One of the best core strengthening exercises is the Chop and Lift. It is essential for enhancing your core muscle's static holding endurance. Additionally, this exercise produces very low spinal loads, which can be beneficial for back rehabilitation and reduces the risk of back injuries. The spinal and diagonal movements specific to this exercise are common movement patterns that you can easily spot in both daily life and high-performance sports.
For example, shoveling snow or throwing a baseball uses the same transfer of rotational power from low to high and vice-versa, through the kinetic chain. Often times, the weak link in these diagonal movements is the core, but the "Chop and Lift" is designed to help strengthen the core by identifying asymmetries and enhancing lower back durability.
Designed to functionally strengthen the core and entire upper body, the Chop and Lift exercise originated as movement patterns used as therapy. They were found to be effective in evaluating and treating dysfunction. This easily transferred into daily life because of the diagonal and spiral movements that mimic the functional patterns which occur in both daily life and sports activities.
- Trunk Stability - core training will help stabilize your spine, by stiffening your torso and using hips to generate power which is more effectively transmitted by the core.
- Safe Core Training - because this exercise loads the core without inducing motion, you can effectively train your core without risking injuries. You need core stability to use a full range of motion efficiently.
- Correct Stepping Patterns - the half kneeling position involved in performing the exercise helps hip flexion and extension around a stable trunk, which is a great way to build a foundation for complex patterns like the split squat, rear knee elevated split squat and jump progression. If there is asymmetry in movement patterns, the Chop and Lift will help fix it.
This flexion and rotation movement strengthens your upper back, chest, arms, posterior shoulders and of course, improves core and hip stability. This half-kneeling posture will help you correct core imbalances and weaker links in the movement pattern. Focus on getting maximal torso rotation with a full range of motion and make a strong clinch at the end of the movement.
- Bend one knee down and place the other knee bent up in front of you, and place the foot down.
- Make sure your knees are shoulder-width apart and squeeze your glutes and core.
- Grasp a cable from your side with both hands. Your arms should be fully extended.
- Pull the cable down and across your body while rotating your torso in one single motion.
- Keep your back and arms straight and keep your core tight at all times.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
- Do the same on your other side as well!
There are many variations to this exercise that you can try, but it's better if you begin with the one described above. You can even perform this exercise in a standing position and not in the half-kneeling position. The rotational "chop and lift" is also optional. You can perform this exercise either standing or in a half kneeling position using only your arms to pull the cable without rotating your torso. You can use these variations once you get the hang of it and decide to mix it up a bit.
The Chop and Lift pattern is a bit more difficult than other core strengthening patterns, such as the front, side, and rear planks. However, it is most effective in increasing core performance and endurance. The quick response time of the muscle sequence also works smoothly and that's why it reduces the risk of back injuries. But while it sounds like a rehabilitating move for back and core, this exercise is a cross-training movement that many athletes use to improve their athletic performance and daily functioning.
For maximum results, start performing the Chop and Lift in the half kneeling position and choose cable resistance that will allow you to perform the exercise for 8 to 10 reps. By doing this, you will be able to identify which movement you find more difficult to perform and where you lack in technique and proper form. Spot the weak link in your core and strengthen it. You can take it to the next level once you are able to, by performing this exercise in a standing position, split position, or single leg stance.
Incorporate this into your training routine and notice how it improves your overall functional abilities and athletic performances. Try it out and let us know: do you have imbalances between the right and left sides of your body?