How to Build a Skill: Using the Get-up to Develop the Press

It’s likely you’ve read dozens of articles on the get-up, and it’s also likely that most of these articles focused on how to do the get-up or what effect you can create with the get-up.

That is all fine, but let me share with you why I do the get-up.

How to Build a Skill: Using the Get-up to Develop the Press

The 3 Stages of Motor Learning

Building up a new skill from scratch is not easy. But if we understand the three-stage motor learning concept from Posner and Fitts, at least we have some basic understanding in how to approach the whole process. There are many theories and concepts when it comes to motor learning, but I like to use this one since I love it for its simplicity.

According to this theory, there are three stages of learning a new skill:

  1. Cognitive: This is when we must create the movement for our students, both presenting and discussing the details. We must break the deadlift down into small chunks to then build back up to the full sequence. Correction and feedback in this stage should focus first on safety, second on performance. Example: how we teach the deadlift from the hinge.
  2. Associative: Either this is a continuation of the process or finding a another drill that is very similar and start the skill building from there. In this stage, less and less instruction is given by the coach. The student should already understand the task and self-correction is becoming part of the process. Example: teaching the swing after the deadlift has been learned is much easier since the movement foundations are very similar.
  3. Autonomous: This stage means the student has reached the point where things are simply happening—and hopefully happening correctly. The coach gives very little feedback, and the athlete is in total control of his or her technique. Example: at this point technique should be smooth and look professional, whithout much thinking about the form itself.

What happens between stages? Well, let’s not underestimate the power of practice and quality instruction.

How to Build a Skill: Using the Get-up to Develop the Press

Training the Get-up to Develop the Press

The reason I made the detour to explain that theory is because the get-up is a complex exercise. This means you have the ability to practice so many different aspects and pieces of it. For now, I will focus on the press.

Based on my experience using the FMS, there are a lot more people eligible to press and pull in the horizontal plane than in the vertical. I am not saying we should give up working to own the vertical zone, but we know that in the real world most people live in thoracic flexion. While the goal of the warm-up and correction is to bring them out of this incorrect posture, there are actually many concepts involved in the steps to this sequence:

  1. Teach your student a partial get-up. In this case, I am talking about performing the get-up with the kettlebell up to the lunging position.
  2. Use a weight you can with press with one hand in the floor press. Of course, the other hand will still be there for additional safety.
  3. Start with a low weight. Men should use 16kg and women 8kg.
  4. In this scenario, the student already owns the get-up and his or her posture is ready to train the military press. The student is likely in their second month of training. So, the goal is to learn the military press.
  5. Go up to half kneeling and either stay there or switch to tall kneeling. Pull the weight down to the rack position from the static hold above the head. But wait, not so fast. The pull to rack should take five to six seconds to complete, and no less.
  6. When the student begins pulling, he or she should have full tension and straight posture, and should be looking straight ahead.
  7. Have the student try the movement on both sides. Did he or she manage the 16kg on both? Great. Rest a bit, and repeat with the 20kg.
  8. Only train this sequence for as long as you can keep all the reps at optimal form.
  9. Do this twice a week for four to six weeks, and then have the student start doing the concentric phase of the military press.

Using the Get-up to Develop the Press

What Are the Benefits?

The Groove: By the time the student begins to do the full military press, his or her groove will be perfect, since the negative has been practiced many times.

The Control: The student learns the press reversed and slow. The understanding of the movement will be far higher than simply from pressing.

The Lat: With this approach, the student prepares the lat to hold and support the press. The lat is also strengthened and prepared for the pull. And let’s not forget the linkage effect.

The Structure: Pressing requires strong structure and good posture, but also strong bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles. You can build them all with skill practice.

Peter Lakatos
Master SFG
Peter Lakatos is a Master StrongFirst Instructor and a Krav-Maga Expert 3 instructor under Eyal Yanilov and creator of Ground Force Method.

He is a strength and conditioning advisor for many successful athletes in Hungary in Judo, MMA, and Brazilian jiu jitsu.

He has brown belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu under Mihaly Sztraka of the respected Carlson Gracie Team.

3 thoughts on “How to Build a Skill: Using the Get-up to Develop the Press

  • Peter,

    I had a question for you regarding your comment

    “Based on my experience using the FMS, there are a lot more people eligible to press and pull in the horizontal plane than in the vertical”

    Can I understand this to mean that for vertical plane push/pulls, you are looking for at least a 2 on the TSPU?

    This is something I work with clients to achieve before doing too much in the vertical plane, but apart from Charlie Weingroff I haven’t heard too many people talk about how FMS scores relate to overhead movement. I normally look for 2 in SM and TSPU as a minimum

    • There are many requirements to accomplish in my opinion, before we start pressing. Some related to the bio-mechanics of the press / pull, some others more related of the structural issues, like stability and mobility.

      When somebody can’t do a TSPU 2 point, that almost never a strength issue, but pretty much some other underlying problem, like:
      – missing core stability, due anterior pelvic tilt, also inability to activate the glutes.
      – And many times this is actually a mobility issue, due for example tight psoas.

      I appreciate you mentioned Charlie in this post, but he is a lot smarter than me, so I take as a compliment…:)

      • Haha, well I won’t get into who is smarter, I’ve learned much from both you two and many others. I just know he moreso than others (besides the founders) has gone into specific detail about the screens publicly on his blogs/dvd’s. I’ve seen him mention before how he looks at an exercise and immediately thinks – “Ok, barbell clean. Definitely need 2’s on SM, likely need 2 in TSPU to catch the weight. 2 in DS…”, really getting to the heart of the movement competency needed in each exercise. Once I began to think like this things started to fall into place. Clearly you have done the same!

        I definitely understand your comment regarding the biomechanics as well. One thing I find the FMS has trouble identifying is scap movement during an OH press/pull. I myself struggled with left sided OH one arm pressing due to inability to effectively upwardly rotate my scap. Even though the TSPU showed a 3, the high tension strategy didn’t transfer to the one arm press on that side and I could not keep my ribs effectively stacked on my pelvis. The leg sweep to lunge portion is amazing for that scap rotation, and fixing a minor mobility issue that you pointed out, a tight psoas, helped make this problem go away. Really enjoyed this article and solidified many of my thoughts on this. Thanks for the response!

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