A lot of people ask me what is the best free weight exercise you could ever think of if I could only do one. Right now I am at a point where I am trying to appreciate movement, mobility, awareness and preparedness and I can’t look past one exercise that has been around for a very long time, the Turkish Get-Up. The old time strongmen used this exercise as an “entrance exam” requiring a 100-pound Get-Up on each side before beginning any other training. The Turkish Wrestlers used the Get-Up to train for combat and grappling.
Can one exercise really do it all though? Can one exercise provide insight into how you move and could the Turkish Get-Up be the key to helping you develop a balanced and strong body?
I believe so! However, that’s not to say that I would ever replace my whole training program with one exercise. I believe a balanced, progressive strength and conditioning program is essential for improving athletic performance. But if I had to pick one exercise out of the program it would be the Turkish Get-Up for sure. It represents an opportunity to create symmetrical strength and mobility that most fitness routines should bring us but invariably don’t.
As Gray Cook has so eloquently stated: “modern fitness techniques can actually allow us to stack fitness on dysfunction.” Meaning that we can actually take a “bent frame” and put a bigger engine in that car which is not such a clever idea! To perform safely at our peak, year-in, year-out, we need to cultivate a “symmetry of strength and movement” and this is why I like using the Turkish Get Up not just as an exercise but as an assessment tool too!
Have a look at Neghar Fonooni perform the Get-Up in the video below. “Strength in motion”…. Its a beautiful thing to watch!
Shoulders and Hips
“Some schools of Chinese medicine refer to the shoulder and hip joints as the Four Knots and where there is an imbalance of tension or strength in any of the Four Knots problems…can occur…” Dr. Mark Cheng brings us this excellent description of the interplay between shoulders and the hips. Many people still try to isolate muscles in their workouts but in the real world where we are required to move, this type of training does not transfer very well. Movement is an incredibly complicated concert of agonist/antagonist muscle actions coordinated by a web of neurological input. The great thing about performing a Turkish Get-up is that it requires us to move our body around a stabile shoulder coordinated through mobile hips.
Lets Get Primitive
The beginning for the Turkish Get-Up represents a very primitive rolling pattern. Rolling is the most basic form of core training which establishes tri-planar movement capabilities prior to loading that can be assessed and trained bilaterally. Many of us actually lose this rolling pattern as we age. But loss of this fundamental pattern can and usually does, create a cascade effect through the body of dysfunction and compensation.
If you would like to improve your quality of your movement, then definitely have a look at the clips below. Neghar Fonooni and Joe Sansalone from Optimum Performance Training have put together a 3-part video series covering the Get-up and all its intricacies. They are awesome coaches that both execute what they teach with elegance and power. A true inspiration!