Jun 23, 2017
Shouldering the Weight

The kettlebell can be used in a multitude of difference exercises. For coaches looking to utilize this piece of equipment in a new way, the kettlebell windmill is a great addition as an exercise that both stretches and strengthens athletes’ bodies.

In an article for StrongFirst, Brett Jones, CSCS, explains that the hip and posterior chain are affected twofold during this exercise. First, they are the main focus of the stretch because they are extended as the athlete moves downward in the first part of the exercise. They are then strengthened when used to help the athlete move back up into starting position.

Beyond the hip, Jones states that this exercise also helps to strengthen the core, while increasing the stability of the scapula/shoulder, and possibly also stretching the anterior chest. Athletes might also feel a stretch in their hamstrings, although if they are actively searching to feel this, their technique could suffer.

“In the windmill, students expect a stretch in the hamstrings, so they turn the windmill into a variation on the ‘good morning’ exercise, overemphasizing the ‘reach with the hips’ concept to find that stretch,” writes Jones.

“Proper execution of a drill is/should be the goal and where the individual student ‘feels’ the effect of that drill can and will vary based on individual structure, restrictions, or hyper-mobility,” he continues. “Always be sure the focus is on the execution not the expectation.”

In a blog for Lifting Revolution, Kindal Boyle breaks down the most basic technique for the kettlebell swing:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Turn your feet to the left. The right foot should turn about 30-degrees and the left foot about 45-degrees.
  3. Firmly grip the kettlebell with your right hand and raise it overhead. Your arm should be straight and close to your ear.
  4. Look up at your right hand and hinge your hips to the right. Your hip should be at about the same 30-degree line as your right foot.
  5. Keep your right leg straight and your eyes on the kettlebell as you bend at the hip and lower your upper body. Your left leg can bend slightly, and most of the weight should be kept on the right leg.
  6. Lower to a position that is comfortable for your mobility.
  7. Once you hit that position, pull the hips back in, push up through your back leg, and return to standing position. Your eyes should be on the kettlebell at all times.
  8. Switch sides and repeat.

According to Jones, when doing the kettlebell windmill, your free arm can be in multiple positions. One option is to keep it straight, reaching towards the ground. You can also use it as a guide, riding it down the inside of your front leg. Last, the arm can be placed behind your back, which will make the chest and thoracic spine open up.

When beginning with the windmill, Jones suggests using only bodyweight. Once an athlete is comfortable with the technique, they can move to the low windmill, which involves the same technique and movements with the kettlebell switched to the lower hand. Then athletes can move on to the full overhead kettlebell windmill. If your athlete is more advanced, they can add to the exercise by holding a kettlebell in each hand.

Check out this video from Strong First to see the progression to the full overhead kettlebell windmill in action.

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