The Squat Style Get Up Primer

If you already have the pieces in place, try this variation on the Turkish get up.

Your response to Turkish get ups in your program probably ranges somewhere between mild disappointment and flat out refusal; perhaps to even violent thoughts toward your coach. So many athletes have told me “I hate Turkish get ups,” that I wrote an article about them. As coaches, we must maintain a fine balance between programming what’s fun and prescribing what we know to be most effective. All of my closest coaching comrades begrudgingly admit that Turkish get ups are best used sparingly.

Most athletes’ distaste for the Turkish get up results from a lack of understanding of the benefits, or of how to perform them well. My aforementioned article offers a comprehensive guide to the Turkish get up to bring the love I feel for them to the masses.

Here I offer an alternative to the conventional get up. Many athletes prefer the squat-style Turkish get up because they can more clearly understand how it translates into other areas of their training. I use this alternative as the proverbial “spoonful of sugar” for the Turkish get up averse.

You Already Have All the Pieces

The squat-style get up consists primarily of movements and patterns that you already know. The bottom half is identical to the conventional get up. The top half is simply an overhead squat. All of the same key points to these two movements apply.

Turkish Get Up Keys

  • Straight wrist position and strong grip
  • Watch the weight
  • Vertical arm for stability
  • Push the weight away

Overhead Squat Keys

  • Spread the floor—knees out
  • Resist the twist—hips and shoulders square
  • Turn on engagement in opposite side

For a full review of these two movements, check out my previous articles on each of them.

Are You Ready for the Squat-Style Get up?

Proper squat-style get ups hinge on the deep squat position. To test your readiness, descend into the bottom of a squat and reach a hand to the ground just outside your feet. Ideally, you can place a flat hand on the group 6-12 inches outside your foot. Be sure to test both sides.

Scaling for Limited Range of Motion 

If you cannot touch the ground (or cannot do so without collapsing your squat position), scale the movement by bringing the ground up to you. A box or bench offers the most height advantage. Many people will not need more than a few inches of assistance. A short stack of plates or a yoga block work perfectly.

Improving Your Squat Depth 

Check out the bonus video below of my favorite tools to improve squat depth. Many of these translate directly to the transition phase of the squat-style get up.

Put It All Together

Once you have mastered the conventional Turkish get up (or at least the bottom half) and the single-arm overhead squat, you are ready to link them together into the squat-style get up. The only new piece is the transition phase, from seated into the overhead squat position. Fortunately, this transition is less complicated than the conventional get up transition phase, albeit more challenging to your mobility.

  1. Rise to a seated, overhead position just like a conventional get up. You may need to move your hand in closer to your hip.
  2. Bridge your hips up and bring your front foot underneath you.
  3. Place your foot just next to your hand into a squat position.
  4. Transfer weight into your feet and lift your hand off the ground.
  5. Establish balance in the bottom of your squat, then rise to complete the get up.

On the way down, again find balance in the bottom of your squat before placing your hand on the ground, in-line with your foot or slightly behind you. Lift your foot, kick it through, and return to seated. Descent to the ground just as you would in a conventional get up (elbow first, one shoulder, finally roll down to the other shoulder).

Transiting well hinges on one key point: hand placement. While transitioning up or down, proper hand placement on the ground will assure a smooth and strong transition. The most common fault in the squat-style get up is placing your hand too far behind you. On the way up, you will need to throw your weight forward to transition from your hand to your feet. On the way down, you will end up falling back onto your hand.

Turkish get ups, of any style, should preserve strong structure throughout the entire movement. This means that you must establish the next structural position before transferring weight into it. It is possible throw forward and fall back with lighter weight, but these habits greatly limit your progress. You cannot safely and effectively control heavy weights through unstable positions. Athletes develop the habit to reach back due to limited squat depth. Swallow your pride, use a yoga block or plate, and continue working to open up your squat depth.

A Two-Pronged Movement Challenge

The squat-style get up poses a mobility challenge on two fronts: overhead position and squat depth. Transitioning into and out of a deep squat is one of the best ways to improve your squat mechanics. Even with a block under your hand, the squat-style get up will open up your squat position. The overhead stability challenge of moving through such a long and extreme range of motion will open up and strengthen your overhead position.

The squat-style get up is not only a valuable tool to improve and measure your mobility, but will bring variety—and dare I say fun—to your training.

There are lots more ways to get off the ground:

Mix Up Your Get Ups for Resilient Legs