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A One Stop Solution for Your Shoulder Problems

Ok, I admit this is a pretty clickbaity title.

What I’m going to tell you may not cure every shoulder issue, but it will certainly go a long long way towards building strong, healthy shoulders that can take on any challenge.

It’s the Windmill exercise.

This is a very common movement, thanks in no small part to the proliferation of the kettlebell and associated lifts.

Before this turns into a history lesson, here’s a 5 minute tutorial video for you:

Now here’s an 8 minute really detailed video:

And this short Instagram clip really dials into the meat of how the windmill is done in order to give the shoulder maximum benefit:

View this post on Instagram

#OMT The Windmill exercise, a fantastic exercise for a large number of reasons. It’s an exercise that should feature in almost everyones program, the BJJ guys I give it particularly benefit from it. The reason is not for the core strength that most people mention when talking about the windmill. The reason is the shoulder stability benefits. And it’s real stability. As in, keeping everything nice and stable as the shoulder joint moves, movement that is created by the body shifting underneath. The key is to keep the thumb oriented behind you. This sets the scapula into a good place, maintains an external rotation in the shoulder, a rotation that gets screwed tighter as you move deeper into the exercise. There’s three key points that are usually missed by people doing and demoing this exercise, I cover two in quick dsetail here. The shoulder as mentioned, and the hip travel. I ran out of time for the third, which is stance. A wide stance will limit the ability of the hip to travel and creates far less of an angle on the outside of the hip. It may LOOK like a bigger stretch, but it’s way less movement and loading for the posterior lateral tissues of that hip. Now, go play #wgfamily #irishfitfam #windmill #kettlebell #shoulderstability #shouldermobility #sportsinjury #bjj #judo #kyokushin #kettlebellsport #onemimnutetutorial

A post shared by Dave Hedges (@dave_hedges) on Sep 30, 2019 at 1:47am PDT

So why is this so valuable?

The potential explanations here could fill a book, so we’ll take a bullet point approach instead:

1 – It’s a masterclass in external rotation. Notice in the instagram clip how I labour the point that the thumb aims behind you? That means that as you move the body under the weight, you are screwing the arm into external rotation. The best part is, because you’re concentrating on the weight and the movement, the muscles figure stuff out themselves without you getting in the way!

2 – Reciprocal Inhibition I’m reaching a little here, but come with me for a minute… Most of our prime movers around the shoulder are strongest in internal rotation, and they are way bigger and way stronger than the muscles that work external rotation. As we move through the Windmill motion, the internal rotators are all taken into a lengthened state, while the external rotators are allowed to go short. Very often when I coach people into good positions the first time, you can see the smaller muscles around the shoulder start to twitch as they suddenly experience a contracted state.

3 – The weird open chain / closed chain action The windmill is categorised as a “support” as opposed to a “lift” Yes you are lowering and lifting a weight, but that’s not the point of the exercise. The point of the exercise is to use the weight to load the movement. Your arm doesn’t really move, it’s the body that moves around underneath it, which is why it falls into the category of a closed chain action. But you are holding a weight overhead, a weight that needs held stable through the motion, which is more like an open chain motion. Either way, you are getting the best of both. Closed chain is very often the best start point for most rehab (and in my opinion, strength development), but open chain is where the arm operates best.

So how do we use it?

You can warm up with it. Use a light weight, incrementally increase the range of motion looking to feel everything “switch on” and get in the game. Pulsing through a single rep for a minute or so should suffice.

As a second or third exercise. After your main lift, bang out some windmills, a few sets of 6-8 reps each side should give you a nice pump in the rotator cuff and core.

In place of your big press. If your press has been stalling, or hurting for a while, shelve it for a couple of weeks and sub in windmills instead. You’ll maintain strength while building a better platform to press with.

During a conditioning circuit The windmill doesn’t have to be done heavy to get benefit (although you can and should work up pretty heavy with it over time as in the lead image of this post!) so it makes for a great exercise to include in a conditioning circuit in between faster paced exercises such as swings or hindu squats.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get windmilling!


Dave Hedges

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