Kettlebell Windmill for Increased Mobility and Core Stability

Kettlebell Windmills for a healthy back

Kettlebell Windmill
KB Windmill Bottom position. Steve Cotter/IKFF

Most people love training with kettlebells because of the unique blend of strength, power, endurance, flexibility, and mobility that can be developed through consistent and varied training with them.

While it's subjective to determine which quality is most important - strength, endurance, balance, body composition, flexibility, power or something else, there is a natural tendency that as a person matures (a nice word for saying aging) pain-free movement that is easy and free from restriction becomes higher value. Conversely, while young, healthy and injury-free, qualities such as strength and power are very attractive focal points for exercise programs, it is only a matter of time in years before a person naturally gravitates toward a more holistic focus on mobility and quality of movement in a pain-free body.

The good news is that kettlebells are exceptional for developing multiple qualities and unlike programs which focus on heavy lifting as the centerpiece, they lend very well towards increasing flexibility, mobility, and ease-of-movement.

One of the most beneficial exercises for increasing overall mobility and flexibility and facilitating healthy, pain-free low backs is the Kettlebell Windmill.

The windmill simultaneously exercises the midsection and lateral hip and improves stability and strength in an overhead position, while also enhancing overall body flexibility. The kettlebell Windmill has some similarities to the Yoga Triangle posture but adds a dynamic resistance to the shoulder. Use this guide to learn the Kettlebell Windmill in stages to be sure of good form and safety.

Stance can be either toes-angled to one side or toes pointing forward.

Toes-Angled Stance

With feet pointing forward and shoulder-width apart, pivot on the heels to the left at approximately 45 degrees. The left foot is now the front foot and the right is the rear foot.

Bring right arm overhead with biceps touching your ear and turn the left palm forward with back of left hand against the inside of your left thigh. Bodyweight shifts maximally to the rear (right) leg and push your right lateral hip maximally to the side.

Do NOT shift to the forward leg at any portion of the movement. Look up to the high hand and rotate your upper torso toward the hand until you feel your chest lifted and facing up toward the ceiling.

Toes-Forward Stance

Start with your feet pointing forward and shoulder-width apart. Balance your body weight directly over the center of your base of support. Upper body will naturally rotate to compensate for the reduced angle of the hips in the toes forward position (as compared to the toe-angled stance).

Try both the toe-angled stance and toes-forward stance to determine which stance feels most comfortable for you.

Windmill Preparation

Hold a rope, exercise band, or stick by both ends. Adopt your preferred stance with one hand high one hand low and the rope, band, or stick behind the back. Feel the rope, stick or band open up your chest and stabilize your scapula by pinching them together behind you. Keep this elongated and stable feeling throughout the full range of motion. With the chest open and facing upward, inhale as you push the rear hip out to the side and pull down with the bottom hand to lower your upper body down. Return to the start position by lifting up through pulling with the rear hip and simultaneously pulling with the top hand. First master the positioning and alignment with this drill and then maintain the alignment as you add a kettlebell in your top hand.

Key Points to Remember

  • Crease at the hips, not at the waist or low back
  • Keep arms locked into the shoulder socket by contracting the lat muscles and squeezing the scapulae (shoulder blades) together
  • Keep the ribcage open and expanded
  • Eyes focus on the kettlebell
  • Keep the back leg straight and weight-bearing (front leg may bend a little)
  • Track lower hand along the inside of front leg; never reach the bottom hand outside of your base of support
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