My New Favorite Standing Core Move Is the Woodchop — Here's Why

Getty | Kittiphan Teerawattanakul / EyeEm
Fitness Newsletter Image - Photographer: Matthew Kelly
Getty | Kittiphan Teerawattanakul / EyeEm
Fitness Newsletter Image - Photographer: Matthew Kelly

When I started regularly strength training, I discovered there's way more to the world of core exercises than crunches — plus the fact that you don't need to be lying down on a workout mat in order to target this muscle group. You can also strengthen your core while simultaneously chiseling other parts of the body. Let's use my new favorite workout move — the low-to-high woodchop — as an example.

"The low-to-high woodchop — or, simply, woodchoppers — is one of my favorite full-body, compound movements," said Dilan Gomih, a NASM-certified personal trainer. "Without taking up a lot of space, it's a great mobility exercise that allows you to work through your full range of motion for a few different muscle groups."

Those muscle groups include your entire core — including obliques — shoulders, back, and glutes. Gomih also said it's a perfect example of a standing core move. "Fundamentally, the rotation of your body from low squat to standing is what helps you work your abs in a fun, powerful way."

If you are new to woodchops (or just need a refresh on correct form), check out Gomih's directions below, which highlight the three stages of the move.

Starting Position:
Start this move low in your squat and with your torso twisted in one direction, holding the weight. As you squat, you're working your glutes and the twist is activating your obliques.

Beginning of Release:
As you start to stand and twist your torso in the opposite direction, you are working your legs as you stand, your arms as you start to lift the weight, and your core as you rotate.

Final Position:
You finish this move standing and twisting your torso in the opposite direction with the weight overhead. In doing so, you are still working your core/obliques due to the twist and using your arms/shoulders/back to lift the weight overhead.

If you build your own circuits or at-home workout programs and you're not sure where to place this move, Gomih said the Woodchop could be added to a HIIT or strength-training workout. "Because it's a full-body move, you can essentially add it to any day of muscle group you'd like to work."

Use this arms and abs circuit, curated by Gomih, as an example to get started. But don't jump into it without warming up! "The low-to-high woodchop is a dynamic, full-body move that definitely requires power — so I would recommend warming up before you place that energy demand on your body!" Gomih said.

For a warmup, try performing Downward Dog + opposite toe touch, World's Greatest Stretch, and air squat + twist — repeat this circuit two times through.

Downward Dog + Opposite Toe Touch: 30 seconds

  • Start in a plank position on your hands.
  • Push back to Downward Dog.
  • Touch one hand to the opposite toe, then back to the floor.
  • Return to plank position.

World's Greatest Stretch: 30 Seconds

  • Starting in high plank, bring your left foot to your left hand.
  • Open your left hand up toward the sky.
  • Bring your hand back down, then put your left foot back into plank position.
  • Push back into Downward Dog, then repeat on the opposite side.

Air Squat + Twist: 30 Seconds

  • With your feet shoulder-width apart and keeping your chest up, lower your hips (no lower than your knees).
  • At your lowest point, twist your torso in one direction.
  • Come back to center and stand.
  • Repeat and twist in the opposite direction.
  • "For this move, I like to keep my palms pressed together in prayer position," Gomih said. "Also a trick to make sure I keep the weight in my heels is to lift my toes up as I perform the squat!"

After you've completed the above warmup, move into the circuit below. Work through the circuit four times, with 30 seconds rest at the end of each set — and also as needed throughout the workout. Be sure to properly recover with a cooldown, too!

Bicep Curl

Bicep Curl

  • Start by holding a dumbbell in each hand at the sides of your body.
  • Keeping your elbows close to your sides, slowly raise the dumbbells to your chest.
  • Moving with control, lower back to the starting position.
  • This counts as one rep.
  • Perform 10 reps with medium-size weights.
Triceps Kickback

Triceps Kickback

  • Start with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, leaning forward slightly.
  • Pull the weights in close to your torso and bend at your elbow — this should form a 90-degree angle with your upper arm and forearm.
  • Extend your arms behind you, pause for a moment, then return to the starting position.
  • "The key to this move is really engaging the back of your arms (triceps). To do this, try to ensure the elbow only moves. Keep your neck, back, and core in one straight line," Gomih said.
  • Perform 10 reps with medium-size weights.
Low-to-High Woodchop
POPSUGAR Photography | Rima Brindamour

Low-to-High Woodchop

  • Squat, and twist left to hold the dumbbell on the outside of your left leg.
  • Exhale, and lift the weight diagonally across your body, ending twisted to the right with the dumbbell above your head. Pivot on your left foot as needed.
  • Control the weight back up to the starting position to complete one rep.
  • Perform 10 reps with medium-size weights.
  • When performing the low-to-high woodchop, Gomih said to maintain the same direction for the whole set. So for Rounds 1 and 3, start low to the right and go high to the left. For rounds 2 and 4, start low to the left and go high to the right.
Mountain Climbers
POPSUGAR Photography

Mountain Climbers

  • Start in a traditional plank with your shoulders over your hands and weight in your toes.
  • With your core engaged, bring your right knee forward under your chest, with your toes just off the ground. Return to your basic plank. Switch legs, bringing your left knee forward.
  • Keep switching legs and begin to pick up the pace until it feels a little like running in place in a plank position.
  • Perform for 30 seconds.

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