The Turkish Get Up for Rugby Performance


The use of kettlebells has become more and more popular in recent years do to their simplicity, but mainly for its functional use. Much of kettlebell training is based on technique, specific form, and functional movements.  One of the essential movements of Kettlebell training is the Turkish Get-Up (TGU). You can find ample information on-line in terms of pictures, books, articles and most useful, videos.  There are videos on what the TGU is, how to preform it and what it is used for.  In looking through some articles we found a story on how the TGU is such and under utilized training option for any Brazilian Jiu-Jutsu (BJJ) practitioner. The story/recommendation written by Will Safford on was an interesting read which went into specifics of why this is so useful and functional in BJJ training and actual fighting.

We then asked, are some of these things that the TGU offers functional and useful in rugby?  For all players or specific positions? The answer is YES!

We will look at why the TGU should be used by rugby players, we won’t dive into how to do them, as there are expert videos and training options available on-line to help you with that. This is a very technical move so you need to learn it properly and use it property.

The TGU is a full body exercise that uses shoulders, core, hips, quads and calves. This exercise seeks to focus on those body parts with developing greater mobility, shoulder stability with core strength. You’ll see a lot articles and information with kettlebells that reference mobility. So let’s clarify the difference between flexibility and mobility. Flexibly deals with the muscle and that is important. Mobility has to do with the joints. So these exercises are helping develop, strengthen and work your joints so to really avoid injury and improve performance. So the TGB’s focus on mobility is for your shoulders, hips, and knees. You’ll see on sample videos why those are emphasized (and there are a ton of video on how to do the TGU).  

So you say but how is this specific to rugby? If you are in the tight five or have ever played in the scrum (even for 7s) there is a great need for core strength to keep yourself flat, your quads and knees are needed to adjusting the height of the scrum and also for driving, but your shoulders are in a position which can place strain on them (if the front row where you are especially susceptible to injures of the shoulders) just from the positioning. Having greater mobility allows you to move and adjust to the scrum without injury and puts you in a better position than your opponent (always a plus in the scrum). So these are good ways to get some mobility into those shoulders.
The core part is key in helping you stay flat in scrums. While you can do core exercise to strength and develop that, the TGU lets you combine the core with other movements all at once.

What if you aren’t in the tight five how does this help?  Well if you play rugby you are going to need to tackle and ruck. In both of those your shoulders are exposed. The improved mobility along with muscle allows you to adapt to those situations and also avoid injury. Many players experience shoulder injuries (a lot of rotator cuff injures) in the ruck, getting tacked (landing wrong) or in the contact made in the attempt to wrap up tackle. So that alone applies to anyone on the field. So trying to improve mobility to avoid those painful injuries does apply to you.

For backs, through having a greater range of motion in the shoulders will help with passing and taking contact. You want to have a solid core for rucking, tackling and just being able to absorb the impacts from the game.  Your core, believe it or not, is a big factor in tacking and getting tackled or trying to run through them.

Back to the ruck. Two things are important in the ruck.  One- clearing it (which often requires using your shoulder, strong core if you engaging an opponent to give you a base/balance and leg drive to clear the ruck. So the TGU addresses all of that.

Two- important thing at any tackle or ruck is to get up quickly. While the TGU isn’t necessary an explosive exercise (at least not when doing it in a training session) that movement and training will allow you to get to your feet quickly by engaging you hips, core, legs, etc. If you can get up quickly to your feet you have the opportunity to poach the ball, form a ruck, counter ruck, or get back into action. When tired this is even more important. The TGU works on all the aspects you’d need in and around a ruck.  

As with anything you need to train with the TGU regularly so to build the muscle memory to do it right while training but also for it to kick-in during the action of the game (to get off the ground and on your feet).

Remember hips are not just important to develop for this movement, but the hips are key for speed as well, so this one exercise is helping with so many other functions, mobility, strength and speed.

Dean Somerset from T Nation says its simply that “The Turkish Get Up requires shoulder stability and control, core strength, and leg drive all things that are important to lifting heavy-ass weights.” So the TGU will not only will help with your rugby game, but should help with your overall training in the gym as well.

Again, this is not a easy movement. Its shouldn’t be done for speed and is not about how heavy of a kettlebell you uses.  All trainers suggest doing the “naked TGU”. That does not mean doing them in the nude (wouldn’t advise that). What the naked TGU is doing the full movement up and down without any weight (maybe try an balance a shoe on top of your hand). The Naked TGU allows you to get familiar and understand the movements. The “Hinge” is something most are not use to, or having the sweep that leg under your body so you need to get use to the movement. Once you have some confidence then maybe start with a ½ pod kettlebell (which still may be heavy) and then work your way up over time.

Remember it’s not about the weight, as it is about the movement and developing the mobility. You shouldn’t be grunting or yelling during these.  It’s a slow, relaxed breathing, focused exercise. You really have to go slow so you can remain focus on the movement. This will also build that muscle memory for training and later in games.  Best thing is to start you don’t need anything other that some space. You can later add the kettlebell. It’s a good full body warm-up for training days as well.

This is an excellent training for men or women, young or old. Again it will help with your lifting but also your mobility which will prevent injuries and also improve your performance.