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February 13, 2022
Are you looking to level-up your workout routine with functional movements that challenge your skillset and build incredible physical durability? The kettlebell windmill is one exercise in particular that is worth supplementing into your program.
Before we get into the details of the windmill, let’s go over what “functional movement” really means. Functional movements are categorized as multi-joint and multi-planar movement patterns that aim to build strength, mobility, and durability, with an emphasis on core engagement. The kettlebell windmill is just that - it is full-body and functional due to its activation of many muscles as well as targeting the core musculature.
Once the movement is broken down, it is clear how the kettlebell windmill can benefit the body in various ways.
There are multiple progressions and regressions to the windmill as well as alternatives that can be incorporated to goal-specific programming. Unlock a new skill of learning the windmill and start utilizing its benefits in your training routine.
Table of Contents:
The kettlebell windmill is an advanced movement pattern that targets full body stability and strength. This movement requires proper mobility through the mid-back, shoulders and hips. The windmill can lead to improvements in joint mobility, increase muscular stability and adds training variability to non-sagittal plane movement patterns. With all that combined, you get increased durability, or in other words, you become more injury resilient.
This movement can be performed in many ways including loading the bottom hand, the top hand, and loading both hands. Leg positions can be altered with either a straight legged position or slightly bent knees. Torso rotation is another factor that adds variety to the windmill position. The torso can either stack in the horizontal plane or sagittal plane. With whichever variation of the windmill, the same training benefits apply. It is crucial to understand and practice proper windmill mechanics before introducing heavy load to the movement pattern. We’ll go over how to do a high hold (top hand is loaded) windmill below.
Implementing the kettlebell windmill in your routine can help protect your body against injuries. The windmill conditions the smaller musculature (stabilizer muscles) which in turn help the larger muscles do their job by creating a strong, stable foundation. Not only is the windmill a stabilizing and mobilizing movement, it offers great potential strength gains for the entire body.
Let’s breakdown additional windmill benefits:
The windmill is especially beneficial for athletes looking to improve joint mobility, rotation and stabilization in varying joint positions. A crucial skill set that athletes have is the ability to generate force in a less than optimal position. The bottom position of the windmill is difficult to stabilize and requires full-body muscular recruitment to drive out of the “hole” of the windmill. The windmill allows athletes to tap into this skillset and build strength through various ranges of motion.
The kettlebell windmill works a large group of musculature. Below is the breakdown of each muscle group:
Start by learning this movement pattern without any weight. Run through bodyweight repetitions and slowly introduce a light kettlebell to the movement. This how-to is based off of the high hold windmill.
It’s especially important to keep repetitions low while establishing proper technique of the kettlebell windmill. Depending on training goals, there are several ways to efficiently program windmills in a progressive way. Below are programming recommendations depending on specific training goals and different populations. There are many ways to integrate the windmill, below are recommendations on where to start.
The following movements are listed from least to most advanced variations for the windmill.
1. Low Hold Kettlebell Windmill:
This variation is a regression to the single arm, overhead windmill. With this one, you hold the kettlebell with the arm that is reaching to the floor rather than the one that is overhead. It is a good starting point for those who may struggle with coordinating the windmill. Loading the bottom arm slightly shifts the focus of the windmill. Instead of stabilizing a weight overhead, the bottom position allows more feedback for the hip hinge and drive back up into the start position.
2. Kneeling Kettlebell Windmill:
This variation can be either considered a progression or regression depending on any weak points found within the windmill position. The kneeling position allows for more feedback through the ground. Since the bottom arm is closer to the ground, it can support the bottom of the position with the hand or even the forearm, depending on the desired range of motion.
3. Double Kettlebell Windmill:
This variation is a progression to the single arm, overhead windmill. The two kettlebell windmill requires both arms to load in the position. This variation may uncover any imbalances in the descending phase of the movement. The bottom arm needs to stay especially active and close to the leg that is staggered.
4. Kettlebell Windmill to Bent Press:
The bent press or side press in the bottom of the windmill positions adds a challenge for core stability and shoulder strength. This position also requires the shoulders ability to retract and stabilize through the press. This variation can also be done with 2 kettlebells in hand.
The following alternatives are listed from least to most advanced movements. These movements patterns directly correlate with the windmill and can help ease the body into understanding and replicating windmills with proper technique.
1. Overhead Hold:
Single arm overhead holds are a great starting point to establish a strong overhead position along with proper mobility. In the overhead position, connection through the abdominal muscles and bracing can be improved.
2. Arm Bar:
This movement is performed in a supine position while keeping the weight stacked in a chest press position. From the starting position, the objective is to rotate the body away from the weight while keeping the load stacked. This is similar to the rotating portion of the windmill. Arm bars increase shoulder isometric strength and stability.
3. Side/Bent Press:
Bent presses target the position that is replicated in the bottom range of motion of the windmill. Bent presses are considered to be an advanced movement but can be simplified by decreasing the load or using a dumbbell instead of a kettlebell.
4. Turkish Get Up:
Similar to the windmill, the TGU requires full-body stability and control. The shoulder joint, hips and knees are all challenged to move in proper range under load. This movement takes the body through different planes and can apply both to athletes and the general public who are looking to improve functionality through movement.
Related: Turkish Get Up Exercise Guide
Full-body, functional movements like the windmill require the activation of many muscles, multiple joint movements in various planes as well as targeting the core musculature. The windmill benefits the body in various ways when it is performed with proper technique and progressive overload. When windmill progressions and variations are incorporated in goal-specific programming, it unlocks new skills for both athletes and the general population of movers. What are you waiting for, start utilizing its benefits in your training routine!
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