I’m willing to admit that until I attended Strong First Girya level II, I hadn’t been doing the best version of kettlebell windmills. As I had previously learned them, I thought the entire goal was to see how much weight you could hold overhead as you reached to touch the floor. It always seemed like a good stretch, I could feel my hamstrings, and let’s face it, going to the ground always looked really cool for Instagram. However, at SFG II, it didn’t even take one rep before one of the assistants was by my side to rein me in.
“You don’t have the mobility to go that low,” he advised.
I’m not going to lie – for a brief moment, I felt insulted.
Teasing, I said, “I can do the splits on both sides, what do you mean I don’t have the mobility to go that low?”
He laughed and insisted I try the next couple of reps as SFG instructed. I put my pride aside and tried a few reps with the adjustments – immediately I felt my lats fire and my core engage.
“Holy crap! That’s an entirely different exercise,” I said – happily taking a break after just three reps.
“Exactly,” was his only reply.
It turns out, as I was reaching to the floor during that first rep, I was losing my spinal integrity. This means that I was going beyond the point where I could maintain support from my abdominals, and instead my ribcage was detaching, turning off my core in the process. As you can guess, having a certain amount of weight above your head without support from your core is far from desirable, and even more so, it is far from being safe. Take a look at the screenshots posted above and see if you need to make adjustments to your own windmill practice.
Notice in the image on the left, even while tilting to the side, my ribcage remains in line with my hips, and therefore my spinal column is moving as one piece. In the image on the right, I have moved passed my point of integrity, and am crunching on my right side to reach the floor. Thus my left ribs are flared, my core is shut off, and I’m completely relying on my shoulder stability to keep that kettlebell from crashing to the floor – or possibly, in an even worse scenario, onto the top of my head. I recognize that what I’m talking about may be hard to see in these frozen frames, so I’ve included below a video showing a rep of each variation on both sides. My apologies for the gratuitous glutes shot, but what I’m discussing is more clearly seen from behind. (#notthatsorry) Check out the video and see if you can pinpoint the moment on each side that my ribcage says buh-bye to core stability.
So here’s the thing…I learned the way I was previously instructing an exercise wasn’t the best. Am I upset? Hell no! This is what continuing education is all about and it’s precisely why it is so important. I’m thrilled that I learned something new and got to improve on a great exercise/tool. Too often I meet trainers who seem to think that there is a point when he/she can stop learning and improving on his/her craft. I find this to be a very dangerous trait. I’ve had several people ask me why I’ve gone after multiple kettlebell certifications, and I can honestly say that I have learned something new at every one I’ve attended. It’s one of the reasons I find kettlebells to be such an unparalleled tool for health and fitness – there is always room for improvement, your best rep can always be made better. If I could throw out just one piece of advice for trainers and fitness enthusiasts alike, it would be to stay curious. There is always more to do, see, touch, feel, and learn. I only hope to see you there!
Got further questions regarding the kettlebell windmill? Want to know if the windmill is the right exercise for you? Reach out to me here! I’d be delighted to work with you further.