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Exercise of the Month: Cable Woodchop

Exercise of the Month: Cable Woodchop

Build strength and muscle in your core with this often overlooked abdominal exercise

Jimmy Peña, MS, CSCS

Target Muscles

Core (transverse abdominis, obliques)

The Start

Exercise of the Month: Cable Woodchop

STEP 1: Stand erect next to or inside a cable crossover apparatus and adjust one cable to the highest pulley position and attach a rope or D-handle to the ring.

STEP 2: With your knees unlocked and using a split stance for balance, reach upward and grasp the rope with both hands; you can either grasp both knobs with your hands together or allow the rope to pull all the way through and grasp just one end above the knob and the other end a bit behind it. Your arms should be fully extended.

STEP 3: Your head and eyes should be focused between your arms and in line with your torso.

Execution

Exercise of the Month: Cable Woodchop

STEP 1: In one motion, pull the handle down and across your body to your opposite hip while rotating your torso.

STEP 2: Be sure to keep your back and arms straight and core tight while you pivot your back foot and bend your knees.

STEP 3: Squeeze your core and abs, and then allow the weight to pull you back to the start position in a slow and controlled manner.

STEP 4: Perform 3–4 sets with varying rep ranges for both sides. Go slightly heavier for eight reps as well as high reps of 15–20.

>> Do this move near the end of your workout as it taxes your innermost core muscle. You don’t want the muscles most responsible for intra-abdominal pressure and spinal safety fatigued until late in your training.

>> The cable version is by far your woodchop option. Although possible with medicine balls and dumbbells to a certain extent, the cable provides constant tension in the exact plane of work (without gravity working against your shoulders).

Biggest Training Errors

1. Bending your arms: When you bend your arms, you immediately involve the triceps, shoulders and even your lats to a degree, which lessens the move’s effectiveness for the core. You may have to lighten the weight, but keep your arms as straight as possible throughout.

2. Cheating the range of motion (ROM): Don’t stop short of the movement’s complete ROM. Reach way up and completely rotate your torso, then bend your legs (not shown) so that you can reach almost to the opposite knee.

3. Flapping your arms: Besides bending and extending your arms, don’t just bring your arms across your body; you need to rotate your torso to bring them across. Your arms should remain in front of you at all times, which occurs when you’re rotating at the waist.

Best Alternative

Decline-Bench Cable Twist

Adjust a decline bench sideways near an adjustable cable and set the handle about waist high. Sit on the bench and secure your feet. With your torso perpendicular to the bench, you’ll already feel isometric tension in your abs. Grasp the rope or D-handle and pull and rotate across your body while you remain in the 90-degree sit-up position. Do all of your reps for one side, then turn the bench around and repeat on the opposite side.

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  • Etienne M

    During the execution phase u say “while you pivot your back foot and bend your knees.”. But on the picture the feet are still the same. Could you be more explicit about that ?

  • MMI

    Keep your back foot firmly in place Etienne and your front knee bent but steady. Your legs shouldn’t move, just your torso.

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