Build a Stronger, More Stable Core With the Pallof Press
Your core is not only meant to crunch or plank. For more balanced core strength, you’ll need to challenge the muscle group in different ways. Sometimes that will require you to move in all kinds of directions, bending and twisting through your ab session. This exercise is not one of those times. To do the Paloff press, your focus with be on keeping your torso still and steady.
The Pallof press uses a cable machine or resistance band to harness your core’s ability to resist rotation. This anti-rotation is one of your core’s main functions, and a key to more balanced strength in your midsection to support your spine.
“Here’s what I really love about the Pallof press: we’re not just training our abs—we’re training our core as a full unit,” says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. “Your core is not just your abs. It’s your obliques, it’s your lower back muscles, and it’s your glutes.” To keep your torso steady against the rotational forces you’ll face in the Pallof press, all of those muscles will have to work together.
You’ll need access to a cable machine or a set of resistance bands and a stable anchor point to do the Pallof press. Take a moment to watch Samuel and Men’s Health fitness editor Brett Williams, NASM-CPT demonstrate the exercise and all of the most important cues you’ll need to keep in mind to make the most of the exercise. You might think that it looks like no sweat—but if you’re doing it the right way, staying still and solid is much harder than you’d believe.
Benefits of the Pallof Press
Again, the key benefit of the Pallof press is that we’re harnessing the core’s anti-rotation function. Being able to rotate the spine is important for lots of the movements you’ll do in your daily life, from mundane chores to sports, but it’s equally as important to be able to protect the spine from going too far to prevent injury. By holding in place, you also take on an isometric challenge, diversifying your core training so you can face any movement challenge. Finally, the Pallof press allows you to train all parts of your core—your obliques, abdominals, glutes, and lower back—as one unit.
How to Do the Pallof Press
Follow these form cues to learn how to do the Pallof press more safely. Once you’ve read the step-by-step directions, follow along for some higher-level tips from Samuel to dive deeper into the exercise.
●Set up a cable machine or attach a resistance band to an anchor at a height so that you can grab it with both hands in a tall kneeling position.
●Kneel next to the anchor point and grasp the band or cable handles with both hands in front of your chest. You should be far enough away so that there is some tension in the band. Squeeze your glutes and core to create tension in your body.
●Look straight ahead and tighten up your shoulder blades. Extend your arms away from your torso. Fight the pull of the cable or band by keeping your glutes and core tight. Hold for a count, then return back to the starting position.
Take Your Time
Eb says: The most common mistake I see with the Pallof press: Not owning the arms-extended position. Always aim to pause for 1 to 2 seconds with your arms extended, because that’s the moment in the Pallof where your entire core, as a unit, is working to battle against rotation. You want to feel and experience that, not rush past the moment.
I’ll often see people set up for the Pallof, extend their arms quickly, then pull their arms back. By not lingering with the arms extended, they’re failing to really get the full benefit of the Pallof. Don’t do that. more time in the arms-extended position is also better; don’t be afraid to live there for, say, 3 to 4 seconds.
Eb says: The other common mistake in the Pallof is some slight overcompensation. You know and can feel that band getting ready to pull you back in its direction, so you twist away from it extra hard. You think you’re setting yourself up for success, giving yourself a buffer for the band.
And yes, you’re still working your abs this way. But you’re also missing the magic of the Pallof. Challenge yourself to look straight ahead and keep your hips and shoulders straight ahead on the Pallof and skip that slight extra rotation. Your obliques will fire that much harder and, invariably, your abs will be stronger in the long run.
Eb says: The Pallof isn’t just an ab exercise; one of the best things about it is that it’s challenging your core as a unit. Abs, glutes, obliques, and spinal extensors, in real life, all work in concert to brace your trunk, and they all work here. So don’t just squeeze your abs on Pallofs.
In all variations, actively squeeze your glutes too. This will push your hips into a properly neutral position. Your goal is to own this fully neutral position, not just own the positioning of your abs. This will also help you truly keep your hips and shoulders square. Fail to squeeze your glutes, and you’ll keep your hips square perhaps, but also be a mess in your lower body.
Mix It Up
Eb says: The standard Pallof Press has you extending your arms in front of you, but try the overhead version we show in the video, too. You can even mix the overhead version and the more classic Pallof in the same set, say, alternating 2 standard reps with 2 overhead reps for 4 sets of 12. Your core stabilizes you in multiple planes, and it’s worth training it to do so when you can. With a mixed-style Pallof set, you can.
Want to master even more moves? Check out our entire Form Check series.
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