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Crunches, which target the most visible abdominal muscle, the rectus abdominis, are a staple of most fitness routines. The obliques, or side abs, are sometimes forgotten, but strengthening these muscles is just as important because it promotes not only a strong core, but also low back health. The oblique muscles attach to the connective tissue of the low back muscles, tightening the muscles and helping to support the spine. Use cable wood chop exercises to target and strengthen these vital ab muscles.
The obliques, which extend down at an angle from the ribs to the hip bone, are the main movers during the wood chop exercise. The obliques are primarily responsible for spinal rotation, or twisting the torso while the hips remain stationary. The rectus abdominis is also involved in the wood chop movement, but not to as great an extent as the obliques. The low back, upper back and shoulder muscles assist during the movement.
Position a single cable handle at a setting just above your head. Stand with your right side toward the cable machine and position your feet hip-width apart. Reach up and wrap both hands around the handle. Keep both arms fully extended, but maintain a slight bend in your elbow joints. Do not move your elbows from this position as you execute the movement. Exhale and pull the cable handle down and across your body until your hands are on the outside of your left hip. Keep your hips facing forward; do not rotate them. Pause for a count and slowly return to the starting position. Perform all the repetitions on one side and then switch sides.
Reverse Wood Chop
The reverse cable wood chop is an alternative version of the cable wood chop. It works the same muscle groups, but you pull the cable handle from low to high, instead of high to low. Position the cable handle at the lowest position. Stand with your right side toward the cable machine and grab the handle with both hands. Pull the handle up and across your body, stopping when your hands are above and to the left of your left shoulder. The same basic cues apply to the reverse wood chop as apply to the regular cable wood chop. Do not rotate your hips, focus on pulling from your core and keep your arms fully extended throughout the movement.
To better engage your abdominal muscles during the cable wood chop movements, tighten your core by pulling your belly button toward your spine. Maintain a tight core throughout the exercise and focus on moving the weight from your core, not just swinging your arms. Do not use heavy weights or other muscles will have to assist the core, which defeats the purpose of the exercise. Choose a weight that allows you to complete 15 to 20 repetitions per side. Focus on proper form with a slow, controlled movement.