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Why The Turkish Get Up Is Such A Great Exercise For Shoulder Pain & Core Stability

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 21 March 2017
Hits: 21981

For all the exercises that people come up with for core stability or functional movement it is hard to beat the Turkish Get Up for overall toughness and the benefits it can provide to your body in so many ways. I myself have always enjoyed doing this exercise but I find many people hate it, they find it very difficult to coordinate, and they would rather do some bench presses, deadlifts or something with big weight and much less coordination requirements. As with most exercises, if you struggle to do this it is telling you that this is where you have a weakness. Your weakness is often not strength, but more stability, mobility and overall coordination of the entire body. I have seen some guys who can squat and deadlift over 100kg struggle to get up off the floor with a 15kg dumbbell due to the fact they lack the skills and stability to perform this movement. And it should be noted that this is not really even an exercise but a life movement of getting off the ground. We have worked with countless people struggling with hip mobility unable to get themselves onto the floor, or off it without assistance or dragging their body up on a chair! If these people had practiced the Turkish Get Up regularly throughout their life, it is fair to say they would never have lost this skill! In this article, we look closely at this exercise's benefits and exactly how to do it, so you can get it right every time.

Benefits Of The Turkish Get Up

The amazing changes that happen when you perform this exercise are varied for the simple reason it does so many things. I like to think of it as the "swiss army knife" of exercise. It is also for this reason that it can be hard to learn, but the effort is well worth it for here is a list of the benefits to your body from the Turkish Get Up.

  1. Greatly improves shoulder stability and thoracic mobility at the same time!
  2. Improves overall body stability and integration between upper and lower body
  3. Promotes reflexive stability of the torso
  4. Encourages great mobility of the hips and thoracic spine, the two areas most people are lacking
  5. Improves the body's ability to coordinate and enhance balance from lying to standing
  6. Develops upper body strength, trunks strength, and glute strength

If you think that is impressive then this will blow you off your chair. In my recent article about core strength and analysing various exercises with EMG measurements, the Turkish Get-up was rated NUMBER ONE out of every exercise for core activation across all four muscles tested. It beat the deadlift, squats, and all abdominal muscle isolation exercises for total core activation!

As you can see this is so much more than just a simple strength exercise. 

Why Is This Exercise So Good For Rehabilitation?

Two of the best things this exercise can do better than most exercises is improve the missing stability at key joints that regularly suffer with pain from instability. These are the shoulder joint and the lumbar spine. The hips are also a big problem with people but the problem at this joint is lack of mobility, which again this exercise demands of you in order to complete without falling over!

Firstly, if we look at the shoulder, and I can talk first hand how this has done wonders for myself in helping me to improve my shoulder stability and thoracic mobility.

I had been suffering with a right shoulder problem for some time, and a neck and upper back problem for even longer. I had been managing my pain with stretching, corrective exercises and various other forms of rehab, and while this was working in getting me back to action I never felt quite right. One day I noticed how bad I had become at this movement when I showed a client how to do it. The difference between my left and right side was noticeable. I had never really struggled with this exercise before, and used to do this holding a 25kg dumbbell in the past. This forced me to work out why I was so bad and spend time relearning how to do this. In essence this become my "all in one" rehab corrective exercise!

I noticed how poor my stability was, not so much with the dumbbell but more so with my hand on the floor. I noticed how my body wanted to stiffen me up to protect the shoulder, which made it near impossible to get into the right position, yet alone be able to stand up. Now I had to use various thoracic drills between sets along with some single leg and lunge movements to help my body "re-learn" what to do. Amazing isn't it, my mind knew exactly what to do, but the message from the brain and nervous system to the muscles had been corrupted and was doing some crazy things to ruin my attempt to move.

Focus on quality of movement instead of just trying to smash through and do more was the key. My struggle was in the part where I had to push into the floor, so I spent a lot of time in this phase. I did not even bother standing up yet, just practice the part I was stuck on and work on it. I can tell you that within the space of weeks I was able to dramatically improve across the board in all movements that had been giving me trouble for months after using this exercise 3 times per week.

If you have a shoulder injury right now I highly suggest getting our Shoulder Pain Report as I take you through all the steps of how to use this exercise and many others.

Back Pain & Hip Mobility

In addition to the help this provides to the shoulder and thoracic spine it also helps with hip mobility.

Lack of hip mobility is the key factor in back pain cases. Some people may not have pain in their back, but this exercise can predict if you are at risk. Almost every client who walks through my doors these days has hip stiffness that contributes to back pain, knee pain or just general poor movement. Again as with shoulder pain, this is a key exercise we use towards the end of back pain rehabilitation (see our Back Pain Secrets program for more information) to fully restore movement in all planes of motion with stability, mobility and strength. I have had to work with several older adults who were unable to bend over to tie their shoe laces, and could not get up off the floor. We had to use regressions of this exercise to show them how to get up and down off the ground without falling or flexing their back too much and causing a disc bulge! There is a video below of how we do this.

It is such a primitive movement for us as humans and is linked to many of the infant development exercises like crawling. It is how we first learned to integrate our lower body and upper body together in order to move. As with my shoulder, using various mobility drills and corrective exercise combined with learning this movement is a great way to get this movement back! Or even better, a great way to never lose it in the first place! This makes up one of our exercises in our Stronger For Longer Older Adults Strength Training group class where we teach 65-85 year old people how to move better and improve strength.

Below is a video of how we show people with severe back pain to get up without aggravating their problem.

I would not start with this exercise in early stages of back pain rehab, but it is one we do use towards the end of the program to establish good movement patterns.

What About Sports Performance?

As much as it is great for rehab, it is an awesome strength exercise used by MMA fighters, wrestlers and many elite athletes in combat sports.

Actually the name of the exercise itself was given by Turkish wrestlers, so that really says it all. For they know exactly the benefits to their sport that this exercise would provide. The ability to control their balance in an awkward position, and be able to explode to their feet is something that is not easily trained. You cannot learn and develop this with simple traditional exercises, and definitely not just by using stacks of ab crunches or planks.

If you want to feel what is like to be out of breath and every part of you under fatigue, then do 5 sets x 5 reps on each side with a 1 minute break between sets.

What Is The Technique?

Watch the video below to see this in motion but here is the instructions.

 

Step 1:

Start by lying on your back and press the kettlebell or dumbbell up with your arm. Keep your free hand over the right hand for extra stability. If you start with your right arm then your right knee should be bent with your left leg flat on the ground at a 45-degree angle from your body. Your left arm is positioned on the ground at a 45-degree angle from your body. This is so that you will have enough room to sweep your leg in as you move. Keep your eye on the weight and your elbow locked out the whole time.

Step 2:

This step can be a bit hard and often people try to use heaps of momentum without any stability which just forces them to lose the weight falling forward. The secret is to keep your torso as stiff as possible and really focus on the arm on the floor pushing hard down with your shoulders back and down. This is where your stability will be found. This is where my weakness was for some time and also where my solution to my problem would come from!

Step 3:

This step requires you to push your hips up into a bridge position. This is also where you begin to see glute weakness and shoulder stability become a problem. This position is very important for the hips to get out of the way so you can sweep the legs through in the next movement.

Step 4:

If you have any hip tightness you will see this become a big problem here. People lacking the mobility will find it very hard to get the leg to sweep under. Sometimes it is coordination and you might need to go through this a few times before you finally get it!

Step 5:

This last step you are in the lunge and now you can stand up. Now you just need to reverse everything and go back to the floor!

I recommend doing 2-3 reps on each side for 2-4 sets. A great exercise to add at the end of a training session to finish you off. If you are new to doing this or know you have stability and mobility problems I would do this first. Many people report after doing this 3 times per week for at least 6-8 weeks how much it assists their strength with other exercises like deadlifts, chin ups etc for the huge integration and adaptation to the nervous system is immense. Like I said before this really is the Swiss army knife of exercise and changes so many things all at once. All you need to do is spend time with it to master it, work on the things that are limiting you from doing it right, focus on quality movement and finally reap the rewards.

If you really want to test yourself with this try it with a barbell as seen in the video below!

Conclusion

So there you have it, the Turkish Get Up is definitely one of the toughest exercises to add to your training. Not just a great strength and fitness exercise but an awesome movement development exercise for all ages, all conditions and all needs. It is a primitive and instinctual movement we first learned as toddlers so it has some very old software programs attached to it, which is why it can change so many dysfunctional motor programs. A bit like pressing restart on your computer and resetting all the default programs back to the original setting. Of course you need to spend time working on the finer points of the technique and also things like flexibility and stability basics to assist you in achieving the positions that may be difficult.

But trust me when I say it is well worth the effort and you will never look back in your training!

Do You Need More Help?

Make sure you get a copy of our Functional Training free report shown below for more ideas of implementing functional strength training methods. If you are suffering with a shoulder problem you will find the Shoulder Pain report invaluable as I explain all the various factors you need to address to get on top of your injury.

  

And if you live in Melbourne Australia and need specific help with your exercise program please feel free to reach out to me by clicking the banner below and we can organize a time to discuss how we can help you. And make sure you subscribe to our FREE NEWSLETTER so you stay up to date with our latest tips and secrets relating to health and fitness.

About The Author

Nick Jack is owner of No Regrets Personal Training and has over 15 years’ experience as a qualified Personal Trainer, Level 2 Rehabilitation trainer, CHEK practitioner, and Level 2 Sports conditioning Coach. Based in Melbourne Australia he specialises in providing solutions to injury and health problems for people of all ages using the latest methods of assessing movement and corrective exercise. He has worked with professional athletes in Golf, Tennis, Basketball and Football but is known throughout the local community more for his work with injury prevention and rehabilitation.  Having participated at high level in many sports himself and also recovering from several serious injuries he has spent considerable time developing detailed assessments and programs to cater for injury and pain.

References

  • Movement - By Gray Cook
  • Shoulder & Scapula Injuries in Athletes - By Chris Mallac
  • Corrective Exercise Solutions for the Hip & Shoulder - by Evan Osar
  • Diagnosis & Treatment Of Movement Impairment Syndromes - By Shirley Sahrman
  • Fixing Shoulder & Elbow Pain - By Rick Olderman
  • Low Back Disorders - by Stuart McGill
  • Back Pain Mechanic – by Stuart McGill
  • Anatomy Trains - by Thomas Meyers
  • Motor Learning and Performance - By Richard A Schmidt and Timothy D Lee
  • Assessment & Treatment Of Muscle Imbalance - By Vladimir Janda
  • Scientific Core Conditioning Correspondence Course - By Paul Chek
  • Scientific Back Training – By Paul Chek