A strong core is extremely important for every tennis player as it creates the stability for the hips and shoulders during the stroke production. Having a strong core is essential for a smooth transfer of power from the core to the limbs, while maintaining a perfect balance, flexibility and strength.
A strong core allows your limbs (arms and legs) to move more efficiently and independently from each other. As a result you run faster and still are able to execute your shots with precision and power.
On the other side, if the core is weak, the forces are not distributed evenly to your limbs and thus overuse of certain joints and muscle groups can happen, which can cause injuries to your ankles, knees, hips, lower back, shoulders and elbows.
For many, the definition of a strong core means having a great, sexy, and lean six-pack. Let me disappoint you. A sexy six-pack doesn’t necessarily mean a strong core. If your lower back and obliques are weak, you still can get injuries and your performance is not optimal.
It is crucial to train the entire core and have it evenly strong and balanced. The kettlebell windmill is one of the super great exercises for tennis players to create a great and functional core, while improving the flexibility as well.
The amazing kettlebell windmill strengthens and improves the
- entire core: abdominals, obliques, lower back
- glutes, hamstrings and adductors
- shoulders and triceps
- flexibility, coordination and balance
Using kettlebells in your training has tremendous benefits. If you do your strength training entirely in the machines, you are forced to move in a predetermined path. Everyone’s body is different, and every path may not be perfect for you. Free weights are much better, but they do have a tight center of gravity and mostly utilize the major muscle groups. The kettlebells, with their off-center gravity, require using many more muscles, even the smaller and stabilizing ones.
Kettlebell Windmill Technique
- Stand straight up, with legs apart.
- The left foot pointing forward, the right foot 45 degrees out. Hold the weight in your left hand, with straight arm over your head. There is no bend on your elbow or wrist.
- The arm always stays in a vertical position to the floor above the shoulder, regardless of where the body is.
- Always keep your shoulders down and back (not elevated and retracted).
- If at any point the arm starts to sway and you are not able to hold the kettlebell directly over the shoulder, decrease the weight and build your strength gradually.
- Shift about 70—80% of your weight on your left leg (the leg under the kettlebell).
- Now imagine the motion of your right hand sliding down your right leg to your ankle, while keeping your upper body and both legs completely straight, with the weight vertically above your head. Just imagine the sliding, don’t slide.
- As you are slowly “sliding” down, you will feel a great stretch in both your legs, lower back and obliques.
- Once your right hand reaches the ground in front of your right foot, or in-between your feet, slowly reverse the movement and raise yourself slowly to the start position by connecting with your glute muscles and keeping your core strong and engaged.
- Repeat 12-15 times and then switch to the other side.
- Watch this video
Kettlebell Windmill Variations
- If you are not flexible enough, you might not reach the ground, and that’s ok. You can stop anywhere, where your body asks you to. But always keep your upper body, arms and legs straight. Don’t round your lower back. Over time your flexibility will improve and you will reach the ground easily. Start doing stretching and myofascial release regularly to speed up the process. (Get your paperback version of the exercises here)
- Another variation with increased difficulty is that you put the free hand (right in our case) behind your back and instead of “sliding” down, you just lower yourself as deep as you can, pause one second and reverse the movement back up.
- Another level of difficulty is holding another (can be quite heavy) kettlebell in the free (right) hand, hanging in between your legs.
The kettlebell windmill is a great athletic movement and if you have difficulties to do it, it is just showing you your weaknesses. Practice it regularly and you will get stronger, more balanced and flexible. You notice soon that even your tennis game improves almost immediately.
If you don’t have an access to kettlebells, you can use a dumbbell. It is not as good, but better than nothing. You can also get yourself one or two kettlebells at powersystems.com and you will be always ready. For women, 18 and 25 lbs and for men 25 and 35 lbs is a good start.