Welcome to Part 1 of our AIK’s latest Team Member Glenn Phipp’s article on the Turkish Get-Up. He shares his insights into why this movement is so effective and how he uses it in his own practice.
The Turkish get-up (TGU) is one of my personal favourite tools as a trainer. Why did I use the word tool instead of exercise? Because it is so much more than just an exercise. I personally use the get up as an assessment tool, a corrective pattern and a strength exercise.
Firstly, and most obviously, the TGU allows for both the trainer and the individual to notice potential problems related to asymmetries. Many beginners feel that the TGU is easier to learn on the dominant side, and forcing the non-dominant side through such a neurally demanding exercise alone is reason enough for its inclusion. However, a lack of range of motion, or instability, especially when comparing one side to the other, may indicate areas that require further attention. In this regard, areas in need of attention become glaringly obvious. However I also like to look for any other indicators such as position of the neck and any excess tension or flexion during the movement, the quality of the participant’s breath, as well as signs of the athlete using momentum or compensatory actions during the movement.
If any issues as indicated above present themselves during an attempt at the TGU, aiming for a well-executed TGU alone allows the exercise to not only act as a screen for movement deficiency, but also to correct them as the athlete attempts to perform the TGU perfectly. Some issues such as mobility or scapula dyskinesis that may be indicated through the TGU may need further attention outside of learning the TGU well, but for many, achieving the neuromuscular control needed to correctly perform the exercise, may be enough to support strength and mobility to be developed in a uniform manner bilaterally. I have also seen many clients with ongoing rotator cuff issues resolve them through learning the TGU correctly. Whether your performance of TGU is inhibited as a result of mobility, stability or neural control, it will be highlighted in the TGU, and may well be corrected through bettering your ability to perform the TGU.
I was once asked by a colleague what the point was of incorporating TGU in their training was. The well-meaning colleague was aware of the corrective and evaluative applications and couldn’t really see the point beyond this. They had considered it a corrective exercise. For me, this is where the term corrective exercise hits a little grey area. If an exercise enables me to improve motor patterns and address asymmetry, (whilst reducing the risk for injury-bonus!), am I not training to increase my strength? This original question probably stems more from the view that the exercise is not ideal in terms of increasing muscle mass. As with any exercise, initial gains will be primarily neural, this doesn’t mean we can’t get some muscle adaptations as a result of loading the exercise with a heavy weight. Is it the ideal hypertrophy exercise? I don’t think so. Just for the mere fact that in order to overload each muscle group ideally, both in terms of load and reps, is a little difficult, not only due to the varying capacity of the muscle groups involved, but also due to the taxing nature of performing an optimal number of reps at a reasonable load for optimal hypertrophy adaptations. But maybe this comes down to your reason for training. The TGU comes from a time when people trained to be strong. Not so they could post oiled up selfies on Facebook.