I did 50 weighted Windshield Wipers every day for a week — here’s what happened

 A photo of a woman doing an ab leg raise.
A photo of a woman doing an ab leg raise.

Windshield wipers are a superb advanced bodyweight ab exercise with multiple variations you can try. Not only does the move torch your midsection, but it also requires no equipment whatsoever, so you can do the ab exercise just about anywhere.

However, there’s more to it than flinging your legs from side to side, so below, I cover how to do the move properly, plus what happened when I tried a muscle-torching variation of the windshield wiper abs exercise each day for one week.

Read on to see what happened when I took on 50 reps a day as part of a Tom’s Guide fitness challenge and what I’ve taken away from it — except a sore core.

How to do the Windshield Wiper exercise

an illo of a woman doing the half wipers exercise
an illo of a woman doing the half wipers exercise

Our writer took on the standard windshield wiper exercise every day for a week, detailing how to do the move step-by-step. It’s crucial to build slowly with this move, so here’s how.

  • Lay on your back on one of the best yoga mats and extend your arms on either side of your body, palms facing down

  • Bend your knees and lift your legs away from the ground to 90 degrees — tabletop position

  • Tuck your pelvis slightly toward you to flatten your lower back and brace your stomach nice and tight

  • Twist your hips to the left as you exhale and slowly lower your legs toward the ground on your left side

  • On your next inhale, lift your legs back to the center and repeat on the right side, rotating the hips to the right

  • Alternate sides, ensuring your lower back isn’t arching and keep your shoulders pressed down on the mat at all times.

a man doing the windshield wiper exercise
a man doing the windshield wiper exercise

Once you feel more confident with the exercise, extend your legs away from you and keep them straight as you perform the reps, pressing your legs together. To advance the exercise, hold a weight over your chest (see above).

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I did 50 weighted Windshield Wipers every day for one week — here are my results

Having tried straight and bent-leg windshield wipers over the years, I decided to give the weighted variation a try. Here’s what happened.

It works your lower back, which can be beneficial

There are many ways you can do windshield wipers to suit your ability. For people who suffer from sciatica, you can turn the exercise into a stretch or mobility exercise by reducing the intensity, keeping the knees bent, or lowering the feet to the ground and rotating the knees from side to side.

The lower back stretch is popular in yoga, and I use the stretch variation with clients all the time during cooldowns. Try to keep your stomach braced and move slowly from side to side, or hold the stretch on one side, then the other.

Essentially, you’re working to resist gravity, so the standard windshield wiper variation can place undue strain on your lower back if you can’t control the exercise — generally, a lack of core strength. Keep the stomach braced, shoulders supported on the mat and remember to breathe toward your stomach.

It’s the hardest variation I’ve tried

For this challenge, I extended a barbell over my chest, which removed any support I had from my arms and forced my upper body to engage to hold the weight in place, and I felt better engagement down my sides.

Holding a kettlebell, dumbbell, or barbell over the chest is the safest way to do weighted windshield wipers; I’ve seen people place a weight between the legs, just above the ankles or knees, but if it goes wrong, you could immediately overstress the back and hip flexors by adding load to your legs, potentially leading to injury.

My core and hips worked super hard

Windshield wipers target the upper and lower abs without the torso moving much. The obliques (muscles that run down your waist) work to stabilize the torso through rotation, and the lower back muscles are also active as your hips and legs rotate. I got plenty of feedback from my hip flexors, too, which meant my whole waist remained fired up during the reps.

However, it’s easy to default to a swinging action (momentum) to drive movement, and people often feel the move in their hips or backs; this could indicate that you’re relying on your hips more than your core.

I found my upper back slightly lifting and made it my priority to press down onto the mat, which is a lot harder when your arms extend in the air with the upper body supporting a barbell.

Even dividing my 50 reps into five sets of 10 with rest between tested my core strength and stability. Creating awareness of what your body does during exercise can help strengthen your mind-muscle connection, so it’s certainly worth practicing challenging ab exercises like these regularly, as conscious muscle contraction is crucial for developing mindful and active movement patterns when lifting weights or similar.

Are Windshield Wipers a good workout?

If you find yourself defaulting to core exercises like sit-ups and crunches, you’ll be familiar with flexion and extension movements requiring you to lift and lower your body, moving forward and backward. Windshield wipers work the core in the transverse plane, meaning rotational movement.

Adding windshield wipers and the more advanced weighted windshield wiper exercise to your exercise routine could help strengthen the powerhouse center of your body responsible for stability, power, balance and safe movement.

But strengthening these muscles alone won’t guarantee rippling muscle definition — that’s down to lifestyle factors you can control, like nutrition, and others that are harder to combat, like genetics.

Your body fat percentage will determine how much your abs pop, and that’s “easier” for some people to achieve than others. But luckily, there’s more to life than having a six-pack. Strengthening these muscles will help you run faster, lift heavier in the gym and protect from injury, keeping you moving for longer.

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