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Weekly Writeup: Snowstorms, Get Ups, and Objectivity

With what will hopefully become a weekly feature, I’ve written down some of my observations from the past week. Some of these I may eventually write a full article or blog post on, but for now, I’d rather jot down thoughts on each topic and provide some extra links.

1 – Snowstorms & at home workouts.

I’m fairly blessed in that I’ve invested into a small amount of home equipment. I have a pair of 25lb dumbbells from when I was 16, a TRX, 4 kettlebells (12, 16, 24, 32), and some superbands. It may not sound like much when you’re used to full bars and plates, but it reminds us how simple fitness can be. I’ve been teaching my roommate how to train lately, and devised a simple circuit-based routine.

3×3 Turkish Get Up, followed by 2-3 circuits of:

  • Squat – Doorknob squat (Dan John’s excellent teaching tool for squats), Air Squat, Goblet Squat
  • Push – Pushup variations, Press variations
  • Hip – Bridges, KB Swings / Cleans / Snatches / Deadlifts
  • Pull – TRX Row, KB Row, Wallslides
  • Core – Planks, Side Planks, Renegade Rows, Mountain Climbers

Set a timer on each exercise for 30-60s, depending on weight selected and goal, with appropriate rests in between. Example: 45s for each, 30s rest in between exercises, 60s rest between rounds filled with mobility drills or stretching.

Pick a variation that works well for you. As get ups can take quite some time, 1-2 circuits should do the trick. If you don’t feel like a long workout and would rather enjoy the storm downtime, as I often do, I’ll often perform enough circuits to ‘get a good workout’ and call it a day. I love timed or circuit workouts for wild card conditioning days, simply to break out of the traditional sets & rep scheme. Most certainly a result of my wrestling days.

Overly simple? Yes. Better than sitting on the couch all day? Definitely.


2 – Turkish Get Ups

TGU’s are an exercise that I’d read about for years, and simply never tried. Depending on who you read, they are good for: hip mobility, shoulder stability (lifesavers, according to some), core strength, back health, corrective exercise, fundamental movement patterns, full body strength, conditioning, and more.

I was finally sold on them after reading ‘Movement’ by Gray Cook, as well as after attending the Functional Movement Screen certification with Gray and Lee Burton. On both occasions, Gray commented on their ability to improve every component of the FMS. Regarding session density and bang-for-your-buck, that’s one hell of a claim.

I personally attribute some of the progress I’ve made in rehabilitating a hip injury to get ups, but I’ve witnessed other benefits as well. For many of my back pain clients, partial get ups provide an excellent core stimulus while staying in a pain-free range. This may be as limited as an unweighted roll into armbar, which brings to mind some of the corrective benefits of rolling patterns. I have introduced get ups to the warm ups of most of my clients, and have received positive feedback so far.

For deconditioned or beginner (motor-challenged, or motor morons as my professors called it) clients, get ups are challenging on two fronts: they provide a conditioning stimulus, and they also provide several motor control benefits as they progress through the fundamental patterns. With my roommate, who very recently began weight training, the half get up provided a significant conditioning and strength challenge. In particular, we focused on holding each rep in the hips-extended position: balanced on one hand, with hips high in the air and fully extended, for 5 seconds. This challenged hip extension strength isometrically while building shoulder stability through the bottom arm. Both of which new clients desperately need.

I’ll be sure to continue training my get up and taking notes of my client’s progress. I’m still learning, and would appreciate any tips or links in the comments section. Here are some of my favorite educational links so far:

  • Gray Cook Teaches the Turkish Get Up, with an excellent introduction
  • Mike Robertson’s thoughts on the TGU, with a step-by-step guide
  • This fascinating article from Bret Contreras explains that TGU’s activate the external oblique, internal oblique, rectus abdominis, and lumbar erectors nearly equally. This seems to verify their place as an excellent all-around core exercise.
  • An article from Mike Boyle, with a simple epiphany on get ups for older clients. His book, Advances in Functional Training, also turned me onto get ups.

3 – Objectivity.

As a trainer, I’m guilty of not asking for help. I frequently attempt to solve my own movement problems, including any injuries. With the exception of soft tissue treatments, I usually create my own rehabilitation plans for aches and pains. For the most part, I’ve gotten it right. Lately, I’ve begun seeing other professionals for assessments and to benefit from their critical eye. Their insight has been invaluable. I’ve had many ‘a-ha’ moments in the process, and it’s helped my own training as well. If you’ve been struggling with training and can’t fix the problem, don’t hesitate to ask for help. This could be a new training program, a technique error, or simply a movement compensation that you’re unaware of.

In my case, I’ve always assumed that I have excellent core stability because I could do most core tricks: levers, l-sits, dragon flags, etc. This blinded me to a weakness, a tendency for an anterior pelvic tilt. I’d been attacking the issue through hip flexor stretching and glute extension strengthening, only to miss the core stability problem completely. I’ve been focusing on more challenging dead bug exercises, with good results. Believe me, I’ve done my studying on core training and somehow missed these gems even after perusing many of Mike’s seminars and products.

A little longer than I had planned, but those are my top three thoughts from the last week.