Note- This was first published here. This is an edited version.
Some things are better together.
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Eggs and bacon (granted, almost anything goes with bacon)
- Scotty Pippen and Michael Jordan
- Bicep curls and mirrors
Each of the above can stand alone in its own right, no question. But when you put them together, magic happens. Who can argue with six NBA championships? Or seeing your biceps swell up in the mirror?
Flex away, I know you want to.
Lately I’ve been feeling the same way about the Pallof press and its numerous variations.
Alone the Pallof press trains the core (insert trunk if it makes you happy) to resist rotation, lumbar extension and posterior pelvic tilt. Pallof presses train the core in a dynamic fashion which simulates what really happens on and off the sporting field.
As a stand-alone exercise, it’s fantastic and deserves a place in everyone’s training routine.
If you beg to differ, you can take it up with this guy.
After some tinkering in my laboratory (some might call it a gym), I’ve been pairing Pallof press variations with strength movements, so you can get more bang for your gym buck.
These are the results from my “experiments.” Enjoy.
1. HALF KNEELING PALLOF PRESS WITH SPLIT SQUATS/LUNGES
Fitness industry heavyweights Mike Robertson, Gray Cook and Charlie Weingroff have made mainstream the message that we need proximal stability (core/trunk) to have distal mobility (hips and shoulders).
The Half Kneeling Pallof Press would make these gentlemen very happy.
The half kneeling position with its narrow base of support increases the demand of the core and hip stabilizers to fire so you can avoid biting the floor.
The Pallof press only adds to the excitement. The core/ hip stabilizers have to fight the additional rotational forces (cable or band) as you press your arms in and out.
The half kneeling position also resembles a spilt squat/ lunge. They both require adequate hip flexion, hip extension and core stability to perform correctly.
It just so happens that these attributes will have you dominating on the field of play because standing upright and making plays is good, while lying face down while your opponent is celebrating is bad.
That’s something we can all agree on.
When using this pairing in my own trainings, I’ve found myself getting into better positions for both exercises faster. When is faster not better? However, it’s not going to make lunges suck any less, sorry.
Lately I’ve been adding the Half Kneeling Pallof Press as a filler between strength exercises. It’s a great way to add-in core work plus it provides an active rest before starting the next circuit.
1A. Split squat, forward/reverse lunge variations.
1B. Any bilateral upper body exercise.
1C. Half kneeling Pallof press – 30 seconds on each side.
This allows for greater training efficiency, so you can pound down your protein shake a little sooner. That’s always a bonus.
2. HALF KNEELING SPLIT STANCE PALLOF PRESS WITH DEADLIFT
Two major players for safe and effective deadlifting are
- Maintaining full body tension
- Hip mobility.
When pulling heavy from the floor, muscular tension is needed to increase spinal stability to give you a stable base to pull heavy from. If you don’t, it can get ugly real quick.
Also, if you have limited hip mobility, you really have no business doing deadlifts from the floor.
Having both of these attributes while lifting is extremely important to staying injury free and strong. If you’ve ever suffered a back injury, you know what I’m talking about.
That’s where the Pallof press can help.
Adding just a little Pallof before pulling heavy will help “prime” your muscles (much like plyometric jumps before squatting) around the core to provide the tension needed to protect your spine. (1)
But wait there’s more…
When we think of hip mobility, the glutes and the hip flexors get all the love and the poor old adductors are the ugly stepchild in the corner.
Those large muscles of our inner thigh actually play a role in flexing/extending the hip and are not just for bringing the legs together on those waste of space inner thigh machines.
If those adductors are “tight” (and when aren’t they) then getting adequate hip flexion and extension to dominate the deadlift could become a little problem.
Enter the problem solver, the Half Kneeling Split Stance Pallof Press, an excellent variation I stole from LaVack Fitness.
The split stance combined with the Pallof press will
- Give your adductors an active stretch.
- Fire up your glutes.
- Turn on some of the muscles responsible for spinal stability.
This is a win-win in anybody’s book, and it beats looking like Dean on that machine.
The trick here is not to fatigue your core musculature before lifting heavy but to prime it. Doing just 15 seconds on each side just before you lift should do the trick.
1A. Half Kneeling Split Stance Pallof Press 15 seconds each side
1B. Deadlift 3- 5 reps
Rest 2- 3min.
Core work and deadlifts are a match made in exercise heaven.
3. TALL KNEELING OVERHEAD PALLOF PRESS WITH ANY BARBELL OVERHEAD PRESS VARIATION
We’ve all seen those gym goers cranking out their final few reps of the overhead press while heavily arching their low back, with their lower ribcage protruding, looking like they’re about to blow a gasket.
Heck, I use to do this on a regular basis. After a while, my shoulders and back flipped me the bird. Compromising technique for a few extra pounds on the bar is never a good idea.
You’ll only end making your health insurance company’s bottom line look golden and your doctor’s back account very healthy.
Avoid the Physical Therapist and make a fantastic upper body builder even better by grooving the overhead pattern with the Tall Kneeling Overhead Pallof Press.
For both exercises to be performed properly you need to
- Keep your lower ribs down and anterior core engaged.
- Avoid hyperextending the lower back.
- Squeeze your glutes like they owe you money.
- Keep the biceps by or behind your ears.
It makes perfect sense to put these exercises together just like peanut butter and jelly. Getting boulder shoulders and a rock solid core simultaneously -what’s not to like?
If the overhead press is your big strength movement for the day you can program the pairing like
1A. Tall Kneeling Overhead Pallof Press 8 reps
1B. Barbell overhead press
Keep the resistance moderate on the Pallof Press. The goal is to groove the overhead pattern and lock in proper technique. Or if the overhead press is part of a circuit, get some additional core work in as follows –
1A. Overhead press variation
1B. Lunge, squat or deadlift variation
1C. Tall Kneeling Overhead Pallof Press 8 reps
In this case the Pallof press will act as filler exercise for smoother transitions between circuits and allow you to do more work in less time which leads to a more awesome you.
Most of us avoid extra core work like the plague, but now you’ve seen the light. Pairing Pallof presses with strength exercises will help you get bigger and stronger and have you crushing PR’s like never before.
1. McBride JM1, Triplett-McBride T, Davie A, Newton RU (2002). The effect of heavy- vs. light-load jump squats on the development of strength, power, and speed. J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Feb;16(1):75-82.