Coaching The Pallof Press

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The Pallof press has become one of the most popular anti-rotation core exercises in the strength and conditioning industry, and for good reason. 

The Pallof press was created by John Pallof, a Physical Therapist In Massachusetts. The Pallof press is a fantastic core training exercise that teaches one to resist rotation (anti-rotation). The best part about it is that it is very easy to perform, you can use a band, cable, or manual resistance. Here at VSP, we mostly use bands due to the equipment we have, but have used manual resistance in large group training. In addition, any person can benefit from it; a baseball player preparing for the demands of a rotational-heavy sport or a 50 year old father who is looking to improve his core strength. 

In this article, I am going to discuss a few key coaching points and list variations we use at VSP.

How to perform…

To keep it simple at first, I am going to describe a standing neutral stance Pallof press.

-Set up band on rack in line with chest. 

-Grab band with interlocked fingers and press out inline with your sternum.

-Your hands should be in line with the pole, not in front or behind.

-Ribcage is positioned over the hips

-Don’t forget to stand far enough away to ensure the tension is strong enough

At the end of the article, I listed different variations along with videos!

Below, I listed three keys to focus on during the Pallof press…

Stay Stacked

One of the biggest mistakes I see during any core exercise, never mind the Pallof press, is the positioning of the ribcage over the pelvis.

When it comes to core training, it is all about staying stable in the trunk. We want the ribcage stacked over the pelvis. Think of a soda can, if it is not dented, it is nearly impossible to smash with a hammer. But if it is dented, it breaks easily. Now apply this analogy to your core training. We never want to see excessive hyperextension or flexion in any part of the trunk while performing a core exercise. 

Also, the pelvis needs to be square to the band. Sometimes the athlete may start to push or rotate the hips in one direction in an effort to compensate. Everything needs to stay square to keep the load in the core.

Good Posture

An athletic posture is what we are looking for. Slight bend in knees, hips back, and neutral spine.

A common compensation is the athlete scrunching the shoulders. When this happens, the load can be taken from the core and placed in the neck. Not the purpose of this exercise. We want those shoulders away from the ears.

Breathe

Let’s not forget about breathing! I tend to prescribe the Pallof press for time instead of reps. It gives the athletes a better “feel” and is usually harder. After the setup, take a deep belly breath and exhale through your mouth. One can imagine a belt around their belly, and they want to fill it up and then empty it on every rep. Continue this for the duration of the exercise and you will feel this a lot more.

Like I said in the beginning, it’s a pretty simple exercise with a lot of benefits. Keep the rib cage stacked and breathe!

Now, I’m going to dive into 5 different variations. Generally, these are progressions, but can be prescribed based on the needs of the athlete.

Staggered Stance: This offers the most help from your legs. It is a good starting point to teach the athlete core positioning without too much strain on the core.

Neutral Stance: Now, you have decreased the size of your base which makes this much more difficult on the core. 

Half Kneeling: Now, you have taken away have of your base, this prevents you from using as much of your legs.

Tall Kneeling: My favorite variation. This really isolated the core and takes the legs almost completely out of the equation. One of the toughest ways to perform.

ISO Lunge: Usually one of the last progressions for the athlete due to the needed strength to hold a lunge in the bottom position. Although it gives you more of a base than the tall kneeling, it puts a lot more stress on the legs as well.

Aside from these variations, one can perform these on one leg, over head and other ways. Be smart and have intent in your programming.

For any variation, I prescribe 3-5 sets of 15-30 seconds on each side. Always put an emphasis on breathing and holding the perfect position. 

Like anything else, don’t rush into the harder variations. Let the athlete build the foundation and adapt over time. This will help ensure the position is always perfect and the athlete will get the most results.

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