The Pallof press is an underrated addition to your training routine that can help to build a strong, stable core, but are you sure you’re even doing the exercise correctly?
For this movement, you shouldn’t settle for anything other than perfect form—especially because it’s such a killer exercise that can serve as a simple addition to your training plan. Let Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. and associate fitness editor Brett Williams guide you through the move’s subtleties, saving you from the bad habits that are keeping you from unlocking your fitness potential.
Before you grab a cable or resistance band and get pressing, take note that it’s extremely important to pay attention the movement here. Hitting the proper form is essential to make sure you’re getting the most out of the exercise—particularly because its intensity will largely depend on your stance and posture. Let’s break down everything you need to know.
Take Your Time
Eb says: The most common mistake I see with the Pallof press: Not owning the arms-extended position. Always aim to pause for 1 to 2 seconds with your arms extended, because that’s the moment in the Pallof where your entire core, as a unit, is working to battle against rotation. You want to feel and experience that, not rush past the moment.
I’ll often see people set up for the Pallof, extend their arms quickly, then pull their arms back. By not lingering with the arms extended, they’re failing to really get the full benefit of the Pallof. Don’t do that. more time in the arms-extended position is also better; don’t be afraid to live there for, say, 3-4 seconds.
Eb says: The other common mistake in the Pallof is some slight overcompensation. You know and can feel that band getting ready to pull you back in its direction, so you twist away from it extra hard. You think you’re setting yourself up for success, giving yourself a buffer for the band.
And yes, you’re still working your abs this way. But you’re also missing the magic of the Pallof. Challenge yourself to look straight ahead and keep your hips and shoulders straight ahead on the Pallof and skip that slight extra rotation. Your obliques will fire that much harder and, invariably, your abs will be stronger in the long run.
Eb says: The Pallof isn’t just an ab exercise; one of the best things about it is that it’s challenging your core as a unit. Abs, glutes, obliques, and spinal extensors, in real life, all work in concert to brace your trunk, and they all work here. So don’t just squeeze your abs on Pallofs.
In all variations, actively squeeze your glutes too. This will push your hips into a properly neutral position. Your goal is to own this fully neutral position, not just own the positioning of your abs. This will also help you truly keep your hips and shoulders square. Fail to squeeze your glutes, and you’ll keep your hips square perhaps, but also be a mess in your lower body.
Mix It Up
Eb says: The standard Pallof Press has you extending your arms in front of you, but try the overhead version we show in the video, too. You can even mix the overhead version and the more classic Pallof in the same set, say, alternating 2 standard reps with 2 overhead reps for 4 sets of 12. Your core stabilizes you in multiple planes, and it’s worth training it to do so when you can. With a mixed-style Pallof set, you can.
Want to master even more moves? Check out our entire Form Check series.
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