Plenty of exercises strengthen and tone your body and make you more flexible. But one whole-body move gives you all that…plus makes you more agile…and gives you greater mobility—the ability to move your body around more easily in real-life situations. It’s not a yoga pose. We’re talking about the Turkish Get-Up, or TGU. Mastering TGU will repay you big time!
TGU truly is functional fitness par excellence. The movement engages nearly every muscle group and taps both strength and coordination. By forcing you to use proper form when getting up from the ground, TGU trains you how to brace properly when you’re doing other exercises and in everyday circumstances such as getting up off the floor. It’s also a great single-exercise workout when you’re short on time.
While the move itself may look easy when you see someone else do it—it’s essentially a way of getting up from the floor and then lying back down again—it does take a bit of practice to do it right. And it’s important to do it right not only to work the muscles you want to be working, but also to avoid injuries such as a pulled muscle. Breaking TGU into segments can help you learn: Start by mastering how to get from lying down to the sitting position. Once you’ve got that, practice going from sitting to kneeling…and then from kneeling to standing. Then learn to reverse the move in the same segments.
TGU is typically done while holding a weight high above your head in one hand, but it’s best to learn the move without holding a weight. (You’ll add one later.) While learning without a weight, you can either extend your arm above your head as though you were holding a weight or hold that hand against your chest. Once you know what you’re doing, you can add a light weight, such as a 2.5-pound dumbbell or five-pound kettle bell. As you gain proficiency, you might want to increase the weight to challenge and condition yourself even further—some people use gallon milk jugs filled with water (about 8.3 pounds), and that works fine.
Safety tip: Don’t attempt this exercise if you’re nursing an injury or if any part of your body hurts. Wait until you’re healed and pain-free. Also, if you’re being treated for a medical condition, get your doctor’s approval before trying TGU.
Remember to keep your core muscles tight and engaged throughout the whole movement to support your spine. Ready to learn? Here we go…
Step 1: You may use an exercise mat if you prefer, but avoid lying on a loose rug that may slip during the exercise. Lie on the floor on your right side with your knees bent. If you’re using a weight, hold it close to your chest with both hands—left hand on top—so you won’t drop it on your body as you roll onto your back.
Step 2: Roll onto your back. Extend both arms straight up, maintaining your grip on the weight if you’re using one and keeping your hands in same position (left hand on top). If using a weight, keep your grip on the weight with your right hand and drop your left hand to the floor, palm down, so that your arm is at a 45-degree angle to your body (midway between shoulder height and hip). As you drop your hand, bend your right knee so that your right foot is flat on the floor.
Step 3: Keep your right arm extended toward the ceiling while raising your right shoulder off the floor and curling your trunk up. Allow your left arm to bend so that your upper body is resting on your left forearm. Note: You will keep your right arm extended toward the ceiling until you return to the lying down position at the completion of the exercise.
Step 4: Now rise to an almost-seated position (keeping your right arm extended toward the ceiling) by pressing your left hand against the floor and shifting your hips slightly back. Keep your back straight.
Step 5: Next, push your right foot against the floor while straightening your left arm and your left leg to lift your hips off the floor. You will be propped on your left arm, right leg bent and left leg extended.
Step 6: Bracing yourself on your bent right leg and left arm, bring your left leg behind you, bending your left knee onto the floor. At the same time, raise your left hand from the floor. You are now in a semi-crouched position with your right arm extended toward the ceiling.
Step 7: Keeping your right arm in its high position, stand up by pressing your right foot into the ground and bringing your left leg forward so that your feet are side by side with a few inches between them.
Step 8: Complete the TGU by doing the sequence in reverse. Step your left leg back…slowly lower to a kneeling position…then place your left hand on the floor and move your left leg to the front of your body…slowly lower your hips to the ground before rolling all the way back to a supine (face-up) position.
Repeat the whole TGU, this time starting by lying on your left side and reversing the motions from right to left and holding the weight in your left hand if you’re using a weight. A good routine: Start with one to two TGUs on each side twice a week, and work up to a total of two to four TGUs on each side twice a week. Once the exercise starts to get easy, you can gradually increase to two to four TGUs three to five times a week.
For a demonstration of the TGU, click on this video.