Cable Wood Chops: Proper Form, Variations, and Mistakes

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    Cable wood chops are a compound exercise that targets the core muscles, particularly the obliques, while also engaging the shoulders, hips, and legs. This functional movement mimics the action of chopping wood and can be performed using a cable machine. In this article, we will discuss the proper form for cable wood chops, explore variations to add variety to your workouts and highlight common mistakes to avoid. Whether you want to strengthen your core, improve rotational power, or enhance functional fitness, mastering cable wood chops will help you achieve your goals.

    Proper Form 

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    1. Set the cable:

    Attach a handle or rope to the high pulley of a cable machine. Set the weight to a manageable resistance level.

    2. Starting position:

    Stand perpendicular to the cable machine with your feet shoulder-width apart and your side facing the machine. Hold the handle or rope with both hands, keeping your arms extended in front of your body.

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    3. Initiate the movement:

    Engage your core and initiate the wood chop by rotating your torso and pulling the cable down and across your body in a diagonal motion. Imagine chopping wood from high to low.

    4. Rotate and pivot:

    As you rotate your torso, pivot on the back foot, allowing your hips and shoulders to move together. Maintain a slight bend in your knees throughout the movement.

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    5. Reach the bottom position:

    Continue the wood chop until the handle or rope reaches the outside of your front thigh, near your knee. Keep your arms extended and avoid bending your elbows excessively.

    6. Return to starting position:

    Slowly reverse the motion, resisting the cable’s pull as you return to the starting position. Control the movement and maintain tension in your core muscles.

    7. Repeat on the other side:

    Complete the desired number of repetitions on one side before switching to the other side.


    1. High-to-Low Wood Chops:

    Perform the wood chops starting from a high position, pulling the cable down and across your body towards the opposite hip. This variation emphasizes the upper-to-lower diagonal movement.

    2. Low-to-High Wood Chops:

    Begin the wood chops from a low position, pulling the cable up and across your body towards the opposite shoulder. This variation emphasizes the lower-to-upper diagonal movement.

    3. Single-Arm Cable Wood Chops:

    Instead of using both hands, perform the wood chops with one hand at a time. This challenges core stability and increases the focus on the obliques.

    4. Split-Stance Cable Wood Chops:

    Assume a split stance, with one foot forward and the other foot back. Perform the wood chops with the cable while maintaining the split stance. This variation adds balance and stability challenges.

    Common Mistakes 

    1. Using excessive weight:

    Avoid using a weight that is too heavy, as it can compromise your form and make it difficult to control the movement. Start with a manageable weight and gradually increase as your form improves.

    2. Failing to rotate the hips and torso:

    Ensure proper rotation of the hips and torso throughout the movement. Neglecting this rotation reduces the effectiveness of the exercise and places excessive strain on the lower back.

    3. Allowing the cable to pull you:

    Maintain control of the cable throughout the wood chop, rather than letting it pull you back to the starting position. Focus on controlling the movement both on the way down and on the way up.

    4. Relying solely on arm strength:

    The power for cable wood chops should primarily come from the core muscles, not the arms. Avoid relying solely on your arms to perform the movement and instead engage your core and initiate the wood chop with the rotational movement.


    Cable wood chops are a dynamic exercise that targets the core and improves rotational strength and stability. By practising proper form, exploring variations, and avoiding common mistakes, you can maximize the effectiveness of this exercise. Remember to start with a suitable weight, focus on core engagement and rotational movement, and maintain control throughout the wood chop. Incorporating cable wood chops into your workout routine will help you develop a strong core, improve rotational power, and enhance overall functional fitness.

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