Turkish Get-Ups are my fave. They’re as close to meditation as I get. When you’re dancing around a heavy iron bell, your focus needs to be sharp, your mind can not waiver. It’s just about the only time I can quiet all the noise.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about- check out this video of an unmodified Turkish Get-Up.
A full tutorial is outside the scope of this post, but maybe I’ll add one down the line! This post is aimed at folks who have been practicing get-ups prior to pregnancy and want to brainstorm Turkish Get-Up variations to keep doing them into their pregnancy.
Get-Ups train strength, mobility and stability and they are a fabulous tool for learning how to control pressure in your inner core canister during dynamic movement. But it did take me a sec to come up with approaches that served me really well when I was pregnant.
During your first trimester, you may not need to make any changes to your Get-Up. But as your belly grows, you’ll find that the diagonal movements and even some of the overhead work strains start to put additional strain through your core and pelvic floor. Fortunately, you can learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of pelvic floor and core stress and you can modify your movements to reduce the strain on these systems.
Here are a few signs and symptoms of pelvic floor or core strain that indicate you are ready to modify the movement or make a change to your breathing strategy:
1) You find yourself peeing a little during the challenging spots
2) You feel pressure or pain through your vagina or pelvic floor while executing any of the movements
3) Your abdominal muscles dome or cone down the midline (linea alba) or just don’t feel quite right
Here are a few ways you can modify the Turkish Get-Up for pregnancy:
1) Breathe. This isn’t technically a modification for pregnancy. This is good practice for any human. But just in case you’ve never paid attention to how you breathe during your get-ups, now’s the time to tune into your breath. Before you make any changes, observe whether or not you take a breath between each discrete movement. Do you breathe or do you hold your breath?
Try this: Inhale with your diaphragm prior to each movement and exhale as you transition between positions. For example. use your breath to transition from tall sit to kneeling windmill. In tall sit, inhale with your diaphragm, exhale through the low sweep that brings you into kneeling windmill. Inhale in kneeling windmill, exhale has you transition into the overhead lunge. As you exhale, contract your pelvic floor and transverse abdominals to support your torso, using just enough of a contraction to balance the effort required to complete the movement.
If exhaling during the hard parts of the movement isn’t quite cutting it, I recommend this post which contains additional strategies you can try. Don’t worry too much about perfection here, the most important thing is to breathe. No breath holding!
2) Work from the top down. The effort to roll-up to elbow creates a spike of pressure in your abdomen that can be hard to manage as your belly grows bigger. When this pressure is managed well, it is equally distributed throughout your abdomen. If not managed well, the pressure will be disproportionally forced down into your pelvic floor or out through your abdominal wall. You’ll know you’re having trouble managing that pressure if it elicits any of the symptoms mentioned above (pee, pain, pressure, or doming of the abdomen).
Once the roll-up to elbow or tall sit become challenging, try starting from the top down. Begin with the bell overhead and work your way down towards the floor (not necessarily to your back!!), stopping when you hit the edge of your comfort zone.
3) Start from a tall sit or figure 4 (see videos below). Here’s another option when the roll-up starts to become uncomfortable. By-pass the roll-up altogether and start from a tall-sit position or from a Figure 4. You’ll still reap a ton of benefit without putting strain through your linea alba or down through your pelvic floor.
4) Modify the load you are using. The first obvious way to do this is to just go lighter. If you are using kettlebells, you can also consider going bottoms-up. Using the kettlebell in a bottoms up position will increase challenge and train stability, without adding a lot of load. If you go this route, go lighter than you think you need to! You can also use something very light, like a shoe on your closed fist, to further drill stability and control. Finally, you can work this exercise in bodyweight.
These variations can work really well when you are returning to exercise after pregnancy as well (although, please add them in appropriately once you’ve established a foundation of good breathing and core control). Start testing your Get-Ups with bodyweight, a shoe or something really light. If sit-ups are still challenging, start your Get-Ups from a tall sit. Start from standing and go only as far down as feels comfortable.
The Turkish Get-Up can be a great exercise to keep in your prenatal exercise program, but keep in mind that over the course of your pregnancy, you might (and likely will) run out of degrees of freedom with respect to modifications. At some point, you may need to sub it out for another get-up variation or another exercise altogether.
A note on pubic symphysis discomfort: If you are experiencing pubic symphysis pain, another common pregnancy discomfort, you might find that the unilateral movements that are so heavily baked into the Turkish Get-Up flow will likely make this exercise inaccessible until postpartum. Pubic symphysis pain is often exacerbated by single-leg or load transfer movements, and it’s impossible to eliminate those from this exercise.
If you’re looking for Turkish Get-Up alternatives: stay tuned. In the coming weeks, I’ll share some additional ways to get up during pregnancy!
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PS: If you’re looking for a Turkish Get-Up tutorial, I recommend this one produced by Girls Gone Strong, one of my coaching credentialing organizations.
Take a deep dive into HOW to dial in your breathing strategy to manage your pelvic health and feel stronger in your workouts. Download a copy of The No B.S. Guide to Breathing for a STRONG Pregnancy and Postpartum.
Laura is a personal trainer and kettlebell instructor, based in Redmond, WA, exclusively serving pregnant and postpartum people. In addition to providing personal training, she offers additional perinatal support- as a Seattle-area birth doula and by offering pelvic health support services, online or in-person. Contact her through her website by clicking here.