Yes, You Can: A Knee-Friendly Alternative to the Get-up’s Windshield Wiper

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”—Bruce Lee

“Obey the principles without being bound by them.” —Bruce Lee

When we begin learning something (anything), there is a tendency to adhere closely (sometimes too closely) to how we were introduced to that thing.

The quest to learn and “perfect” the thing we are learning can lead us to restrict our options and become rigid like the stiffest tree referenced by Bruce Lee. This becomes even more of an issue when you are progressing toward testing to show “mastery” of a skill. It is all too easy to become rigid and unyielding in your adherence to the “steps” under the pressure of testing to meet a standard.

What is important in learning are the principles behind the “thing” we are learning. These principles are there to guide us, not box us in to one way of doing something.

I am guilty of this rigid way of thinking, too. When Jason Marshall sent an email some years ago describing exactly what I am going to show you in this article and video about a nuance of the get-up, I rejected it outright. Instead of saying, “Jason, please, send me a video of what you are describing so I can understand it better,” I simply pushed aside his ideas.

Can you say “rigid”?

So, today, let’s be like the willow when it comes to our get-ups and learn how an adjustment to the windshield-wiper step can open up new possibilities for ourselves and our students.

Yes, You Can: An Alternative to the Windshield Wiper in the Get-up

An Alternative to the Windshield Wiper

The overriding principle behind the get-up is to learn how to most efficiently align your structure so the weight “settles” through you (remember: the weight is held by the ground, not the shoulder). This creates a strong and stable shoulder that is connected to your center and lower body. There will be some individual variation in how that looks and is accomplished, but the fundamental steps that we work through remain the same.

I always joke that there is never an excuse for being out of position during a get-up because you can fix it at the pauses between the steps. For example, if you realize your shoulder became a bit “disconnected” during the roll to the elbow, you can fix that and reconnect your shoulder at the natural pause that occurs before going to the hand. (You can also make a mental note to keep the connection during the next rep.)

A simple modification to the get-up that can make a big difference for many individuals is to simply allow a step of the front leg instead of a rotation or “windshield wiper” move of the rear leg.

Why perform this step instead of windshield wiper?

Due to post-surgical or tender knees or rough/tacky surfaces, the step reduces a lot of stress on the down knee. Just like a sweatband can be used to make the pressure on the forearm comfortable, the step of the front leg can make the get-up more comfortable and have people doing more of them (a good thing in my book).

Key Points:

  • Pause and get settled prior to performing the step with the front leg.
  • Shift weight to the down knee so you can slide or step the front leg.
  • The step will place you in a great lunge position for the step up in the get-up.
  • Be sure to reverse this step on the way down in the get-up. This is critical to being able to perform the side hinge to safely return the hand to the ground.

What to Watch For:

  • Control your speed—if you try to move too quickly during the step, you could lose your balance.
  • Practice with bodyweight and at lighter weights before using this in your heavier get-ups. I use this step of the front leg with my heaviest kettlebell, a 44kg.
  • Be ready to catch your balance or bring the kettlebell safely down should you lose your balance. Your progress and practice through bodyweight and lighter weights should have the step “smoothed out” and understanding the weight shift, etc.
  • In a group setting, the step of the front leg will have your student moving at almost ninety-degree angles in where they start and finish their get-up, so you need to be aware of this and space your students appropriately.

It was when I installed a ceiling fan in my office and realized that if I didn’t want to lose knuckles that I would need to step and use the ninety-degree change of direction that I fully embraced this technique. It is now my preferred way to perform the get-up.

The step of the front leg honors the principle of efficiently aligning the structure of the body during the get-up and it also allows for good individual variation. In fact, this technique is allowed for SFG get-up technique testing. (That said, remember that testing standards are necessary, but not the “only” way to perform an exercise/technique.)

Give this adjustment to the get-up windshield wiper a try and let us know what you think on the forum.

How to Progress Weight in the Get-up

Bonus: How to Progress Weight in the Get-up

“When am I ready to progress to a heavier kettlebell?” This is a common question when it comes to the get-up, and I have an answer for you, as well as a way to progress to a heavier kettlebell.

I used to use the metric of being able to perform 5 continuous repetitions on each arm (you can rest between arms) to gauge when someone (or myself) was ready for a heavier kettlebell for the get-up. I believe this is still a good metric. At a minimum, you should be able to complete the Simple & Sinister standard of 5 get-ups on each side in 10 minutes before you progress to a heavier kettlebell.

Another approach is to apply continuous sets in building the get-up with a heavier kettlebell by looking for 5 continuous reps at each step of the movement (at least to half kneeling).

For example:

  • Build up to 5+5 going to the elbow: This may mean starting at 2+2, 2+2, and 1+1, then progressing to 3+3, 2+2, and then on to 4+4, 1+1, and finally 5+5. (This can take weeks, by the way.)
  • Then, repeat that progression but now going to the hand/tall sit position. Work on this and progress your way up to 5+5.
  • After that, continue in the progression to perform 5+5 going to half kneeling. Once you reach 5+5 going to half kneeling, you or your student should also be able to perform singles in the full get-up with the same weight.

In my own training, I sometimes perform single reps and sometimes work continuous sets. This provides great variation and hits different benefits of the get-up, from endurance to strength.

Just remember that any day without get-ups is a bad day!

Brett Jones
Chief SFG
Brett Jones is StrongFirst’s Chief SFG Instructor. He is also a Certified Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist based in Pittsburgh, PA. Mr. Jones holds a Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine from High Point University, a Master of Science in Rehabilitative Sciences from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

With over twenty years of experience, Brett has been sought out to consult with professional teams and athletes, as well as present throughout the United States and internationally.

As an athletic trainer who has transitioned into the fitness industry, Brett has taught kettlebell techniques and principles since 2003. He has taught for Functional Movement Systems (FMS) since 2006, and has created multiple DVDs and manuals with world-renowned physical therapist Gray Cook, including the widely-praised “Secrets of…” series.

Brett continues to evolve his approach to training and teaching, and is passionate about improving the quality of education for the fitness industry. He is available for consultations and distance coaching by e-mailing him at appliedstrength@gmail.com.

Follow him on Twitter at @BrettEJones.
Brett Jones on EmailBrett Jones on Twitter

21 thoughts on “Yes, You Can: A Knee-Friendly Alternative to the Get-up’s Windshield Wiper

  • Great topic. It needs a full video of the difference, however. It is not clear enough. Also, having the full difference in the video would help as teaching material or to pass on to those new to the movement. Please add a full version video.

  • Simply brilliant. I personally prefer the windshield wiper, but I definitely give my students (any myself, on rough surface) the option. It is great to see an article explaining this option.
    The ‘bonus’ of TGU progression was hugely valuable. I have just began doing consecutive getups again and this progression fit in so nicely with my programme. Thank you very much for sharing, Brett!

  • The get up can be adapted in quite a few ways to suit the athlete, if your not doing or learning or trying to perfect this movement in whole or in part you’re missing out, you’re selling yourself short,everyone need’s to get up ,find a way that suits you .

    • John
      Learning and exploring movements like the Get-up safely are excellent for folks to do.
      For testing we look for a standard but in practice there are many ways to approach the skills.

  • Great! I had a stroke last Dec, I’ve been trying to do TGU’s for a month or so, no go on the right leg. Now it works! Starting with 16kg…

    • Mike, I also had a stroke (July 2013) and was fortunate that it was quite mild, I had to recover full use/sensation of my left hand. I’ve recovered to the point I’ve been able to qualify as SFG2, SFB and SFL. Every case is different but if you ever want a fellow ironhead to chat to, please just get in touch.

      Colin (colin@mindfulstrength.co.uk)

  • Glad to hear this is now “accepted” and embraced.

    I learned this version about 5 months after having a knee scoped.

    At that point, I was only doing it on one side and sticking with the windshield wiper on the other. After practicing it for some time, I came to prefer the front leg step as well for both sides.

    I’ll echo Brett’s statement about the “pause” before stepping. there definitely must be a deliberate transfer of load and moment of control transferring all of the load to the “down knee”.

    I am reminded of this every time I take on the next bell or add a second consecutive rep to a bell that I currently own. This was especially true for me when making the jumps above 40 kg.

    Thanks Brett

  • I feel like this can be a “both/and” as opposed to an “either/or.”

    I naturally do a slight windshield wipe of the down leg, then a slight step of the up leg (after learning about stepping). No idea whether this is same/better/worse, or just another variation for the layman (or should I say…getupman.)

    Thanks for another great article!

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