Epic exercises: Kneeling pallof press

Why it’s Awesome:

The vast majority of your core work should be about resisting movement, where the goal is to prevent core movement rather than create core movement. Think planks rather than crunches.

These “anti-movement” core exercises are where it’s at to build a strong, resilient core/lower back.

Why? Because anti-movements train the core to stay in its strongest and safest position. This position is called neutral if you’re a giant nerd (not that I’d know anything about that ... whistles suspiciously), you’d probably refer to it as flat, or straight.

Doing endless amounts of crunches won’t get you a six pack. Furthermore, it won’t make your core any more “functional” because you’re just getting really strong at rounding your back. But when you’re lifting weights (or children, or baby pandas) that round back position is what you want to avoid because it puts the back at higher risk for injury.


Train the core i.e. torso, to remain rigid and unmovable when gravity wants it to round (as in a deadlift or squat), arch (as in a plank), or twist (as in the Pallof Press). This is how you functionally strengthen the core to stave off injuries and get more out of your workouts.

Basically you want to train yourself to strengthen and maintain the strongest, safest position for the back.

In summary, train “anti-movement” core exercises because:

  • Back injuries suck.
  • You can train hard for faster results without your spine collapsing into a ball of fail.
  • Making your back an unmovable column of glory is 143x sexier than doing tons of crunches.

Pallof presses are one of my go to core exercises for my online clients because it’s one the simplest and best “anti-twist” exercises.

Excessive twisting can put lots of wear and tear on the lower back. Anti-twist core strength is an essential quality for total body strength and performance, but also for keeping your back out the the danger zone when you have to move your unwieldy refrigerator, couch, or groceries.

The kneeling version of this exercise is even better because it makes it almost impossible to cheat or use to much weight because you’ll topple over if you do.

How it’s done:

  1. Get into a kneeling position. Line up the handle somewhere in between your nose and your belly button.
  2. Establish a good core position by:
    • Standing tall
    • Making sure your shoulders are level
    • Connecting your entire rib cage to your pelvis (it makes more sense when you try it, I promise).
  3. Straighten your arms and press the cable out directly in front of you.
  4. When your elbows are fully straightened, your posture should look exactly like it would if you weren’t using any weight.
  5. Bring the handle back to the starting position.

Technique Tips:

Go super light. Remember, the goal here isn’t the feel the burn in your abs, it’s to convert your spine into an unmovable steel pylon.

Anti-movement core training feels mway different than what you may be used to. That’s normal. When the weight’s too heavy you lose your position and get all twisty. This will make you “feel” the exercise more, but it defeats the point of the mighty pallof press. I.e. no steel pylon => significantly less sexiness. It’s a lose lose. That makes kittens sad.

As you push the cable away from you, your body will want to twist and lean. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to resist.

If the weight makes you twist/lean, or the cable handle veres away from your center line, it’s too heavy. Save the heavy weights for squats.

When should you do it? How many sets? Reps?

Either as part of your warm-up or at the tail end of your workout 1 or 2 times per week. 3 sets of 10 reps per side should do the trick. To beat like 5 million dead horses, GO LIGHT. 2 plates MAX, but 1 plate is gold.

Make it easier than you think you need to, and don’t worry about adding weight to this exercise. Just make sure your posture is locked in.

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Posted on Jun 07, 2017