This one exercise has strengthened my core and works every muscle in my body

Not only does it work the entire core, but Medicine Ball Woodchops also work pretty much every muscle fibre, too

Young woman exercising with medicine ball in gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Squat, stand, twist and swing; who doesn't like a one-move full-body workout?

I stumbled upon the woodchop when putting together a new multidimensional (3D) workout plan. I wanted to learn how to move on the Lateral Plane - or, in layman's terms, side to side. That one was easy; say hello to the side lunge. 

Then I had to think about moves that move in the Sagittal Plane. Again pretty simple. You’re looking at moves that go forwards or backwards or up and down. Step-ups are a great option - or even the bench press, deadlift or pull-up.

Next was a more complete exercise —and one that is often missed—the Transverse Plane. This is any sort of exercise with a twist or rotation, and it is proven to improve core stability, balance, and coordination and help prevent lower back injuries or pain.

So what moves did I find? The Russian twist was a good one. Oh, and the lunge twist. But my favourite had to be the low to high woodchop, to which I added a medicine ball. 

What are Medicine Ball Woodchops?

The woodchop exercise involves lifting a medicine ball from one side of the body (whilst in a low squat) and across to the opposite side of the body so you are standing at an angle. It’s a rotational movement that finishes with the ball above head height. The exercise is 3-dimensional and extremely functional thanks to the rotational action and the coordination needed to take the ball from low to high and across the body.

What muscles do Medicine Ball Woodchops work?

The woodchop is a very functional exercise which works the back, shoulders, arms, core and legs. It’s also a great exercise for improving core strength - especially hitting the oblique muscles on the side of the abs as well as the lower back muscles that are recruited for stability as you pivot through the movement.

How to do the Medicine Ball Woodchop

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and hold a medicine ball with both hands at chest height. Lower the weight to the outside of your right foot, allowing your knees to bend slightly and your left foot to pivot.

Bring the weight back up across your torso and overhead to the left in a reverse chopping motion. Your feet should pivot in the same direction as the weight. To begin, try 12 reps on each side at a controlled pace.

T3 Top Tip: Make sure you consciously engage your core throughout the entire move. If you're ready, you can play around further, increase your speed, or add more reps.

Once you’ve grasped it with a medicine ball, why not play around and try it on the cable machine or with a heavier ball or dumbbell? You can throw the ball against a wall at the top of the move, too. The possibilities are endless. 

How good are Medicine Ball Woodchops?

Now deeply rooted in my weekly repertoire, the woodchop has strengthened my entire core. The dynamic movements have targeted my shoulders and legs, and my balance and coordination have shown huge signs of improvement. If you’re looking for an exercise that delivers impressive results without a load of fancy equipment or hours at the gym, give woodchops a shot.

Lucy Miller
Freelance writer

Lucy Miller is a journalist, Level 3 Personal Trainer, Nutritional Advisor and Children’s Fitness Specialist. She holds fitness qualifications from NASM Training and Premier Training International and has been a fitness journalist and fitness (and cover) model for over 20 years. Since going freelance in 2014, Lucy left Men’s Fitness Magazine to write for an abundance of top consumer titles such as Women’s Health, Women’s Fitness, Waitrose, The Times, The Guardian and Runners World.

She’s also extremely passionate when it comes to educating others about health and physical activity and loves inspiring and working with children and adults to help make fitness fun, sustainable and accessible. In her spare time, Lucy is ever the sportswoman. Once a national gymnast, having won three national titles, she has also run a handful of marathons around the world and loves to test her physical and mental side with daily running and gym sessions, not to mention ballet, bootcamp, boxing and TRX.