March 27, 2020 9 min read

Your goal should not be only to get as pumped as possible but to be elastic, agile, and fast. Do you prefer to move like a panther, or like a monster truck? Meet the kettlebell, your new best friend.

Is the Kettlebell Windmill a Cousin of the Dumbbell?

Yes, but not a very close one. Kettlebells have several advantages over dumbbells. 

  • Smooth handles enable a lighter grip, handy for better movement synchronization, and high repetition sets. That is especially important for explosive exercises like swings and cleans. Try the rack position, pistol grip, side handle, and palm grip.
  • Kettlebells add more of a challenge. Dumbbells provide stability for basic exercises, but the offset weight and the shape of kettlebells take the center of gravity away from your hand. You have to put some extra effort to lift the weight and stabilize it. After a while, you will notice this brings improvement to any sport or activity. However, you need some practice before challenging yourself like that. If you’re a beginner, stick with the dumbbells for a while.
  • The design of the kettlebell is ideal for putting some diversity into workout programs. Some exercises, like front squats, are easier to perform with a kettlebell than a barbell.

The Benefits of Kettlebell Training

For five centuries, the Russian military has been actively training with kettlebells, with no significant reports of injuries. In the international weightlifting community, kettlebells have been present since the 1980s. The difference from conventional exercises that lock the body into a linear plane is that the kettlebell exercises mimic the natural range of motion. Benefits include strength gain, endurance, flexibility, and weight loss.

While deadlifts and other heavyweight training build up some powerful muscle mass with few reps, kettlebell exercises aim for power-endurance. Strength-endurance is your ability to produce a lasting force, while power-endurance is the ability to sustain movements. Both have some unique advantages, but power-endurance has more usage in everyday life. It gets more out of your training time since most of the moves involve your stabilizing muscles too.

Think of the shape and unbalanced weight of kettlebells: they mimic the everyday objects better than perfectly symmetrical and balanced tools like barbells and dumbbells. Kettlebells are designed to be used differently than traditional weights. The swinging, active motions make the core of the kettlebell training. They have more relation to daily life activities than a simple deadlift. 

Kettlebell movements are the alternate periods of tight contractions and relaxations, a superior training of both strength and endurance.

Are the mouse, the keyboard, and the pen what you hold throughout most of the day? If you perform no manual labor and your job requires long hours in the office and on a computer, your grip strength will decrease. The design of the kettlebell handle, often thicker than a dumbbell, will reverse that and prepare you for various tasks, as well as harder exercises like pull-ups.

This training improves your cardiorespiratory fitness and bridges the gap between strength training and cardio, so it is an excellent choice for lowering body weight and conditioning. If your goal is to burn fat, increase power endurance, and get stronger at the same time than kettlebells are a must. Activating many muscles instead of just a few will increase your body’s fat-burning metabolism. Most of the movements stimulate abdominal contraction, so you are working your abs all the time, as a side effect. In time, you will also notice improved joint strength and flexibility.

Last but not least, one of the most significant benefits of kettlebell training is that with one single tool, you can get a full-body workout. Kettlebells are inexpensive and small. You can put a kettlebell out of your way between training. There is also no need for a sizable or specialized facility for your workout. You can do it in your room, at the park, on the beach, or wherever you feel the best. Kettlebell training is a combination of various movements with fast repetitions performed for at least a minute. Compared to conventional training methods, a functional kettlebell complex of exercises can save a lot of valuable time.

A man holding a black kettlebell.

The Best Kettlebell Complex of Exercises

The Windmill Exercise

The advantage of the kettlebell windmill is both stability and mobility training, which benefits across most joints and tissues of the human body. It improves hip mobility, increases shoulder strength and stabilization, and builds up non-sagittal plane movement patterns.

How to Do It

Place the right foot directly underneath your hip with your left leg slightly angled out. Hold the kettlebell in your right hand, overhead. The toes should be turned 45 degrees away from the weight to the left. Your left hand should lay along the thigh with the palm up. Keep the back of the hand in permanent contact with the left leg while making a move. Slide the hand down for better control.

Start rotating your torso towards the floor with the left shoulder forward. Push your hips to the right as you descend. If you perform correctly, you should feel a stretch in the right glute, hamstring, and side. Be sure to keep your right leg perfectly straight. Your eyes should be focused on the kettlebell all the time.

At the bottom of the windmill, have your weight fully in the right hip. You will feel a stretch in your right leg and hip. Control in the muscles and stabilize a load with your right hand. Make a pause.

To return into the starting position, contract the right glute and hip to extend the hips forwards. Don’t forget to keep the load locked out overhead and the left hand on the left leg.

Which Muscles Do the Kettlebell Windmill Effect? 

  • Shoulder and back stabilizers: The range of motions require high shoulder stability, mobility, and strength. The rhomboids, rotator cuff muscles, and upper back all help support the load overhead.
  • Obliques and abdominals: These muscle groups work to resist spinal extension and spinal and lateral flexion under load, resulting in the improvement of core strength. The windmill reinforces proper hip hinge mechanics and movement. The results are better core stability and support of the spine.
  • Glutes and hamstrings: As the lifter descends into the windmill position, the most significant stretch goes into the glutes and hamstrings, improving the hip function. During the return to the start position, the glutes work hard to extend the hips and bring the athlete back upright.

Other Benefits of the Windmill Exercise

  • The core muscles stabilize the hips and spine through the windmill movement. The results are improved hip function, enhanced core stability, and improved injury resilience.
  • The kettlebell windmill can increase shoulder stability, strength, and muscle control. 
  • Hips, obliques, and hamstrings get properly stretched out.

The kettlebell windmill is a demanding, advanced exercise. It is highly recommended to get assistance and instructions from a professional trainer at the beginning. To avoid injury, you may try to progress gradually.

Start with a warm-up with no kettlebell. Practice a position and movement, keep the legs straight and try to touch the floor or opposite ankle. Try to hold the kettlebell overhead for at least 60 seconds. Perform a low windmill with the kettlebell held in the bottom hand.

Once you start doing the standard windmill, don’t overdo it. Three sets of five reps with each hand are enough for the beginning. Make the 60-seconds pause. As you progress, raise the number of reps to ten, with a 45-second break.

The Double Windmill

The double windmill is an advanced variation of the kettlebell windmill. Once you are secure and safe performing the standard version, try to add a second kettlebell to the bottom hand. The addition of extra weight will increase the demands on the core muscles and the hamstrings.

A girl working out with a kettlebell.

The Kettlebell Clean 

The kettlebell clean is a staple exercise of every kettlebell program. It comes from the hips like every deadlift movement. You need an explosive hip movement to launch the kettlebell up.

How to Do the Kettlebell Clean

Take the kettlebell from the floor. With one motion, get it into a rack position on the chest. Try not to bang your wrist, forearm, or chest. Make sure to keep the kettlebell close to the body and send it up in a straight line. Always take the arm around the kettlebell.

You can choose among several ways to perform the kettlebell clean: dead clean, swing clean, single-leg clean, bottoms-up clean, double kettlebell clean.

The kettlebell dead clean is the first kettlebell clean variation that you should learn. Take the kettlebell from the dead or stopped position on the floor straight up into the rack position. You don’t clean the kettlebell from the floor. Instead, you stop it dead before repeating. That makes the exercise more challenging by taking away the muscle elasticity energy.

The swing clean includes the kettlebell swing between the legs before straightening up into the rack position.

The kettlebell single-leg clean connects the body movements from hip to the opposite shoulder. As the name says, you will start on a single leg while holding the kettlebell in the opposite hand.

The kettlebell bottoms-up-clean starts with the standard dead clean. The difference is in the kettlebell position. You need to hold it turned upside down at the shoulder level. You will need a firmer grip until you master the technique.

Once you master the single-handed cleans, try to add more load and complexity with a kettlebell in each hand. Try every variation with double weight. Finally, alternate cleans for excellent cardio training. Rotate the movements, holding one kettlebell in the racked position and one in the bottom.

Try with this set: Clean left, pause, clean right, pause. Every set lasts 60 seconds. Repeat.

Kettlebell Clean and Press 

After you master the clean, it is time for more complex sets of movements. The clean and press is the natural upgrade to the classic clean. It’s a combination of two separate exercises.

You will pause at the shoulder level, before continuing to the overhead press.

Muscles Affected by the Kettlebell Clean and Press:

  • Quadriceps 
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes 
  • Rhomboids
  • Deltoids
  • Core muscles
  • Trapezius

Benefits of the Kettlebell Clean 

  • It’s a full-body workout that activates most of the muscles.
  • It helps with weight loss and hormonal balance.
  • It helps with developing healthy and explosive hips.

The Kettlebell Squat

The kettlebell squat is the bodyweight squat loaded with a kettlebell.

To do it, push the hips backward with the weight on your heels. Keep the thighs parallel with the floor. Shallow squats will work your quads, and deeper ones will also engage your glutes. Push yourself up away from the floor, keeping your back flat.

The kettlebell goblet squat is the best way to start doing the squats with the load. Hold the kettlebell by the handles upside down.

Two-handed kettlebell squat is a variation to the goblet squat, with the kettlebell held with both hands, turned upwards. 

The racked kettlebell squat is the single-handed variation of the kettlebell squat, which brings imbalance and rotation to the exercise.

The kettlebell squat and press is an advanced combo for more muscle activation. As you drive up from the bottom of the squat, continue upward to the kettlebell overhead press.

The overhead squat is even more advanced. You will squat while permanently holding the kettlebell overhead. 

The kettlebell single-leg squat is the most difficult of the kettlebell squat variations. You must hold the kettlebell with both hands while performing the squat on one leg. Try this without the weight for a beginning. In an advanced version, make the lunge.

The double kettlebell squat adds in a second kettlebell. The best way to start is to hold a kettlebell in each hand, in the rack position.

Benefits of the Kettlebell Squat

The kettlebell squat is a massive exercise that hits large muscle groups. In return, you will benefit from the tremendous metabolic effects, fat loss, hormonal balance, and strength building. Your stability and mobility will improve.

Clean and Press, Squat, Windmill

The best combination of exercise for a total body workout has a pulling, pushing, and a pressing component together with a hip-hinge. The pulling comes from clean pushing through the squat, pressing with the press, and performing on a single leg adds a hip-hinge. You can also add a kettlebell swing for more diversity.

It is advisable to use lighter weight kettlebells for the combo. You should focus here on the flow of the movements and not the individual strength. The key is to supersize the mobility and agility while adding some muscle mass in the process.

Kettlebell Exercises: Many Pro’s and No Cons

There are many reasons why the kettlebell exercise program is favorite among athletes and even celebrities. It is a powerful, total body workout that improves strength, power, mobility, balance, and overall health. It can save time through the multiple benefits of a single exercise. A great kettlebell training plan helps tremendously with weight loss.

The kettlebell exercise program is ideal for all. Men and women, beginners and professionals, teenagers, and seniors - everyone can find the set that fits. From the kettlebell weight to the number of reps, all can be tailored to the specific need.

Kettlebells are one of the cheapest and most adaptable forms of training that will benefit everyone. All you need to care about is the right performance.