Exercise of the Week: Half-Kneeling Kettlebell Windmill
Written on June 11, 2020 at 6:33 am, by Eric Cressey
Today’s guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance – Florida coach Derek Kambour.
At Cressey Sports Performance, we utilize several kettlebell windmill variations. A while back, Eric covered the regular standing version HERE. Today, I’d like to cover the half kneeling position, as I think there are some technical elements that should be highlighted in order to get the most out of this exercise.
Often, you’ll see this activity performed similar to the downward portion of a Turkish Get-Up, where the individual is in a half kneeling position, with the back hip in an externally rotated position, and then they will hinge back into that hip as they reach towards the ground, all while holding weight in an overhead position. While there is nothing wrong with this execution – especially if the goal is to challenge the individual’s ability to stabilize load in an overhead position while improving the ability to hinge – I do believe there are some ways we can coach this activity in a specific manner to get more out of it. I originally saw the execution of this exercise from Dr. Pat Davidson, so all credit goes to him for showing how to get more from this activity. This is an awesome transverse plane core exercise that helps individuals learn how to load their hip in the frontal plane. If you are an athlete trying to improve your ability to get in and out of a cut, or a pitcher looking to improve back hip loading or accepting force on the front hip, this could be a great exercise to include. Below is a demonstration that gives you a general understanding as to how we coach this exercise.
When performed in this manner, folks are getting a lot more than just overhead stability benefits. Here are some of the key components of this exercise explained further:
1. Setting up in a solid half-kneeling position is going to be essential when executing this variation. To ensure that the individual is in a good position, we like to have the individual drive the back foot into a wall, especially for those who have never performed this exercise before. The wall allows the individual to feel their hamstring and glute to gain better control of their pelvis on the down side hip. The wall is not always needed, but it can certainly help. The front foot should also be pressed into the ground as well.
2. Once set up in this half kneeling position, the KB can be pressed overhead. It is important to note, this exercise does not need to be loaded very heavy at first. We often start folks with a 15-25lb. kettlebell and they are absolutely smoked by the time they are done with their set. Sometimes, I will have the person I am working with perform this with no load, as it allows them to focus on the more important aspects of the exercise.
3. Before the individual reaches for the ground, they should be shifting into the front hip. Many times, when someone goes to perform this hip shift action, they will lose control of their pelvis and go into an anteriorly oriented position. Be sure that you, or the individual you are coaching, executes the shift while maintaining a subtle tuck of the pelvis.
4. As the individual begins to rotate and reach for the ground, it is important to keep both arms long. While they are slowly reaching towards the ground with the bottom arm/hand, they should be trying to maintain that hip shift without any movement of the front femur. The most common movement fault seen with this exercise is the inability to maintain control the front leg as the hips shift laterally towards the front side. The front leg should not move front to back or side to side, and it may be beneficial to think about pushing the knee in towards the midline. If done correctly, they should feel their adductors working significantly.
5. Most of the time, I will instruct the individual to reach down until the palm of their hand touches the ground, and that is as far as I will have them go. Some individuals are pretty mobile and can get their forearm all the way down to the ground. I’m fine with this as long as everything else checks out and they are feeling the desired musculature.
6. To get even more out of this activity, we can add a respiratory component to challenge this position further. Once the hand reaches the ground, the individual should get a full exhale out, and closing the side of the ribcage that is down. After a full exhale out and maintaining that bottom position, the individual can then inhale into the side of the ribcage that is up (trying to get air into the upper chest wall). After they have achieved maximal expansion in this area, they can exhale out again as they come back up into the starting position.
We will typically have our athletes perform this exercise for 2-4 sets of 6-8 reps per side as an accessory exercise towards the end of the session, or as part of their movement prep before their strength training. Once they’re proficient with it, we might load it up more and use it as part of a first pairing on an upper body training session (similar to how we program Turkish Get-ups). Give it a shot!
About the Author
Derek Kambour serves as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. Prior to joining the staff, Derek completed an internship at CSP-FL in the fall of 2018. Prior to joining the CSP-FL team, Derek coached a variety of athletes and clientele at performance facilities in New Jersey. He graduated from Montclair St. University with a degree in Exercise Science and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the NSCA. Derek is also a competitive powerlifter. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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