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How to Build Awesome Abs and Core Strength with the Pallof Press – Benefits and Technique

This full guide to the Pallof Press will teach you everything you need to know about this unusual and highly effective exercise.

It is not a common abs exercise, yet it yields excellent results, with a variety of ancillary benefits thrown in for good measure.

What is the Pallof Press?

The movement makes an athlete hold a cable or band in front of their body and slowly, with great control, press it out and back.

The full range of motion is performed under great tension, as the cable or band are taut.

The Core is required to work hard to balance the lifter and control the movement. It trains an athlete’s ability to stabilise under a load. It reminds and teaches the core to activate and stay tight.

Why is it Called the Pallof Press?

Tony Gentilcore explains, “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.”

Benefits of the Pallof Press

There are many primary and secondary benefits to the Pallof Press.

The Movement Builds Anti-Rotational Strength

Any human needs rotational strength to throw a ball or twist and generate power in that plane of movement.

However, every human also needs the ability to stop or prevent those movements as well.

A car needs an engine to go, but it also needs brakes to stop.

Anti-rotational strength exists as the brakes.

Your body will always experience rotational movement, in minor or major ways, when you perform many different exercises such as Squats and Deadlifts, or even run. Your body subconsciously corrects any rotation in order to balance and perform the movement.

The better you are at being able to resist these rotations, the more effective and safer your lifts will be.

Great tool for a Six Pack

The exercise is a fantastic way to build your abs. Remember to combine it with an intelligent nutrition plan for the best results.

Solidify your Core

The movement also trains your full core, making you a stronger, more resilient human.

Prevent Injury

A stronger core will also help to protect and stabilise the spine. This can alleviate or even prevent back problems.

It’s a Great Warm Up

The exercise engages the glutes, core, legs, back, arms and shoulders.

Woman stretching for Pallof PressSource: Logan Weaver on Unsplash
Warm up your body

As you push and pull the band, you engage almost your entire body. This is a helpful way to start any session in the box or gym.

Muscles Worked by the Pallof Press

The following muscle groups are all worked by the Pallof Press.

Transverse Abdominals

The slightly different angle of the exercise is a great way to attack these muscles in a new way.

Obliques

The obliques must work hard to stop any rotation of the body.

Rectus Abdominis

The movement itself does not work with extension and flexion of the spine. However, the muscles of the six pack must still work to stabilise and contract isometrically to help keep the spine and torso in the same place.

Scapular Stabilisers

You must keep your shoulder blades active and engaged throughout the movement.

To do this properly, many of the smaller stabilisers also work in tandem to hold the shoulder plates in place.

The scapular stabilisers assist good posture and a neutral spine during heavy lifts.

Glutes

During the press, the glutes are activated and provide a strong muscular platform from which to stabilise the body.

How to Do the Pallof Press

Use the following instructions to correctly perform the exercise. This is for the resistance band variation but you can use the same steps for a cable as well.

Set the exercise up by looping a resistance band to a power rack at chest height.

  • Grip the unattached end and stand perpendicular to the power rack
  • Lock your fingers together and take a few steps away from the power rack until the band is taut
  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Plant them securely into the floor
  • Inhale and brace your core, glutes, shoulders and grip
  • Slowly reach forwards and straighten your arms whilst keeping your torso completely fixed in the same position in space
  • Now, with control and poise, bring the hands and band back to the chest
  • Exhale
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps

Training Tips

Make sure you adopt a strong, stable position at all times.

Keep a slight bend in your knees and your spine straight at all times.

Never let the torso or shoulders bend forwards and cave in.

Fight the rotational pull of the band at all times.

How to Make the Pallof Press Harder

The further away you stand from the power rack, the more tension there will be in the resistance band and the harder the exercise will be.

The other method is to use a stronger band.

With these two methods you can find the right intensity level for your training level, intent and purposes.

Using the Pallof Press for Different Goals

Try these different forms of programming to achieve your desired aim.

Remember to always complete each set both ways, so that you maintain balance and symmetry of your strength and physique.

For Hypertrophy

If you want to build muscle then stick to 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps. Rest for 30 – 45 seconds between sets.

For Core Strength

Go for 3-5 sets of 5-8 reps with a slightly harder band. Rest for a minute between each set.

As a Warm Up

Use a light band and focus on muscle control and activation.

Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps.

Pallof Press Variations

Add the following variations into your training if you want to slightly alter the stimulus of the exercise.

  • Half-Kneeling Pallof Press
  • Double Kneeling Pallof Press
  • Pallof Press with Overhead Reach
  • Pallof Press with Cable

Pallof Press Alternatives

Try these alternatives when you need a selection of different core and abs exercises.

  • Landmine Rotation
  • Bird Dog Row
  • Weighted Side Bend
  • Front Loaded Carry
  • Standing Russian Twist with Weight Plate

Learn More

Add these effective press alternatives to your training:

Or build leg strength with Nordic Curls and a better upper body with Chin Ups.

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