Turkish Get Ups – What?, How?, Why?

Hey everyone, I just got back from my visit to L.A. to study for a weekend with Dr. Mark Cheng, I am more than grateful to have been his pupil, my mind is still soaking in all of the information I learned over the weekend. Its great to have been humbled and have an expert of his caliber just break down your movements and just to be able to have intelligent discussions on life, training, kettlebells, and movement science.

If you do not know who Dr. Cheng is –

He is the chief instructor of Kettlebells Los Angeles.  Dr. Cheng has been enthusiastically pursuing kettlebell training as a means of rehabilitation and health ever since he experienced the successful rehabilitation of his own lower back and shoulder injuries with Russian kettlebells.

No ordinary private trainer, Dr. Cheng brings extensive medical knowledge as a specialist in Chinese medicine orthopedics to each and every one of his clients and students. Always looking to increase his knowledge and understanding of the rehabilitative and prehabilitative applications of kettlebell training and the RKC system. His teaching method reflects an eye towards detail, safety, and constant fun.

He has trained such luminaries as Guro Dan Inosanto, Machado Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s Rigan Machado, and assisted his mentor, Pavel Tsatsouline, with law enforcement and military training. Few, if any, instructors bring the rare mix of martial arts master, physician, and kettlebell instructor to the mix like Dr. Cheng does!

Now on to the exercise – we must have spent the better part of an hour on just this one exercise and really going over it with a fine tooth comb.

The Turkish Get Up –


An old exercise that dates back to Turkish wrestling 200 years ago. As a rite of passage, a beginner was not allowed to move on to their next level of training until they were able to lie down next to a heavy (100lb) kettlebell on the floor and gracefully move to a standing position with the weight overhead using total control.

Bringing us 200 years later, if you watch the typical American get up from the floor you do not see beauty or grace, instead you hear the grunts of effort and uncomfortable facial expressions because getting up from the floor has actually become “difficult”. Ever seen Wall-E?

What does this mean for you?

We have lost the freedom of movement and awareness of our bodies and what muscles are supposed to do what. The characters in Wall-E are not too far from the truth for a lot of people! Many people who seek better health are out of touch with themselves physically, they lack the ability to coordinate muscles to perform a task.

I believe that beauty, grace, elegance, symmetry, balance, coordination and strength have a common thread. And in no other exercise is that common thread evident other than the Turkish Get Up.

This exercise will teach you how to find those elements in your body, it will teach you how to move with grace, it will teach you how to find strength where you need it, and use it when you need it.

Benefits – Core Strength, Flexibility, Body Awareness, Coordination, Full Body Strength

The Exercise

I will only post the fist half of the get up here, only because the first half is the section that requires the most learning, and for the professionals its the section where all the good core control and motor learning is going on. After the start position there are only 4 steps –

Cuddle – The Start – lie on your side on the floor with whatever weight you are using next to you.

Roll to Press – roll onto your back, use BOTH hands to press up, then set the opposite arm and leg on the floor.

Press to Elbow – work on pulling your body up to the elbow.

Elbow to Post– get up on your hand to a straight arm T-position

Post to Bridge – raise those hips to the sky!

For a visual, check out this link below, it is a video of Dr. Cheng performing a bottoms up TGU with a 16kg (35lb) Bell!!! Not easy!

Dr. Cheng – Turkish Get Up

The first half ends here, at the high hip bridge –

After holding that position for a few seconds and really working on getting those hips high – Then you come back down to the cuddle, switch sides and go again.

Spend some time learning this portion first, then you can work your way up to standing. Start with your own bodyweight, and be very conservative with the weight as you begin to load it. Work on transitioning smoothly, remember we are looking for balance, elegance, and symmetry – these elements take patience and practice to develop.

Get to work!

Stay strong,


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