Want powerful hips? Rock-solid abs? A strong back? Who doesn’t?! This classic movement isn’t just for farmhands and lumberjacks—it’s for anyone who wants to build a powerful movement foundation.

The wood chop is also a great functional exercise because it takes the body through movement in the transverse plane by rotating through the trunk, mimicking many of the movements we do daily (putting on a seat belt, putting a box on a high shelf).

For beginners

If you have a history of back problems or injuries, this exercise might not be for you. Check with your physician or physical therapist for clearance before you try it out.

This movement can be challenging for beginners because the sudden stop requires strong neuromuscular timing. Starting slowly will give your brain a chance to learn the pattern and set you up for success!

Best practices

  • Aim for clean, crisp movement. Starting and stopping quickly is key to the challenge, so don’t get sloppy!
  • Keep your back flat and long. Think “proud” posture.

Master this: Wood Chop

  1. Begin in a standing position with your hands clasped or holding a weight, and your feet wider than hip-width apart.
  2. Squat down and rotate through your torso to bring your hands outside your left knee. Let your right heel come up off the floor as you twist.
  3. Quickly drive up out of your legs and rotate your torso to bring your hands up and across your body and above your right shoulder. Release your left heel to pivot on your left foot as you twist.
  4. Reverse the movement and twist through your torso as you swing your hands down across your body and bend your knees to bring your hands outside your left knee again.
  5. Quickly drive up, and chop down again.
  6. Repeat on the opposite side.

Tip: Control the weight—do not let momentum take over. Focus on quickly stopping the weight or your hands at the top and bottom of the move.

Make it easier: Slow it down and concentrate on the quick stop.

Make it harder: Add some load, like a medicine ball, dumbbell or SandBell.

Photo credit: Tom Casey, box24studio.com
Model: Brook Walsh, 24 Hour Fitness