Exercise of the Week: Lifts & Chops


When discussing core training I often start my clients off with performing my Four for the Core exercises.  These are great exercises in developing static holding endurance of the core muscle. They have also been cited as producing low spinal loads which makes them safer on the spine. What these exercises lack is movement of the limbs; this would make it more life-like.

The lift and chop exercises place us into more life like positions as well as take our upper body through common motions that people often use in sports and in jobs that require physical work.

The lift and chop exercises take advantage of what are known as PNF patterns. PNF, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, is often thought of as a method of stretching but it is also a method of strengthening.  These movements take the upper extremity through a diagonal pattern across the body, which requires a reflexive response of the core muscles to appropriately contract to stabilize the body.

One of the problems I always have had when training people to “activate their core” is that by telling them what to do the activity becomes more conscious rather than unconscious. Unconscious activation of the core is obviously more life-like.  Just think of what it would be like if we had to consciously think about activating our core especially if we were running a marathon. As we have seen in previous posts on core training, it is possible to unconsciously activate the core even in those who are experiencing back pain by using suspension straps

Watch the video to learn how to perform the lift and chop exercises .  To learn more about the science/theory behind lift and chop exercises check out this research paper.  You will note in the video that the exercise is used with a single handle. You can also perform this exercise with a stick attached to a pulley system or elastic tubing.   If you want you can purchase a TRX rip trainer. (This is an affiliate link. I do use this product for these exercises)

Lift and chop exercises are first to be performed in what are known as transitional position:

  1. High kneeling – Kneeling on both knees with the hips extended and knees together  Tall kneeling creates challenge to balance reactions in front and back directions (anterior/posterior directions)
  2. Half kneeling – A kneeling lunge position with the kneeling knee directly below the hip. The kneeling knee and the opposite foot should be approximately 6 inches apart and directly in front of each other.
It is recommended that you start by performing each of these exercises in the kneeling positions first once you have mastered the Four for the Core exercises.  Choose a weight or tubing resistance that will allow you to perform approximately 8 to 10 repetitions.  Perform the lift and chop with each kneeling position to discover which movement that you find is most difficult or where you can’t do as many with good technique.  
Once you discover which is the most difficult position to perform then this is the movement to practise.  This is your weak link in your core.  Some recommend performing this for 5 to 10 sets of one repetition while others recommend 5 sets of 5.  
Once these positions are perfected then you can graduate to standing positions such as:
  1. Standing position – feet wide or feet narrow
  2. Split position – One foot in front of the other.  
  3. Single leg stance.
Give these exercises a try.  Did you have any imbalances between the left and right side of the body?
Dr Notley
P.S. If you want to read more about lifts and chops check out these articles:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.