Making the Pallof Press more effective

Posted on November 30, 2018

(Last Updated On: November 30, 2018)

The main idea behind the Pallof Press is training the abdominals to prevent movement. This is in contrast to just about every conventional ab exercise. While the Pallof Press is attempting to improve the ability to lessen movement at the spine, most ab exercises are promoting movement at the spine.

Crunches? Russian Twists? They bend and twist the spine in order to work the abs.

I’ve talked a bit about my abdominal training philosophy before, especially for those with lower back issues (see Another example of impaired movement), suffice to say I’m HEAVILY on the side of movement prevention.

There are a ton of variations for the Pallof Press. The typical set-up is standing with some kind of arm punching movement; cable stack to your side.

Core exercise lower back pain

Again, the idea is to prevent movement at the abs and spine, but generate movement at the arms. Arms move; spine doesn’t. (Sometimes “Arms move; hips don’t” is a better cue.) The longer the arms are -the further you punch out- the more work the stomach does to try and prevent any twisting. That is, any pulling of the arms toward the cable.


It’s absolutely crucial to make sure the hips / spine are not moving. If they are, we’re defeating the purpose of the exercise. For instance:


Here comes the issue with the Pallof Press: People swear to the heavens on the efficacy of this exercise and many similar to it, yet this exercise is HARD to teach and do properly.

And don’t give me that shit about “Oh, maybe you just don’t coach it well.” I’ve seen what many people consider to be the best in this industry, and I can tell you, unequivocally, they have trouble teaching their clients this too.

First off, getting people to accept the notion of doing an ab exercise where their abs don’t move is work in itself. If you can’t convince a person an exercise is worth doing, it’s not going to be done well.

Getting them to know when they’re twisting or asymmetrical is more work.

Getting them to then understand how to prevent the motion is even more work.

I don’t care who you are or your coaching abilities, to your average person, this is foreign land.

It’s not that it can’t be done, but there’s an easier way.

For anyone with lower back issues, or movement issues at the spine, I’m a big fan of putting them against a wall. This way they know when their lower back is moving. Lower back not touching the wall? It moved.

This can be hard with the Pallof Press because having the perfect set-up of a cable station, nicely set with a wall, is not realistic. Therefore, I put people on the ground:

-> Similar to the arms, the straighter the legs are, the harder it will be.

This works wonders. Now all you have to say is, “Don’t let your body come off the ground, at all.”

Furthermore, people realize how much their lower back moves because of how much concentration it takes them to not move. Once they go to a standing version of this they have wayyyy more understanding of the goal of the exercise.

Lastly, it’s typical for one side to feel harder than the other. This is especially true of those with any type of rotational sport history (tennis, baseball, etc.) or those with lower back issues (imbalance between obliques).  Just like one arm gets stronger, so does one side of the abs (and one leg too). Hence, a major purpose of the exercise i.e. to even things out.

Try it out.

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Posted in: Lower Back Pain