Maybe you’re under the weight of a loaded barbell, and you know you have to brace your core. To do so, you need to practice proper bracing mechanics without all that weight on your back. Or maybe you want a rock-solid core in its own right. Whatever your reasons, if you’re looking to build a stronger, more stable core, the Pallof press, and Pallof press variations can get you there.
The original Pallof press is an anti-rotation core exercise. To perform it, you stand perpendicular to the anchor point of a cable stack or resistance band. You’ll step away from the anchor to establish tension while holding the band or cable at chest height. Without leaning sideways, you’ll press the cable or band out away from your chest and bring it back with control. The entire time, you’ll be fighting the pull toward your side — hence, anti-rotation.
With the Pallof press, you’ll learn to stabilize your core under a load. This translates into a better ability to stay tight when it matters — say, under a heavy back squat or during a massive deadlift attempt. When you’re ready to bring your core to the next level, Pallof press variations can include more elements of instability and intensity to your exercise.
This article will take you through the best 10 Pallof press variations on the block. It’ll also walk you through the benefits of the Pallof press and help you figure out how to integrate these core-builders into your program.
Pallof Press Variations
- Half-Kneeling Pallof Press
- Split Stance Pallof Press
- Tall-Kneeling Overhead Pallof Press
- Angled Pallof Press
- Pallof Press with Front Raise
- Rotational Pallof Press
- Pallof Press with Overhead Raise
- Lateral Pallof Walk
- Up and Down Pallof Hold
- Plank Drag
Typical Pallof presses are performed standing. This variation will have you in a half-kneeling position — think the bottom end of a lunge, with one knee touching the floor. You can decide which knee is down depending on your personal sense of balance, and challenge yourself by switching it up when you’re ready.
Benefits of the Half-Kneeling Pallof Press
- You can customize the difficulty level based on your own body and sense of balance.
- Improve your full-body coordination by increasing the instability of your base.
- Increase the challenge to your core by making your weight distribution uneven.
How to Do the Half-Kneeling Pallof Press
Perform a lunge off to the side of a cable stack or anchor for a resistance band. Stay down on one knee. Square your hips by shifting them slightly forward on the side of the down knee. Take the cable handle or resistance band into your hands. Hold it at chest level and scoot over, maintaining your half-kneeling position. Shift until there’s tension in the cable pulling you toward the anchor. Perform a regular Pallof press, keeping your torso straight as you press the cable away from your chest and bring it back under control. Repeat equally on both sides.
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Doing the Pallof press with a split stance might be a bit easier for some lifters than the half-kneeling version. That’s because both of your feet are planted on the ground — albeit with one out in front of the other. This is a significant variation to spice up your Pallof press without throwing your balance off completely.
Benefits of the Split Stance Pallof Press
- Add an extra layer of instability to the Pallof press to improve balance.
- It offers an alternative to the half-kneeling version that might be easier on your knees and coordination.
- Provides an extra challenge to your core by forcing you to square your hips against the cable.
How to Do the Split Stance Pallof Press
Assume a standing split stance. Your feet should be about hip-width apart, with one foot in front of the other. Both feet should be planted with your knees somewhat bent. Stand to the side of the anchor far enough away for there to be tension pulling you toward it. Perform a regular Pallof press in this split stance. Switch sides and repeat.
By combining an overhead cable press with a Pallof press, you’ll be reaping maximum benefits from both exercises. The anti-rotational element will increase your core engagement in the overhead press. In turn, the overhead press will add a new range of motion to your Pallof press, testing and improving your overhead mobility and recruiting even more core muscle fibers.
Benefits of the Tall-Kneeling Overhead Pallof Press
- Add an extra element of core engagement by balancing on your knees while maintaining a steady, upright torso.
- Strengthen your shoulders by increasing deltoid involvement in the movement.
- Integrate overhead mobility into your Pallof press, which will also help maximize core recruitment.
How to Do the Tall-Kneeling Overhead Pallof Press
Set the cable height to chest level. Take a triceps rope into your hands and kneel on both knees with the cable stack beside you. It’s okay if it takes some maneuvering to get into position. Aim to kneel far enough away from the cable stack that there’s tension trying to pull the rope away from you. Squeeze your glutes and brace your core against that tension. With control, perform a full Pallof press. Then, perform an overhead press with the triceps rope. Remain stable and repeat on both sides.
You’ll perform the angled Pallof press variation much the same way that you will the original version. But this time, your cable or resistance band will be set at a lower or higher height than chest level. Because it’s not at chest level like a standard Pallof press, you’ll have to resist the upward or downward tug in addition to the rotational pull.
Benefits of the Angled Pallof Press
- Depending on the angle, target your upper or lower core more specifically.
- Increase the instability of the cable’s pull, which increases demand on your core.
- Provide an extra challenge to your shoulders to resist vertical tension in addition to the side-to-side pull.
How to Do the Angled Pallof Press
Set up the same way you do for a regular Pallof press. Stand to the side of the anchor, far enough to generate tension with the band or cable. But instead of securing the implement at chest height, set the cable or band up either toward knee level or eye level. Perform your press as normal, keeping the implement steady at chest level throughout the exercise.
This variation will reverse the standard order of operations. Instead of setting the cable up at chest height, you’ll set the anchor very low. Unlike an angled Pallof press — during which you keep the cable or band at chest level the entire time — you will let the cable or band lower after each rep. The addition of an active front raise to initiate each rep adds an extra layer of shoulder strength and core stability.
Benefits of the Pallof Press with Front Raise
- Increase engagement of your anterior deltoids with the front raise.
- Pre-exhaust your shoulders a little bit with each rep so that your core will have to work overtime to maintain form during the actual Pallof press movements.
- Add focus to the element of the Pallof press where you bring the implement back toward your chest, increasing your mind-muscle connection.
How to Do the Pallof Press with Front Raise
Secure a cable or band to the bottom of a cable stack or other stable anchor. Stand to the side of the anchor until the implement generates tension. With the cable right in front of you, perform a front raise with soft elbows. Once the implement reaches chest level, control its path to draw your hands toward your chest. Press back out, then lower the implement back down. That’s one rep. Repeat your reps on both sides.
Sure, the name of the Pallof press game is anti-rotation. But this variation adds in an extra element of rotation to enhance the entire move. By rotating away from the anchor, you’ll be giving your core an extra challenge.
Benefits of the Rotational Pallof Press
- Add another dynamic element to this core isometric to provide an extra challenge.
- Increase muscular recruitment across your core by adding a rotation to this anti-rotation move.
- Target your obliques even further with the rotational element.
How to Do the Rotational Pallof Press
Perform a Pallof press as usual. Depending on your tool, you might want to set up a little bit closer to the anchor than you usually would. Once you’ve pressed the cable or band out away from your chest, slowly twist your torso away from the anchor. Keep your arms long with your elbows soft but not bent. Once your chest is facing mostly away from the implement (do not move your feet), slowly return to center. Pull the implement back toward your chest and repeat. Keep it even on both sides.
For this one, you’ll keep your elbows soft — not locked, but also not fully bent. After performing your regular press, you’ll add a little extra spice to your rep by raising your arms overhead. This will add an anti-extension element to your anti-rotation move.
Benefits of the Pallof Press with Overhead Raise
- Train anti-extension along with anti-rotation for a more fully-developed core.
- Improve overhead mobility and strength.
- Teach your upper back muscles to move without hyperextending your back.
How to Do the Pallof Press with Overhead Raise
Set up the same way you would for a regular Pallof press. The first portion of your rep is the same — press the cable or band away from your chest. Bring your arms to full extension, but don’t lock your elbow. Instead of bringing the implement back toward your chest right away, raise it over your head — think about bringing an ax straight up. Squeeze your glutes, so you don’t hyperextend your back. With control, lower the implement back to chest height. Then bring it back toward your chest. That’s one rep.
With most Pallof press variations, the position of your feet — indeed, your entire lower body — will remain stable through the entire exercise. But with lateral Pallof walks, you’ll be performing a slow sideways walk. To accomplish this, you’ll have to engage the heck out of your obliques, because the tension will build — and then rapidly decrease — with each step you take.
Benefits of the Lateral Pallof Walk
- Provide balance and coordination-focused variability to your core training.
- Create mounting tension on your obliques as you step farther away, increasing core engagement.
- Increase the challenge not to get pulled too quickly toward the anchor as you shuffle back (and tension eases).
How to Do the Lateral Pallof Walk
Perform the first part of your Pallof press as usual. But when the implement is extended at your chest level, start taking a lateral step away from the anchor with soft knees. Keep your arms extended and your torso rigid as your body moves. Take as many lateral steps away as you can before stepping — with control — back laterally toward the anchor. Switch sides and repeat.
This variation is an isometric version of the Pallof press. You’ll move your lower body pretty dramatically while maintaining your upper body in the same pressed-out position. This one is great if you want to give your core training a bit of a conditioning boost.
Benefits of the Up and Down Pallof Hold
- Add a conditioning element to your core training.
- Train your body to maintain a rigid core while your lower body moves up and down.
- Increase full-body coordination while focusing on your core.
How to Do the Up and Down Pallof Hold
Start by performing a regular Pallof press. Transition from standing to a tall kneeling position by lowering one knee at a time to the ground when the cable is away from your chest. When you’re stable in your tall kneeling position, bring the implement back to your chest and press it back out again. With the weight extended, return to standing. That’s one rep. Repeat, and don’t forget to keep it even on both sides.
You’ll likely perform this one with a kettlebell or dumbbell rather than a cable or resistance band. Plus, you’ll be horizontal rather than vertical — in a plank position rather than kneeling or standing. But the plank drag is too good of an anti-rotational core movement not to include on this list.
Benefits of the Plank Drag
- Train your hips to remain squared and stable when you’re bracing your core.
- Engage your rear delts and your obliques at the same time.
- Promote full-body stillness during a difficult dynamic movement in ways that can carry over into loaded lifts.
How to Do the Plank Drag
Set up in a full plank, with your hands underneath your shoulders and your tailbone slightly tucked (to avoid your hips arching up). Place a dumbbell or kettlebell just outside of one shoulder. Transfer the top half of your weight into the hand next to the weight. With the opposite hand, reach under your body to grab the handle of your implement.
Keep your hips and shoulders as squared as you can. Imagine balancing a water bottle on your upper back and lower back — you don’t want to shift and spill it. Maintaining this stillness, drag the weight underneath your body and through to the other side. Reestablish your plank, then repeat with the opposite hand.
Pallof Press Benefits
Like all good core-training exercises, performing the Pallof press regularly offers a host of benefits that can carry over into your big lifts. But given that so many programs neglect to include anti-rotation training, Pallof presses are uniquely qualified to give you strong obliques and overall core strength.
Increases Anti-Rotation Strength
Even when you dedicate time to specifically training your core, it’s all too easy to neglect essential anti-rotation exercises. But you do so at your peril. Anti-rotation exercises are essential for a strong, functional core that will support you during your heaviest lifts. Your core is a huge part of keeping you stable during big squats and deadlifts.
And if you have any side dominance at all (most people do, even when they train unilaterally), our obliques can play a big role in keeping you stable under heavy loads. Practicing anti-rotation moves like Pallof presses and their variations helps ensure that your body knows how to react when unstable forces threaten your lifts.
Helps You Lift Heavier
Pallof presses and their variations reinforce proper core bracing technique and strength. Practicing these mechanics under heavy loads is both effective and necessary — but training bracing techniques submaximally is an unsung key to success. You can practice bracing more often and more safely when you’re not loading hundreds of pounds on your back to do it. And all things being equal, the better you get at bracing, the heavier you can lift.
Completes Your Core Training Program
Core flexion, extension, and anti-extension are relatively common staples in core training programs. But rotation — and its perhaps even more powerful cousin, anti-rotation — are often neglected when it comes to abdominal gains. By adding the Pallof press to your core routine, you’ll likely be filling a big gap in your training. This can help round out your core program and maximize its effectiveness.
How to Program the Pallof Press
Because it’s an excellent exercise that won’t add too much to your recovery plan, the Pallof press — and its variations — can be easily slipped into different aspects of your program. You might use them during warm-ups, your core-specific training sessions, or for performing supersets with bigger lifts.
Add the Pallof Press to You Warm-Up
You can train the Pallof press and its variations daily, as long as you’re not recovering from a very particular type of injury (that would prevent you from holding your shoulders out against resistance, for example). While you don’t want to ramp up the resistance very high on this if you’re going to do it daily, it’s a great core (and shoulder) activation move to add to your warm-up routine.
This can be especially helpful on days that will require you to brace for heavy lifts — think, deadlifts and heavy squats. Try performing two or three sets of 15 to 20 reps per side during your warm-up.
Do the Pallof Press on Your Core Sessions
Incorporating the Pallof press into your core-specific training sessions is also a great idea. Whether you train your abs once, twice, or three times a week, the Pallof press can round out your core program with its anti-rotation emphasis. When it’s part of a loaded core workout, you can go a bit heavier — while maintaining excellent form — and lower the reps slightly. Consider performing three or four sets of 12 to 15 reps per side during your next core session.
Superset the Pallof Press with Your Compound Lifts
Another great option is to superset the Pallof press with your compound lifts. For example, use it as a gentle (very light) core activation move in between moderate to heavy deadlift, squat, overhead press, or bench press sets. It’ll keep your mind focused on maintaining a strong brace during your lifts without adding a physically or psychologically taxing load to your plate. Very light — but slow and controlled — sets of eight to 12 reps per side between compound lifts will do the trick.
More on Core Training
Pallof press variations — as well as the original exercise — can work wonders for your core training and overall strength and athleticism. By providing anti-rotation training that reinforces strong bracing technique at submaximal loads, Pallof presses and variations may just be what your core training is missing. As you integrate them into your program, read up on more core training techniques to really up your game.
- Everything You Should Know About Training Your Core
- Abide by These 5 Rules of Core Training for Stronger Abs
- What You Need to Know About How to Get Abs
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