Looking to strengthen up and tone your abdominals and obliques?
Then it’s time to harness your inner lumberjack and reap the benefits of wood chops.
The wood chop exercise is often underrated when it comes to core workouts but this twisting functional movement is second to none when it comes to creating stability and strength in the mid-section.
Simulating a wood chopping action, this exercise is not only a fantastic way to tone up your stomach, but also a great way to replicate common movements in sports, such as golf, baseball, cricket, tennis and many more.
Twisting the torso is also incredibly common in day to day activities. Whether you’re reaching for that bag of coffee in the kitchen, or simply drawing the curtains on an evening, we often rely on a strong core to help generate the power and strength needed for such activities.
The movement is also easy to modify depending on what equipment you have around. You can use cables, dumbbells, medicine balls, bands, or even no equipment at all.
In this handy guide, we outline everything you need to know about wood chops, including how to perform them correctly, the benefits they offer, variations and example workouts to help you get started.
How To Do Wood Chops
To perform wood chops;
- Stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent.
- Bending your knees in a shallow squatting position and keeping your back straight, hold a weighted object with both hands (e.g. dumbbell) on the outside of your right knee.
- In a controlled movement, engage your core and lift the weighted object diagonally across your body above your left shoulder, whilst twisting your torso slightly to the left.
- Return the weight back down and repeat for repetitions.
- Repeat the movement on the other side.
Tip – This should be a powerful but controlled movement. You want to try and leverage power from your legs and core to really explode out of the squat and into the upright position.
Also, keep your ankles flexible and allow your feet to naturally follow through the movement.
Wood Chop Exercise Muscles Worked and Benefits
Wood chops bring with them a whole host of benefits, particularly for the abdominals and obliques.
They work the stomach muscles on the side of the core, known as the obliques, which are often forgotten about when it comes to effective core training. By focusing on the obliques, you can achieve a more toned, chiseled stomach, and even help to balance out your posture and prevent back pain. This can also help tone up the obliques and combat “love handles.”
Wood chops also work the trunk muscles and abdominal muscles, which help to strengthen and support the spine. Incorporating this exercise into your workout can help to prevent injuries and muscle imbalances in the core and back, as well as improving core stability.
Finally, wood chops are a good functional exercise, replicating many athletic and everyday movements that work the mid-section. This is because they involve twisting the core and hips, replicating the complex movements required in many sports.
When you perform a wood chop, you’re strengthening the muscles you need to perform rotational movements, such as throwing a ball or swinging a bat.
In addition, they’re a great way to enhance your balance, improve coordination, and prevent injury.
Wood Chop Variations and Modifications
Dumbbells are often the most popular piece of personal training equipment to use when doing wood chops. Dumbbells come in a range of weights so you can slowly increase the difficulty by using heavier weights.
Start with light weights though and ensure you feel comfortable with the movement before using heavier ones.
Because medicine balls are so compact and dense, they can be used in conjunction with bodyweight movements such as wood chops to increase the intensity of the exercise.
Wood chops with a medicine ball require a little more balance and control when performing the movement, but you’ll get a great core workout from it.
Medicine balls will require a different type of grip from dumbbells and lightly engage the forearms and grip strength more.
Using cables for wood chops is another popular option.
Cables bring with them one significant benefit in that the cable height can often be adjusted. This means you can perform the wood chop from varying angles to change up how you target the abdominals and obliques.
For example, you may include some sets of horizonal cable wood chops, with the cables set at shoulder height. This would focus more on the twisting movement, and less on the diagonal movement.
Cables also allow you to perform reverse wood chops, whereby the cables starts above your shoulder and you pull the cables down across to your opposite knee.
Resistance bands can also be used for wood chops.
Attach the resistance band to a solid structure that’s roughly knee/hip height, for example, a park bench.
Hold the band in hold bands and follow the instructions for wood chops.
Unlike dumbbells, your core will be fully engaged at the top of the movement, so it can actually be a more intense variation to the exercise.
Bands also allow you to do reverse wood chops too.
If you don’t have any equipment, or are just regaining your flexibility or strength, then you can also do wood chops without any equipment.
Simply hold your hands together and follow the instructions for wood chops. This can be a great mobility exercise and help loosen up stiff muscles.
Remember to focus on tensing your core to move your torso, as opposed to just swinging your torso.
Wood Chop Lunges
You can also integrate lunges into wood chops to turn the movement into a full body functional workout. As you raise your upper body out of a lunge, move your arms diagonally across your body, whilst holding a weighted object.
This can also help improve co-ordination and balance.
Wood Chop Workout
Wood chops can be used in all sorts of workouts. It can be used without any equipment as an effective warm-up or mobility stretch. Particularly when you add the lunges with it, this can be a great way to loosen up stiff muscles at the end of a day.
For more of a strength workout, try something like:
3 sets x 8 repetitions with a heavier weight
For more of a conditioning and toning workout, try something like:
5 sets x 15 repetitons with a lighter weight.