I did 50 Windshield Wipers every day for a week — here's what happened to my abs

a photo of a woman doing the windshield wiper exercise
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

When you hear windshield wipers, you’ll probably think of a car battling through the rain, but, this clever ab move is an excellent way to target your mid-section. The best part? The windshield wiper exercise requires no equipment, so you can do this simple bodyweight exercise just about anywhere. 

As someone who is always up for a challenge, I decided to take on the 50 windshield wipers a day challenge for Tom’s Guide. Essentially, it’s 50 Windshield Wipers every day for a week. I was keen to see how this exercise would impact my abs muscles. Would they appear more toned? Would my core feel stronger? Read on to find out what happened. 

How to do the Windshield Wiper exercise

Not sure how to do a windshield wiper? They’re not an overly complex move but as with most ab exercises, good form is important. Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie on your back on the ground or on one of the best yoga mats, with your arms straight out on the floor, either side of your body. Your legs should be straight up towards the ceiling.
  • Twist your hips to the left until your legs slowly lower toward the ground on your left side.
  • Next, lift your legs and move them back to the right side, rotating the hips to the right as you do so.
  • Keep switching sides, making sure your core is engaged, and your lower back isn’t arching.

Windshield wipers require the engagement of several core muscles. The upper and lower abs need to remain engaged as the legs move slowly from left to right, without the torso moving too much. Plus, the obliques — the muscles that run down the side of the body — are also working hard here to keep the torso still throughout the exercise. Oh and let’s not forget the muscles in the lower back, which are also working hard as the hips and legs rotate. 

I did 50 Windshield Wipers every day for seven days — here’s what happened 

My hip flexors worked hard

If you’re an avid fan of a crunch or a sit-up, then you might not know what it’s like to feel your hip flexors working during an abs workout. Windshield wipers, however, really engage the hip flexors, thanks to the rotational movement. If you spend a lot of time sitting down behind a desk, or you’re a runner, you might notice that your hip flexors are tight, and you’ll find this move particularly challenging. Start to do some stretches to work on your tight hip flexors, then try again in a few weeks.

They torched my obliques

Doing 50 windshield wipers every day was harder than I thought. I felt my obliques totally fire up as my legs slowly swung from left to right, and I also worked my upper and lower abs in this move.

That said, don’t go thinking that windshield wipers are the answer to a flatter tummy. For your abs to show, you need to have a low body fat percentage, and you don’t get a low body fat percentage from just doing ab exercises alone. Instead, you need to be in a calorie deficit so you can lose the fat that lies above the abs. To get into a calorie deficit you need to be pretty much consuming less than you burn. Here’s more on how to calculate your body fat percentage, and why it matters.

Windshield wipers require major stability

One of the hardest parts of doing windshield wipers is keeping your back pressed down flat into the mat. Obviously, there will be some movement as your torso is slowly moving, however, it shouldn’t be moving as wildly as my back was at the start of this week. It took me a while to adjust to doing this exercise, and it’s certainly a test of your core strength. But, I will say that over the course of the seven-day challenge, I found this exercise a little easier. So, practice makes perfect! 

My quads tightened

It’s especially hard to keep your legs straight when doing windshield wipers, especially if you’re a runner like me. I felt my quads tightening up and after doing my 50 windshield wipers, I had to give them a stretch as they were cramping slightly.

Essentially, if you want to complete a set of really good, on-form windshield wipers then you need to be stretching and doing your mobility work because this sure is not an exercise that allows for tightness! 

I did 50 Windshield Wipers every day for a week — here’s my verdict

Want to work muscles that you may not have felt working before? Give these windshield wipers a try. Unlike core exercises such as sit-ups, leg raises, and planks, windshield wipers really target the obliques, hip flexors, and lower back thanks to the intense rotational movement required. I would recommend adding windshield wipers to a core workout maybe once or twice a week. They’ll add some variation to your routine, plus they require zero equipment, so they can be done at home or in the gym.

But, as mentioned above, no ab exercise alone will flatten your tummy, so be sure to nail your nutrition alongside your ab exercises if a flatter, toned stomach is your goal. 

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Lucy Gornall

Lucy is a freelance health and fitness journalist as well as a pre and post-natal personal trainer. Although a sweaty gym session (skipping rope is a must) is her favorite way to ‘relax’, she’s also a fan of bingeing on The Office, snacking on chocolate-coated raisins, and fizz-filled brunches with friends.