Something Old is New Again: Refining Your Get-up

Being a student of strength means having the courage to challenge habits and biases. Because of its complexity, the get-up offers many opportunities to explore, practice, and improve how we move and express our strength. Director of Education, Brett Jones, offers two get-up refinements: one that improves your body connection and another to avoid a common bridge pitfall. 

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Dalai Lama

As a teacher and presenter, I can fall victim to “only repeating” what I already know—it is after all what I get paid to do. But now and then, a conversation leads to making something old, new again.

A Long History: the Old

Over a decade ago, Gray Cook and I published Kettlebells From the Ground Up—Kalos Sthenos, a 36-page manual and two-DVD set covering one exercise—the get-up. Going back even further, I have been teaching the get-up since 2003 with Pavel. As one of our six core kettlebell skills in the StrongFirst curriculum, the get-up is an exercise that I have used with students at courses, certifications, and individual sessions, as well as performed in my own training countless times. As you can imagine, I’ve also practiced its many variations over the years.

Ok, ok we get it. You’ve done and taught a bunch of get-ups. So what?

Well, I recently embraced two progressions or changes to the get-up.

Heresy you say? Not at all.

New Twists on the Old

My two get-up refinements are:

  1. Changing the down arm’s position when performing the roll to the elbow.
  2. Changing the placement of the bridge, if this get-up variation is on your training menu. Remember that not every variation is right for every person (read about that here).

For the down arm’s position, I would now recommend “rolling” the arm, so the palm is up instead of having the palm down. This external rotation of the shoulder connects the arm to the body better, allows for better lat engagement, and positions the humeral head in a more open position. It also creates more of a rolling action so that instead of having to “leverage” up to the elbow there is a natural roll up. This improvement came from a conversation with Master Instructor Pavel Macek, based on how he performs and teaches the get-up. Thank you.

For the bridge, I would now recommend performing it at the elbow instead of at the hand. By bridging at the elbow, you get a “pure” hip extension and avoid the tendency to “roll” into an over-extended position at the back. A good cue here is “instead of focusing on lifting the hips high, make the distance between the bent knee and corresponding shoulder longer, pulling two ends of the rope in opposite directions—resulting in a straight rope.” Credit: Tommy Blom and Pavel Macek.

Also, remember to push your elbow down into the ground to better position the down arm and shoulder for the bridge.

What Does it Mean for Your “Regular” Get-up?

Does this mean that you “have to” change the position of the down arm for the roll to the elbow? Or that you cannot perform a bridge at the hand (high bridge)? Or that we’ve changed the get-up testing standards? No. But I do recommend that you experiment with these options—be curious about what you might learn in these new positions.

Give these a try and let us know what you think on the StrongFirst Forum. If you are unsure about the move or these progressions, find an Accredited Gym in your area to get in-person get-up instruction.

Brett Jones
Brett Jones is StrongFirst’s Director of Education. 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—e-mail him for more info.

Brett is the author of Iron Cardio.

Follow him on Twitter at @BrettEJones.
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11 thoughts on “Something Old is New Again: Refining Your Get-up

  • I must have missed something. I have always done the low sweep and never realized that StrongFirst teaches the bridge. In my S&S book (part 1) I haven’t seen that. What does the bridge accomplish in terms of strength? How does the low-bridge improve that application?

    • Steve,
      The SFG technique standard is the low sweep—the bridge or bridge at the elbow are simply options for an established Get-up.
      The bridge lets us look at the ability to extend each hip—important for our swings etc…

  • Thanks very much for this Sir,
    I had a chance to play with both today and I really love the cue of making the distance between the up knee and shoulder longer at the bridge on the elbow.

    Thank you for clarifying about the bridge to pull through.

    I did really find it easier to keep the down shoulder packed with the palm up (with a fiat). Especially after rolling back.

    Very much appreciate your dedication to learning.

    As always – Leading From The Front-
    Thank you.

  • Great simple tips! Especially the elbow/hand shoulder packing seems so obvious when you’ve said it!

  • After the bridge at the elbow return the hips to the ground and then go to the hand for the low sweep.

    • Just posted a question about this in the Instructors Forum. The above clarifies it. Might want to reshoot the video with your above clarification as I was trying to sweep at the elbow and not finding a lot of “room.” Anyway, great article and certainly feel the palm up position is a definite improvement. Maybe even more for what it removes than what it adds. To wit- if the palm of my hand is in contact with the ground- my brain thinks the hand supposed to be doing something, but in the roll to elbow – it really isn’t. So by having the palm up – I am forced to concentrate on the elbow and the shoulder really feeling the humerus, if you will. Always great stuff on the getup. Thanks Brett.

      • Mark – I have a had enough questions on when to sweep the leg that I may shoot a video clarification.
        You can sweep to the knee from the elbow but it is a unique movement.

  • Hi Brett. Thanks for tips. I’m confused about one thing. If you bridge on the elbow instead of the hand, does that mean that you are then sweeping the leg then going to the hand, or going to the hand and then sweeping the leg?

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