Wood Chop

I have a stupid question for you.

FitProQuestions

Do you want to make the most of your training time? Are you interested in burning the maximal amount of calories and while stimulating increases in muscle mass, all in the shortest possible amount of time?

I am sure your answer those questions are yes.

Well, so called combination exercises fits the bill. In a combination exercise you combine (hence the word) to or more exercises in a smooth sequence.

Benefits of such a strategy include:

  1. Involving a large amount of muscle in a short amount of time. This is important to stimulate fat loss and to burn calories.
  2. Strongly stimulating the central nervous system, because you now perform two, not only one movement.
  3. Adding new challenge to the program of experienced client.
  4. Increased training density, in the sense that you are able to perform more reps in a given time frame.

There are literally an unlimited amount of combination exercises that can be created. Over the years I have created various combinations when I needed them in my training with professional athletes.

For example, I have worked with a lot of racket athletes like badminton- and tennis players. Among many things they need both a strong core and a strong upper back. Since they also have a lot of other training goals I created the combination of a wood chop and a standing high cable pull.

I have learned the wood chop and the standing cable pull from the works of Paul Chek (www.chekinstitute.com). The next two section will focus on the correct execution of a wood chop and a standing high cable pull.

The benefits of the wood chop are:

  • Improved strength in a twisting pattern. This pattern is integral to most other movements like walking, running, throwing, punching or rowing.
  • The exercise teaches the client to use the stronger leg muscles to initiate movement of the trunk and upper extremities, a crucial skill for anybody whose activities involves throwing or striking.
  • Thorough activation of particularly oblique abdominal muscles, but also muscles of the shoulder girdle.
  • Due to the pull from the cable (see start position) the wood chop has a decompressing effect on the spine. This can be important for people with certain back problems.

In order to perform the wood chop as shown on the picture the client must possess full extension of the thoracic spine. This can be tested by putting the client with her back against the wall: He or she should be able to simultaneously touch the entire spine from the sacrum to the C7 to the wall.

If the client does not posses full extension of the thoracic spine, the cable should not be place above chest high (bottom of the sternum).

Setting up for the wood chop (Please refer to the video to get a visual)

  1. Adjust the height of the cable to match the top of your head. Even higher is okay too.
  2. When rotating left to right, turn your left side towards the weight stack
  3. Grab the handle with your right hand and place your left hand on top of your right hand.
  4. Assume good posture with chest out and chin tucked. Look straight ahead. Place the tongue in the roof of your mouth behind the front teeth.
  5. Perform one to two small steps towards the right in order to load the cable. Most of your weight should be on the left leg and you should be able to easily “tap” the floor with your right foot. The arms are “naturally straight” with the right arm slightly more straight than the left.
  6. Now mentally prepare for movement, creating the feeling of being able to lift anything!
  7. Finish the setup by performing a deep diaphragmatic breath that goes down the back and from there into the lower pelvis. Gently pull your lower abs towards the spine without letting any air escape.
  8. “Push the floor away” with your left leg while imagining internal energy simultaneously flowing into the feet and ground and into the hands. Powerfully exhale through pursed lips.
  9. The handle should pass close by your body by first bending and then stretching your elbows.
  10. Keep looking straight ahead.
  11. The move finishes with your hands outside your right knee. Most of your weight is now on the right leg and your thumbs should face forward.
  12. Reverse the movement while powerfully inhale through the nose. You should feel the pressure from the inhalation extending into your lower abdomen and hands and feet.

Now you know how to perform a wood chop, let us take a look a the standing high cable pull.

The benefits of the standing high cable pull are:

  • Improved strength in a pull pattern from a standing position.
  • Thorough activation of hamstring – and butt muscles of the front leg and latissimus and upper back muscles of the pulling arm.
  • Naturally strengthens what is known as the posterior oblique system

In order to perform a standing high cable pull as shown on the picture the client must possess full extension of the thoracic spine (see above). If the client does not posses full extension of the thoracic spine, the cable should not be place above shoulder high.

Setting up for the standing high cable pull:

  1. Adjust the height of the cable to match the top of your head.
  2. When pulling with the right hand, the left leg is placed in front closest to the weight stack.
  3. Your right arm is straight with the knuckles of the hand facing up. Your left arm is kept close to the ribcage with the palm facing up.
  4. Assume good posture with chest out and chin tucked. Look straight ahead. Place the tongue in the roof of your mouth behind the front teeth.
  5. Perform one to two short steps backwards away from the weight stack in order to load the cable. Most of your weight should be on the front leg and you should be able to easily ‘tap” the floor with your rear leg.
  6. Now mentally prepare for movement, creating the feeling of being able to lift anything!
  7. Finish the setup by performing a deep diaphragmatic breath that goes down the back and from there into the lower pelvis. Gently pull your lower abs towards the spine without letting any air escape.
  8. “Push the floor away” with your left leg while imagining internal energy simultaneously flowing into the feet and ground and into the hands. Powerfully exhale through pursed lips.
  9. From a rigid point of view, the sequence of your movement should be weight shift (from the front to the back leg) – rotation – pull. In reality this sequence must never be chopped. It should always be performed smoothly.
  10. The arm moves relatively slowly while the leg pushes and then accelerates as the rotation- and pull phases begin. The left arm is actively pushed forward.
  11. The movement finishes with the right hand close to your rib cage with the thumb facing up and the cable parallel to the forearm. The left arm is forward and straight and most of the weight is now on the rear leg. You should have the feeling of a solid stance.
  12. You should look towards the cable during the entire exercise. (Performing the eccentric part of the standing high cable pull)
  13. Reverse the movement while powerfully inhale through the nose. You should feel the pressure from the inhalation extending into your lower abdomen and hands and feet.

Now that you know how to perform both the wood chop and the standing high cable pull I am sure you can see how combining the two exercises gives you High training- and time efficiency: You work two movement patterns in a very short time frame.

Performing wood chop + standing high cable pull as a combination exercise:

  • Begin by performing the desired number of wood chops to one side dending on you training goal. This exercise works with any combination of sets and reps.
  • Remove the hand closest to the weight stack and immediately perform the desired number of pulls. Repeat to the other side.
  • Continue for the desired number of sets.

Variations of this include:

  • Varying the ratio of pulls to wood chops to emphasize either component.
  • Wrapping a towel around the handle or using Tyler Grips or a Rolling Thunder grip. This emphasizes grip strength.
  • Adding an elastic band to the wood chop component. Wrap the band around the pulley and the handle. This works for the wood chop because the exercise has an ascending strength curve.
  • Changing the pulley setting from set to set going from low to high. This works the involved muscles from a variety of angles.
  • Slightly facing the weigh stack when performing wood chops. This changes the degree of rotation in the hardest point of the exercise and thus the recruitment pattern of the exercise.
  • Straightening the arms during the concentric or eccentric part of the wood chop.

This increases the load on the shoulder girdle and core muscles:

  • Using a maximal strength protocol like 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps.
  • Using a hypertrophy protocol like 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Using an interval type of protocol. This combination is great for increasing heart rate because the load moves around in the move and thus local muscular fatique (which could force the termination of the set) is avoided.

As you see there are many, many ways to create variation in your training with combination exercises like this.

In my opinion combination exercises are a great tool and I have created a entire e book with 35 different exercises like that, including training examples and also the though pattern behind the creation of these exercises. You can check it out here

Comments or questions are very velcome at yestostrength@sympatico.ca

 

Photo Credit: school.discoveryeducation.com, www.menshealth.co.uk

Karsten Jensen

Karsten Jensen, MSc, is the founder of Yes To Strength, an organisation dedicated to sharing the secrets of creating individualized training programs with strength coaches and personal trainers. Yes to Strength offers The Flexible Periodization Method – the FIRST complete method of periodization, dedicated to MAXIMIZING results through a PROVEN 9-Step sequence to create truly INDIVIDUALIZED training programs. Yes To Strength also offers an extensive portifolio of workshops, one on one consulting with strength coaches and personal trainers as well as one-on-one training with high level athletes.

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