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Windmill Exercise: How To Do It Right (Step-by-Step Guide)

Christiana Mikesch
Published by Christiana Mikesch
Last updated: April 17, 2023

In over a decade of training people of all fitness levels, I always toss in challenging exercises to enhance their mobility.

One such exercise I’ve always recommended to beginners is the windmill.

The windmill is a dynamic movement that strengthens your core, glutes, hamstrings, and shoulders while improving flexibility and mobility — provided you do it with good form.

So, here are some step-by-step instructions and helpful tips to reap the benefits of this exercise and avoid mistakes.

Quick Summary

  • Avoid common mistakes like rounding the back or bending the knees excessively to prevent back and knee strains.
  • Windmill variations to the bodyweight windmill, such as the kettlebell windmill, can provide numerous benefits, including improved core strength, flexibility, and reduced injury risk.
  • The windmill is a high-intensity exercise that requires little to no equipment and can be performed at a home gym.

How To Perform Windmill Exercise

Women doing windmill exercises

Before getting started, take a look at what the windmill exercise is and how you should perform it without compromising on form.

What Is the Windmill Exercise?

The windmill is a stretching workout that improves your flexibility. It involves standing with your feet apart and twisting your body to touch the opposite foot.

It increases your flexibility and range of motion in the hips, back, and legs.

Steps To Follow

Feet width apart while raising hands sidewards


  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms out to the sides. Keep your legs straight and your feet firmly planted on the ground.
  2. Rotate your right foot outward while keeping your left leg pointing straight ahead to maintain balance and stability.
  3. Engage your core by drawing your belly button toward your spine.


  1. Rotate your torso to the right and lower your left hand toward your right foot. Keep your legs straight and extend your right arm overhead as you do this.
  2. Reach as far as you can without straining, feeling the stretch in your back, hips, and legs while keeping your back and knees straight.
  3. Hold this position for a few seconds, feeling the stretch in your muscles.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position, lifting your left hand to shoulder height.
  5. Repeat the movement on the other side by rotating your torso to the left and lowering your right arm toward your left foot while extending your left arm.
  6. Continue alternating sides for several repetitions, gradually increasing the range of motion as your muscles warm up.


Reaching above while holding kettlebell

There are several challenging variations of the windmill that work the core.

Here are a few examples:

  • Kettlebell Windmill Exercise: Add resistance with kettlebell training as you hold the kettlebell with your right hand, keeping your other arm straight up. Keep your wrist neutral and let the kettlebell rest on the back of your wrist.
  • Dumbbell Windmill: This variation involves using a dumbbell instead of a kettlebell for a slightly more challenging exercise that targets the shoulder stabilizers.
  • Single-leg Windmill Exercise: Perform the windmill exercise while standing on one leg. This increases the challenge to your balance and stability and can help to improve your proprioception (awareness of your body in space).
  • Wide-stance Windmill Exercise: Perform the windmill exercise with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. This can help to stretch your inner thighs and hips and increase the challenge to your core stability.
  • Lunge Windmill Exercise: Begin in a lunge position with one leg forward and the other back.

Perform the windmill exercise by rotating your torso and reaching your opposite hand toward your forward foot.

This variation works your glutes, quadriceps, and core while improving your flexibility for more challenging tasks.

Windmill Exercise Benefits

Doing windmill exercise together

The benefits of windmill exercise include improved flexibility, core strength, balance, and shoulder stability [1].

“We tend to neglect moving side to side and rotationally (twisting and turning your body). When we don't explore those different planes, we get stiff and don’t move well.”

- Dr. Ernest Miller, Aerobic Conditioning Specialist

From what we’ve noticed, it can increase hip flexibility and reduce the risk of injury when done before heavy lifts.

Activating core muscles leads to improved functional performance, reduced back pain, improved balance and proprioception, and enhanced shoulder and hip range of motion.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Woman reaching above

While performing the windmill, people make several common mistakes — especially not following proper form — that reduce the effectiveness of the windmill exercise benefits:

  • Rounding the back: One of the most common mistakes is rounding the back when you bend forward, which strains the lower back muscles [2].
  • Excessive knee bend: Another common mistake when performing windmills is letting the knees bend excessively. This tends to reduce core activation and decrease stability.

Also Read: 13 Worst Exercises to Skip and Avoid

To avoid these mistakes, maintain proper form, keep the back straight, engage the core and primary muscle groups, and perform the movement slowly.


What Does the Windmill Exercise Work?

The windmill exercise works the hips, shoulder muscles, and primary muscle groups of the core, including the obliques, rectus abdominis, and transverse abdominis.

How Do You Start Windmill Exercise for Beginners?

You start the windmill exercise for beginners with a light or no weight until you feel confident with challenging moves like pushing a kettlebell overhead. Start with a smaller range of motion and gradually increase as flexibility and strength improve.

Prepare Before Daily Windmills for Improved Functional Movement

The windmill is a highly beneficial movement for improving functional movement and athletic performance, particularly flexibility, mobility, and stability in multiple muscle groups.

It is an advanced move and requires sufficient strength and range of motion, so it’s important to fuel your body properly during windmill workouts. This is where pre-workout supplements come into play.

By selecting supplements that are backed by science and tailored to your individual needs, you can take your workouts to the next level and achieve your fitness goals faster.


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