Next up on my weird and wonderful quest to work my abs — wood chops. Few exercises work your core as hard as this standing ab workout, which keeps your trunk activated throughout the move. When done with the correct form, the wood chop is also working your shoulders, hips, thighs, and calf muscles, as well as your core, which is working to stabilize your body during the move.
But what would happen to my core if I did 100 wood chops a day for a week? I grabbed a dumbbell and set out to find out more — read on to find out what happened.
As a reminder, what works for me might not be right for you and your body. If you’re new to wood chops, you’ve suffered lower back pain, or you’re returning to exercise following an injury, it’s a good idea to check your form with a personal trainer before adding reps, or weight to the movement. Doing this exercise without the correct form can result in injury.
How to do a wood chop
You can do the wood chop using a dumbbell, a medicine ball, or on the cable machine in the gym with the pulley set to the highest point. Either way, start with your feed shoulder-width apart, and hold the dumbbell in both hands to one side of the body. For example, start with the dumbbell next to your left hip. Engage your abs, and lift and rotate the dumbbell above your right shoulder. As you lift, pivot your left foot so your torso to help the elevation. This is the lift part of the movement.
Next comes the chopping part. Moving with control, lower the dumbbell back to your starting position, keeping your core engaged — there should be minimal movement from the trunk during this exercise.
I did wood chops every day for a week — here’s what happened
To learn more about this standing ab exercise, I did 100 reps a day for a week, 50 on each side. Here’s what I learned:
I had to start lighter than expected
As with a lot of these challenges, I had to put my ego aside when it came to the weight of the dumbbell. Wood chops aren’t a regular part of my strength training routine, and doing 100 reps of anything is a lot, especially if you’re new to the movement. I realized on day one that I was swinging my torso back and forth as I moved, and opted to lower the weight in order to ensure I was moving slowly, and with control. When doing so, I instantly felt I was able to engage my core, and keep my trunk more stable.
When it comes to selecting the right weight to use during an exercise, it is important to start light, and build up. While the dumbbell should feel challenging, it should never compromise your form, as this can lead to injury.
I felt the move in my glutes and lower back
I suffer from sciatica, following a horse riding accident in my teens, and often have to be mindful of my lower back during certain exercises. This was one of them. By day three of doing 100 wood chops a day, I could really feel the move in my glutes and my lower back, so asked a personal trainer to look at my form.
She said I was arching my back slightly during the chopping movement, so suggested doing the reps with an even lighter weight to really master the form. I spent day three doing my wood chops in front of a mirror in the gym, focusing on sucking my belly button into my spine throughout the movement.
I enjoyed the variation
On day four of this challenge, I finally felt like I was getting the hang of these wood chops, so I decided to mix things up and use the cable machine at the gym. These felt somewhat easier — perhaps because I wasn’t worrying about my grip loosening on the dumbbell as I lifted it above my head.
On day five, I switched to a kneeling wood chop, getting into a lunge position as I moved — again, this felt a little easier and allowed me to up the weight of my dumbbell. The slower you move, the harder this exercise is, so I often opted to do five sets of 10 reps on each side to reset in the breaks and prevent myself from rushing.
It’s definitely one I’ll be using in the future
700 reps later, I definitely felt the benefits of this move — I felt like I’d worked my obliques hard, and while I’m not quite ready to dig out my flannel shirt and axe, I’ll definitely be adding this exercise to my ab routines in the future. I enjoyed the variety, and the challenge, and this one reminded me that sometimes, practice does make a difference.
Of course, I didn’t notice any visible changes in a week (visible abs are the product of a low body fat percentage — here’s how to calculate yours), but I felt like I’d switched my abs, hips, and glutes on in this move.
Looking for more ab workout inspiration? Read what happened when our fitness writer did ab rollouts every day for a week, and check out the best ab exercises, and the best 10-minute ab workouts. We’ve also found this standing ab workout with 30 million views.