Shari Wagner Slow Motion Get-up

At a Dragon Door workshop back in 2010, a Senior RKC taught us how to do slow motion get-ups and my life was forever changed!

In theory, slowing down a get-up sounds simple enough—but you know what they say about “simple but not easy”! When I tried a slow motion get up for the first time, I noticed that I wanted to go through it way too fast. At the workshop, we were instructed to try and take a full minute to get from the floor to standing, and then another full minute to get back to the floor.

I was amazed. Simply slowing down the pace of the get-up amplified every nuance of each step and each movement. The weight is also amplified. At the time, I was able to do a solid get-up with a 16g kettlebell—and sometimes a 20kg. I scoffed when they told the women to use an 8kg kettlebell. Quickly, I realized that when moving slowly, an 8kg kettlebell is no joke! Time under tension is increased—and the whole move is much more difficult.

I found that certain parts of the get-up were excruciatingly had to do slowly—and that the steps requiring mobility in areas where I was tight were the most difficult of all. This slow motion drill was a great lesson. It taught me where I needed to improve my mobility, and where my strength and movement quality needed help.

Shari Wagner kettlebell Get-upSlow motion get-ups are different than doing a get-up at a regular pace and pausing at each step. Perform a slow motion get-up as though you’re watching yourself on video, frame by frame. Definitely pause at each step to check yourself (just as you would in a regular get-up) but move in super slow motion from one step to the next. At first, you may want to try slow motion get-ups with no weight. It’s surprising how challenging this drill can be!

If you find a step where you aren’t able to move in slow motion or where you naturally speed up, then that’s an area that needs some work. You may need to mobilize your hips, shoulders, and/or your thoracic spine. Or, it may be that an area needs more strength and stability. Attack the issue from all angles, but if you feel like your body is stuck, then it’s usually because of a mobility issue.

Another way to improve your technique is to take note of asymmetries in your movements from left to right. These movement asymmetries can also be caused by immobility or lack of strength and/or stability.

Improve Mobility Challenges With These Drills:

When practicing the half get-up (at the elbow or posting to the hand) insufficient thoracic mobility can cause people to slump forward or be unable to get into a tight position with the shoulders packed and the side of the body straight. Another compensation for poor thoracic mobility is compensating by arching the lower back.

Here’s one of my favorite drills to improve thoracic mobility:

Rotational thoracic mobility is also important for the get-up, since the half get-up and half windmill phases are in the transverse plane. Here’s a helpful drill:

For shoulder stability, I love the simplicity of a good waiter’s walk. During the drill, really focus on using your lats to hold your arm overhead. Think about drawing your entire arm and shoulder down into the socket.

The “standing bird dog” is a great drill that delivers a double whammy of shoulder stability, core stability and strength in both areas. Dan John describes it in detail in the Hardstyle Kettlebell Challenge. Start by pressing the kettlebell overhead. Set the arm and shoulder in place, as in a waiter’s walk. Then, lift the leg on the same side (raising the knee up) and hold. When you can no longer keep your balance, put your foot back on the ground and then raise the other leg. Hold then switch the kettlebell to your other arm and repeat the drill.

Good luck with the slow motion get-up and these mobility drills. Please leave your comments below if you’ve tried them before, or if you try the drills for the first time now!


RKC Team Leader Shari Wagner, RKC-II, PCC, CK-FMS owns Iron Clad Fitness in Denver, Colorado. She can be contacted through her website at, email: or by phone 720-900-4766. Follow her on Facebook: and Twitter:


Rubik’s Get-Up

by Annie Vo on May 2, 2018

Annie Vo Get-Up Rubiks Cube
When I first learned to perform a get-up, I was unsure of its purpose. It seemed almost like a series of random movements, ultimately resulting in getting off the floor. Of course, being able to get off the floor safely has its advantages, but even when progressing with resistance, it was still somewhat of a mystery to me.

Sometimes in order to understand new information, it is helpful to liken it to something old. The use of analogies in teaching has been shown to have a positive impact on the way we process new data. Analogies foster learning by highlighting the similarities between what we already know and that which we seek. The mind is complex.

Over the years I have come to think of the get-up like a Rubik’s Cube.

The Rubik’s Cube is a 3-D combination puzzle invented in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Erno Rubik. Originally called the Magic Cube, the goal is to align all of the color-coded squares on each side through a series of pivots. The shifts of the cube are smooth, tracking on an internal core track until the final destination is reached. The cube is considered incomplete if the sides are not aligned appropriately.

Although it is widely misreported that Dr. Rubik created “the cube” to be a teaching tool to help his students understand 3-D objects, his actual purpose was to solve the structural problems of moving parts independently—without the entire mechanism falling apart! In many ways, the get-up has the same goal.

Each movement in the get-up is a pivot from the body’s core joints—the hips and shoulders. The pivoting should be smooth. Once the position is established, all “sides” of the get-up cube should also be aligned. The spine must be straight throughout the get-up. The body’s center of gravity must be balanced between the limbs. The angles of the hips and shoulders positioned to provide maximum support and stability. Each limb, joint and muscle must be arranged and coiled underneath the weight overhead to create a solid foundation.

As you develop your technique, you are likely to discover information about how you move, including strengths and weakness, balances and imbalances, and which areas should be developed. Your get-up is your sculpture. It is constantly evolving. The way you perform each pivot, swivel and shift can reveal or obscure what is truly beneath the surface. If you rush it, then you’ll miss the point.

As a Senior RKC Instructor, I’ve had the privilege of teaching the get-up to hundreds of coaches and kettlebell enthusiasts, spanning a multitude of backgrounds. Throughout my tenure, I’ve noticed that there are three common places in the get-up where symmetry and alignment tend to get neglected, even among experienced get-uppers. Here they are:

Initial Shift to the Elbow

The get-up begins in a lying position and is initiated by rolling up to your (unloaded) side. It is to be performed without any jerking or momentum. Imagine your trunk is one unbending steel rod that must be adjusted by wedging between the hip and shoulder. The result is a straight, stacked vertical line from the ground to overhead—a track as clear as the pathway of a Rubik’s Cube’s axis.

However, often the shoulder of the planted arm is forgotten in the pursuit of this vertical line, and sags forward. This is usually the result of not knowing how to find the alignment, and overcompensating. In short, it may feel like it’s lined up but it isn’t. If this is the case, there is unnecessary pressure on the front of the shoulder. To avoid this, make sure to preserve your vertical line by employing the support of the greatest shoulder stabilizer you have—the lat.

Problem shoulder position—Shoulder is rounded and relaxed.

Problem shoulder position—Shoulder is rounded and relaxed.

Proper shoulder position—Shoulder is aligned and lat is packed.

Proper shoulder position—Shoulder is aligned and lat is packed.

Shift to the “Tall Sit”

When moving from the elbow to the straight arm seated position, the support shoulder has a tendency to rotate forward, therefore “exposing” itself and falling out of alignment. The support arm is arguably the most important part of the “tall sit” portion of the get-up because it determines whether you will be able to support your overhead weight (and bodyweight) while your legs swing under you. The support arm (and opposite leg) are responsible for supporting the body as it is lifted and rotated like a Rubik’s Cube.

To perform this transition with the greatest mechanical advantage, make sure your shoulder is in line with your planted hand and also rotated back and down, to ensure that the lat muscle is engaged.

Problem shoulder position—Shoulder is rounded forward.

Problem shoulder position—Shoulder is rounded forward.

Proper shoulder position—Shoulder is rounded back and in line with the hand.

Proper shoulder position—Shoulder is rounded back and in line with the hand.

Leg Sweep (both directions)

From the “tall sit” position, rotate your leg under your body, and place your knee on the ground. Sometimes people don’t bring the leg far enough under, on the way up. Remember, the angle of your hips should be roughly 90 degrees. Picture how difficult it would be to twist Dr. Rubik’s contraption if its sides were unaligned.

Conversely, a common mistake on the way down is to place the supporting hand (rather than the knee) out of alignment. It’s important to keep your grounded hand extended just beyond the knee.  A visible, vertical line should begin from the grounded hand, up through both shoulders, and overhead, ending in the kettlebell held firmly at the top.

Problem knee position—The knee is not drawn underneath far enough creating a less than 90 degree angle at the hip.

Problem knee position—The knee is not drawn underneath far enough creating a less than 90 degree angle at the hip.

Problem hand position—The hand is placed out of alignment from the knee.

Problem hand position—The hand is placed out of alignment from the knee.

Proper hand, knee, shoulder alignment—Hips are at 90 degrees and a vertical line is created from grounded hand to KB.

Proper hand, knee, shoulder alignment—Hips are at 90 degrees and a vertical line is created from grounded hand to KB.

These are time-tested tips to help improve your get-up. You’d be surprised how often revisiting these basics can help improve overall performance. Do not lose sight of the fact that your training is constantly evolving and never be afraid to revisit your foundation.

“Mind the edges of the cube or else Hell will literally break loose”

“Mind the edges of the cube or else Hell will literally break loose”


Annie Vo, Senior RKC, PCC Team Leader is a personal trainer, fitness writer and presenter in New York City. Contact her through her website


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emailFacebookGoogle+LinkedinPinterestTwitter The kettlebell community has taught the concept of shoulder packing to stabilize the shoulder for a very long time. I have seen it cued, taught, and discussed for about 14 years! As a Master RKC, I see this concept taught worldwide. But for a long time I’ve wondered if everyone really understands the cues. […]

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emailFacebookGoogle+LinkedinPinterestTwitter I really love teaching others how to train with kettlebells; it’s what I’ve become most passionate about as a fitness professional. Whether online or in-person, I get a deep sense of satisfaction when a client learns a new movement or refines their technique. While it can be exhilarating to learn new kettlebell drills or […]

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