The Forgotten Benefits of the Get-up

By Brandon Hetzler, SFG Team Leader

“As above, so below.”
-Unknown

We like what is new. Look at how Apple has benefited every time they release the latest iPhone, iPad, or Mac. The followers of Apple are fiercely loyal. The nice thing about Apple and this craze over their products is they are continuously pushing the technology forward. The downfall is the marketing craze they generate surrounding the release of their latest and greatest product. Is the need to push the industry forward generating their drive or is it the all mighty dollar?

I would like to think it is mostly an internal drive to be better than they were yesterday, but in reality they are a for-profit business selling products no one else on the planet can create. If we look at the technology Apple has popularized, they weren’t the first to come up with some of their most popular products—Sony had MP3 players on the market well before the iPod exploded. What Apple did was popularize and market it in a manner that the public had to have it. Big mistake for Sony.

When Pavel introduced kettlebells to the West several years ago, the get-up was reintroduced. Pavel didn’t “create” the get-up, he just dusted it off and pulled it out of obscurity. Brett Jones and Gray Cook shed new light on the get-up as a wonderful mini-assessment and corrective drill with the CK-FMS, Kalos Thenos, and Kalos Thenos 2. Then, Dr. Mark Cheng added the high bridge to promote hip extension and the get-up became forever changed—and forever controversial.

Due to all this, the popularity of the get-up soared! The get-up was a rock star—everyone was doing get-up, get-up variations, get-up breakdowns, and heavy get-ups. YouTube loved it! The pendulum had swung to overexposure. But like it has been said before, after every peak is a valley—we are now in that get-up valley.

Before We Get-up, We Crawl

Let’s take a deeper look at why the get-up is so powerful and so diverse in its application. Before we do that, let’s look at crawling. Crawling, much like the get-up has been around for a while—no one invented it and no one entity owns it. It is a powerful, but small part of the entire neurodevelopmental sequence (the progressive development of movement patterns and strength that begins at birth and continues until we are vertical).

Neurodevelopmental Sequence

The earliest I can find that crawling was used clinically was in the early 1970s by Moshé Feldenkrais. I watched Gray Cook drop the IQ of an entire room several years ago when he asked people to crawl. Why is crawling so beneficial? Here is a list of the reasons:

  1. Promotes cross lateralization (getting right brain to work with left side)
  2. Promotes upper body stability
  3. Promotes lower body stability
  4. Promotes reflexive stability of the trunk and extremities
  5. Ties the right arm to the left leg, and left arm to the right leg
  6. Gets the upper extremities working reciprocally (legs, too)
  7. Stimulates the vestibular system (one of three senses that contributes to balance)
  8. Stimulates the visual system (second of three senses that contributes to balance)
  9. Stimulates the proprioception system (third sense that contributes to balance)
  10. Promotes spatial awareness
  11. Develops a front/back weight shift
  12. Develops upper body strength, trunks strength, and hip strength

Quite a few things there that make crawling awesome. But, it’s biggest limitation is that the orientation of the body never changes (crawling is always done on all-fours with the trunk parallel to the ground) and loading it (volume, resistance, etc) defeats the purpose of crawling. Crawling’s biggest gift to the world of movement is the neurologic adaptations it promotes.

But during the neurodevelopmental sequence, once an infant is proficient at crawling and has developed adequate strength and stability, he or she moves up the sequence to walking. Being vertical is a much better posture to develop strength, power, and metabolic loading. Developmentally that is where a majority of those attributes are developed.

Toddler Get-up
Look familiar?

All that being said, every person I see is likely to crawl. Once they have nailed it, we only revisit it as a quick assessment. I also recommend everyone brush their teeth—this gives you a shiny grill and is good for cardiovascular health (huh?). After meals for about two minutes at a time is adequate. I don’t recommend they progress to brushing for ten minutes, or with a heavier brush, or to brush harder.

Back to the get-up. Why is it so beneficial? Here is a list of reasons:

  1. Promotes cross lateralization (getting right brain to work with left side)
  2. Promotes upper body stability
  3. Promotes lower body stability
  4. Promotes reflexive stability of the trunk and extremities
  5. Ties the right arm to the left leg, and left arm to the right leg
  6. Gets the upper extremities working reciprocally (legs, too)
  7. Stimulates the vestibular system (one of three senses that contributes to balance)
  8. Stimulates the visual system (second of three senses that contributes to balance)
  9. Stimulates the proprioception system (third sense that contributes to balance)
  10. Promotes spatial awareness
  11. Develops a front/back weight shift
  12. Develops upper body strength, trunks strength, and hip strength

Does that list look familiar? Unlike with the limitation of crawling (only occurring in one posture) the get-up works through several postures of the neurodevelopmental sequence: supine, rolling, crawling, asymmetrical stance, single-leg stance, and symmetrical stance. Additionally, you can proceed to adding substantial load to the get-up to magnify the strength and stability components. So, the get-up is just like crawling—only much better.

The Get-up Isn’t Just About “Up”

One of the overlooked benefits of the get-up is due to a misconception the name presents: “up.” How does an infant rise to standing from either a seated, quadruped, or kneeling posture? I’ll bet you answered with “they pull up.” If so, you would be wrong. It appears they pull themselves up, but they are infants and lack the upper body strength to physically pull themselves up.

What appears as pulling up, is them placing their hands above shoulder level and pressing down. This pushing down activates several trunk stabilizers that allow them to push their feet into the ground to rise up. So, in essence, what they are doing is pushing down to get up. Thus, the get-up is the perfect representative of this overlooked developmental feat, and one that crawling neglects. The only way to initiate the roll to elbow is by pressing into the giant globe beneath us. This pressing into the ground is what generates the needed stability to move into a vertical position.

Heavy Get-up
Derek Miller, SFG II, performing a 68kg get-up at Ballistic Fitness Kettlebell Gym. A heavy get-up is “corrective”—symmetry, strength, and neurological coordination are in full display here. A perfect display of pressing down to get up.

The point of this? Everyone who has read Simple & Sinister or has the initials SFG behind their name has the tools to apply the greatest neurological movement ever. Can you crawl? By all means, go for it. But my question to you is like my question about Apple—are you crawling to get better or are you crawling because you have been convinced you can’t get stronger without it?

The benefits of mastering the get-up have been swallowed up by the recent craze of crawling and other movement-based systems. If it is good enough to balance out the swings in the Simple & Sinister program, there is probably a good reason why.

Brandon Hetzler
Brandon Hetzler is a Certified Athletic Trainer who oversees the Sports Performance Program for Mercy Sports Medicine in Springfield, Missouri, and is an instructor in the Masters of Athletic Training Program at Missouri State University. He is an SFG Team Leader and also holds the CICS and PM credentials.

Brandon is one of three individuals who created the Movement Restoration Project, which promotes restoring lost movement to all individuals. To find more information, go to their Facebook Page or to find upcoming workshop dates check Functionalmovement.com.
Brandon Hetzler on sabfacebook

35 thoughts on “The Forgotten Benefits of the Get-up

  • Great article apart from the fact about Pavel introducing Kettlebells to the west I have seen the Swing, snatch, and GTU done in Yorkshire England in the Early 70s with Kettlebells by a local blacksmith who made and sold them ,also photographs of them used in Victorian and and Edwardian Britain .

  • Good article. I’m a fan of crawling and the TGU. I’m a bit surprised by the amount of contention in the comments, something I’m unacutomed to seeing here.

    As for the quote, “As above, so below”, google “The Kybalion.”

    Cheers,
    Dave

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