Optimizing The Getup - Part 3: Roll to Elbow

Optimizing The Getup
Optimizing The Getup

Last week I tackled Part 2 of Optimizing The Getup: The Set-up

In that post I broke down

  • Hand/wrist placement on the bell
  • The roll to press
  • And hand and leg placement on the floor

Which leads us up to today, the Roll to Elbow.

If you missed Part 2 you can check it out here.

In my opinion the roll to elbow is a step that most people struggle with. Many people like to turn this step into a weighted “sit-up” rather than a literal “roll to your elbow.”

While you might be able to get away with this with a lighter load, it’s a poor habit to develop. You’ll struggle when the weight reaches an appreciable level.

To prevent you from developing poor habits and reducing your risk of injury, I'll show you 5 different ways you can improve your roll to elbow:

  • Driving through your heel
  • Punching to the sky
  • Keeping your eyes on the bell
  • Training the arm bar
  • Avoiding the “Hey girl” pose

Afterwards I’ll share a few troubleshooting drills you can use if you’re still having problems with the pieces of the roll to elbow or the entire move itself.

Optimizing The Getup: It’s a Roll Not a Sit-up

Constantly remind yourself that the roll to elbow is a literal “roll to your elbow.”

The Getup is one of the best exercises there is to develop core strength. Yet in no phase of the Getup is a “sit-up” incorporated.

I see this problem with people who are first learning the Getup, which is why I’ll always teach the Arm Bar before teaching the Getup.

...more on that in a minute.

A roll is a lateral movement. A sit-up is a vertical one.

Like all other strength exercises, leverage will play a significant role into whether or not you can successfully build to appreciable load with the Getup – or whether you’re simply able to do it in a safe manner.

Remember, what you can get away with using a light bell, will pin you with a heavier bell.

Optimizing The Getup: Drive The Heel

To my earlier point about making this step a “sit-up” versus a roll to your elbow, the heel is your primary driver that makes the roll happen.

A couple weeks ago StrongFirst shared a blog written by Matt Kingstone titled, “The Roll to Elbow: How to Build The Foundation for a Beautiful Get-up.”

I found some great cues in here and highly recommend you check it out if you haven’t done so already. Here’s a piece from his part on breaking down the heel drive, or what he calls, “making a mountain.”

“There is a great reactive neuromuscular training (RNT) drill that I use here for someone whose bell-side foot loses contact with the floor during the roll. I put a towel under the student’s bell-side foot and as he or she moves through rolling to the elbow, I tug on the towel enough that he or she needs to drive through that foot so the towel doesn’t move.”

What a great cue!

I love cues that involved little to no verbal instruction; rather the cue or act itself is instructive by nature.

“Don’t let me pull the towel away from your heel” will immediately trigger you to drive through your heel – thus helping you “roll” to your elbow instead of trying to “sit-up” to your elbow.

Optimizing The Getup: Punch To The Sky

This next part goes hand in hand with the former step. As you’re driving through your heel and begin to roll, you want to think of punching towards the ceiling/sky.

This aids your heel drive and keeps the bell heading upwards rather than at an angle with your roll.

Your body wants to move laterally. The bell wants to move vertically - with a little lateral movement.

Additionally, there are 3 things you want to keep in mind here:

  • Keep your shoulder packed
  • Take the slack out of your arm
  • Roll with a purpose

Once you pack your shoulder in the prior step (The set-up), you should be able to maintain that stability and move around a stable shoulder as you perform the rest of the Getup.

If you maintain a packed shoulder, you should naturally be able to keep the slack out of your arm – slack is another way of saying “looseness.”

When you’ve got 100lbs over your head energy leaks are a bad idea, which is exactly what slack in your arm will lead to.

Squeeze the handle of the bell like you're trying to crush it. Create maximal tension throughout your loaded arm. And roll with a purpose.

If you maintain a packed shoulder and take the slack out of your arm, your roll will be more crisp and powerful compared to a loosely packed shoulder and flimsy arm.

Optimizing The Getup: Keep Your Eyes on The Bell

This cue is short and simple: Keep your eyes on the bell.

You have a heavy metal object over your head that would do plenty of damage should it fall on your face. So for obvious reasons, keep your eyes on the bell.

What you might not find so obvious however is how your technique will improve when you keep your eyes fixated on the bell.

While this isn’t as present in the roll to elbow, you’ll notice a difference with your leg sweep both on the way up and down in your Getup.

When your eyes are fixated on the bell you tend to move around the bell more naturally. Whereas when you’re looking off in another direction your posture can easily fall out of line with the bell over your head.

I’ll address this some more in the leg sweep and tall sit so in general keep this in mind:

In the video above you should have noticed:

Eyes on the bell from the floor to half-kneeling, eyes straight ahead from half-kneeling to standing, eyes back on the bell as soon as your knee hits the floor on the "get-down" portion of your Getup.

Make it a habit, not excuses.

Optimizing The Getup: No “Hey Girl’s”

This was a cue I picked up from my Team Leader and Senior SFG Dr. Mark Cheng.

Optimizing The Getup
Optimizing The Getup

Doc led us through the Getup and had a great cue for what NOT to do when training your Getup.

No “Hey Girl...”

The idea is simple, when you make it to your elbow you want to maintain your packed shoulder and keep a tall posture.

A “hey girl” posture is lazy, slouching posture and no way to do a safe Getup.

I’ve since stolen Doc’s cue and will frequently use it when teaching new students how to perform the Getup.

Here’s how it works: Important to note – no weight involved

  • Using your bodyweight, roll to your elbow using all the cues mentioned before
  • Once you’re in position, purposely slouch into your bottom shoulder
  • Then push your forearm into the floor and regain a tall/tight posture
  • Slouch again
  • Then get tall and tight again.

This drill teaches you what to do, but giving you the feeling of what not to do.

Again, no weight involved. You can also use the drill for next weeks post, The Tall Sit.

Optimizing The Getup: Roll to Elbow Troubleshooting Tips

Leg Kick

A common issue with the Getup is the straight leg “kicking-up” on you when you initiate your roll. This can happen for a number of reasons.

To correct this I’d place my foot in front of your foot and tell you to “reach into my foot as you roll to your elbow.”

It’ll likely be jerky at first, but once you get it you’ll notice significantly more tension – or linkage – between your upper and lower body.

The Getup is a total body lift, to execute it properly you want to make sure you have maximal linkage.

Grease the groove

A great way to improve your roll to elbow is simply to practice it. If you already train the full Getup, practice rounds of multiple times transitioning from the floor to your elbow and back.

If you’re new to training the Getup, this is your sweet spot for right now. Practice for a week to develop a solid foundation. In a week’s time you’ll be more than ready to add the next phase, the tall sit.

3-5 reps of practice per set is sufficient. If you want to challenge yourself even more, grab a shoe or a water bottle.

This drill will smooth out your getup real quick. I haven't had the guts to try this yet...

Practice your arm bar

I mentioned earlier that I always train the arm bar before training the getup. I do this for two reasons:

  • It helps the student learn and feel what a packed shoulder feels like
  • It mimics the exact motion you want to initiate your roll to elbow

Once a client understands how to get into the arm bar position, I’ll instruct them to do so, then find their hand/leg placement as mentioned in Part 2 – The Set-up.

When they’re here I tell them to “roll as if you’re doing an arm bar, but punch to the sky at the same time.”

A great arm bar will almost always lay a solid foundation for the Getup. If you struggle with the roll to elbow, consider re-training your arm bar.

Kettlebell training is a systems-based training model. If you’re having trouble with one lift, there’s almost always a drill you can regress to that will improve the lift you’re having trouble with.

In the Getup your natural regression is the arm bar.

Enjoy it. Relax into it. Love it. You’ll see, the world is a better place after you get out of a well-executed arm bar.

Optimizing The Getup: Time to Roll!

If you have any questions/comments on the tips covered in today’s post please feel free to post on our Facebook or Instagram pages.

I’d also recommend following those pages as well so you stay up to date with each weeks post.

Stay tuned next week for Optimizing The Getup – Part 4: The Tall Sit. Until then,