Strengthen your core from all angles with the chop.
Core strength is at the heart of everything we do. Time to sweep the porch? A solid core makes it a quick and easy task. Need to buckle the grandkids into their car seats? No problem—thanks to a sturdy core.
From a health standpoint, a strong core means you’ll have better posture and be steadier on your feet. It can even help prevent back pain.
“Without stability, there can be no mobility,” says SilverSneakers fitness expert David Jack. He adds that mobility simply means being able to move our bodies in all the ways we’d like to throughout the day.
“If we don’t have a stable foundation, our brain doesn’t like it,” Jack continues. “One of two things will happen: We won’t be able to do what we’re trying to do, or we’ll get hurt doing it.”
Neither is a good option—and this next move from Jack is the fix.
“A chop is one of my favorite exercises to train mobility, stability, and a bunch of other amazing things,” he says. “It prepares us to not just do everyday life, but to really do it right.”
How to Use the Chop Exercise
These chop variations are first and foremost core exercises. That means you’ll be strengthening your abdominal muscles, your glutes, and all of the muscles that support your spine.
But the movements call on your legs, arms, and shoulders to help power you through. That makes the chop an amazing total-body move for strength and flexibility.
You’re training all of your major muscle groups to work together to provide stability and movement control, says Jack. Weave these variations into any strength or cardio workout.
Find a spot where you have plenty of room to move. If you’d like support during any of the exercises, set up near a wall. If standing exercises are difficult for you, you can also try them seated.
Start by learning the patterns, moving slowly and with control. Keep these pointers in mind:
- Keep your core engaged by imagining you’re about to receive a punch in the gut.
- Squeeze your glutes, like you’re making a small fist with each butt cheek.
- Push down through your feet to find stability.
Once you’re comfortable with the rotational pattern, challenge yourself by going faster. You can also try performing the move with a light weight, such as a dumbbell or soup can. Just be sure the weight is light enough for you to maintain proper form.
As always, safety is key. These exercises may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.
Exercise #1: Bodyweight Chop
Perform this move for 1 minute
How to do it: Stand tall. Step forward with one foot and bend that knee until you’re in a comfortable position. Your back leg should be slightly bent. You’ll remain in this split stance to complete the first half of the move.
From here, lean forward over your front thigh. Inhale and bring your hands to the outside of your front leg at about hip level. As you exhale, lift your arms diagonally across your body, rotating toward your opposite shoulder. Keep your hips square, and let your chest and chin follow your hands.
Pause, then bring your hands back down toward your front hip. Continue the diagonal chopping pattern for 15 seconds.
Next, shake out your legs, and return to your starting position with the same foot forward. Repeat the chopping pattern on the opposite side for 15 seconds.
Finally, shake out your legs and switch your feet—your back leg is now in front. Repeat both chopping patterns for a total of 30 seconds.
Make it harder: Pick up the pace, moving with control and maintaining proper form.
Exercise #2: Loaded Chop
Perform this move for 1 minute
How to do it: Perform a chop while holding a light dumbbell, medicine ball, book, or soup can.
Make it harder: Add leg movements. Rock or step forward when your hands are at hip level, and rock or step backward as your hands press up.
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