3 Kettlebell Windmill Stances to Improve Athleticism
The Kettlebell Windmill is an excellent movement for improving core strength and spinal mobility, but is not commonly varied. Here are three different stances to vary the difficulty and impact of this great Kettlebell exercise.
The Kettlebell Windmill in the Kettlebell community is practiced regularly, but not commonly varied. This article centers on reevaluating or expanding the untapped potential of the Windmill for those who are familiar with this exercise.
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Traditionally, the Kettlebell Windmill is practiced for a variety of reasons: first, it can be used to demonstrate how to load the heel; second to mobilize the hip; and, third to pack the shoulder in a lateral plane of motion.
This is important because, in the three planes of motion, moving side to side is most commonly the least trained. Yet, when you look at the fascial lines of the body, there is a tremendous amount of untapped power in the lateral lines.
Considering that the audience reading this article is already familiar with fascial lines and the three planes of motion, my focus is to open the discussion concerning varied stances.
Here are 3 Kettlebell Windmill Stances to Improve Your Athleticism
Kettlebell Windmill Stance #1: Traditional
The Traditional Kettlebell Windmill Stance is often seen with a wide base where an individual internally rotates the hip while externally rotating the torso to the locked out elbow of the overhead loaded position.
However, many practitioners progress this stance in a slightly wider position where the heels line up and the toes of the loaded hip face directly ahead while the toes of the unloaded hip externally rotate to the unloaded side (see above).
The advantage of this progression has many of the same benefits of the Triangle Pose in Yoga.
Not only does it open the Lower Pelvic Hip Complex, it more importantly teaches the individual to load the hips and activate the Obliques so to better internally rotate the shoulder to the finished overhead position.
It also helps an individual understand the importance the lat plays in keeping the cervical spine stable and the T-spine engaged and mobile.
This is important because not only do many beginners not know how to utilize their Lats, many of them also do not realize that the Kettlebell Windmill is as much a hinge as the Swing and the Snatch. Consequently, it is most often untrained and very often asymmetrical.
When an individual starts to incorporate a Triangle Stance in his or her Kettlebell Windmill, he or she is better able to not only hinge, but better understand the importance of the Core; i.e., the midsection.
This is because he or she is learning to load the hip slowly and become aware of how asymmetrical his or her hip mobility has become.
Think of this small adjustment in the traditional stance as Yoga with iron.
Unlike an unloaded Triangle Pose that just teaches how tight the plane of motion is, adding the Kettlebell to this traditional Yoga stance teaches an individual to leverage the weight back to its original position by loading the weighted side.
More importantly, the particular position of the feet teaches an individual not to indirectly mobilize what should be stable for example, the knee or low back.
Instead it forces the participant to mobilize the hip and activate the T-spine and stabilize the knee and low back. Indirectly, it opens many fascial lines that improve an individual’s swing, snatch and dead life as well.
Kettlebell Windmill Stance #2: Heel-to-Heel
However, as many practioners of the windmill search for ways to make it more challenging, the most straightforward and simple way to do so is to narrow the stance. Bringing the heels together makes the movement pattern significantly more advanced (see above).
It is important to note that many individuals will not progress to this stance.
Yet those who understand how well the Kettlebell Windmill can improve their Hinge and Squat, will also understand that a more advanced hinge and squat requires a significantly stronger midsection and far more mobility in the hips and ankles.
If this mobility and strength are acquired, this off-set first position stance not only makes the individual much stronger, but certainly teaches an individual how to move under weight.
It then can indirectly become a great preliminary movement for learning a variety of bent press variations. The reason for this is because a great deal of mobility is required prior to learning the bent press.
Because in order for someone to stay stable in this narrow stance, he or she must perfect how best to move the hips under the weight and pack the shoulder well enough to keep the weight in the position it began.
Simply put, he or she will learn to move under a stable weight and the foot position will assist an individual in making sure that mobility is coming from the ankles, hips and T-spine and not from the knees, low back and neck.
Kettlebell Windmill Stance #3: Corkscrew
The last stance is The Corkscrew. Building off of what was said above; many people will improve their press by simply learning this final variation.
If the first stance teaches you how to improve the asymmetries of your right and left side and the second stance teaches you how much more stable you will become by moving under weight with your hips, The Corkscrew will teach you that the body does not really work in straight lines. Rather, it works more cohesively in spirals. (See above.)
The Corkscrew, although similar to a standard Windmill, changes the foot position and allows an individual to slowly realize how important T-spins mobility is to pressing and pulling.
Assuming at this stage from previous practice with The Traditional Windmill stance and a Heel to Heel stance of funky ballet, the practitioner of a Corkscrew Windmill should have sufficient mobility on both sides of the body and will have an adequate understanding of moving under a weight with a less stable base.
The Corkscrew adds T-spine mobility and centers on an individual addressing asymmetries in his or her T-spine before learning the press. I am not advocating that this be learned before a press, but it will help someone understand how important it is to lock the elbow and more importantly understand why his or her press may be less powerful on one side or the other.
In addition it will really help someone to understand how to rotate back to the overhead position after he or she has leveraged him or herself under the weight above. Granted, I am speaking to people who understand the movement pattern already and for those who do, he or she can see that will translate well, not only for the bent press but also the side press.
Perhaps even more importantly, it could serve as an excellent regression for any individual struggling to learn the bent press or the side press. This is because practitioners will have time to build adequate strength in the T-spine on both the right and left side before adding elbow extension to the movement.
In summary, the intent of this article is not to change your mind about the windmill. Instead it is to share the idea that a subtle change in stance could not only improve asymmetries in the right and left side of the body it could also provide building blocks to teach individuals more advanced overhead positions before progressing to more advanced exercises. My hope is this article opens the discussion on a variety of other stances that may have not been thought of for the Windmill as a whole.
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Zach Blain owns and operates Dynamic Fitness, LLC located in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Zach uses unconventional training methods to achieve the best results for his clients. Zach uses a wide variety of equipment, including clubs, maces, sledgehammers, kettle bells, sand bags, and body weight to maximize efficient movement patterns. Zach uses the saturation or greasing the groove training methods. Zach prefers to use low repetition, pattern specific movements that enable the body to slowly gain increased efficiency in all planes of motion.
Zach grew up in Southern Oregon, played multiple sports, and has a background in martial arts and dance. After graduating college, Zach spent eight years overseas where he developed some of the training and techniques he uses today. facebook.com/zach.blain