Woodchoppers: How Well Do They Work?

The woodchopper is a functional exercise that targets the core generally and the obliques specifically. As the name suggests, it is inspired by the wood chopping action of bringing an axe down to split timber. The exercise can be done with a range of exercise equipment, including a dumbbell, a cable, and a medicine ball.

The woodchop is also known as the oblique twist.

How to Perform the Woodchopper

Dumbbell Version

Stand with your feet together and then take a step back. Lift your rear heel so that you are in a semi-upright lunge position. Both knees should be bent, with the front knee behind the toe. Your spine should be neutral and your shoulders pulled back. Hold a dumbbell in your two hands at chest level with an overhand/underhand grip on the dumbbell handle.

Be Sure To Perform The Exercises In A Smooth Manner (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Begin by rotating your torso to the side of your leading foot. At this point your body will be loaded. From there, externally rotate the rear leg by pivoting to plant the rear heel. Keep your knees bent throughout the action. You will be rotating from a chest downward to a chest upward position.

Be sure to perform the exercises in a smooth manner, keeping the core tight. This version of the woodchop fits well into a dumbbell workout at home.

Repeat the movement on the other side.

Cable Version

Set a cable machine to its highest handle setting and then attach a rope handle. The rope allows you to comfortably grab the handle with both hands. Grab hold of the rope with an overhand/underhand grip while standing with your side toward the cable machine. Now take a large step out and twist your torso down as if you were chopping wood on a block. Keep the arm straight as you perform this movement.

The Rope Allows You To Comfortably Grab The Handle With Both Hands (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Repeat the movement on the other side.

Another version of the cable would chop is done with the cable pulley settings at hip level. Use standard handles, grabbing one of them together with interlocking fingers. Stand facing the cable machine and then take a large step backwards until the weights just lift off the weight stack. 

Turn your body so that your toes are perpendicular to the machine. This twisted body position is the start point of the exercise. This will put your oblique muscles into a tensed position. Now, breathe out as you twist your body to bring your arms and the cable around and to a forward facing position. From this position, keeping your toes and hips facing forward and maintaining a neutral spine, breathe as you slowly return the weight to the starting position. Keep your arms straight throughout the movement.

Repeat the movement on the other side.

Medicine Ball Version

The medicine ball woodchopper can be done either vertically or diagonally. For the vertical version, hold an appropriately weighted medicine ball in your hands and place your feet shoulder-width apart. Now drop the ball down between your legs by hinging at the hips and bending your knees. Then immediately reverse the action to bring it back in front of your body. Continue in this pendulum-like action for the required number of reps.

Perform Smooth, Fluid Repetitions To Complete The Required Rep Range (Image Source: Shutterstock)

To perform the diagonal version of this exercise, start in the same position as in the vertical version. This time, however, start with the ball above your body on the right-hand side. Then simultaneously squat down as you bring the ball down and across your body. Perform smooth, fluid repetitions to complete the required rep range.

Repeat on the other side.

Woodchopper Benefits

The woodchopper exercise does an excellent job of toning and strengthening your entire frontal core area. It specifically targets the external obliques at the sides of your waist. The rotational movement against resistance will strengthen and define this area.

Many people have problems with excess fat on the sides of the waist. This is commonly known as love handles. While Woodchoppers will not, of themselves, get rid of your love handles, they will sculpt the muscles lying below them.

When you do high reps with the woodchop exercise, you can burn quite a number of calories. This makes it both a fat burning and a muscle sculpting exercise. When combined with healthy nutrition, caloric reduction, and more calorie-burning exercise, it will help you remove fat from all over your body.

Woodchopper Workouts

The woodchopper in its various forms is an excellent addition to an overall body workout and a targeted core workout. Here is an example of each.

Wood Choppers | Core Workout | Fully Fit by Runner’s World – 3v

Overall Body Weight Workout

This full body workout at home is a circuit program that involves performing all of the exercises without any rest. You then have two minutes to recover before going through the circuit a second time. Work up to performing four circuits of the workout.

  • Body weight squat: 20 reps
  • Reverse lunge: 15 reps each leg
  • Push-ups: 15 reps
  • Burpees: 10 reps
  •  Medicine ball vertical chop: 20 reps
  • Pull Ups: 10 reps

Overhead Reach Workout

This is a traditional sets-and-reps workout. Perform three sets of each exercise and maintain a good workout tempo. This will keep you burning calories as the moves strengthen your muscles.

Perform Three Sets Of Each Exercise And Maintain A Good Workout Tempo (Image Source: Shutterstock)
  • Pullups: 3 x 8-10 reps
  • Dumbbell shoulder press: 3 x 8–10 reps
  •  Dumbbell wood chop: 3 x 15 reps (each side)
  • Hanging leg raise: 3×10 reps
  • Cable wood chop (hip height cable setting): 3 x 15 reps (each side)
  •  Overhead triceps extension: 3 x 12 reps

Give the Woodchopper a Try

The woodchopper is an excellent exercise to have in your workout toolbox. It will help you to strengthen, sculpt, and tone the external obliques at the sides of your waist. At the same time, it will help to burn calories to lose body fat. Try to incorporate each of the different versions of the exercise that we have described here to fully work the muscles at the sides of your waist.