Windshield Wipers are an advanced ab exercise that targets most of the muscles in your midsection, using just your body weight. Yet as Tom’s Guide writer Lucy found when she did 50 windshield wipers a day for a week, they’re not the easiest ab exercise to do and require major stability. If you’re a beginner, or you currently find windshield wipers too difficult, half wipers are an easier variation of the exercise.
To find out more, I did 50 reps a day for a week — read on to find out what happened.
As with all of the week-long challenges we do here on the Tom’s Guide fitness desk, it’s important to start with a reminder that what works for me might not be right for you and your body. If you’re returning to exercise following an injury, or a pregnancy, it’s a good idea to check with a health professional before adding new exercises to your routine. Always check with a personal trainer to ensure your form is correct before adding weight, or reps, to an exercise.
How to do the half wipers ab exercise
Let’s start with how to do the half-wipers exercise with perfect form. You won’t need any additional equipment for this move, so put your adjustable dumbbells and best kettlebells to one side. You might, however, want to lie on one of the best yoga mats to protect your spine from the floor.
- Start by lying on your back with your arms by your side, palms pressed down into the floor.
- Raise your legs off the floor into a tabletop position, with both knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Engage your core, thinking about sucking your belly button in towards your spine, and roll your left hip and legs over to your left side, as if you are dropping your left knee to the floor. Stop at the point where your lower back begins to lift off the mat and pause here. Don’t let your knees touch the floor.
- Using your abdominal muscles, reverse the movement to bring your hips back to your starting position.
- Then, drop your legs to the right side, again pausing at the bottom of the movement and using your abs to reverse back to your starting position.
- Keep switching sides.
One way to easily modify the difficulty of the half wipers exercise is to adjust your arm positioning. The closer your arms are to your body, the more difficult the exercise is, as your arms give you stability in the move.
I did 50 half wipers every day for a week — here’s what happened to my abs
As mentioned above, I did 50 half wipers a day for a week and learned a lot about this move. Here’s what happened:
My obliques worked hard
The half wiper exercise works the oblique muscles really hard, as your obliques (the muscles that run along the sides of your trunk), have to really engage to stabilize your body and prevent your legs from dropping to the floor. As with most of the best ab exercises, the key here is to move slowly, and with control. The movement should be coming from your core, and at no point should you be jerking from side to side.
On the first few days of this challenge, my obliques ached as I rotated from side to side. 50 reps felt like a lot, so I did five sets of 10 reps, pausing for a few seconds to re-set between each. As the week went on, I definitely got more comfortable with the move, and could feel my hip flexors also working hard as I rotated — when I do crunches and sit-ups, my hip flexors have a tendency to take over, so this was a good opportunity for me to get them to do some work, especially after hours sitting down behind my desk.
The oblique muscles are responsible for keeping the torso stable and balanced. If your obliques are weak, your hip flexor muscles will usually take over during specific exercises, putting pressure on your lower back, so strengthening the oblique muscles can reduce back pain and improve your posture.
My tight quads made these easier than windshield wipers
As a runner, I suffer from seriously tight quads, which make windshield wipers pretty uncomfortable, as the move requires you to keep your legs straight. Bending at the knee reduces the weight on the obliques, making it an easier modification, but also a good one if you have tight quads, as you can work into your core and build up the strength needed to progress.
After a week of half wipers, I’m definitely not ready for full windshield wipers yet, but I felt like I’d worked my core hard.
I found these tough on the lower back
I suffer from sciatica after a horse riding accident in my teens, so have to be mindful of my lower back during abdominal workouts. I found as I got tired, my form would suffer during this move, and my lower back would ache. This is a sign I was letting my back peel off the yoga mat during the move. Not only does this stop the abdominal muscles from working as hard, it puts the lower back under pressure, risking injury.
I had to slow down and really think about keeping my back steady during this exercise. Towards the end of my daily reps, I’d often have to reduce my range of motion to ensure my lower back stayed on the mat.
I did 50 half wipers for a week — here’s my verdict
If you’re not quite ready for windshield wipers but still want to give your oblique muscles a seriously good workout, half wipers are a great exercise to try. A week later, I felt like I’d definitely improved my technique (perhaps practice does make perfect after all), and my abs felt stronger.
Of course, a week isn’t long enough to notice any visible difference in the body, and if visible abs are your goal, you’ll need to focus on your overall body fat percentage, not ab exercises alone. That said, I’ll definitely be keeping these as part of my ab workouts going forward, and hopefully, in time, progressing to the straight-leg version.