Friday, August 15, 2008

The Refined Turkish Getup: Functional as well as Diagnostic

What is a Turkish Get Up, and why is it such a stable element of Hard Style Kettlebell Training? Is there a "hardstyle" or "RKC" form of the Turkish Get Up, and why should you care - or care to practice this form rather than any other? These questions and more are explored in the following post.

(April 09: update on Position 4, the High Hip Bridge debate here)
(april 09, two: update on TGU as Diagnostic compared with FMS more questions than answers)

and just to be explicit, the following has now been captured in incredible step by step detail, with corrective drills, in the Kalos Sthenos DVD/Manual, touched on in the above two links.

There have been a number of posts of late on the various RKC sites commenting on how the Turkish Get Up has evolved as a move at the RKC.
For folks not familiar with it, the Turkish Get Up is a great full body move that asks a person to go from a supine position to a standing position and back down again with a weight held in a fully extended arm. To achieve this work, just about everything is involved at some point in the move. It's been adopted into a suite of core kettlebell moves. This is why most recently Gray Cook and Brett Jones have been talking about it as a great diagnostic move too for calisthenics or beautiful movement.

There are numerous variations of this form with kettlebells, but over the past year or so, it has settled into a crisp clear execution of form designed to work the full body very well. While there is some debate about who/when this form was evolved, it's the one Hard Style is promoting, and for good reason. The illustrations following are of Dr. Mark Cheng, the person who wrote the latest RKC certification manual section on the Turkish Get Up.

As Brett Jones has said, this version of the TGU is not meant to replace any other TGU version, but it is an excellent diagnostic for showing where weaknesses may be. Combine this with the Functional Movement Screen, and we can see where there are stability or mobility issues and how to address them. If the TGU improves, the methods were effective; if it gets worse, need to check again what's up.

As a general technique, it is also strongly recommended that TGU's are practiced naked to start with (ie nothing in your hands), then work up to balancing a shoe on the flat of the palm to ensure excellent arm positioning and body awareness,THEN think about weight. At the recent Certified Kettlebell Functional Movement Specialist workshop (review here), Brett Jones ended up calling the Naked TGU + Shoe the Extreme TGU. In our group where we decided to go naked + shoe (before it was called "extreme"), Tom Nunn and i personally found that using the shoe gave us a focus for our raised arm without unduly fatiguing us with weight while we were frequently pausing and repeating moves to interrogate what might be happening with form.

Indeed, for those new to this move, get the form perfect first is the message: there's a LOT of neuro-muscular adaptation in this move that will work you out without anything in your hand, fear not.

Here's a review of the complete TGU as illustrated by RKC Team Lead Dr. Mark Cheng at the CK-FMS workshop

(1) start rolled full length on the side to grasp the bell with both hands
(2) then you're rolled flat on back with KB to chest (no photo)
(3) press up the bell with both hands straight up
(4) if the bell is going to be held with the left, bring the right arm down at 30-45 degrees to your body so that your hand is in line with your hip - this hip/hand alignment is critical: notice for now where the knee is: it is upright rather than collapsing in. Keep it there. That hand by the hip will help that in the rest of the moves.
(5) Go up on your right elbow from that position (keep the KB left arm straight). Again, notice the knee: upright, rather than collapsing in. Also, that right leg did not leave the ground while getting up onto the elbow. If it does leave the ground, that's another sign of work to do.
(6) then go up on your right hand - note hand position still close by hip
(7) then PRESS UP YOUR HIPS - you're on your side remember, so you have a line through your nice straight body at this point with the kb straight up, and you balanced on the other hand. Lats are fired on both sides. make sure to feel you lats working. If this hip elevation position is an issue, that's another sign of another issue for work.
(8) With your left foot leg on the ground, bring your right leg back through - work to get this pull through as even as possible - so that you get your knee down behind you and your hip lined up with that hand on the ground. Left knee still up.

update/note April 09: there's been some debate about whether or not or why or why not this hip thrust is the right thing to do in a TGU. There's a discussion/analysis of at least some of that debate in an accompanying post on the high hip bridge, here.
* Added Note: Windmill hinge vs Windshield Wiper Crouch.
At the CK-FMS, this position caused considerable discussion. You'll note Doc is almost in a crouch here and the right leg is doing what came to be called a "wind shield wiper move" with the right foot almost aligning behind the left foot.

Here are comments from Andrea Chang, RKC, based on discussions of this posture with Pavel, Andrea du Cane, Gray Cook and Mark Cheng (quoted with permission):
looking at the pictures in your blog again, photo 8 [above -mc] shows the transition from the hips up bridge to the kneeling position, where mark sweeps his leg back and places his knee near his hand. in photo #8, his knee is further back than usual and he is crouching, showing more flexion in the knee on the ground. what i heard was that this is due to his particular martial art -- which movement's of helped him to develop this move -- however, the consensus was that the crouch was too pronounced. whether or not you need to do a windshield wiper move with your leg to help get in a more stable position is determined by your own body mechanics, it is not manditory as far as i understand.

the knee should be closer to the hand on the ground, allowing for the body to be in a more open hips forward stance, with an elongated spine, packed shoulders and zipped up core (yup i said core).

using the windmill technique to get out of, or back into, position #4 (photo #8 in mc's blog) is preferable to the crouch, and what eventually agreed upon at the ck-fms. note of caution, the hinge at the hips for the windmill technique can be cheated by novices/students by allowing the hand they place on the ground to go down rather quickly with a thump -- this is not desired. a controlled descent is what they're after.

Back to the sequence: So now you're kneeling on one knee, with one hand on the ground, arm straight and the other arm up with the KB. Note alignment of hand by side

(9) Get your hand off the ground so you're now in a genuflecting position. You are not using the hand on the ground to give you a boost up: this is a controlled movement of the torso into an upright position. If you cannot get to that upright position smoothly, that's another sign of work to do.
(10) put your weight on that forward leg (the left leg with the foot firmly planted on the ground), you can look straight ahead now, and stand up. No hesitancy, just right up. The shoulder with the bell should be sucked down into the socket, the lats fired holding up that kettlebell. If it's difficult to get to that standing position in one step, work to do there, too.
* Now reverse.
back into kneel
hand down by hip - maintaining control, not falling over onto the hand but deliberately lowering hand by hip (for those who know the move, think hinge from Windmill).
leg back through and hip up
lower butt, leg extending out, arm on ground extended and hand by hip
lower to elbow
lower to back
both hands on bell to bring it down to the chest

bring the bell down to the chest (no photo - sorry)

roll to side with bell

The goal in part is to get this to be a crisp sequence of steps that can be broken down into individual units and then flowed into one motion.
1. kb to chest
2. press up bell
3. arm to side
4. roll to side
5. on elbow
6. on hand
7. hips up
8. leg back to kneel prep
9. torso erect in genuflect
10. Stand up

Throughout, stay in a straight line all the way up: so the direction you start the TGU in is the direction you end in.

Putting it all together, here is Mark carrying out the "bottom's up" version of the TGU (can you see the small differences? also note the windshield wiper move going from bridge to genuflect to standing, rather than windmill hinge):

The problems we attended were:
- the extended leg leaving the ground
- The bent knee caving in
- inability to lower to do a controlled lower of hand to ground from genuflect or to get up to
-genuflect from hand on ground
- difficulty with hip extension

Each of these issues maps to a corresponding stability and/or mobility issue that comes out in the FMS (pdf overview here). That's pretty cool. It's interesting to see that sometimes simply cleaning up form (position of hand relative to hip) has an major influence on performance. Or sometimes other work needs to be done. Regardless, we all knew the TGU was a powerful as a move in its own right; now we know it's powerful as a diagnostic tool as well.
As always, if moves like this are new to you, find an RKC in your neighborhood and ask them to check your form: a post is no replacement for a skilled set of eyeballs - especially those training up now with the CK-FMS.

Thanks to Andrea Chang for synthesizing the discussion on Position 4/photos 8 & 12

photos © mc, 2008


Carl Sipes said...

Great break down! I am very interested in all the talk of the CK-FMS and wish I would have taken advantage of it. I won't let it slip by again.

Marty said...

Thanks for posting this!

dr. m.c. said...

mein bitte.
thanks for stopping by, all


Mike T Nelson said...

Thanks for the great pics and detailed description. The pics really help out alot.

Perhaps I missed this, but what is the rationale for watching the KB in your hand when you are actually move towards the ground?

Just curious!
Awesome to meet in person!
Rock on
Mike N

dr. m.c. said...

"Perhaps I missed this, but what is the rationale for watching the KB in your hand when you are actually move towards the ground"

Mike, When Brett came by our pair, he advised that the bell be "reacquired" visually when putting the hand back on the ground - so look forward for stand up and step back, but reacquire bell after that.

As to why, i'm guessing alignment/safety. Hopefully someone else will chime in, as that's a great question.

Franklin said...

Hi mc, it was a real pleasure meeting at the CK-FMS cert.

As usual with post, you have done a thorough job documenting the fine points of the "Corrective" version of the TGU .. thanks!

dr. m.c. said...

Thank you, F, that is most kind of you to stop by and to say. It is offered as a humble placeholder until doc, gray and brett produce their definitive guide. The discussion has been great.

Likewise a pleasure to meet you too, sir. Glad we had some time to converse.

Take care, eh?


4 Ranges, RKC said...

NIIIICE MC!!! Very nice. :)


Tamara said...


If you don't mind I would like to probe your brain for some further insight. Due to your expertise from CK-FMS and using the TGU as a diagnostic tool for weak points.

In reference to your comments on picture (7). What would be the weak point if hip elevation position was an issue?

In reference to your comments on picture (9). What would be the point of interest to work on if the moving to the upright position was not smooth?

Great blog MC!!:)

dr. m.c. said...

"What would be the weak point if hip elevation position was an issue?"

a weak point might just be glute activation - assuming the shoulder is stable. feel the move: the butt has to fire to hold the leg out. not sure the degree to which extensors are really working.

"What would be the point of interest to work on if the moving to the upright position was not smooth?"

good question. in that position, what are the muscles used to move the trunk up from the side? where do you feel it? what's firing :)

A way to work it is just to practice that part without a bell.

i'll ask for other thoughts, too.

thanks for dropping by.

Anonymous said...

Can you direct me to a conversation about the risk or (or issues regarding) shoulder impingement syndrome and the TGU (or the Swing for that matter)?



B. Broham said...

Hey MC

Your blog is infinitely interesting. Everyday I read something new.

I've been working at my TGU form for a few weeks now, trying to smooth the kinks. At 130lbs. BW I use a 24kg bell.

After reading through this article, I have been trying Dr. Cheng's form (previously have been doing the ETK method.)

I find I have an issue sometimes with the foot coming up at the start. It reminds me of Pavel's Ab Pavelizer, and how it was stressed to never let your feet come up.

Would you say that hip flexors possibly could be causing this issue? Or is it some other ab phenomina?

dr. m.c. said...

thank you for the comments, b broham.
how much practice without weight have you done to perfect your form/not have your foot come up?

Have you progressively added weight and worked on your foot not coming up?

If you haven't, go back and work those progressions first.

If you have, and still this issue, yOu have a few choices of things to try - and without assessing your movement this is a guess.

1) get someone to hook a band under your leg that's coming up that forces you to push down against that resistance (something i came up with working with a client based on g.cook's "feed the mistake" philosophy)

2) push through the heel of your foot flexing your foot towards your head - really push through that heal
- a cue to help is to have someone tap on your heal while you're doing this.

if these things don't work, work the progressions naked, and then progressively adding load with each stage perfect.

if none of that helps, do an assessment.

generally speaking it's not about hip flexors or muscles in isolation; it's about the movement pattern in *that* movement.

If you don't have kalos sthenos, you might want to pick up a copy. A lot of corrections for typical issues are in it.

hope some of that helps.



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