Have you heard of the Turkish get-up? Elevate it with the kettlebell gladiator get-up — it promises even more fire for your shoulders, arms, chest, back, core and leg muscles. Intrigued, I tried the muscle-torching kettlebell exercise every day for seven days to see what I’d notice about my body.
If you haven’t heard of the kettlebell gladiator get-up before, it’s very similar to the standard Turkish get-up, but you’ll rotate your body and leg to face the opposite direction as you move into a lunge. If you’re currently trying to imagine the logistics, don’t worry. Fitness coach Oscar Smith demonstrates below in collaboration with Living.Fit.
In the meantime, grab one of the best kettlebells for weightlifting and join me on the mat to see how I coped with doing this spicy kettlebell full-body exercise every day for a week.
How to do a kettlebell Gladiator Get-up
You’ll follow the foundational steps of the Turkish get-up with a little twist at the end. Here’s what happened when I did 70 Turkish get-ups every day for a week to strengthen my core if you want to delve deeper into the technique.
- Start on your back and grip your kettlebell with your right hand using an underhand grip
- Engage your core and punch your right arm overhead, aligned with your shoulder
- Bend your right knee and plant your foot down. Extend your left leg and rest your left arm close to your body
- Contract your upper body muscles, then sit up and place your left elbow on the floor behind you
- Keep your right arm secure overhead and your arm locked out. Look up at your weight
- Push upwards again and transition from the left elbow to the left hand on the ground, arm now straight
- Push through your right heel and press your hips upward
- Keeping your core tight, sweep your right leg around, turn to face the back of the room and place your right foot down into a low lunge. Place your left knee down, keeping the bell overhead and toes tucked
- Lift your left arm and straighten your torso
- Push through your front foot to stand, left leg meeting right hip-width apart
- Pause, then step your left leg back into a reverse lunge, knee resting on the ground
- Reverse each step back to the beginning posture and switch sides.
I did the kettlebell Gladiator Get-up exercise every day for one week — here's what happened
Here’s how it went.
It worked my core hard
Your core might drive a Turkish get-up, but it also hits every major muscle group — and so does this variation. During the compound exercise, you’ll move from lying to standing while supporting a kettlebell overhead. At no point should the kettlebell travel sideways or move away from aligning with the shoulder. It requires plenty of core and shoulder stability and full-body muscular engagement.
I had never tried the gladiator get-up before this challenge, and the additional rotation set my core alight, activating my obliques and working my shoulders and torso harder than I anticipated.
I reduced the kettlebell weight
Sometimes, less is more. I found swinging my leg through to change the direction of the get-up tested my balance, coordination and stability. Dropping down by a couple of kilos helped me to keep control over each stage of the exercise and execute it properly without lifting with my ego. Not easy for me, I must admit.
I dropped the weight several times
As I lifted my leg to swing around to the front lunge position, I lost control of the bell more than a few times. Luckily, I had one of the best yoga mats beneath me and could bend my elbow to break the fall. It took me a while to properly master the exercise and keep the bell punched overhead in a secure, locked-out position. I wasn’t expecting it to be this hard.
My technique improved
Over the week, I became much more confident with technique, and my arms finally stopped traveling wide as I transitioned to the lunge. I felt noticeably more confident on my dominant right side than my left, so I lifted a weight (10kg) that worked for my weakest side and focused less on reps and more on nailing the movement pattern.
When training clients, I always encourage lifting for your weakest muscles during a weightlifting exercise. There’s little point using a weight that your underperforming muscles can’t handle, and you could create muscular imbalances and a lack of coordination further down the line. In turn, this increases your chances of overuse and injury.
My shoulders took the most impact
Gladiator get-ups recruit a whole bunch of muscles, including your shoulders, back, triceps, hip flexors, core, quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Stabilizer muscles like the rotator cuffs (the muscles that support your shoulders) and erector spinae (muscles that hug your spine) also work hard to keep you upright and in control.
I have a weak left shoulder and struggled to keep the kettlebell racked overhead at times. Over the years, I’ve developed a quick shoulder mobility routine that works best for me to prepare my upper body for a workout. The move still torched my shoulders daily, but my left shoulder felt better prepared going into the gladiator get-up.
I did the kettlebell Gladiator Get-up exercise every day for one week, and here's my verdict
If you’re new to the gladiator get-up, you won’t necessarily nail it the first time — it’s about practice, practice, practice. I recommend warming up using your body weight and gradually building weight. A dumbbell is often easier to hold than a kettlebell; kettlebells require a solid grip and forearm strength. Otherwise, your wrist sits in flexion. Here’s how to hold a kettlebell properly and a few grip techniques worth brushing up on.
Keep your gaze on the weight; doing so should keep you balanced during tricky transitions. Naturally, the hardest part of the move involves sweeping the leg around, so keep your hips lifted high to give you the best range of motion possible and squeeze as many muscles as possible to control the transition.
By day seven, I felt cooked and ready to abandon the gladiator get-up — that’s until I found the first opportunity to introduce it to my clients. You get a bit of everything with this kettlebell exercise — rotation, extension and flexion. Start with 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps per side, and don’t go too hard too soon.