Progressing the Getup

The Getup is a fundamental kettlebell technique that I teach to all of my students and require them to perform competently before progressing to overhead movements like pressing, snatches, windmills, bent presses, clean & jerks etc…

The getup is wonderful for several reasons

  • It consists of many steps which can be added or removed to suit the abilities or limitations of the individual.
  • It places you under tension for a relatively long duration of time to complete a single rep, this builds serious strength.
  • It requires a high degree of focus for a long amount of time to perform correctly. For this reason learning a body weight or water bottle getup is a great tool for teaching athletes body awareness and concentration.
  • The Getup addresses, reveals and improves a great many movement patterns while forcing symmetry.

Using the program template from Simple & Sinister by Pavel Tsatsouline men and women are expected to transition from performing getups with a 32kg to a 48kg and from a 16kg to a 24kg kettlebell. In either case that’s a dramatic increase of 50% in load. Conquering a bell that’s 50% heavier can take some time, and it should. What follows are four goals to help you divide and conquer this task.

Take as much time as needed to master each step before moving on the next.
I recommend applying the StrongFirst principles of “Waving the Load” and “Specialized Variety” to your getup training so that every day is not exactly the same as the last. – If you are unfamiliar with the application of these principles see a StrongFirst instructor.


Aside from getting stronger, improving your technique and understanding of the getup is one of the best ways to progress safely. Invest in learning the subtleties of this technique from a certified instructor and you’ll be amazed at the benefits the getup can deliver.

Goal 1: Partial Getups
Every minute perform 30-seconds of continuous partial getups without setting the bell down.
Switch arms every minute.

From the supine firing range position, proceed to the elbow-sit or the tall-seated position, then reverse the movement. Without setting the bell down continue to perform as many slow & continuous reps as you can perform safely  until the the full 30-seconds are up. The number of reps you perform does not matter, the goal is to gradually build up to keeping the bell aloft for a full 30-seconds at a time.

Goal 2: Get Downs
Perform one “Get-Down” each minute, switching arms every minute.

Push-press the bell overhead and perform a Reverse Getup or “Get-Down” without standing back up.

Starting from the standing overhead lockout position you will descend into a lunge, progressing to the 1/2 kneeling windmill, and finally the supine firing range position. From the supine firing range position, lower the bell with both hands to your midsection then roll to your side and set the bell down. Perform fast & loose exercises for the remainder of the minute. Build up to moving slowly and smoothly taking up to a full 30-seconds to perform one get-down.

Goal 3: Get-Downs + Partial Getups
Perform one Get-Down + a Partial Getup every minute, switching arms each minute.

Push-press the bell overhead and perform a Reverse Getup a.k.a. “Get-Down” to the supine position, then perform a partial getup to either the elbow-sit or tall-seated position then  back down. Feel free to perform as many partial repetition from supine to the tall-sit as time allows.

Goal 4: Full Getups
One full getup per minute, switching arms every minute.

Perform a full getup from the floor, to standing and back to the floor again.



Common Mistakes to Avoid in the Getup

  • Don’t treat the getup like a weighted sit-up. Instead treat the movement like a moving plank and learn to wedge under the weight.
  • Avoid curling up and curling down, putting the spine into flexion.  Instead, learn to brace your midsection and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.
  • Don’t even think about “Tomahawking” the neck and kettlebell arm forward to build momentum on the ascent. Aside from looking sloppy it is very dangerous and is poor strategy that cannot be safely applied to a heavy bell.  Instead take the time to develop sufficient strength to move smoothly and safely under control.
  • Don’t allow yourself to bend the airborne elbow and/or wrist. Instead,  take the time to develop the mobility and proprioception to achieve a safely locked out wrist and elbow throughout the movement.  This will develop healthy and stable joints, while promoting a healthy degree of flexibility.
  • Don’t bend laterally or sideways from the spine during the transition from half kneeling to the tall-sit.  Instead learn to hinge safely and strongly at the hips while keeping your spine in a neutral position.
  • Don’t shrug the shoulders or allow the chin to jut forward. This will reinforce horrible posture and lead to neck and shoulder stiffness, pain and injury
  • Avoid quick jerky transitions. These often occur when you attempt to rush through difficult portions of the movement without first developing the flexibility and skill to move smoothly into position. Always strive to perform techniques that are smooth and aesthetically pleasing to watch; this likely means the movements are biomechanically correct for your body.
  • Don’t rush and jump right into getups with weight added without first becoming proficient at the movement using bodyweight only. The full getup is a complex series of movements that requires memorization and must be performed gracefully under the stress of an additional load. The last thing you want to happen is to get into an awkward position with a heavy  weight overhead and panic because you don’t know how to complete the movement or bail out safely.
  • Don’t automatically think that full getups or heavy getups are for everyone.
    Not everyone is ready for the full Get-up or a heavy weight, however it has been my experience that EVERYONE can perform a partial getup with at least their bodyweight. Be patient. Build better movement and strength safely by working WITHIN your limitations and gradually expanding them outward.
  • Not Seeking Feedback
    I have yet to witness an untrained individual perform a safe and controlled getup without first learning how to do so from an a certified instructor. Yes, this applies to people who have learned kettlebell techniques from a DVD or book as well. Sign-up for a one-hour lesson with an expertly trained SFG instructor for the purpose of correcting errors you can’t see yourself making as well as to learn technical subtleties that will make a dramatic difference in performance, safety and the ability to more efficiently obtain the results you desire.
  • Ignoring Pain
    It is your responsibility to become the world’s foremost expert on your body. Just like seeking out feedback from a trained expert you need to learn to listen to and interpret the feedback your body provides. Some muscular soreness is fine but bruising and pain is a sign of injury. If your training is not making you feel better and move better, then something is wrong. Consult with the appropriate medical and fitness professionals to learn what is right for you and how to perform strength training techniques correctly.

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