Stories from Fitness Tips

This move will fire up your arms and obliques with nothing more than a single dumbbell

Zoe Weiner

Zoe WeinerApril 10, 2020

Dumbbells are the centerpiece of a lot of upper body workouts, and most of us frequently rely on them to help strengthen our arms, chest, and shoulders. But what you may not realize is that you can also use this common piece of equipment (or the 8-pound bottle of laundry detergent that serves as a weight during your at-home workouts) to work your core. One of our favorite moves that fits the bill? The dumbbell wood chop.

The oblique-busting move is modeled after—you guessed it—the act of chopping wood. Which means that to do it, you’ll want to channel your inner lumberjack (or, if you’re feeling festive, your inner Christmas tree farmer) and imagine that you’re cutting down a tree. But in order to reap the full benefits—which should light your core and arms on fire—it’s important that you’ve got good form.

“A lot of things can go wrong,” says Le Sweat founder Charlee Atkins, who calls the dumbbell wood chop one of her “favorite standing core moves.” But the biggest mistake she sees people making, she says, is twisting too much in their spines, which is an easy way to get hurt.

To do it properly, you first want to make sure you have the right weight, which might be slightly lighter than your usual go-to since there are so many technical elements to think about. Then, you’ll want to articulate through your shoulders and hips so that the core can stabilize the spine, which will help you move the dumbbell across your body properly. “So when you take the heavy ‘axe’ to the top of the tree, you want to use your core to swipe it across to cut that tree down,” she says. Your feet also play a major role in this, so remember to rotate through the balls of your feet as you reach from top to bottom. If you want to amp up the move even more, you can integrate the dumbbell wood chop into a lunge, which will work nearly every muscle in your body.

To find out how to do a dumbbell woodchop (and to see how it’s done), press play on the video above. Then grab a dumbbell of your own and get to chopping.

For more standing ab moves, check out this list of our favorites. Then, see if you can survive what Pilates pros call “the hardest oblique move ever.”

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