THE KETTLEBELL WITH A BENT WRIST
When you do TGU your wrist should be completely straight. Since we have kickboxing gear here in the gym, I often tell our in-person trainees that their wrist should be in the same position they’d hit the punching bag with at full power. I think most people know that if their wrist is straight, their knuckles will be lined up correctly and they will stay safe when they throw a punch. If their wrist is bench backwards and they try to throw a hard punch they will probably injure themselves. Before your kettlebell ever leaves the ground you need to ensure that your wrist is completely straight, and of course you should work hard to keep it that way throughout the full movement. Doing this will not only keep you safer, it will also build immense grip and forearm strength.
2) LETTING THE BOTTOM SHOULDER COME “UNPACKED”
Most people look at the TGU and think it is an exercise for the top arm (the one holding the kettlebell). One of the most under-appreciated aspects of the TGU is the strength and stability development of the bottom arm and shoulder. Consistent with the idea of being under-appreciated, the nuances of the positioning of the bottom shoulder are also often overlooked. You should be striving to set your bottom shoulder either neutrally or slightly pulled back (never rounded to the front), and critically it should be depressed (often called “anti-shrugged”) so that plenty of space is maintained between your shoulder and your ear. If you overlook these things and allow your shoulder to roll forward and/or shrug upwards, the TGU then transitions from something that should be a fantastic and healthy movement for your shoulders and becomes something that is actually dangerous for them.
3) LOOKING DOWN AT THE FLOOR WHEN YOU SWEEP YOUR LEG THROUGH
This is one of the most common reasons people will drop the kettlebell during a TGU. Not only is this dangerous for yourself, you could also seriously hurt someone else around you. For most people, they’d feel like a dummy if they hurt themselves working out, but they’d feel downright TERRIBLE if they did something foolish that hurt someone else in the gym. If that sounds like you, then pay extremely close attention to this part.
One saying you may have heard is “the body follows the head.” We say this in martial arts all the time, and it can be used offensively or defensively. If I want to do a certain offensive technique then I usually start it by turning my head in the direction of my move. If I want to limit my opponent’s techniques and movements, or if I want to force them to move in a certain direction, then one key tactic is to control which way their head is facing.
When it comes to TGU, you are in full control of where you are looking. During the sweep (when you bring your knee under your body to begin the transition into the lunge) YOU NEED TO KEEP LOOKING UP AT THE KETTLEBELL. It is all-too-common to look down at the floor during this part, as if the person is expecting the floor to magically disappear from underneath them and they are checking to make sure it is still there. This actually creates a big problem, because when you look down at the floor then your body will naturally start to rotate to turn your chest to also face the floor, and the arm holding the kettlebell will start to drift forward (i.e. once your head turns to face the floor, the rest of the your body will start to follow suit). Your arm holding the kettlebell can only drift forward a tiny amount before the leverage becomes so poor that you can’t hold the kettlebell any longer, and the kettlebell will fall to the ground. It is imperative that you keep your eyes on the kettlebell during this part to minimize the risk of the kettlebell falling and landing on you or someone else.
4) SETTING THE KETTLEBELL DOWN IN THE “BROKEN ARM POSITION”
One of the worst training injuries I have seen was from someone putting the kettlebell down incorrectly at the end of a TGU. It was insanely frustrating because this person had been coached extensively on this prior to the workout, and even during the class I had warned them numerous times that they were making this technique error and they were probably going to hurt themselves … unfortunately my coaching fell on deaf ears. When they went to set down the kettlebell they made the same mistake again, and POP! A loud snapping sound that caused everyone else in the class to stop and look (and cringe). I am not sure of the exact extent of the damage because we never saw this person again, but I imagine it was a badly torn ligament and/or an avulsion fracture (which is when your tendon pulls off a chunk of bone). When you set down the kettlebell I urge you to do it in the following sequence to be as safe as possible:
- Land on your back as softly as possible while maintaing a straight elbow, and generally being in full control of the kettlebell
- While staying flat on both shoulders, use two hands to lower the kettlebell towards your abdomen
- Keep two hands on the kettlebell as you then turn to your side and make the outside part of your knee touch the ground. The kettlebell should touch the ground at approximately the same moment as the outside of your knee
See the video below for examples of both the correct way to do this, and a re-enactment of how the person got injured as described above. Of course, I will demonstrate incorrect technique with a very light kettlebell.