Breathe Some Power Into Your Get-Ups

March 7, 2008 09:33 AM

As the saying goes by Pavel in The Naked Warrior, "He who does not master the breath masters nothing". Skilled breathing is essential to generating power, strength, and efficient movement. While much attention is given to breathing during the kettlebell pulls such as swings, cleans, and snatches, it seems as though little has been mentioned about breathing for the Turkish Get-Up (TGU). Just as runners and other various athletes perform rhythmical breathing to enhance performance and reduce the risk of injury, so to should the girevik while executing the TGU.

The kettlebell TGU is an unconventional exercise that can be performed in a variety of ways. It can be performed with a single kettlebell, two kettlebells, using a lunge style movement, or a squat style movement. "How you get up is your own business", according to Pavel in his Enter The Kettlebell DVD. For simplicity, I will discuss breathing applied to the technique of the RKC lunge style TGU.

If we look beyond the basic technique of the TGU, it is possible to classify the movement by the type of muscular contraction involved. The classification most fitting seems to be a dynamic isometric contraction. In simplest terms, isometric refers to muscular contraction with no visible movement, while dynamic refers to movement (concentric and eccentric contractions). So a dynamic isometric movement is a combination of isometric and dynamic contractions.

During the TGU, the wrist and elbow remain locked and static, satisfying the isometric condition. The rest of the body is in constant motion satisfying the dynamic condition, essentially maneuvering itself underneath the vertical arm.

Pavel, in The Naked Warrior, states "You can breathe shallow while staying tight for long exertions, such as isometric and dynamic isometric drills." The TGU can be a long exertion exercise taking several seconds to complete each repetition, depending on the weight used.

Now that the TGU can be classified as a long exertion-dynamic isometric drill and we have established that it is important and proper to perform shallow breathing, I would like to introduce a shallow breathing rhythm to enhance the performance of the TGU.

I propose the Two Breaths Up/Two Breaths Down TGU Breathing Technique (2:2). A breath is defined as one shallow inhalation and one shallow exhalation. While there is no "perfect" way to breathe, this is a method that I have experimented with and have had great success with. Let's take a look.

2:2 TGU Breathing Technique

The following is a step-by-step explanation of how the 2:2 TGU Breathing Technique would be executed for the (single KB) RKC lunge style TGU technique.

The Get "Up"
(2 Power Breaths)

-Begin with a sharp nasal inhalation before initiating any movement.
-Next, start the TGU by compressing the mid-section and releasing a tight exhalation ("sst") as you come up to the Half Get-Up position (arm overhead with opposite hand flat on floor with elbow extended), while briefly holding the breath until reaching this position. This is one breath.
-Now, take another sharp nasal inhalation while transitioning into the lunge position. Briefly hold the breath, staying compressed, and then drive up to the standing position exhaling with a "sst".
We're half way through the TGU and that is two breaths.

The Get "Down"
(2 Power Breaths)

-Start down with another sharp nasal inhalation. Briefly hold the breath in as you navigate through finding the knee to the floor and planting the palm of the free hand on the ground. You are now bridged in the "T" position and prepared for the leg sweep. Upon sweeping the leg through you will let out a tight, shallow exhalation ("sst").
-We're now in the Half Get-Up position and to finish we'll take the last sharp nasal inhalation. Hold the breath briefly as you find the elbow, then the shoulder to the ground, while keeping the lats and midsection tight (on the kettlebell side) with high intra-abdominal pressure (IAP).
-Lastly, finish off the movement by finding the "Get Up" shoulder to the ground while releasing some IAP by a tight, shallow exhalation.

There you have it: The 2:2 TGU Breathing Technique! I have had great success with this method in improving the focus, strength, power, and movement economy of my Turkish Get-Ups.

I have found it to be superior to other breathing methods for the following reasons: A 1:1 breathing ratio seems to encourage haste and holding the breath for too long, both of which can pose safety threats. Anything more than a 2:2 breathing ratio seems to be excessive, proving inefficient. I encourage you to experiment with this method and other breathing methods to up the status of your Turkish Get-Ups.

Eric Stiegman ATC, CSCS, RKC is a strength coach based out of Nashville, IL. He owns and operates Winning Edge Training, where he specializes in the application of kettlebells for improved golf performance. He is also a competitive long driver, qualifying for the Illinois and Missouri Districts in the Remax Long Drive Competition in 2007. Contact him at winningedge@sbcglobal.net or check out his website www.KettlebellGolf.com.