Swisssshhhhh! Sweep your windshield wiper workouts into a new dimension.
These wipers are not wiping pesky bugs, hail, sleet, or snow from the front of your car.
They’re wiping away your competition.
That’s right. The winner of the most aesthetic abs contest is you.
This could be a reality once you start getting on a windshield wipers workout program.
Let’s get down to business and understand the obliques and other muscles of the core. We’ll see how a windshield wiper workout can supercharge your ab definition.
Plus, get a step-by-step rundown on this move and learn some variations you can try to scale the intensity up or down.
What are Windshield Wipers?
“These blades, made from a durable rubber are—”
Gotcha. Okay, we’re not talking about the car part here. In the gym, windshield wipers are your best friend for getting taut and toned abs.
This move is named for its side-to-side swiping motion.
This is an intense core workout that targets your abs, specifically the obliques. It can help with leg strength too. In fact, research increasingly shows that we underestimate the link between trunk stability and healthy hip muscles.
Core work helps with stability. Training your abdominal muscles to reduce belly fat is one of the best ways to lower your cardio disease risk.
Which muscles do you use for a windshield wipers workout?
This core workout targets the rectus abdominal muscles. These sit on the front of your torso and give you a six-pack when they show through if you are lean enough.
Obliques, aka your waist muscles, help you to twist from your midsection.
The obliques consist of an external oblique and a deeper internal oblique muscle.
The hip flexors refer to a group of muscles including the iliacus, psoas, rectus femoris, and sartorius.
This muscle group works to flex your hips and bend your legs toward your torso.
Many of us struggle with injuries or tightness in the hip flexors, with hip pain especially common during squats. So it’s important not only to strengthen these muscles but to stretch them as well. new line
Research shows that Hip flexor stretching can have a positive impact on both your balance and your jumping performance in sports.
After your windshield wipers workout, include stretches like the runners stretch to loosen up your hips.
Windshield Wiper— Step-by-Step
To perform a traditional windshield wiper:
- Lie flat on your back. You can use a yoga mat here. Your arms should be at your sides with your palms facing down for support. You can bring them wide out to the sides to make a T-shape for extra stability.
- Hinge at the hips and lift your legs straight into the air.
- Engage your shoulders and core for support, then twist sideways to lower your legs to one side, moving towards the ground.
- Your upper body should stay planted straight and your shoulders should not budge from their position as your legs move.
- Use your core strength to bring the legs back up to center, then twist the legs to the other side.
There are several great benefits that you can gain from performing this move.
Windshield wipers work the deep core muscles including the internal obliques. They also activate more surface-level core muscles, like the external obliques and rectus abdominis.
These look great when well-developed and can help you build a more aesthetic body. Deep core work is essential for posture balance and a more functional body.
Back Pain Prevention
Any kind of abdominal workout is going to help alleviate some of your back pain.
At least 23% of adults around the world may suffer from chronic low back pain. Over 80% of Americans reported experiencing low back pain in their lifetimes. This is one of the best exercises you can do to help your lower back.
Easy to Take Anywhere
This move requires little equipment. You can bust it out at the gym, in a public park, or even in your hotel room if you’re traveling.
Windshield wipers are a great way to get strong even if you don’t have access to a full gym setup. Of course, if you’re looking to do the hanging variation, you may need a pull-up bar. But as an alternative, you can always work your windshield wipers on the floor.
Since there are different levels of difficulty, you’re unlikely to get bored. The straight leg variation or the bent knee variation allow you to switch things up.
You’re still able to get a strong workout, even if you don’t have a physical gym at your disposal.
Pro tip: If you’re on the go, incorporate other calisthenics moves like planche progressions, and push-up reps into your bodyweight-only workout. Think you can challenge yourself to 500 push-ups a day? That’s certainly one way to stay in shape. Combined with windshield wipers, you’ll be feeling a full body burn for days to come.
There are a few key windshield wiper variations that people commonly perform. The lying-down windshield wipers which we saw described above are the most common. Let’s break down a few other variations.
Bent-Knee Windshield Wipers
These are pretty much the same as the traditional windshield wiper variation. The only difference is that in a bent-knee windshield wiper, you bend the knees at 90 degrees.
Here, aim to bring the knees down to meet the ground when you twist instead of the feet. This variation is slightly easier than the full variation of the windshield wiper. Try a bent knee version if you’re just new to learning how to do this move or if you struggle with a weaker core.
Hanging Windshield Wipers
Another common variation is the hanging windshield wiper. In this version your body is vertical but you hang from a pull-up bar. Grab hold of a bar at a comfortable height or any other stable structure. You can do this outside on playground equipment, provided it will hold your weight.
Extend the legs out straight, tensing the abs and bring them up as close to 90 degrees as you can. With your core and shoulders engaged to keep you vertical, bring the legs down toward one side as far as they’ll go, then use the abs to pull you back to a central position, then down to the other side.
@sabinaa56 performs some impressive hanging windshield wipers with a barbell in the middle to keep those legs up.
For most people, hanging windshield wipers are far more challenging than lying down windshield wipers. You’ll need to use your core a lot more for stability since you don’t have the benefit of the ground underneath you to keep your spine aligned.
Hanging windshield wipers also do double duty and train your grip strength while you train your abs. If you don’t regularly do bar work, grip strength is an area where you may need a little more effort.
If you can do a lying down windshield wiper and want to work up to a hanging windshield wiper, focus on building up your grip strength so that you have adequate ability to support your weight on a pull-up bar.
To train your grip even more, you may want to practice moves like dead hangs where you keep your body fully still and hanging from a pull-up bar. Master this before you work up to adding any extra movement like a windshield wiper. Aim to hang with your body straight and not swinging for around 45 seconds to a minute.
Repeat this dead hang variation for three sets. You can even use this as a warm-up before you add the windshield wipers in just to get comfortable with using the bar.
If you’re an expert, practice lowering your legs as slowly as you can. You’ll get more time under tension to powerfully stimulate your core muscles.
Squeeze Your Abdominal Muscles
Your abs should constantly feel engaged as you move your legs from side to side during this exercise.
Letting your abs go or disengage will force your legs to compensate by swinging through this movement. Using momentum like this won’t help you build a solid core over time.
If you’re losing core engagement performing a bent knee or straight leg variation of the windshield wipers workout, start using a smaller range of motion.
Think about bringing your knees halfway to the ground instead of all the way if that means keeping your core fully engaged and your back planted on the ground.
As you develop more strength, you can slowly deepen your movement.
Perform Other Moves that Target the Obliques.
These muscles can feel a little bit harder to tap into than more obvious core muscles like the rectus abdominis.
Try out some oblique crunches or Russian twists that target the same muscles. Working on a variety of exercises that hit this muscle group should help you visualize the way you want your motion to feel in your body.
Remember not to overload the obliques on one day or one specific workout. You can mix and match these moves throughout your week and see which ab exercise or combination of ab exercises works best for you.
If you do go too hard one day, remember to take some time for muscular recovery. Include static and dynamic stretches, foam rolling, ice baths or muscle scraping to heal the muscles, reduce swelling and aid the recovery process.
Twisting or Lifting the Shoulders
If you’re performing windshield wipers on your back, it’s natural for the opposite shoulder to want to lift while the legs drop in one direction.
Resist this urge. If your shoulder lifts off the ground, you’re taking the effort out of your abdominals.
Part of the skill required for this movement and the reason why it’s a slightly more advanced ab exercise than some you could do It’s because it requires keeping your back and shoulders firmly planted on the ground.
Make sure the right and left side of your shoulders stay grounded.
Lifting the shoulder cheats the move somewhat and reduces the effort you have to put into your reps. You’re not building proper technique this way, so if you need an easier variation, bend your knees rather than letting your shoulders help you out.
Thrashing or Using Momentum
Like the above point on twisting your shoulders, it’s easier to move the legs from side to side if you throw them in the direction that you’re aiming to go. This may be more tempting when you have your knees bent.
Mentally, this can feel impressive. Like you’re cranking out tons of reps. But this falls back to the same principle that you’re not getting the benefits of the workout in your abs and core like you should be.
It may also put stress on the muscles that run along the back like the erector spinae.
Feeling Too Much Work in the Legs
Although your legs are helping to drive your movement, remember, this is a core exercise.
Evidence shows that once your legs surpass a 45-degree angle of motion, the rectus abdominis starts to take over more of the workload from the rectus femoris (hip flexor that also helps determine the position of your knees).
If you’re on the floor, be mindful when you feel your pelvis start to engage with the movement or come up off the floor around this point.
If you’re only feeling this workout in your hip flexors, chances are you may not have the mobility to perform your windshield wipers with fully extended legs.
Although you should certainly feel some work from the legs, your movement should be core-dominant.
A windshield wiper workout is one of the best ways to target your oblique muscles, the side muscles of your waist, as well as the ab muscles that make up your six-pack.
The internal and external obliques, as well as your rectus abdominis, and the hip flexors all get a great workout from this challenging core work activity.
Although the movement itself seems fairly simple, technique is important here. You want to make sure that your shoulders are not lifting off the ground.
If you find your shoulders are lifting or your core is disengaging during a straight-leg windshield wiper variation, bend your knees or work at a smaller range of motion.
For an alternate option, you can always stick to core stability workouts on the floor. Side planks on the forearms switching sides with your hips or dead bugs are great options you can do on the ground.
Make sure not to use too much momentum or let your legs swing from side to side in your wipers. You want to feel your muscles at every step of the move.
For an added challenge, you can also do windshield wipers hanging from a pull-up bar. However, in this variation, your grip strength is important. You’ll need to be able to hold your full weight up. If that’s still a challenge for you, focus on training your grip strength through movements like dead hangs on the bar.
Once you feel comfortable supporting your full weight, you can begin to add the windshield wiper movement in for a hanging variation.
Be careful of pain in your lower back or your hip flexors during windshield wipers. It’s always a good idea to warm up before you work out and to spend some time stretching afterward.
This will make your workouts feel a lot more comfortable and you won’t wake up with excessive muscle soreness the next day.
Casiano VE, Sarwan G, Dydyk AM, et al. Back Pain. [Updated 2023 Feb 20]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538173/
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