The benefits of the TGU.
The TGU is a highly functional movement requiring all the muscles of the body to work together as one unit in order to complete the task. It will give you:
Greater strength, mobility and stability throughout your body, especially in your shoulders
Full body strength, working your legs, glutes, shoulders, core, back, triceps, and forearms
Improved flexibility Cardiovascular endurance Increased coordination and proprioceptive skills.
The TGU should be learnt alongside the swing in the early stages of your kettlebell training. In fact, as outlined above, it will give you the required shoulder stability you need before you ever do any kettlebell pressing movements. So, how do you start with this terrific exercise?
Initially with no weight. For point of visual reference, you could use one of the discarded shoes you have already taken off in order to perform kettlebell work. Bare feet, flat soled or one of the many minimalist shoes recently coming on to the market only please.
Simply hold the shoe up above you just as if it were a kettlebell. This will help you to maintain a straight arm position and allow you to fix your gaze onto something. Perform the exercise equally on both sides and try to resist the temptation to prioritise your predominant side.
Once you are confident with your form and it feels assured and smooth, progress to some weight. This could be a kettlebell or a light dumbbell. This exercise does translate better to dumbbells than the majority of kettlebell exercises.
How to do it: (For the purpose of description, I am describing a right handed TGU)
1. Lie on your back with a kettlebell positioned to the right of you and roll round to your right to face the kettlebell. Grasp with two hands and then roll back bringing the kettlebell to a position above your head. Once it’s steady remove the left hand. From this point on, keep the arm locked, do not take your eyes of the kettlebell and keep a strong straight wrist
2. Bend your right leg to a right angle and pull it in as close to your back side as possible. Keep the left leg straight and try to lengthen it as much as possible. Now actively pull your shoulder back into its socket by retracting your shoulder blade.
3. Now Imagine you have a pole projecting out of your opposing hip, in this case the left. Sway the arm towards this pole to produce some momentum. As you do so attempt to get up on to your left elbow using abdominal strength. Get it right and it should be fairly effortless. Remember to not allow your right leg to collapse inwards as you do this, keep it strong.
4. Once up on your elbow, push up onto your left hand. This should be at an angle of 45 degrees to the ground
5. Now push your hips upwards as high as possible. You should have a straight line from the kettlebell right down to the opposing hand that is in contact with the floor. From this point, sweep your left leg round and back underneath you, finishing up on your knee. The knee should end up in a position whereas you are able to so perform a lunge. Then simply straighten up your body. You should now be in the lunge position. Your eyes should still be focused on the kettlebell.
6. From here, squeeze the handle of the kettlebell hard. As you rise, grunt hard and maintain high intra-abdominal pressure. Stand up with the kettlebell, bringing both feet together. Lean back into the kettlebell as you stand. At this point which is the completion of the upward part of the movement, your eyes should be looking straight ahead. Pause and prepare to reverse the movement.
7. To reverse, drop back down to your left knee. Then place your left hand down.
8. Raise up the hips and then move your left leg back to the starting position. Drop, carefully back down to a sitting position, then your elbow and finally back down to a lying position.
9. From here adopt a two arm grip on the kettlebell and roll back round on your side to release the kettlebell. Remember the lift is not completed until the kettlebell is properly rested on the ground.
As with all single kettlebell exercises, remember to maintain the work load equally between the two sides. It’s OK to get the technique down on one side first but be sure that once you’ve done this that you switch to working both sides equally. You should never get to the position whereby you are lifting a 24KG with one side and only a 16KG on the other. Progress slowly with this exercise.
You should be able to perform multiple reps before attempting a new weight. There is no benefit in increasing the weight at the expense of correct form. This will inevitably lead to injury and a loss of training time. Incorporating the TGU into a workout.
I will often incorporate this exercise into a mixed kettlebell session. For example: Perform a single TGU on either side and then, with no rest, 1 minute of swings. Then 2 TGU’s followed by 2 sets of swings with 30 seconds rest between each swing set. Then continue in this fashion until you are up to 5 sets. Then, if you are feeling up to it, come back down the ladder until you hit 1 repetition again.
This is a great little combination, working the two of the best kettlebell exercises in a mini circuit.
• Always start with minimal weight. Take off your shoes (you shouldn’t be wearing them anyway) and use one of them as an object to focus on.
• Constantly keep your eye on the kettlebell except for at the very top position. This will help prevent the kettlebell going wayward.
• Have a good sized workout space and be prepared to let the kettlebell go if you feel as though you are about to lose control of it so if you are worried about your parquet flooring then perhaps you could try it outside.
• Remember to keep your shoulder pulled down into its socket at all times.
• Keep a straight wrist and do not allow it to be pulled into extension.
• Start with a maximum of 5 reps per side and increase as and when your strength allows.
• As you move into each position, ask yourself, Could I sit here for a minute? If not, shift your position until you can.