The perfect get-up is like a masterpiece in architecture. Both need a specialist.
Every SFG instructor has his or her own teaching techniques and experiences. We all try to find the best and easiest way to teach an exercise to our students. Our teaching skills should be effective, simple, and understandable. If we have these skills, then our students will learn and improve quickly.
It is my hope that this article will serve as a good foundation for those who wish to improve their students’ technique with the get-up.
Note: For any beginner, the first step in learning the get-up should be to find an SFG instructor. But even though you are already an SFG instructor, still try to find another instructor to help you because it is impossible to see your own faults in each step during get-up.
The Story of My Get-up Education
I was only nineteen when I attended my first StrongFirst Certification and became an SFG Level I Instructor in 2013. I was just a kid and hadn’t quite realized the importance of the get-up. As a result, my technique was poor and I had a hard time passing the requirements for the movement.
Fabio Zonin and Peter Lakatos led the Certification. After my get-up performance, Fabio looked at me and said, “Unfortunately, it wasn’t the nicest get-up I’ve ever seen. But I see you have will and an intrepid nature. Therefore, we will give you an opportunity to improve your skills. When we meet again, I want to see a get-up with the Beast on both sides without fault.”
From that moment forward, I put a deep emphasis on my get-up and improving my technique. When I saw Fabio next, I performed my get-up with the Beast as requested. Fabio was satisfied with my performance—a bit—I think.
I still have a lot to learn and perfect with this exercise, but here are the important things I first had to recognize and understand to begin improving:
- Quality above quantity
- Practice is not a workout
- Perfect steps equal no injuries
- Patience and strength improvement are close friends
- Sometimes less is more
- Go slowly—it’s a strength exercise
In the coaching profession, you can always learn new things—I certainly learned many new things about the get-up, and I’m going to share them with you now.
Regarding Faults in the Get-up
I divide get-up faults into two parts:
- If the step itself is close to perfection, but some minor faults are still present that need correction. In this scenario, the student has been taught and knows the entire exercise, but during the performance makes one or more small mistakes. For example, sliding the free hand along his or her thigh and putting it down on the ground. The student did not place his or her hand far enough from the knee, which then impacts the sitting position. If you have multiple faults, try to address each of these small mistakes—in a lot of cases, a difference of only 5cm can determine your future improvement and performance with heavy kettlebells. You can easily get injured if you ignore a movement’s requirements and you do not pay attention to perfection.
- If the whole step is wrong: Start practicing the step correctly using only your bodyweight rather than with the kettlebell. Once you can perform the step perfectly with bodyweight, then return to the kettlebell.
Here are some variations I practice with the beginners in my group:
- Get-up with bodyweight: This allows the student to easily learn each step perfectly
- Get-up with a shoe: This teaches how to keep eyes on the bell and switch head position as required; it also encourages a slow performance
- Get-up with a pen: This teaches that the get-up is not a fast exercise and also how to stabilize the arm during the movement
This get-up with a pen is more difficult than the get-up with a shoe, but it’s a similar progression. The pen, like the shoe, is placed on the top of the gripped hand. From this, the student learns the importance of slow steps and the correct angles. I use this exercise especially with my senior students or those who have back injuries. It seems easy, but it is not simple.
Teaching the Get-up in a Group Setting
One-on-one teaching is simpler than teaching a medium-sized or big group because you focus only on one person and his or her needs. A group needs more attention and will have a variety of needs and goals. It is a big challenge and responsibility for the instructor to pay attention to everybody and control the situation.
In a group setting, you should explain all steps and progressions simply and understandably. The whole group should follow all your movements in the same way.
Most important things:
- Loud and understandable speech
- Simple technical instruction
- Correction at every step
- Slow movements
I’m going to show you how I teach ten to twelve people in a group. If you want to be successful, don’t rush with the steps. Teach only a few steps to the students during any given lesson. This teaching part should take about twenty minutes.
In general, I teach the get-up and the swing within the same lesson. So I do twenty minutes of get-up instruction, thirty minutes of swing instruction (addressing both theory and practice, in both cases), then we revisit the get-up with bodyweight only for five minutes at the end of the lesson. This is imperative when starting to teach the get-up to a beginner group.
- Show one single step
- Explain every important detail
- Stay in the step and make sure every student performed the step perfectly
- Correct the student(s) who performed the step incorrectly
- Repeat the step five times and move on to the next step (work through the way down, as well).
- Do this on both sides
- Standing position
- Reverse lunge
- Windshield wiper
- Hip hinge
- Slide the free hand along the thigh and put it down
- Hip hinge
- Half kneel
- Standing position
- Sitting position, “Show your triceps”
- Reverse elbow to floor
- Parking position
Link the two previous lessons with:
- Sweep and sitting down
- Full bodyweight get-up practice
- Get-up with shoe
- Get-up with kettlebell, focus on grip position, neutral wrist, and spotting
Get-up Spotting: Safety Practice in Pairs
The get-up is a beautiful exercise, but it can be dangerous, as well. Teamwork is important and every student should learn how to spot appropriately. Beginners are sometimes afraid of lifting the kettlebell above their heads, but if a training partner is spotting them, it can create a feeling of safety. Advanced students and even instructors also need a good spot—it is essential when working with heavy bells.
Important advice for spotters:
- Never interrupt the partner who is practicing
- Only touch the kettlebell if you judge the situation to be dangerous or your partner asks for help
- Do not speak to your partner
- Pay attention to the steps and follow your partner, especially when performing the windshield wiper and turning to the half kneel
- Always make sure your hands are close enough to the kettlebell—they should be around or under the bell
Watch this video for an understanding of correct spotting:
My Most Important Advice Regarding the Get-up
1. Wrist and Grip
Your wrist should be in a neutral position during the exercise. In many cases, your wrist will influence the success of the get-up. Therefore, I highly recommend working on your wrist position.
One drill that helps a lot, especially for female students, is to do floor presses. Do them on each side and hold the bell for 30 to 45 seconds. This drill is particularly helpful when it comes to the preparation period before you move up to a heavier bell. One of my female students reached the 40kg get-up and she started with 8kg. She was able to perform the get-up from the very beginning, but marked improvement in her performance could be seen, when she started practicing the floor drill to stabilize her wrist.
In addition, you have to arm wrestle with the bell. If you do so, you will dominate and control the kettlebell. What I mean by this is you must have a strong grip and hold the bell in the correct position. Here is the grip I recommend, especially when practicing with heavy kettlebells.
2. Roll to Elbow + Elbow to Post
During the step known as “roll to the elbow,” students should lie on their forearm. Often, students take the opportunity here to readjust their arm into a different position that they find more comfortable before moving to the next step. This is a very unsafe movement, especially when performing the get-up with heavy kettlebell. Do not readjust your arm.
Try to roll to the elbow in the same way you hold your forearm in the air. You can use the trigger (just like in the case of a single-arm press). Take advantage of the inter-limb reaction—a gripping action in one will cause a gripping response in the other.
The second advantage of this is that you can put down your free hand in the correct place and you can easily turn backward and place your palm on the ground. This is very important to do before the next step, the sweep. If you do this, you can reach the next position “elbow to post” without moving your hand.
3. Reverse Lunge
From the standing position, a good reverse lunge is essential. The first thing is to make sure you or your student steps backward far enough. The resulting angle of the front leg should be ninety degrees.
Also, step a little bit sideways. You will feel more stable when you do the windshield wiper. Place the heel and ankle of the back leg on same line and don’t move your front leg.
After the hip hinge, turn your head toward the kettlebell. Your focus should be on the bell so you don’t lose balance.
You will need to correctly place your free arm without looking—your knee, toes, and free hand have to be on same line. Slide your palm along your thigh and it will show you where to put down your free arm.
The appropriate distance will depend on the student’s height. The distance between the heel and the hand on the floor should be far enough that you can perform the sitting-down step correctly, with the heel, gluteus, and palm on the same line. Place your gluteus on the mid-point of this line, in way that your triceps is outstretched.
Instructions to Provide During the Get-up
Use the following instructions when teaching the get-up to your group. Remember to say them loudly and clearly.
- Parking position – pick up – floor press
- Set down – straddle – knee – forearm up
- Tall sit – forearm down – turn it backward
- Elbow to post – “Show your triceps”
- Move off the floor
- Windshield wiper
- Half kneel
- Stand up
- Sidelong reverse lunge
- Windshield wiper
- Slide hand
- Hand down
- Sit down – sit tall
- Forearm up
- Lower and decelerate – hip, abs, heel, elbow
- Pull down the bell
- Park back
- Switch side
Safety Comes First
As StrongFirst instructors, we take on a great responsibility when we teach our students, and it is important that we as instructors emphasize how to perform the get-up correctly.
I work with many students who suffered injuries prior to coming to me or are currently suffering from illnesses of different natures. Although the get-up is a complex exercise, everybody—including those with health issues or injury histories—can benefit from this exercise since it strengthens the whole body and improves mobility and stability.
All of my students do the get-up in my lessons. Those who have had serious injuries do the get-up with bodyweight only or using a shoe, pen, or lighter kettlebell. With the proper approach, perfect technique is inevitable in all of the exercises StrongFirst teaches. If we keep the above-mentioned requirements, our students can achieve a 40kg get-up performed by a female student or a 60kg get-up performed by a male student.
The teaching advice I share in this article is from my own experience. I hope every StrongFirst instructor can find some useful advice and to apply in his or her work.