Cable Machine Exercises: Cable Woodchop

Within the wide range of cable machine exercises individuals can choose at their local gyms, the cable woodchop is an interesting one where a simple cable machine activity works on the principle of a natural exercise: the action of chopping wood that challenges the upper body and core muscles simultaneously.

In order to do this exercise, you’ll be using a steel framed cable machine – you’ll often find these at your local gym, in an area where several cable machine installations provide a range of full-body workouts similar to how other plate-loaded machines provide fixed weight routine choices.

Doing the Cable Woodchop

In order to do the cable woodchop, follow these general instructions.

  • Find an “upper body handle” for the cable machine. This should be at about shoulder level.
  • Get into a good stance. Stand beside the cable machine in a natural, comfortable stance.
  • Grip the cable handle. Position yourself so that when your arm comes down, it will be in the general arc or trajectory of a wood chopping motion, but be sure to extend your arms fully.
  • Check the machine for weight load. Look where the pin is set to determine how much weight is on the machine. Beginners should start out with a smaller weight load, and add weight gradually. Test the machine by pulling on the cable. If it’s too hard to pull, lower the way and tell you have a reasonable resistance for your wood chopping activity.
  • Get in the original standing position and extend your arms out straight in front of you.
  • Bring the handle down toward your opposing knee, keeping your arms straight and ensuring that the motion originates from your core, and not from your arms or lower back.
  • When you have reached a significantly lower position, with the handle about waist level, return to the original position.

Muscles Worked with the Cable Woodchop

The cable woodchop activity is one of those that comes with some common misconceptions. This is not supposed to be an activity that places a demand on the arms and back. Rather, with proper form, the action should come from the core muscles in the torso in order to help strengthen the muscle groups that your body uses when it “twists” or turns diagonally.

Avoiding Injury with the Cable Woodchop

Proper form is important to avoid injury with this cable machine exercise. Another thing that can cause injury is overloading the machine. Always make sure that you can handle the weight load that you have selected.

Variations on the Cable Woodchop

Some experts have identified a few variations on the cable woodchop exercise. One of these is the “two-person cable woodchop” where two users face each other and pull on different cable ends.

If you are looking at cable machine exercises that work your core muscles and stabilizers, ask your resident trainer about how you can add this exercise into your regular fitness schedule. Be extremely careful to start out with proper form, since this activity can cause injury if you twist or turn in irregular ways. With proper precautions, the cable woodchop can help you strengthen your overall body response, not just for sports and athletic challenges, but for all of the regular activities that you do throughout your normal day.


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