Squat Chop

Why do sit-ups when abs can be honed while standing up? The squat chop—which logically combines a downward chopping motion with a deep squat—recruits the shoulders and arms, glutes, hamstrings and quads. But what gets the real work is the core muscles, front and back, which must brace to keep the body upright, not collapsing forward or arching back. The result is a total-body challenge with no strained neck or pinched hip muscles and no floundering on the floor.

THE SETUP
Grasp a medicine ball, at least eight pounds, in both hands. (The type with handles is ideal, but any with a grippy texture will do the trick.) Stand with feet shoulder width apart, knees relaxed. Lift the ball up and overhead, arms straight and alongside ears. Pull the shoulders down and back, so they’re not tensely shrugged upward.

THE ACTION
Breathe in and brace through the core, navel toward spine. With control, fluidly lower the ball out in front and then down. Exhale as the ball lowers, sitting back into the heels and bending the knees into the deepest squat possible, watching that the patellas don’t shoot out past the toes. At the bottom of the squat, the arms should be between the legs with the ball toward the floor (as shown). Keep the neck relaxed, eyes looking straight ahead, chest up (think: If there were something written on your shirt, passersby should be able to read it). Only go as low as you can comfortably control.
Inhale, then exhale while pressing the heels into the floor and raising the arms back up overhead to return to the starting position. Don’t let the knees flare out or cave in during the exercise. Do a set of 12 to 15 before resting for 30 seconds to 1 minute; repeat up to 4 times.

Dumbbell Version
No medicine ball handy? Try the move with a single dumbbell by holding the weight vertically so both hands grip the bar. Because dumbbells come in a wider range of weights, scaling up to a heavier one is easier.

fitness model ryan fatscher photographed at on the go fitness, st. james