The Pallof press doesn’t look like much.
You stand side on to resistance band or cable machine, and you press in and out while keeping your torso front-on. But like a lot of things in life, there is more than meets the eye and this is true with the Pallof press. This exercise and its variations play a starring role in my client’s programs and it’s close to a non-negotiable exercise (in my book) as there is.
If the Pallof press were a person, I would give it a big hug and kiss and wouldn’t let go because I love it that much. That’s not weird at all right? Thought not. 😊 Instead of hugging it, here I’ll do a mini-deep dive on the Pallof press and explain why you should be doing it. First, let me explain what it is.
What The Pallof Press Is
This is an anti-rotation exercise. What is an anti-rotation exercise? It’s an exercise that encourages you to resist a force (a band or cable machine) that is trying to cause your torso to rotate. Because of this, it trains the larger (obliques) and smaller muscles (lower back) around the spine to resist rotation.
Your lower back is not designed for rotation, which makes it an excellent exercise to resist forces placed upon you in the gym and with your activities of daily living. Plus, it helps to reduce your chances of suffering from lower back pain.
How to Do The Standard Pallof Press
Stand parallel to the resistance band and clasp the handle or band with both hands. Make sure your torso is front on and bring your hands to the center of your chest and slowly press out. Slowly return your hands to the lower chest and repeat.
5 Reasons To Do The Pallof Press
There are always forces happening on your spine (whether you like it or not) and the better you can resist them, the better you will move and the more weight you will lift you’ll lift in the gym. Resisting outside forces is a great reason to train the Pallof press and here are a few more.
Improved anti-rotational strength: Developing stronger obliques and abs in the rotational plane can improve your ability to stabilize the spine and hips and train your’ ‘love handles’ to be sexier.
Versatility: You can train it from a variety of positions to train your core strength and mobility from all angles. An example of this is the half kneeling Pallof press which improves hip mobility and core stability at the same time. More on this later.
Better Balance: No matter what position you train the Pallof Press in, the resistance is pulling you to one side and you’re resisting this force. By doing so, you’re improving your body’s ability to balance in different body positions.
Great warm-up exercise: Doing it before deadlifting and squatting will help “prime” your muscles around your core to provide the tension needed to protect your spine. (1)
Easy to perform: It’s not a technical exercise, like the deadlift, and is simple to do and an easy exercise to do well. You’ll be a Pallof press pro by the end of this article. 😊
Common Pallof Press Mistakes
The Pallof press seems like there is nothing to it because all you are doing is pushing a band in and out and wah-la, you’re done. Yes, it’s simple but there are a few things to keep in mind while doing it.
The Pallof press anti-rotation exercise. Keeping yourself front on is a must but this becomes a problem when too much resistance is used. This causes your body to rotate and then all the benefits of the Pallof press go away.
Keeping your shoulders down and chest up while performing the Pallof press makes sure the correct muscles are doing the work. When your shoulders are up by your ears it is an ouch waiting to happen.
Last but not least don’t over arch the lower back and crush your spine. This puts your core at a disadvantage and then all the Pallof press benefits will disappear like magic. Good posture and squeezing your bum will stop this from happening.
How to Add The Pallof Press To Your Workout
Depending on your goals and exercise experience, there are a couple of ways you can train the Pallof press. This allows you the flexibility to use it where it benefits you the most. The key here is to prime the body for the work ahead and not exhaust it. Anywhere from one to three sets using a rep range of between eight to 15 reps works well here.
Warm-up: Doing one or two sets before hitting the weights will get you ready for the work ahead.
Strength Superset: Pairing it with a strength exercise will help you recover between sets and help with good form by reinforcing core stability and shoulder and hip mobility. Using the example of an overhead press you can improve form by grooving the overhead pattern with the Tall Kneeling overhead press.
The overhead Pallof press when done with good form will
- Keep your lower ribs down and the anterior core engaged.
- Avoid hyperextending the lower back.
- Squeeze your glutes.
- Keep the biceps by or behind your ears.
And all this is needed for the weighted overhead press. So, doesn’t it make perfect sense to pair these exercises together?
Core Tri set: Programming this in a tri-set just after your warm-up will act like an extended warm-up and help your body prepare for the work ahead. For example:
1A. Pallof press 12 reps on each side
1B. Front Plank 30-60 seconds
1C. Med ball slams 8-12 reps
A Couple Of Must-Do Pallof Variations
The standard is great, but variety is the spice of life. Here are a couple of other variations to throw into the mix.
Half Kneeling Pallof Press
With the narrower base of support because of the half kneeling position, this is a step up from the standard Pallof press. There is more required from your core and hip stabilizers, and you’ll get hip mobility benefits from being in the half kneeling position. If back pain is an issue this is a great variation.
Half Kneeling Split Stance Pallof Press
Show your inner thighs some love with this variation. The adductors (inner thighs) play an important role in flexing and extending your hips and if they’re tight, you’re leaving pain and gains on the table. This will give your adductors an active stretch and fire up your glutes so your hips can dominate in and out of the gym.
Tall Kneeling Pallof Press
The tall kneeling position narrows your base of support, so you’ll engage both sides of your glutes. This prevents you from falling flat on your face. Plus, this variation gives your hip flexors a stretch to improve mobility and glute strength while improving core stability. It’s a win-win.
Hopefully, now you see how great the Pallof press is and the reasons why you should do it. Then you might love it as much as I do but I doubt it.