Everything Pallof Press
Asking me to choose my favorite “core” exercise is akin to asking me what my favorite movie is. I mean, when it comes to the latter there are so many variables to choose from:
Genre - drama, action/adventure, mystery, comedy, documentary, cult classics, foreign, whether or not I’d rather jump into a shark’s mouth/anything my girlfriend chooses, etc.
Director – honestly, I’m more prone to watch a movie if I like the director than I am if it stars a certain actor/actress. Unless, we’re talking about Matt Damon. He could do a movie about a guy sitting there doing nothing but watching paint dry, and I’d watch it. Look at it go!!!
Character Development – Does it show boobies? I’m there.
Cinematography – Do cars, and to a greater degree, people, explode? I’m there.
Plot Line – Are zombies involved in the plot in any way? How about zombies fighting ninjas? Totally there. Twice.**
Is Julia Roberts in any way a part of the movie? – Screeching halt. Although, If it increases my chances of getting laid in any way, I’ll suck it up and take one for the team.
Much the same, choosing a favorite core exercise is just as complicated, if not more so. Similarly, you have lots of different categories (anti-rotation, anti-extension, anterior stabilization, lateral stability, so on and so forth), not to mention picking and choosing can be highly individual on a case-by-case basis depending on the goals and needs (injury history, postural considerations) of the person.
Be that as it may, one of the key exercises that we use almost extensively at Cressey Performance – no matter who we’re working with – is the Pallof Press (and all it’s variations). For those not in the know, the Pallof Press is aptly named after physical therapist John Pallof who is the guy who showed it to both Eric Cressey and myself back in the fall of 2006 when we both moved to the Boston area.
Of note, some of you may recognize it from Men’s Health where it’s called the Cable Core Press.
What make this exercise so beneficial is the fact that it trains the core for what it’s actually designed for, which, as I’ve noted on several occasions, is not for doing crunches and sit-ups. If you actually look at the anatomy, you’ll notice that our “core” is more of a cross-hatched web (as noted by Mike Robertson), and it’s main functions (at least in the context of what most people consider encompasses the core – RA, external/internal obliques, etc) are resisting trunk extension, posterior pelvic tilt, and transmission of hoop stress (rotary or anti-rotation).
That being the case, the Pallof Press meets all these criteria, and serves as a pretty versatile exercise that can be used by just about anyone. Below, I’m going to post videos of several variations that I hope you’ll add to your exercise “playlist.”
For the sake of simplicity, instead of breaking down each and every exercise, I’ll note the following:
1. Assume an athletic position: feet shoulder width apart, chest out, shoulders back. CONTROL the movement – you shouldn’t be having an epileptic seizure while doing these. Fully extend your arms and pause for a 1-2 second count, and then return back to the starting position (which is generally the sternum).
2. The more narrow the stance, the harder the exercise is. If you’re having a hard time keeping your hips/pelvis from moving, you’re too close and/or using too much weight.
3. I find that far too many people tend to push their center of gravity too far forward (hips are forward). Again, push your hips back and assume an athletic position.
If you train from home, I’ll note that you can do the Pallof Press with a band. Here, I’m doing a tall kneeling version, but you can easily do these standing as well.
Here’s a version that we use quite a bit where we add an isometric hold with each repetition. In this video, I’m performing it from a half kneeling position (inside leg down), but you could also do the regular Pallof Press (standing) and add in the isometric hold as well. I’ll typically have people complete 3 sets of 3 repetitions (holding each one for ten seconds) PER SIDE.
Here’s me performing it with a split stance. I’ll typically have someone do 5-6 repetitions per leg facing one direction, then switch and do the exact same thing in the opposite direction. Coincidentally this is a fantastic exercise to help improve hip stability.
Here’s a version that I featured not too long ago. It’s harder than it looks.
Last but not least, Nick Tumminello came up with some awesome variations that I really like – namely the Lateral Pallof Press:
and the Vertical Pallof Press:
There you have it – the Pallof Press in all it’s glory. Like I mentioned above, I think this exercise is fairly versatile and can be tweaked to fit just about anyone’s needs or goals. Try some of them out and let me know what you think!