Find a partner of similar height, and stand back to back.
Each person extends their arms out to their sides, crossing arms slightly, applying pressure against their partner’s palms.
With arms co-joined, start with a gentle rocking motion, up and down, up and down.
Once warmed-up, each pair brings one set of their arms over the tops of their heads, so that each person’s elbows pass in front of their noses.
Continue to apply pressure to co-joined hands, as the arms continue in the same direction to eventually fold over to the other side of the body.
If both partners are comfortable, direct these arms down towards the ground and then poke the other arms up, over and through the gap created by the contorted arms.
Next, reverse the moves, untangle the arms, and repeat the process on the other side.
Building pace very slowly, go back and forth several times over 20 to 30 seconds.
Video Transcript for Windmill Stretch
presented by Mark Collard
This one celebrates windmills. Here’s what happens, Randy. We’re going to face each other back to back. Okay. Now with our arms out to our side, it becomes part of the windmill.
We place… we cross each other’s arms. We place our palms so they press against each other. Do not hold hands or fingers. Just simply place pressure on each other’s palms, okay?
And this creates… I’ll forget what they name this now, but basically the blades of the windmill, swinging in the wind.
Now here’s what’s going to happen, Randy, and tell me how it’s going to work for you in terms of your shoulders.
(As long it’s fun.)
Fantastic. Let me know in terms of your comfort level. What we plan to do now, using your left arm first, we’re going to place our hands above our heads. Keep your elbow in front of your own nose, so it goes over the top of your head, over the top, we now point down and then take our other blade over the top through that gap, and then we reverse it.
Remembering we’re not holding hands, we’re just simply placing pressure. Beautiful. Excellent.
This is a great lower back stretch as much as it is also a wonderful ballet move. Alright. Perfect.
And then as you gain confidence, you start to pick up the pace so long as the both of you are comfortable. Got the idea? Alright. This part here, the funky bit with the arms is the hard bit. See how you go.
Alright. Break it up, let’s see how you do it.
See how far you’ll point your fingers of the blade, you can reach towards the ground. It invites a little more stretch for you. You don’t have to touch the ground. That would be pretty cool if you could do that though.
How To Play Narrative
This is one of those ‘look-at-the-video-to-get-the-idea’ type of activities.
Start by breaking your group into partners of similar height. Standing back to back, each person will extend their arms out to their sides and cross arms slightly to apply pressure against each other’s palms.
You’ll look a bit like a human cross now. Suggest to people that they should resist the temptation to hold hands (as is their tendency) to allow ample opportunities for choice later on.
First of all, start a gentle rocking motion with your arms, as if the co-joined arms were the blades of a windmill, ie where the name of the game comes from. Up and down, up and down, many people will report that this already feels pretty good.
Soon enough, you will be ready to bring one set of arms over the tops of your heads, so that each person’s elbows pass in front of their noses. Continue to apply pressure to the hands (and this is why we don’t hold them,) as the arms now fold over to the other side of the body from whence they came.
At this point, if both partners are comfortable, they may go one step further, and direct these arms down towards the ground (arms cross in front of your chests) and then poke the other arms up, over and through the gap created by the contorted arms. Like I said, check the Video Tutorial.
From here, untangle the arms by reversing gears, and repeat the process with the other arms on the other side. Go back and forth several times over 20 to 30 seconds.
It’s important to take it slowly, and then as you develop a little dexterity, you could produce enough speed to power a mill!
Once warmed up, swap partners.
Practical Leadership Tips
While it is useful to attempt this exercise with someone of a similar height, it’s not critical. Stretching some and having fun are the keys, but to be fair, the windmill action may be easier with two people of similar height.
Reinforce the ‘don’t hold hands’ guideline. This will prevent people being stretched too far because they had no choice when their more dexterous partner pushed them beyond their limits or comfort zone.
You could integrate Windmill Stretch as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a good stretch.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus and effort required to safely work with a partner may speak to the benefits of being mindful and adaptable because this exercise demands that each person responds to the needs of the other.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Windmill Stretch could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Rock’n’Roll: For your less-agile groups, present only the first few steps of this exercise to enjoy the rocking back and forth motions only.
Twist & Shout: For the very dexterous, invite pairs to move their feet in the direction of where they have pointed their arms, effectively turning themselves inside-out and back again several times.
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When you think of The Netherlands or Holland, what immediately comes to mind? [allow time for suggestions…] That’s right, clogs, bicycles, dams and of course, windmills, among many other favourite things. This exercise was introduced to me by a Dutch friend, and he had me believe that everyone in The Netherlands grew up doing it because it celebrated their fondness for windmills…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this physically-challenging partner stretch:
What parts of your body did you feel stretch the most during this exercise?
How hard was it for you to constantly apply pressure to your partner’s hands? Why?
In what ways were your movements or thoughts influenced by those of your partner? Why?
Did you achieve a certain rhythm in your movements? How did that feel?
The inspiration for Windmill Stretch, and many more active partner energisers, was sourced from the following publication: