Woodsman's Workout: Chopping Firewood

ChopWood copy.jpg

Forget diets, spin classes and yoga. An axe and a few stumps to split is a guaranteed all in one muscle workout, core toner and cardio - for free. Chopping firewood is more than an imprecise activity that requires little mind and brute force. There is, instead, a distinct art to splitting wood.

“Learn to use an axe, and respect it and you can’t help but love it. But abuse one and it will wear your hands raw and open your foot like an overcooked sausage.” - Dick Proenneke


The first unspoken rule of wood-splitting is placing your to-be-chopped logs onto a chopping block. Having a sturdy base will provide solid resistance to the blows, increasing your stroke's penetration, as well as preventing your blade from dulling by landing in stones or concrete. The tools: single-blade splitting axe, a little muscle and a lot of strategy - for tougher pieces a pair of steel wedges, a middle-sized sledgehammer, a splitting maul will make life easier. To start, place a piece of wood onto your chopping block, slide one hand up near the head of the axe the other towards the bottom of the handle. When you execute each stroke, let your hand at the top slide down the axe handle to meet your other hand as the swing is executed. This maintains control and delivers a much more powerful blow, also ensuring you don't waste precious energy thumping a log around. If it won't split, simply remove the axe, reposition and go again. Do this once a day for 45 minutes and you can forget the gym.