How to Do the Cable Woodchop

Strengthen Arms, Shoulders and Abdominals

The cable woodchop uses a cable rack and a single cable to simulate a woodchopping action. Why practice a woodchopping move? It imitates activity that occurs in many sports: swinging a bat or stick or throwing while twisting the torso. 

The cable woodchop is an intermediate level exercise. It is a compound pulling motion and a functional exercise. While it primarily targets the abdominals and obliques, it also employs the shoulders, back and glutes.

You can do woodchops with a medicine ball or dumbbell, but the cable will give a constant tension that is preferable. 

How to Do the Cable Woodchop - Starting Position

Start of cable wood chop exercise
(c)Paul Rogers / Cooloola Fitness
  1. Attach a suitable hand grip to a cable at one end of a cable machine frame. Position the cable anchor near the top of the frame using the adjustable mechanism.
  2. Position your body so that the cable movement will be downward and across the body -- like a tree-chopping action.
  3. Position the feet comfortably apart and grasp the cable handle with both hands above one shoulder.
  4. Load the machine with sufficient weight to provide moderate resistance. If you struggle to move the handle or if you can only move it slowly, the weight is too heavy.

How to Do the Cable Woodchop - Exercise Movement

Cable wood chop exercise finish
(c) Paul Rogers / Cooloola Fitness
  1. Swing the clasped handle downward and across the body until it passes the opposite thigh.
  2. Don't lock the knees and hips. Allow the hips and knees to rotate slightly.
  3. At the end position, allow the cable weight to retract the handle to the starting position.
  4. Do 8 to 10 repetitions then reverse your stance by facing the other way and repeat the exercise to the other side of the body.
  5. This exercise is best used for power development. Do the movement at high velocity, rest for 10-15 seconds, then repeat.
  6. Ideally, you will have progressed through a beginner's program in order to build sufficient strength with which to benefit from this exercise. If not, start with a light weight and progress slowly.
  7. Do not bend your arms while performing this exercise or your shoulders and arms will do the work rather than your abdominals.
  8. Be sure that you are rotating your torso and your arms are staying in front of your body rather than it being the arms that are producing the motion.

Muscles Targeted by the Cable Woodchop

 The cable woodchop targets the transverse abdominis muscle and the oblique muscles. These are the muscles that allow you to twist at the waist and to swing a bat or racket using the weight of your body and not just your arms.

The woodchop also engages the muscles of your back, shoulders and legs. 

In addition to sports that use a stick or racket (baseball, golf, tennis, hockey, cricket, etc.), twisting the abdominals under load is a prominent movement in sports including football and basketball. Of course, this approximate movement is slightly different in any number of sports.

Cable Woodchop Variations

Reverse Cable Woodchop/Standing Cable Lift: Set up to pull the cable up from low to high. 

Woodchop Lunges: Step forward into a lunge as you bring the cable down across your body.

Woodchops with Weights: You can perform the woodchop using a dumbbell rather than a cable machine.

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