The secret to a strong, stable, bulletproof core isn’t tons of situps or crunches. Your core is all about stability. And yes, planks can help this (which is why we just launched a plank challenge here at MH), but there are also more challenging ways to build and attack core stability, too.
One of those exercises just might make you more proficient at one of the gym’s most storied exercises, too. The windmill balance, a new core move from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., pushes your abs to the limit with a simple hold. “This is an all-around core move that challenges your abs in multiple ways,” says Samuel. “It’s also making you more proficient at the Turkish getup.”
The windmill balance takes a portion of the getup, a challenging portion, and it asks you to hold the position. “There comes a point in the getup,” says Samuel, “when you must shift your hips and torso so they’re in position to lunge, and that requires threading one leg through the other. This isn’t a moment that we spend a ton of time in in our training. But the windmill balance challenges us to live here.”
In doing so, the windmill balance builds unreal core stability. “Your abs, obliques, and glutes all play a role here,” says Samuel, “and you get to spend extra time attacking this moment by holding there for 3 seconds.”
This builds core strength, but it does more than that, too. Your overhead arm must maintain constant shoulder stability to balance the kettlebell overhead, especially since your body is balanced on only an arm and a leg. “That’s a great way to challenge and build shoulder stability,” says Samuel, “especially as you start working towards heavier and heavier bells.”
Start with a medium-weight kettlebell or dumbbell but don’t be afraid to push yourself. “You can load this exercise almost as much as you would a Turkish getup,” says Samuel, “once you get comfortable.”
- Start in half-kneeling stance, right knee on the ground, a kettlebell or dumbbell held overhead in your right hand.
- Hinge forward slightly and place your right hand on the ground. Tighten your shoulder blades and ab muscles and squeeze your glutes.
- Balancing on your right arm and left leg, lift your right knee off the ground. Tighten your core. Watch the weight overhead with your eyes. Hold for 3 to 4 seconds.
- Lower back to the ground.
- Keeping your core tight, press your torso back to a half-kneeling stance with the weight overhead.
- That’s 1 rep; do 3 sets of 6 to 8 per side.
The Windmill Balance can fit into your workouts in a variety of ways. It’s a perfect finisher to a total-body workout, challenging your entire core. And anywhere you might have planned a getup in your routine, you can use the Windmill Balance instead, as a move that’ll aid your Turkish getup without forcing you to do the entire exercise all the time. It’s also a vicious move to open a full core workout. “Try 3 sets of Windmill Balances per side, followed by some hanging leg lifts and some hollow holds,” says Samuel. “Your core will hate you when you’re done . . . in all the best ways.”
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