Optimizing The Getup - Part 5: The Leg Sweep


Last week we covered Part 4 of Optimizing The Getup: The Tall Sit

In that post we covered 5 ways you can train and improve your tall sit by:

  • Breathing
  • Using Time under Tension
  • Tinkering with it
  • Twisting on/off the lid to a jar of pickles
  • Greasing The Groove

If you missed Part 4 you can check it out here.

As far as the leg sweep goes, there are a few reasons this phase could cause problems for you as you learn and train the Getup:

  • Lack of shoulder stability
  • Lack of hip mobility
  • Lack of core stability

During the leg sweep each of these areas is called upon to execute a slow and controlled leg sweep.

In today’s post we’ll breakdown what happens during the leg sweep, how it relates to the whole movement, and a few different ways you can perform and train the leg sweep.

As with the previous 4 posts, the best way to improve your leg sweep is consistent practice. Put these tips in play and you’ll not only see your leg sweep improve, but your overall Getup improve as well.

Optimizing The Getup: What Happens During The Leg Sweep

The leg sweep is common phase I see people struggle with when training the Getup. In our opinion this is due to 3 factors:

  • The need for shoulder stability
  • The need for hip mobility
  • The need for core strength

As we mentioned earlier, each of these areas is stressed during your leg sweep. Here’s how.

Shoulder Stability

During the leg sweep a good portion of your body is supported by two means, the loaded side leg and the “unloaded” side arm.

We put the "unloaded" side in quotes because as we mentioned in Part 4, the leg sweep is a step where the side without the bell actually takes more load than the side with the bell.

You have the weight of the bell plus the weight of your body.

If you don’t have sufficient shoulder stability this step will inevitably cause problems for you.

This is why finding an optimal tall sit position is critical to your leg sweep. Once you lift your hips off the ground you’re relying on the unloaded arm for most of your support.

Hip Mobility

Once you’re elevated and supported, your hip mobility will come into play.

In order to finish in a great three-point stance, you’ll have to align your sweeping knee with your hand that’s placed on the ground.

This requires mobility, but in our opinion it’s more about core strength than hip mobility.

Optimizing The Getup
Optimizing The Getup

Core Strength

The whole stability/mobility conundrum can be awfully confusing to those who are trying to wrap their head around what’s “first” or what’s “necessary.” Here’s our take:

Stability will yield mobility. But, mobility is needed in order to attain optimal stability.

Like the Getup and the Kettlebell Swing, there’s a yin/yang relationship to mobility and stability.

The more mobility you have the more opportunity there is for stability. The more stability you have (in the appropriate ranges) the more mobility your stability will yield.

Did we lose you there?

Here’s the point...

Core strength tends to give you A LOT of control of your limbs in general. This would include your hips/legs.

Refer back to the comment we just made about being supported by “the loaded side leg and the “unloaded” side arm.”

This position resembles a common exercise called the Bird-Dog, an exercise that stresses core stability by challenging opposite arm/leg stability.

If you can wrap your head around that, you can likely wrap your head around how the leg sweep will help you develop core strength. Alternately, you can also see how core strength is stressed in the leg sweep.

So, while your hips might be “tight”, I’m willing to bet that as your core strength improves, your hip mobility will improve as a nice side effect.

This is one of the many benefits to training “movements and patterns” over “muscles and body parts.”

Optimizing The Getup: Learning and Training The Leg Sweep

There are a few different ways you can perform the leg sweep. We’ve played around with each but ultimately it will depend on your current abilities and goals to decide which method is best for you.

High Bridge

Optimizing The Getup
Optimizing The Getup

With this method, you drive your hips up to the ceiling literally forming a bridge before sweeping your leg back into the three-point stance.

We don’t use this method for training, however we do like it for people that struggle with the leg sweep.

We’ll typically have them do this without a kettlebell. If we have a member use this method it’s usually because they have a lack of shoulder/core stability and/or hip mobility.

Performing the bridge gives them some added time under tension to work on each of those aspects.

Once they’ve shown they have the ability to sweep back smoothly, we’ll switch to the low sweep.

Low Sweep

This our my preferred method of training the Getup.

Rather than bridging the hips fully before sweeping the leg, you simply bridge just high enough to sweep the leg back into your three-point stance.

In our opinion this is beneficial for two reasons:

  • It’s more direct
  • It’s more fluid

The high bridge can throw people out of position and makes an already difficult exercise more difficult to perform.

When you’re training the Getup with heavy loads you want the quickest way from point "A" to point "B" and you want it with as much control possible.

In our opinion the low sweep gives you all that, but perhaps not as much as the paused sweep.

Paused Sweep

We haven’t trained the paused sweep much – mainly because we’ve become so comfortable with our current method – but we have members who use this method and it works very, very well for them.

To our previous point about your transitions being more direct, the paused sweep allows you to maintain contact with the floor even more than the low sweep.

We see this as being beneficial for heavier loads as well as maintaining control throughout the lift.

The Getup is a lift that’s trained slowly and deliberately. Performing the Getup in this manner allows you to tinker with your position as your move from phase to phase.

Optimizing The Getup: Troubleshooting The Leg Sweep

Lack of Stability

As mentioned earlier your lack of stability may come from two parts; your loaded side leg or your unloaded side shoulder.

There are two ways you can gain stability in both of those areas:

  • Training an unloaded High Bridge
  • Training prior ground-based movements

Both of these will help you gain stability by increasing the time under tension with the lift.

For example, if you’re new to the Getup and need to train single leg sweeps, using your bodyweight will still allow you to gain strength from the leg sweep without worrying about the potential injury with added load over head.

Additionally, if you feel comfortable with the previous phases of the Getup and can train those steps with load, you can continue to train those phases knowing that your roll to elbow and elbow to tall sit transitions will help you gain more stability in your shoulder while at the same time developing a stronger core.

Take it one step further and perform a high bridge with added load.

As you can tell, it’s really up to your creativity and comfort level.

As is the case with many things you’d try to master, tinker with it. See what works best for you and consistently train there.

Lack of Mobility

Remember in the beginning of the post we mentioned core strength making up for a lot of “hip mobility” needs with the leg sweep.

We’ve seen many members get better at the Getup via improved core strength, and improved core strength help their Getup. 

We’ve played around with different exercises to help members progress through phases of the Getup a little quicker.

Here’s what we’ve see work well.

  • Halo Flow – Tall-Kneeling, Half-Kneeling, Squatting
  • Hollow Holds

Halo Flow

The halo is a staple warm-up drill of Simple and Sinister. It opens the upper back, shoulders, and hips when done in various positions.

At the same time, you’ll gain strength in the shoulders by performing the halo – thus helping you with the ground-based steps of the Getup

A key component to the Halo is also locking the ribs down – or closing the canister as we say.

If you can picture your pelvic floor as the bottom half of the canister and your rib cage as the top half, closing that canister – bringing the two closer together – will help you optimize intra-abdominal pressure.

When you can apply this tension/tightness to your Getup, you’ve in turn optimized your Getup.

Hollow Holds

Hollow holds are another favorite of ours. A staple of the StrongFirst bodyweight circuit, hollow holds teach you how to create linkage from your toes to your head. That linkage in turn becomes core strength, which will transfer to all other lifts you train.

This is how training Halo’s and Hollow Hold’s can help give you more hip mobility. By increasing your core strength you can more control of your limbs/attachment sites.

Optimizing The Getup: Break it Down

To recap, there are three different ways you can perform the leg sweep:

  • High Bridge
  • Low Sweep
  • Paused Sweep

Each method provides a different way to attain the same three-point stance.

In order to own a solid leg sweep you'll need the proper shoulder stability, core strength, and hip mobility. Breaking steps down, training the previous ground-based movements, and using alternative drills such as the Halo and Hollow Hold are great ways for you to optimize your leg sweep.

Like everything else, consistency is the key and tinkering with it will yield the best results.

Next week we’ll breakdown Part 6 of Optimizing The Getup: Three-Point Stance to Half Kneeling

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Until then,