The Pallof press is a core stabilization exercise that has broad application to strength, power, and fitness athletes and movements. Exercises like the squat, deadlift, Olympic lifts, and even running all require a lifter to demonstrate superior core stabilization to (1) enhance performance (2) lift or move heavier loads, safely, and (3) to protect the lumbar spine and supporting joints of the body from unnecessary and unplaced stress.
In this Pallof press exercise guide we will discuss:
- Pallof Press Form and Technique
- Benefits of the Pallof Press
- Muscles Worked by Pallof Press
- Pallof Press Sets, Reps, and Weight Recommendations
- Pallof Press Variations and Alternatives
- and more…
How to Do the Pallof Press: Form and Technique
Below is a step-by-step guide on how to properly set up and perform the Pallof Press.
Step 1: Start by attaching a resistance band to a fixed anchor or rig, at chest height.
You can also use a cable system and set that height also at chest height.
Step 2: Set your body so that it is perpendicular to the band, so that when your hands are out in front of you the band is at a 90 degree angle.
Do this by holding the band or cable handle while you set up.
Step 3: Step away from the anchor point so that their is tension on the band.
With a resistance band, the farther you stand away from the anchor the more resistance there is. If you are using cables, simply stay in the same place and add weight via the weight stack.
Step 4: With the hands both clasping the handle/band, pull the fists into the sternum and squeeze the shoulder-blades together.
This will help to properly set up the upper back and ensure proper posture.
Step 5: While keeping the abs pulled in, lower back flat, and shoulder-blades depressed and retraced, slowly extend your elbows straight in front of your chest.
In doing so, be sure to not let the torso or shoulder slouch forwards. You should feel tension in the band. Be sure to place that tension into the core muscles by locking out the arms and flexing the core.
Step 6: The Pallof press can be done for slow, tempo like reps, pause reps/holds, or repetitions.
If you are performing pauses and tempo reps, hold this locked-out position for a few seconds, or the allotted time. If you are performing basic repetitions, simply pause in the extended position for a second or two, and simply pull the hands back into the sternum.
Step 7: Reset and repeat for repetitions or time.
Complete each repetition just as described above.
What Is a Pallof Press?
The Pallof press is a core stabilization drill that can be programmed for all types of fitness and sports athletes to
increase spinal stability, core activation, and to enhance bracing technique and tension development. It can be done with resistance bands or light cables, and is a foundational aspect for core stability training.
Pallof Press- Muscles Worked
The Pallof press is a core stabilization movement that primarily stresses the main core muscles. Below are the main muscles worked by the Pallof press.
The obliques are challenged isometrically to resist spinal and pelvic rotation, often responsible for shearing forces being placed upon the lumbar spine. The anti-rotational properties of the exercise make it a pivotal for most athletes (placing loads overhead, running, throwing, etc).
The transverse abdominals (often targeted through plank variations) are targeted at a slightly different angle in the Pallof press.
The Pallof press does reinforce scapular stability and control due to the lifters needing to keep the shoulder-blades retracted and depressed during the press and holds. If this is not done, the ability to isolate and property train the core will be limited.
The glutes work isometrically to help stabilize the pelvis and increase stability for the spine (attached to the hips). During kneeling and seated versions, they may be targeted slightly less.
While the Pallof press does not entail flexion and extension of the spine, it does demand spinal stabilization and anti-rotational abilities from the core. The rectus abdominis contracts isometrically to assist in spinal stabilization during this movement.
3 Benefits of the Pallof Press
Below are three (3) Pallof press benefits coach and athletes should be aware of when programming this exercise into strength and fitness regimens.
The Pallof press can be done to teach and train core stability for most lifters, and has good application to most sport movements and lifts. The Pallof press strengthens the lifters isometric abilities and can help neurologically pattern core stability anti-rotational awareness.
Poor core strength, excessive lumbar extension (under load), and lack of hip stabilization can all wreak havoc on the spine, hips, and knees. The Pallof press can help to increase a lifters control of these joints, promote better joint alignment under load, and increase injury resilience
Enhanced core stability, proper hip and spine alignment, and overall body control can drastically improve movement under load (squats, deadlifts, overhead lifts), in motion (running, cycling, etc) and other human movements (throwing, climbing, etc). The Pallof press can be programmed within most workout programs for all ages and ability levels.
Who Should Do Pallof Press?
We break down who can benefit from Pallof presses, and why.
Pallof Presses for Strength and Power Athletes
Understanding proper core stability, spinal awareness, and posture is key for maximal force application and injury resilience during loaded movements like the squat, deadlift, and Olympic lifts. The Pallof press can be used to help prep training sessions and/or develop a lifters understanding of what it means (and feels like) to find core stability.
Pallof Presses for CrossFit/Competitive Fitness Athletes
The Pallof press can enhance posture, core activation and stability, and help athletes develop greater muscle coordination control during movements in the gym, on the track/field, and in life. Building a strong core and minimizing excessive strain on the lumbar spine is key to longevity as well, essential for long-term career athletes and continued progress.
Pallof Presses for General Fitness
Many general fitness enthusiasts and beginners have a poor sense of what “bracing”, “stacking the core”, and/or flexing the abs looks and feels like. The Pallof press is a great beginner exercise to help develop the ability to control muscle contractions of the core, develop greater self awareness of spinal alignment, and enhance posture and spinal health under load/during training.
Pallof Sets, Reps, and Weight Recommendations
The Pallof press is often done using light to moderate loading for moderate repetitions or time frames. This is not an exercise that would normally be done using high amount of resistance since it is more geared for movement preparation of activation. It can be done during warm ups, accessory blocks, or as rehabilitation/corrective work.
- 3-4 sets of 8-10 repetitions with light to moderate loads, at a controlled speed (focusing on proper eccentric/lowering of the weight), resting as needed
Pallof Press Variations
Below are three (3) Pallof press variations coaches can use to progress this exercise on most training programs.
Double Kneeling Pallof Press
This is a simple progression upon the standing version, which will have an individual be down on both knees. This will slightly increase the demands placed upon the core muscles.
Pallof Press with Overhead Reach
This variation adds an additional overhead reach following the Pallof press. To do this, simply raise your hands (with the resistance band or cable handle in them) slowly overhead following the standard Pallof press. Be sure to keep the ribs and belly button pulled down and in towards the body to remain in proper spinal alignment.
Pallof Press in Squat
This is a more advanced movement that can be done to (1) enhance squat positioning, (2) teach proper bracing and spinal alignment in the squat. You can do this by simply performing Pallof presses while in the bottom of the bodyweight squat.
Pallof Press Alternatives
Below are three (3) core training exercises that can be great alternatives for the Pallof press.
The landmine rotation is a dynamic movement that targets the obliques and can enhance core rotational strength and power. The Pallof press is often a regressed movement for the landmine rotation, as it is less dynamic and uses less loading. Once the Pallof press learned, athletes and coaches can progress into this weighted oblique and functional movement exercise.
Similar to the landmine rotation, the woodchopper (done with cables or dumbbells) can target the obliques and help a lifter/athlete develop greater core stability during movement. In doing so, athletes and lifers learn how to brace their core under load to better protect the spine from rotational stress.
The side plank is essentionally the prone version of a standing Pallof press. Many of the same muscle groups are targeted isometrically. The side plank can be done with a wide variety of movements as well, furthering the appeal for this exercise once the Pallof press and core stability concepts have been mastered.
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