How To Do The Pallof Press Properly

The Pallof press is an anti-rotation movement that trains the muscles in the spinal region to resist rotation.

It is named after John Pallof, a physical therapist who popularized it back in 2006 when it was known as the ‘belly press.’

All the known variations of the Pallof press are designed to train anti-lumbar extension, anti-rotation and posterior pelvic tilt.

In this exercise, you hold a cable or resistance band in front of your upper body and press it out and back.

The tension from the cable/band pulls you towards the anchor point while your core resists so that your torso front stays stationary.

Here’s how to do it properly:

  • Loop a resistance band around a stable anchor point (like a power rack) at chest height.
  • Grab onto the other end of resistance band in your hands.
  • Stand perpendicular to that anchor point.
  • Bend your knees slightly and push your chest up.
  • Hold the band in front of your chest, with interlocked fingers.
  • Take a step or two away from the anchor point to create tension on the band.
  • Squeeze your hands and straighten out your fingers.
  • Tighten your shoulder blades and stretch out your arms. You should feel the band pull your body towards the point to which you’ve anchored the band. Take care not to let your upper body twist since this is an anti-rotation exercise.
  • With your abs flexed and your shoulder blades pushed back, return the band to your chest slowly and with control.
  • Repeat as many times as you desire.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE PALLOF PRESS WORK?

OBLIQUES

Your obliques produce the shear forces on your lumbar spine. The Pallof press challenges these muscles isometrically to resist rotation.

SCAPULAR STABILIZERS

The key to maintaining proper form during this exercise is squeezing the shoulder blades together.

All the small muscles located around your shoulders have to work extra hard to hold this position from the time you begin the rep until you finish it.

While stronger scapular stabilizers may not have any aesthetic effects, they help improve your posture and keep your spine neutral when you are lifting heavy.

RECTUS ABDOMINIS

This exercise does not include flexing and extending your spine, but it requires that you have a stable spine and anti-rotational abilities from your core.

The rectus abdominis contracts isometrically to help stabilize your spine during the movement.

GLUTEALS

Strong gluteal muscles help you develop a solid foundation for both upper and lower body movements.

By squeezing your glutes through this exercise, you will be developing foundational strength for other lifts.

BENEFITS OF THE PALLOF PRESS

 TRAINS ANTI-ROTATIONAL STRENGTH

Every athlete should have the ability to rotate explosively, but they should also learn how to stop rotation, and that is precisely what anti-rotation training is for.

WARMUP EXERCISE

The Pallof press is a great way to prep your body for athletic or lifting movements since it activates the muscle fibers in the muscles that stabilize your body like the glutes, legs and core.

IMPROVES SQUATTING AND DEADLIFTING ABILITY

The Pallof press trains your back to remain stable under a load. This helps improve your ability to perform loaded movements like deadlifts and back squats.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE PALLOF PRESS

MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS

The mountain climber is more of a cardio exercise, but the high plank position and the pumping motion in it makes sure your core stays active and engaged from start to finish.

How to do it:

  • Get into the high plank position, with your hands stacked under the shoulders and your legs extended straight out.
  • Pump your right knee under your chest, towards your arms.
  • Then, send the knee back down while you bring the left one towards your arms.
  • Keep alternating the knees until you complete the desired number of reps.

You will get the most of this exercise if you maintain a high tempo since the aim is to keep your body moving the entire time.

BICYCLE CRUNCHES

Like the mountain climber, the bicycle crunch is a core workout that doubles up as a cardio exercise.

You do not need any equipment to do it, which makes it a great alternative if you don’t have access to gym equipment.

How to do it:

  • Lie on the ground with your hands behind your head and your legs bent.
  • Raise both feet off the ground and pull the left knee towards your upper body, while you twist your torso to bring the right elbow toward the left knee.
  • As you bring the left knee towards your torso, stick the right leg out straight.
  • Now, bring the right knee toward your upper body as you stick your left leg out and twist the left elbow toward your right knee.
  • Alternate the movement with your limbs during each rep.
  • Do 12-16 reps per set.

PALLOF PRESS MISTAKES TO AVOID

USING TOO MUCH RESISTANCE

The Pallof press is an anti-rotation movement, which means your torso has to be stationary during the entire exercise.

However, if you use too much resistance, you will cause your torso to rotate which then negates all the benefits of this movement.

So, start light and then build up the resistance with time.

ELEVATING YOUR SHOULDERS

Keep your shoulders down and your chest up while you are pressing in and outwards to make sure the target muscles are getting engaged.

ARCHING YOUR LOWER BACK

Do not arch your lower back as this could prevent the full activation of your core muscles.

Instead, keep a tall posture, making sure to engage your glutes to keep your back stable.

WRAPPING UP

The Pallof press is suitable for almost every lifter, but it is particularly helpful to strength and power athletes, and functional fitness athletes.

It can also help beginners enhance their spinal alignment and their ability to control core muscle contractions when the spine is under load.

If you have an upper-body injury or a history of such, be sure to consult your doctor before getting started on this exercise.