Optimizing The Getup - Part 1: But First, Why?

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I’ve always been a simple kind of guy, however it wasn’t until joining the kettlebell community of StrongFirst that I really found myself as a strength coach.  

Two lifts have served as my guide throughout the early stages of my strength journey: the Swing and the Getup.

Both have taught me a lot about strength, patience, persistence, and have shown me firsthand that strength has a greater purpose.

My passion for strength, and specifically the kettlebell, combined with a desire to help you with your own strength journey lead to the idea of creating a 10-part series on “Optimizing the Getup.”

Each week I’ll breakdown an individual phase of the getup, share why it’s important, how it relates to the whole movement, and what you’d want to look for whether coaching yourself or coaching another person.

But before I begin my step-by-step breakdown of the Getup, I felt it was necessary to bring to attention why you’d want to train the Getup in the first place.

The benefits of the Getup are widespread.

From increasing longevity and developing total body strength, to serving as an assessment tool; the Getup has something for everyone.

To take a quote from Simple and Sinister:

“A workout should give you more than it takes out of you” - Ivan Ivanov, Former Bulgarian National Gymnastic Coach

I can’t think of a better way to explain the Getup. With that said, let’s dive into the details of why you should learn and train the Getup.

Why The Getup: Increase Your Longevity

Any smart professional athlete will tell you the most important part of his/her game is their health.

  • The more you’re on the field/court, the more valuable you are to your team.

  • The more valuable you are to your team, the more money you make.
  • The longer you can stay healthy and provide value to your team, the longer your career will likely last.

While it might be easy to see how longevity is important from a professional athlete's point of view, Coach KarenChief SFB, Master SFG – sums up pretty well why the “general population” should strive for longevity, specifically by training the Getup.

“The TGU (Turkish getup) is a skill for all ages, but especially important as we age. The elderly fall far too often and cannot get themselves back up. If TGU’s were trained throughout life, we could continue to be strong and stable as we age.”

Coach Karen goes on to say, “When someone has trained the Getup, if/when needed they could at least get up to a crawl position and get to a phone to call 911.”

Well said, in fact I can’t think of a better reason why you’d want to train the Getup.

While the strength benefits and allure of putting heavy weight over your head are fun, the qualities gained in the Getup not only increase your strength, but will likely add years to your life as well.

Simply put; the Getup is the ultimate longevity lift.

Why The Getup: Efficiency

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To the point of getting stronger, in Pavel’s book Simple and Sinister, Gray Cook – Physical therapist to Navy SEALs and NFL teams – has a number of comments that fit this notion well.

In the book, Gray mentions how, “Your abs will fire like crazy and shoulder stabilizers will get freakishly strong.”

He also mentions that if he were limited to choosing only one exercise, he would choose “the Turkish get-up.”

Performing a well-executed Getup with appreciable weight is an art form.

But the beauty of the getup goes well beyond is appearance.

The inner workings of each subtle movement in the Getup require stability and mobility (also referred to as control). This total body control is – as Gray Cook says – like “loaded yoga.” When performed with your bodyweight alone you can use the Getup as:

  • An assessment (more there soon)
  • A warm-up exercise
  • Or a drill to enhance recovery

When you factor in how many ways the Getup can be used with the amount of time it takes to train, you wind up with a lift that targets all aspects of warm-up, strength, and recovery and requires all but 5-10 minutes of your time.

Should you follow the Simple and Sinister approach, this can all be accomplished with as few as 5 Getups on each side, 3-5 days a week – and I’d argue even as few as 3 per side.

This sustainable method of training means you no longer have to worry about finding an hour to squeeze in your training session, rather set a timer for 10 minutes and alternate doing single Getup’s on each side.

  • You might start with a light bell or bodyweight to warm-up.
  • Then add weight to build strength.
  • If you’re feeling beat up, cut the weight down and do your session with a light bell - or again, even bodyweight - to enhance your recovery.

Its efficiency and effectiveness is like no other lift.

If you’ve never read Simple and Sinister order yourself a copy after you finish this post.

Why The Getup: You Can Use it as an Assessment Tool

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Anyone who has ever done a heavy Getup before will tell you that the game changes quite a bit when you add appreciable load to the lift.

Gray Cook says this is because “heavy weight is instructive.”

I feel this is a great time to point out how the Getup can be used as an assessment tool as well.

“All coaches should be teaching the getup, not just for the many strength, mobility, and stability benefits for their students, but also because when done slowly and deliberately it is one of the best assessments to see weaknesses, asymmetries and lack of coordination or lack of mobility/flexibility.” – Coach Karen

I use the Getup as an assessment tool myself on a daily basis and have used it on many clients as well.

From your neck and shoulders down to your hips and ankles, the Getup will uncover weakness and asymmetry while at the same time providing you with a means of overcoming your physical limitations.

The Getup should be performed slightly slower than you’re comfortable with.

Often times when you first learn the Getup it’s natural for your movements to be rigid, quick, and uncontrolled.

Cook says, “If you’re unable to do a non-ballistic movement slowly, you’re hiding something.”

With practice and patience:

  • You’ll develop the proper control needed to roll from the floor to your elbow without shrugging your shoulder or lifting your leg.
  • You’ll develop the mobility needed to sit in a tall sit position with your leg straight and arm overhead.
  • You’ll increase your hip mobility/stability by fine-tuning your leg sweep and transition to half-kneeling and finally to standing.

What other exercise gives you the ability to assess and build strength at the same time?

Why The Getup: You’ll Strengthen Virtually Every Muscle In Your Body

I mentioned earlier that I’m a simple man at heart.

Since I started my training career 10 years ago I’ve always looked for exercises that are “bang-for-your-buck.” I suppose you can say it’s what helped create such a strong bond between the kettlebell and myself.

Whether you’re a busy professional who’s strapped for time, a professional athlete, or someone simply wanting to maintain your health, the Getup will provide you with the total body strength you need in an efficient, safe, and sustainable manner.

Two prominent figures in the world of strength agree:

Iron Tamer Dave Whitley – “The Getup trains the body to move as a single unit from the floor to standing and back down. Virtually every muscle of the body is involved and gets improvement from doing it.”

Tony Gentilcore – “Well, what doesn’t it work? I mean, what other exercise includes supine, rolling, half kneeling, and standing to overhead positions? We can get a lot done with this one.”

When somebody asks you “what you're working” with the Getup this is a time where you can literally say “everything!”

Why The Getup: The “What The Hell Effect” is a Real Thing

... And the Getup will give you a ton of it.

The “what the hell” effect is a term Pavel has used to explain when you get stronger in a lift that you haven’t trained.

Let me give you an example...

In my early pursuit of Sinister, I trained specifically Swings and Getups for 4 months.

  • 100 1-handed swings
  • 10 Getups
  • 3-4 days a week (you can do more but this is what I chose to do)

During that time I progressed from being able to do Swings and Getup’s with a 32kg bell to the 44kg bell – and shortly thereafter the 48kg bell.

I hadn’t trained my pistol squat AT ALL during that time.

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One day after a training session I decided to play around with some pistols – I just had a feeling I could move some heavy weight for some reason.

I started off with a 24kg and did 3 easily, moved up to the 32kg and hit an easy single.

I didn't have a 36kg bell at my house so decided to attempt a 40kg pistol squat...

I nailed both my right and my left sides... and almost got the beast!

“What the hell!?”

In my experience I credit a lot of the “WTH” effect to the Getup. Because you’re training virtually every muscle in the body, it shouldn’t be surprising to see as your Getup increases, your other lifts will as well.

My close friend and all around badass, Grant Anderson – SFG II, SFL – agrees.

“If you dedicate yourself to truly owning the getup, I mean building the strength and stability to execute with heavy weight. You will be surprised how many other qualities will improve with it.”

I personally witnessed Grant hit a double 40kg military press after months of Simple and Sinister without doing ANY pressing.

Again, “What the hell!?” And, oh yeah baby!

The Getup: The Ultimate Catch-all Exercise

So there you have it. Are there more reasons why you should train the Getup? Absolutely! My colleagues and I feel these are simply the “best” reasons why you’d want to train the Getup.

If you’ve trained the Getup and want to continue training the Getup, stay tuned because over the next 8 weeks I’ll share tips and strategies you can use to make your Getup training even more effective.

If you’ve never done a Getup before in your life and are inspired to now learn how, then stay tuned for my week-by-week breakdown of each phase of the Getup.

I’d also recommend following us on Instagram and Facebook so you stay up to date with each weeks post.

It would be awesome if you could share your experiences with the Getup as I post each week. If there’s anything you’d like to share regarding your personal strength journey or Getup training, please feel free to leave your comments/questions below.

Next week I’ll start breaking it down with Optimizing The Getup - Part 2: The Set-up. Until then,

Be STRONG!