Maxwell Strength & Conditioning Blog
Enjoy a peek at the world through Steve's eyes as he delivers sermons on everything from training to peace of mind.
Q: Hi Steve! I'm about to teach my first KB clinic this month, and I wanted to ask you about something...
I have my own reasons for wanting to teach the Reverse TGU instead of the regular TGU, but why do YOU do it?
A: Few people know that I introduced the "Turkish" get-up to the Kettlebell community.
The Turkish get-up was a popular lift at the turn of the last century and the common way of doing it was was to start from the floor -- with a barbell or dumbbell in the locked-out arm position -- then to "get-up". Some sources suggest the original starting position may have been from a cross-legged seat on the floor, but either way, supine or seated, this exercise was typically done with very heavy weights that couldn't otherwise be cleaned or pressed, thus it was an old-time strongman stunt; a single-rep lift.
I learned this exercise in the 1960's, from my old wrestling coach, who was a staunch upholder of old-time lifts.
Back to our history lesson: A good percentage of the old-time strongmen also competed in wrestling, so they brought their influence and weight lifting techniques into the wrestling rooms. For obvious reasons, even the dedicated wrestlers adopted the Turkish Get-Up (TGU) as a core-and-shoulder strengthening move, but using lighter weights and multiple repetitions.
Fast forward one-hundred years or so, when I taught the Turkish get-up to Pavel at the very first Russian Kettlebell Challenge event (RKC). Pavel appreciated the shoulder stabilization required to hold the bell, so it was included in the RKC curriculum (the prototype of which was constructed from these jam sessions I had with Pavel) and in this manual, the TGU was assigned as a developmental exercise in teaching the KB Standing One-Arm Press. As such, the TGU was one of the eight essential kettlebell movements in the RKC. By today's standards, the first RKC events were very small, and attended mainly by law enforcement and military types, as well as a few athletes. These guys had the superior motor skills to quickly figure out how to do this complex lift, and they all did it well.
As time went on, the RKC became more more popularized, with a corresponding (drastic) drop in the fitness level of the participants. Suddenly there were many regular guys, dilettantes-- and worse--people who probably had no business being there at all.
In response to this, the Dragon Door administration promptly and radically dumbed-down the RKC fitness standards. Then, to counteract the resulting onslaught of candidates, and to prevent a deluge of dubiously certified instructors, Dragon Door quickly rewrote the RKC certification tests so that they were very difficult to pass, yet all the while continued encouraging unfit people from all walks of life to register and put down their money. From the beginning, I'd wanted to make chin-ups part of the RKC standard--to keep the certification practice honest (and Pavel agreed with me) but the others wouldn't hear of it.
Meanwhile, back to my day job at the time: While teaching the TGU in my kettlebell classes at my former gym in Philadelphia, I'd noticed the difficulty the trainees encountered when loading the kettlebell from the bottom position (supine, on the floor). These people--my customers-- would do all sorts of silly things like passing a sweaty kettlebell over their face--or loading it backwards. Further, while laying there on the floor, they'd take forever to change hands, and because of this too-long break between repetitions, there was a loss of continuity and conditioning. I also came to realize that to perform the get-up exercise at all, you had to first be able to perform a proper lunge. From all this, you can see the that for the average person, the Turkish get-up requires plenty of coordination.
On the flip side, the kettlebell One-Arm Press turned out to be an easy thing to teach. The Kettlebell Clean, a bit more formidable, but still nowhere near as challenging as the Get-Up.
Finally, I decided that the Turkish get-up was altogether unnecessary as a teaching aid for the KB One-Arm Press. Further, by first acquiring the much the simpler Clean, Press and Lunge techniques, the Get-Up itself was much easier learned. The reality was that--for the majority of people showing up at the RKC--the One-Arm Press was an already familiar movement (and any mistakes were easily remedied) whereas the complexity of the TGU required a much higher level of motor skills and was not so easily taught. If anything, the Press was an aid to instructing the Get-Up, and we'd had it backwards all along.
At this point it came to me: Why not use the skills already learned and load the bell from standing (instead of from the floor)?
It was so simple! A much "cleaner" technique--and still the new movement provided all of the benefits of the original TGU, but now people could change sides more quickly and so maintain the conditioning element.
I premiered the Maxwell Reverse Turkish Get-Up at the RKC in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2006. At the time, Pavel thought it was brilliant. A short time thereafter, I left the organization and I don't know if they kept it in the syllabus.
From the very beginning, I developed many variations of the get-up. These first ideas were captured on video in my vintage-edition, self-produced DVD Cruel & Unusual, (available by email request) which predates the RKC.
To this day, I'm perpetually experimenting with the TGU and I wonder if I haven't tried every possible variation, or if a new twist will occur to me tomorrow*. (It's just now come to my attention there's at least one variation out there I've never explored--see below.)
The view from here: All these years later, I consider the get-up one of the best total-body strength and conditioning exercises out there; it still plays an integral role in my kettlebell training system, both personally and in my teaching.
Video by Han Petter Skolsegg
Without SM, there be no TGU.
--Karl Kristian Indreeide
Norse Overlord and founder of the OKG, Steve's base in Norway
Steve Maxwell, the Fitness Hunter in NYC
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27/28 October - Fundamentals of Human Movement certification
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University of Maxwell Alumni Pages
Ren Caldwell, Maxwell-certified KB instructor (and inspiration for this blog) now offering Kettlebells 101 in Seattle WA
Vala Mork, Steve's first qualified Master Trainer and founder of Kettlebells Iceland, now offering legit MaxwellSC Level 1 KB certifications straight out of Reykjavik
Vala is available for MaxwellSC KB Level 1 certs and seminars
*This blog isn't complete without the Icelandic Get-Up:
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This book guides you through a step-by-step process in achieving your first chin-up.
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