A student of mine once described the get-up as being comprised of “frames of a comic strip”—meaning there are definitive positions to hit before you move on to the next “frame.” In fact, if I walk into your training space and see you “frozen” in one of these positions, I shouldn’t be able to tell whether you are on the way up in your get-up or on the way down. And, as I like to joke, there is never an excuse for being out of position during the get-up because you can always correct yourself at the next frame.
But what about the transitions between the frames?
Your movement from frame A to frame B should be smooth and set you up for not only a great position at that frame but a great transition to frame C and so on. One of the critical transitions to a kalos sthenos (ancient Greek for “beautiful strength”) get-up is the move from the elbow to the hand (or the elbow-to-post transition from Kettlebells from the Ground Up-Kalos Sthenos). A great transition from the elbow to the hand sets up a safe and solid shoulder position (on the down arm) for the low sweep or the high bridge.
The Arm Angle in the Roll to the Elbow
Setting up the transition from the elbow to the hand begins by having a great arm position for the roll to the elbow portion of the get-up. Begin with a 45-degree angle of the arm away from the body and adjust as needed to your arm and torso lengths, so when you roll to the elbow you create a straight line down from the shoulder to the elbow on the ground.
If the elbow is angled in toward the body, then the arm was too close at the start. If the elbow angles away from the body, then the arm was too far away from the body at the start. Find the ideal angle by practicing with an un-weighted get-up.
The Transition from the Elbow to the Hand
Once you have found the ideal position for the arm at the roll to the elbow, you are ready to consider the transition from the elbow to the hand. Begin this transition by rotating the arm and forearm away from the body and even beginning to point the fingers behind you. Once you are rotated as far as you can while keeping the forearm on the ground, then press down through the heel of the hand, continuing to point your fingers behind you and rotating the arm so the triceps squeeze against the lat and the arm/hand is pushing down into the ground bringing the body to the tall sit position. This externally rotated position of squeezing the triceps against the lat and pressing down into the ground will produce a shoulder position that is ready to lift the body for either the low sweep or high bridge.
Performing the transition in this manner also assists in finding the best position for the tall sit without picking up and moving the arm. Under the load of a heavy kettlebell (and that is one of the reasons we are performing a get-up—to put a heavy weight overhead) having to lift the arm off the ground to make adjustments can introduce unwanted instability into the movement. Some adjustment is certainly allowed depending on the arm and torso lengths of the individual, but sitting up to unload the arm and then replacing it should be avoided. A little bit of sliding the hand closer to the body is all that should be needed.
As you can see in the video the angles, positions, and smooth transitions allow me to move from back to elbow to hand to elbow to back in a smooth sequence. During an unweighted get-up, try to find your own angles and smooth transitions and you may find your own kalos sthenos get-up.
As always, the best way to learn proper technique is to find your local SFG instructor to receive individualized instruction and assistance. You may also consider attending an SFG Course or Certification.