The Pallof Press Guide

Everything You Should Know About The Pallof Press

Picture of Pallof Press

An Introduction To The Pallof Press

The Pallof press is one of the lesser known pressing motions that we encounter when talking about resistance training and it’s certainly one that very few of us have nailed down as one of our staples alongside bench, deadlift and squat.

But the Pallof press, introduced in 2006 from the PT of the same name (John Pallof), definitely has its place in workout programmes - even if you’re not quite sure of the benefits just yet.

Unlike the name suggests, the press doesn’t involve the chest or shoulders - like most pressing movements - but instead is a core exercise designed to carve up the abs and strengthen the body.

Taking a look at the anatomy behind the pallof press

A pressing movement sounds a little bit bizarre when it comes to training the abs, but when we take a closer look into the anatomy of the human body - it begins to make a little more sense.

The core (basically anything in the body that isn’t a limb) is clearly seen as varying muscle-fibres pennation combined with a web-like assortment of connecting tissue resembling a woven basket. That, if you’re not familiar, is the perfect recipe for stabilization. That’s what the main purpose of the core is.

Press for a stable core

Many PT’s would have you believe that the main fundamental for core development comes in the form of a crunch, but that’s hard to be said without a smirk.

The core has so much more to offer than the ability to sit up in bed, keeping your organs in for one. Instead of the crunching movement, core training benefits from developing that stabilizing strength that its main function is concerned with.

This isn’t the part of the article where I say that you’ll ‘never have to crunch ever again’ or that you’ve ‘been doing it wrong for years’, the truth is that the crunch, as well as other traditional techniques, have their place in modern training. But these should be treated more as accessory movements for the core, rather than the full workout. Instead, focus on a high stress stability working exercise should make up the bulk of your core training.

How to perform the Pallof press

There are a number of variations possible for the exercise in question, but to simplify things - we’ll start off with the most basic of the iterations, the cable based press.

To start, you’re going to need a resistance band or a handle attachment from the cable machine and set the weight low to begin - you don’t want to go too heavy to begin, but rather master the technique behind the movement.

  • Grab the handle attachment (whether it’s a resistance band or cable machine) with both hands with your palms pressed together.

  • Distance yourself from the resistance band or cable machine. Place feet at shoulder width apart with your knees slightly bent.

  • Position the handle to the close to the chest, the goal is then to press out while extending the arms .

  • Bring the hands back to the chest.

Here are a couple of variations of the Pallof press.

Common Pallof press mistakes

As with every exercise, there’s plenty of room for error and error is what a lot of people make when performing this movement.

The 3 common mistakes that we see with the Pallof press are:

  • The use of excessive weight

  • The locking out of the knees

  • Not fully extending the arms 

Again, the point of the exercise is to master the movement and technique with a low weight, there’s no use in using too much and messing around with the movement. Making sure that the knees are loose and the arms fully extended during repetitions is the best way to maximize core development with the movement.

Crafting a core with a single movement

There you have it, everything you need to know about the Pallof press and everything you need to know to create a strong core with a single movement.

As previously mentioned, there is still place for other core exercises within a training plan and with the inclusion of crunches, planks and hanging leg raises, you’re sure to create a well-rounded and able stomach.

The bulk of the exercises should however be stability based to maximize the output of the core, to build strength and to create well defined abs.