Many a search engine has been exhausted by those embarking on the never-ending quest for “abs of steel.” However, only a select few have stumbled on the DOMS-inducing, waist-carving majesty of the Pallof press.
While most six-pack plans revolve around contracting the muscles of the abdomen, the Pallof press falls into a different category: anti-rotation. Developing a strong anti-rotational capacity helps prevent injury by increasing strength in resistance exercises that require solid full-body stability and by supporting your body during sports with quick changes in direction. Function aside, the Pallof press works wonders aesthetically, developing incredible obliques and etching in that definition that makes your six-pack pop.
At first, this move seems almost too easy: You press a laterally located resistance away from you with both arms. But as you get into your reps, you’ll notice that the pull toward the anchor point demands more and more of your internal and external obliques as well as your transverse abdominis as to prevent rotation of the torso toward the anchor point.
A Pallof press can be done two ways: with a weighted cable machine or a resistance band. Cables are great because you can add weight as you become proficient, but bands offer a different kind of challenge: linear variable resistance (LVR). With LVR, as you stretch the band away from you, the tension increases and the exercise will be toughest at full extension. Whether you choose a band or cable, adding this core buster to your programming will make you sore in places you don’t talk about at parties.
With a cable: Attach a D-handle to a cable station set at shoulder level. Stand sideways to the weight stack, then grab the handle with both hands, one over the other, and hold it at your chest. Take a step away from the anchor and stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Slowly extend your arms and push the handle away from you at shoulder level until you reach full extension. Keep your feet planted and your hips square as you hold for one to two seconds, then slowly return to the start.
With a band: Loop the band through itself on a rig or rack at shoulder height and hold the other end in both hands at your chest. Execute in the same manner as with the cable.
PERFECTING THE PALOFF
Avoid leaning forward. This changes the angle of the press and diminishes the demand on the target muscles. Stand tall and keep your head neutral.
Start light when working with cables. Going too heavy will only be frustrating because you will not be able to maintain proper form. Start with a weight you can handle for 12 to 15 reps to build the proper movement pattern, and add resistance as you develop strength. To decrease resistance with a band, take a small step closer to the anchor point.
Vary the height. As you become comfortable with the move, vary the height of the cable pulley or band anchor point — moving it up or down to slightly alter the way the muscles are recruited.
Step up the challenge. As you get stronger, try moving a few inches further away from the anchor point and doing fewer reps. Or once you’ve maxed out, move toward the anchor a few inches and rep it out past failure.