How To Do The Pallof Press For Unmatched Core Strength

How To Do The Pallof Press For Unmatched Core Strength

clock-circular-outlinePosted 2 Jun 2024

Whether you’re craving a six-pack stomach to show off in a crop top, holding a heavy barbell on your back for a squat, or wanting a more powerful serve on the court, a strong core is vital.

If we mention ‘core training,’ we bet a few exercises come to mind: Sit-ups? Bicycles? Planks, perhaps? We love these exercises, but they’re missing an essential type of core training: Anti-rotation.

This is where the Pallof press comes in. It may not be the first movement that comes to mind when you think of core exercises, but if you want washboard abs like David Laid and a deadlift as strong as Nathaniel Massiah’s, then doing anti-rotational ab work is key.

Why? Instead of crunching, twisting, or bending, anti-rotation ab exercises force you to resist the twist and keep your torso still and steady. Sure, six-pack abs under your muscle fit t-shirt is cool, but so is being strong. Anti-rotational exercises, such as the Pallof press, allow you to kill two birds with one stone, giving you a strong ab definition whilst making you stronger on the gym floor, out on the pitch, and in day-to-day life.

The Pallof press exercise may look easy, but trust us, it’s a lot harder than it looks! But don’t worry – we’ll lead you through it step-by-step so you can master how to do it with perfect form and not make any of the common mistakes we often spot on the gym floor! If you’re serious about building a core of steel, then stay with us to learn about the Pallof press (plus some other great anti-rotation core exercises).

Are you tired of having to create your own ab workout over and over again? The Gymshark Training App has hundreds of ab workouts, from short core finishers to do at the end of your workout to full 30-minute ab circuits. Download the app and start training today.


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What Is A Pallof Press?

As mentioned, the Pallof press is an anti-rotation exercise. Essentially, this means the core muscles have to work to resist rotation.

This type of core training is often neglected. Take crunches, for example, which chisel our six-pack muscles through spinal flexion motion, or Russian Twists, which sculpt our waist by training our obliques through rotation.

Anti-rotational exercises, on the other hand, such as the Pallof Press, recruit the muscles deep in our core, building stability and strength through the obliques and spine. It might not sound as glamorous, but training your core in this way will do wonders for your big compound lifts and athletic ability, helping boost your ability to stabilize your body against external forces (and will still build those six-pack abs while you’re at it).

The most common way of doing the Pallof press is the banded Pallof press or cable Pallof press, where the band or cable is pressed away from the body. This means you have to really engage your core to keep your body stable!

What Muscles Does The Pallof Press Work?

The Pallof press is more than just a core exercise; it’s a compound exercise that engages a whole host of muscles to keep the body stable and strong.

Pallof press muscles worked include:

  • Obliques

  • Transversus Abdominis

  • Rectus Abdominis (or ‘six-pack’ muscles)

  • Scapular Stabilizers (these help to keep your shoulder blades squeezed together throughout the movement)

  • Gluteus Maximus (Squeezing your glutes is essential to keep you stable during the standing Pallof press)

Looking for more core workout inspo? Give our Best Ab Exercises To Build A Strong Core a go – they make a great pairing with the Pallof press!

Pallof Press Exercise Benefits

  • Teaches you how to stabilize your core under load: This carries over massive benefits to heavy compound exercises, from back squats to overhead presses, which require excellent core stability to keep good posture and protect the back whilst hitting those heavy numbers.

  • An anti-rotation exercise: As mentioned, not many ab exercises challenge your core in this way! Again, this is a great skill to develop to help with both strength exercises and explosive movements, such as kettlebell swings, allowing your body to resist rotation and protecting your spine and lower back.

  • A great warm-up/movement prep: The Pallof press may be an ab exercise, but this compound exercise engages multiple muscle groups, making it a good warm-up, particularly for heavy compound lifts. To prime your body efficiently, try performing a set or two of the Pallof press before stepping up to the barbell.

  • Can help you towards a six-pack: As mentioned, the Pallof press trains the all-important Rectus Abdominis, our six-pack muscle. A good diet, low enough body fat percentage, and focused training on this muscle group could help you get a six-pack (or at least some good ab definition).

  • Low risk of injury: Ever strained your neck doing crunches or had that pesky niggling lower back pain doing leg raises? Unlike other core exercises, the Pallof press is a very safe movement with minimal injury risks compared to other core exercises.

How To Do A Pallof Press With A Band

The banded Pallof Press is the most common way to perform the exercise. You’ll need a long, light—to medium-weight resistance band looped around the rig or power rack at chest height. If you’re doing your ab workout at home, you will need to secure the band around a point that isn’t going to move, for example, a heavy table or desk leg.

  1. Take the free end of the resistance band, interlacing your fingers to clasp it between the palms of your hands. Stand perpendicular to the rig, holding the band in your hands just in front of your chest.

  2. Take a couple of steps away from the rig so there is tension on the band. Keep a soft bend in your knees, feet hip-width apart.

  3. Take a deep breath, squeeze your shoulder blades, and press your hands straight out in front of you. Keep your core tight to resist the tension pulling you toward the anchor point.

  4. Hold for 1 second, then slowly bring your hands back towards your chest in a controlled way.

  5. Repeat all your reps on one side, then turn the other way and perform the exercise on the other side.

Tip: Too easy? You can make the Pallof press more challenging by standing further away from the rig and placing more tension on the band.

What Are The Common Mistakes In The Pallof Press?

It may not be one of the most technical exercises in the world, but there are still some common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid to get the most out of this exercise:

  • Resist the urge to twist! This sounds obvious, but in practice, it’s not so easy. Focus on pressing your arms straight out in front of you and fight the urge to twist toward the anchor point. If you find you can’t stop your body from turning towards the rig, stand closer and use a lighter band.

  • Remember to perform the exercise on both sides. No one wants one side of the core to be more developed than the other. Perform all your reps on one side, then remember to rotate around and do the same on the other to even things up.

  • Watch out for any arching in the lower back. This will massively reduce the exercise's effectiveness. Make a conscious effort to stand tall and squeeze your glutes to prevent this.

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Pallof Press Variations

Don’t have a resistance band or looking to make the Pallof press exercise easier or harder? Here are some Pallof press variations you can try:

1. Cable v Press (Alternative Equipment)

This is very similar to the Pallof Press with band, but using a cable gives you more control over the weight you use. This makes it easier to track progress and be specific about how much you’re lifting. You’ll want to use the handle attachment for these.

How To Do A Cable Pallof Press:

  1. Move the cable to chest height and attach the handle attachment. Select a light weight on the cable stack.

  2. Clasping the handing in both hands and standing perpendicular to the tower, take a couple of steps away from the rig so there is tension on the band. Keep a soft bend in your knees, feet hip-width apart.

  3. Take a deep breath, squeeze your shoulder blades, and press your hands straight out in front of you. Keep your core tight to resist the tension pulling you toward the anchor point.

  4. Hold for 1 second, then slowly bring your hands back towards your chest in a controlled way.

  5. Repeat all your reps on one side, then turn the other way and perform the exercise on the other side.

2. Half Kneeling Pallof Press (Easier Variation)

Using a half-kneeling position instead of standing up to the Pallof press can massively help stability. This is an excellent way to improve core strength, balance, and coordination before progressing to the standing Pallof Press, which requires a lot more full-body stabilization to resist rotation!

How To Do The Half Kneeling Pallof Press:

  1. Attach a long resistance band to the rig or power rack so it is at chest height when kneeling.

  2. Taking the free end of the band securely in both hands, kneel on the ground perpendicular to the rig in a half kneeling position (the knee closest to the rig on the floor and the outside leg with the knee bent up). You should be far enough away from the rig so there is some tension on the band.

  3. Hold the band in front of your chest, take a deep breath, squeeze your shoulder blades, and press your hands straight out in front of you.

  4. Hold for 1 second, then slowly bring your hands back towards your chest in a controlled way.

  5. Repeat all your reps on one side, then turn the other way and perform the exercise on the other side. Make sure to switch legs so the outside knee is always bent up with the foot on the ground.

3. Pallof Press With Rotation (Harder Variation)

I know we’ve gone on and on about the Pallof press being an anti-rotation exercise, but you can take things up a notch by performing a rotational Pallof press, which involves rotating away from the anchor point. This dynamic movement fires up the obliques even more, so you’ll really feel your waist working and toning.

How To Do Pallof Press With Rotation:

  1. Set up the resistance band on the rig as you would for a regular Pallof press, taking the band between your hands. As these are more difficult, you may want to stand slightly closer to the rig than you usually would!

  2. Perform the Pallof Press: Holding the band close to your chest, press it out in front of you, straightening your arms.

  3. Instead of bringing your hands back in, slowly twist your torso away from the rig with your arms outstretched, keeping your feet fully planted on the ground and your hips square.

  4. Once your chest is fully facing away from the rig, pause, then rotate back to the center.

  5. Slowly bring your hands back to your chest. Repeat.

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Pallof Press Alternatives

The Pallof press may be one of our favorite anti-rotation core exercises, but it isn’t the only one. If you’re looking to switch up your routine, here are some of our other favorite anti-rotation core exercises to build core stability:

1. Plank Pull Through

Primary Muscles Worked: Transversus Abdominis, Obliques.

Planks have long been a staple core training exercise, but add some resistance and dynamic movement, and you’ll take your core training to a whole new level. Plank pull throughs are usually performed using a kettlebell. They are very effective at building functional strength through the core by challenging it to resist rotation as the kettlebell is pulled from one side to the other.

Start light before progressing to a heavier kettlebell. The further away from you you place the kettlebell, the more difficult this exercise will be!

How To Do A Plank Pull Through:

  1. Come into a high plank position with a kettlebell on the floor beside you.

  2. Squeezing your glutes and core, lift the hand furthest away from the kettlebell off the floor, reaching under your body to grab the handle. Ensure your hips and chest don’t move and remain parallel to the floor.

  3. Pull the kettlebell underneath you, bringing it out to the other side.

  4. Repeat by lifting the opposite hand off the ground and reaching across to pull the kettlebell back under you.

  5. Continue alternating sides until all reps are complete.

2. Plank Shoulder Taps

Primary Muscles Worked: Transversus Abdominis, Obliques.

Do you lack equipment or work out on the go? Plank shoulder taps are a no-equipment, bodyweight alternative to the Pallof Press that mimics the anti-rotational movement pattern. Like the plank pull-through, the key for plank shoulder taps is not to let your hips rock at all—which, trust us, is easier said than done! Doing this exercise properly will challenge your core stability and balance, just as the Pallof Press does.

How To Do Plank Shoulder Taps:

  1. Come into a high plank position with shoulders stacked directly over wrists; glutes squeezed, and core tight. Keep your gaze straight down between your hands.

  2. Take a deep breath, then lift one hand off the floor, bringing it up to touch your opposite shoulder.

  3. Lower the lifted hand back onto the ground, then repeat on the other side, keeping your hips still.

  4. Alternate arms for each rep until all reps are complete.

3. Renegade Row

Primary Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, Obliques, Lats and Rhomboids

Finishing with one of the best: Renegade rows are another anti-rotational exercise that challenges core stability while allowing you to simultaneously make gains in your upper back and lats.

Often performed using dumbbells, the renegade row develops unilateral strength. Like the Pallof Press, the core must work hard to keep the body stable and resist rotation as one arm is ‘rowed’ towards the body.

How To Do The Renegade Row:

  1. Place two dumbbells on the floor, shoulder width apart (hex dumbbells are best for this, rather than round).

  2. Come into a high plank position, gripping the handles of the dumbbells in each hand in neutral grip, ensuring shoulders are stacked directly above wrists.

  3. Squeezing your glutes and core tight, row one of the dumbbells up towards your chest, driving your elbow back. Stop when your wrist is in line with your chest.

  4. Lower the dumbbell back to the ground, then repeat on the other side.

  5. Alternate sides until you’ve finished all the reps.

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Palloff Press FAQs

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Look Good, And Perform Even Better

If you want an evenly defined midsection, you need to be training your core not only to perform rotations, but to resist them. This will help you develop a solid trunk to support the load of a barbell, and put more power into your backhand on the court or swing on the golf course, and make your abs look evenly defined and well-rounded. In short, it’s a win-win, for looks and performance, that you don’t want to skip.

So add them to the start of your workout as a warm up, or at the end as a core finisher – we guarantee you’ll be feeling the burn and see the results pretty soon!

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WRITTEN BY: Alex Kirkup-Lee

Alex is an inhouse Content Writer for Gymshark’s Health & Conditioning categories. A qualified Personal Trainer, CrossFit Level 1 and Functional Fitness Coach, Alex is experienced in training clients from a range of sporting backgrounds. With a passion for functional training, her favorite workout is anything that includes deadlifts, rowing, or wallballs.

Alex Kirkup-LeeBy Alex Kirkup-Lee

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