Stand and deliver: Every serious ab workout needs this exercise

We spend most of our ab and core sessions on the floor doing planks, crunches and their numerous variations.

More importantly, most conventional ab exercises use trunk or hip flexion and work along one direction.

But creating functional strength and a slender waist demands more. We need to work our cores across multiple movement planes and in various positions. And since we spend a great deal of our day (and our workouts) standing, working your abs in this position is vitally important.

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Slicing and dicing your abs

That’s why every ab and core workout should include the woodchop.

Not only do you perform it in the upright position, but it also has a rotational element.

This combined movement pattern creates functional strength and greater stability, it improves mobility and it generates transferable power in the hips and major core muscles (including your transverse abdominis and glutes) and your obliques – an often neglected muscle group. It also engages the shoulders and parts of your back.

And it’s an effective compound movement to add to interval or HIT sessions to target multiple muscle groups and burn more calories.

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Chopping options

It is also a versatile exercise. You can perform the woodchop with multiple tools. These include:

  • Medicine ball
  • Bar
  • Cable
  • Band
  • Dumbbell

This ensures you have numerous options to keep your training interesting and engaging.

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Woodchop guide

Follow these instructions for the 3 main variations:

Band woodchops

Stand upright, placing one leg on top of the band at the midpoint. Grab the handle with both hands and hold it out to the side and slightly down. Pull the band up across your body while rotating your torso. Return to the starting position by lowering the band under control and twisting your torso back. Repeat for the target reps on one side then swap sides and carry on.

Cable woodchop

Grasp a stirrup attached to a high pulley (use the low pulley for a reverse chop) with both hands with your fingers interlocked. Turn to one side, away from the pulley, until the arm nearest the pulley is fully extended. Position your feet wider than hip-width apart, with the furthest foot away from the pulley and the nearest foot close to the pulley. Point both feet away from the pulley. Raise the heel of the nearest foot off the floor. Keep your arms straight as you pull the stirrup diagonally downward, around your shoulders, by rotating your torso. Gradually lower your arms downward until the cable is just above your shoulder. Gradually bend your knees as the stirrup makes its way around your body and approaches the lower end of the movement. Return to the starting position and repeat for the required reps. Continue with the opposite side once complete.

Barbell woodchop

Grasp the free end of an anchored barbell (either with one end in a corner or an landmine anchor) with both hands. Raise it to shoulder height with your arms extended in front of you. Position your feet in a wide stance. Rotate your trunk and hips as you swing the barbell down to one side. Reverse the motion to bring the barbel back to the starting position, then repeat on the opposite side to complete one rep. Continue alternating the movement for the required reps.

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What out for these common mistakes:

  1. Don’t lock out your knees and hips. Allow the hips and knees to rotate slightly.
  2. Don’t bend your arms. This will shift the workload onto your arms and shoulders and off your torso.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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