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Master the Kettlebell Windmill Exercise with 4 Logical Progressions

By Greg Brookes
Kettlebell Windmill

The Kettlebell Windmill exercise is a highly effective kettlebell movement that works deep into the shoulders, strengthens the core muscles and improves overall joint mobility.

The windmills exercise with a kettlebell would be classed as a more advanced movement.

The windmill exercise can be performed in a number of ways, loaded in the bottom hand, loaded in the top hand, and loaded in both hands. You can also perform the dumbbell windmill if you do not have access to a kettlebell.

You can also keep the front leg straight or with a slight bend.


Kettlebell Windmill Benefits

The kb windmill is a full body exercise that requires good joint mobility as well as joint stability.

So kettlebell windmills act as an exercise to help strengthen the body from the inside out.

Practicing the windmill exercise will help protect your body against injuries by conditioning the small stabilising muscles so the larger muscles have a stronger platform to work off.

The kettlebell windmill should be not thought of a big strength building exercise like the overhead press but more of a mobilising and stabilising movement.

Kettlebell windmills exercise will:

  1. Increase hip and hamstring flexibility
  2. Strengthen the oblique core muscles
  3. Improve shoulder mobility and stability

How to do the Kettlebell Windmill Exercise

Watch a video of the basic top hand kb windmill exercise:


Teaching Points and Form

Here are the basics of how the kb windmill is performed with the kettlebell in the top hand.

  • Feet should be double hip width
  • Both feet pointing 45 degrees in one direction
  • Load the back heel pushing the hip out
  • Raise the rear hand keeping it straight
  • Focus on the top hand
  • Keep both legs straight as you lower taking the bottom hand over the knee towards the floor
  • Drive back up to the top position and ensure that you straighten the body

You will instantly notice during the movement that if you keep both legs straight that good flexibility is required through the hips and hamstrings.

If you find that you cannot reach the floor or opposite ankle without bending your knees then you have two options:

  1. Keep the knees straight and go down as far as possible
  2. Bend the front knee slightly and reach the floor, with time gradually reduce the bend in the knee until the leg is straight and you can reach the floor

I highly recommend that you practice the windmill without a kettlebell before advancing to the loaded kettlebell windmill as mentioned above.

Note that you can also replace the kettlebell with a dumbbell and perform a dumbbell windmill if you do not have access to any kettlebells.


4 Progressions to Safely Master the Exercise

As mentioned earlier the kettlebell windmill is a very demanding exercise on the shoulders and your hip and hamstring flexibility.

In order to avoid injury and to get the most from this kettlebell exercises I recommend that you progress the windmill exercise as follows:

1. Windmill Warm Up (no kettlebell)

Windmill exercise with no kettlebell
Windmill exercise with no kettlebell

Start by just practicing the movement without a kettlebell.

Keep the legs straight and see whether you can touch the floor or opposite ankle.

Take your time, this is a strong stretch that has gravity on its side.

Can you manage 5 good repetitions on each side?


2. Overhead Kettlebell Hold

kettlebell overhead hold and walk
Straight Arm Overhead Hold

The kettlebell windmill works deep into the shoulder stabilisers.

As you descend through the movement the instability of the kettlebell overhead makes the shoulder stabilisers work very hard.

Before you practice the full decent of the kettlebell windmill I recommend that you practice just holding the kettlebell overhead.

Can you hold the kettlebell overhead with a straight arm for 60 seconds?

Want more? 7 overhead static kettlebell exercises for injury-free shoulders


3. Bottom Hand Kettlebell Windmill

Next you should practice the kettlebell windmill with the kettlebell held in the bottom hand.

Keep the other arm overhead as if holding a kettlebell. Descend slowly and with control.

Can you reach the floor with the kettlebell keeping both legs straight?


4. Top Hand Kettlebell Windmill

Kettlebell Windmill Exercise
Kettlebell Windmill exercise

Finally we are on to the official kettlebell windmill with the kettlebell held in the top hand.

Remember to descend slowly keeping the hips slightly rocked out to the side.

Keep your eyes on the kettlebell all the way down and up.

Can you touch the opposite ankle or floor keeping the legs straight?


Advanced Kettlebell Windmill Variation

Once you have mastered the standard top handed kettlebell windmill then you can add a second kettlebell to the bottom hand.

You should have already practiced the windmill with a kettlebell in the bottom hand and also one in the top hand so this is just a case of overloading the movement.

The addition of an extra kettlebell increases the demands on the core muscles as well as the hamstrings.

Kettlebell windmill using 2 kettlebells one in each hand
Double kettlebell windmill exercise

Learn more: Top 5 double kettlebell exercises 


Kettlebell Windmill Workout

The kettlebell windmill whether performed with one or two kettlebells is a slow and controlled movement.

For the inexperienced the top shoulder with get tired very quickly.

You should keep the repetitions low.

Kettlebell windmill workout:

  1. Kettlebell Windmill – left hand x 5 reps
  2. Kettlebell Windmill – right hand x 5 reps
  3. Rest 60 seconds and repeat for up to 3 circuits

I always recommend starting out with your weakest arm and never performing more on your stronger side.

The kettlebell windmill also makes an excellent warm up exercise before performing more demanding exercises.

You need to be careful when warming up with the windmill that you don’t overdo it and leave your shoulder stabilisers weak for future exercises.

Again keep the repetitions low, 5 each side should do it.


Conclusion

The kettlebell windmill exercise is a more advanced movement that works deep into the core and shoulder muscles as well as improving hip mobility.

The kettlebell exercise should be progressed logically, first starting out with no kettlebell then adding one to the bottom hand and finally to the top hand. The more advanced variation loads both hands.

Take your time throughout the exercise descending slowly and with control.

Work on increasing the depth of the windmill while still maintaining perfect technique.

Keep the repetitions low when using this exercises as a warm up or stand alone movement and be careful not to over fatigue the shoulder stabiliser muscles before a more demanding workout.

Best of luck and enjoy the windmills.

How do you find the windmill exercise? Let me know below…

10 best kettlebell workouts
What does the windmill exercise work?

The windmill exercise opens up the hips, stretches the hamstrings and strengthens the core and shoulder muscles.

How do you do a kettlebell windmill?

The windmill is performed by turning the feet to 45 degrees, pushing the hips out and then reaching down steadily with your weight on the back leg.

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    1. Karen Conrad Avatar
      Karen Conrad

      Would having a bicep issue impair your achievement of managing the windmill properly?

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Possibly Karen, it all depends on your mobility and stability in the position. Practice without a kettlebell first and see how you get on.

    2. Raphael Ferdinand De Guzman Avatar
      Raphael Ferdinand De Guzman

      I tried it earlier as part of S&S warmup(after halos)…

      and now my back feels SORE.

      Must be because of wrong mechanics and/or weak muscles on the area.

      1. Greg Brookes Avatar

        Yes you should not feel it in your back, practice the exercise without a kettlebell and also with the kettlebell in the bottom hand first. Only 5 reps each side. Best of luck.

    3. JamesBond Avatar
      JamesBond

      Excellent, thanks.