How to Do a Diagonal Chop for a Full-Body Workout

We asked a trainer how it’s done.

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Looking for a full-body workout move that requires no fancy equipment? The diagonal chop works everything: Your upper body swings your arms, your core rotates and stabilizes you, and your lower body squats and provides the power. Ready to burn some calories and tone up with a diagonal chop?

In this video, certified fitness trainer Jennifer Jacobs demonstrates how to do a diagonal chop safely and effectively. She does the movement weight-free, holding her hands together as if holding an ax (that’s where the “chop” comes in). However, you can also do this holding a medicine ball or a light dumbbell.

How to Do a Diagonal Chop

To begin a diagonal chop, start with your feet a little over shoulder width apart, so you are able to bend into a deep squat. Clasp your hands together and reach diagonally toward the floor, toward the outside of your right knee. Then, swing your arms until they are reaching diagonally toward the ceiling, to your left. Repeat. The diagonal chop should feel like you are chopping wood with an ax.

Along with the arm movements, you should be rotating at the torso. When you chop downward, squat—but keep your back straight. As you bring your arms back up, come up from the squat.

Gather power from your legs and core so that your arms are not providing the momentum. This will make the diagonal chop more steady and powerful (and less like you are simply flailing your arms).

It is important to do a diagonal chop unilaterally, which means switching sides so you are not only working the same muscles on one side. During the second round, chop from the top right down toward your left knee.

If this diagonal chop is too easy, speed it up. Your core will get a better workout as it balances the body during the fast movement.

You can also add weights, of course. If you don’t have access to weights, get creative: a soda bottle, a can of beans, or a laundry detergent container. (FYI, here’s a full-body workout using a bottle of laundry detergent!)