The Side Lying Windmill is a very common thoracic extension and rotation exercise that can bring along with it some great serratus anterior activation, upward rotation and shoulder flexion ranges. It offers both stability and mobility benefits for the rib cage and thoracic spine because as the arm reaches over the head gravity begins to assist the rib cage/ arm motion down towards the ground. The Side Lying Windmill is a great ‘bang for your buck’ mobility/ stability drill for the upper body as a result of the demands it places on the entire upper extremity.
Unfortunately, for people that require thoracic extension and rotation, shoulder impingements quite often present alongside. This presentation is normally felt as anterior or superior shoulder pain as the arm reaches larger ranges of shoulder flexion. When we talk about any form of shoulder pathology it is important to take into consideration the proximal function of the thoracic spine, rib cage and scapular relationship/ function. When we look upstream on those who present with shoulder impingement presentations we quite often see a reduced function of one, or all, of these proximal joints. This quite often means that taking the arm through full ranges of overhead movements, as required for the Side Lying Windmill, results in pain at the anterior/ superior shoulder so it is not a great tool to use in these situations.
Although there are plenty of other alternatives for the Side Lying Windmill that offer similar benefits for both thoracic extension and rotation without the required shoulder flexion/ upward rotation demands, today I want to show you a slight modification to the classic Windmill that we use at Melbourne Strength Culture without the added stress at the shoulder for those who present with pain.
VIDEO BELOW - Side Lying Archer