Core work – everyone loves doing it! OK, maybe “love” is too strong a word to use, especially when you’re faced with the prospect of dealing with sore abs the next day. Still, nothing perks up the ears like hearing about exercises for a rock-solid midsection!
The core musculature is often described as an “anti” muscle. That is, their primary function is to resist certain movements – namely flexion, extension and rotation. This is why you seldom see exercises like sit-ups being programmed in modern strength & conditioning programme. Not only does a high volume of sit-ups put your spine at risk of injury, but you also only tap into a fraction of what your core is truly capable of.
Planks and back extensions are good working on the anti-extension and anti-flexion aspect of the core, but they don’t do a whole lot when it comes to anti-rotation. Enter the Pallof press – an exercise so strikingly simple that most would doubt its effectiveness and place in the S&C movement compendium.
Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit
The principle of the Pallof press is similar to that of banded distractions, except that your goal is to remain in a desirable position instead of moving in and out of it. By positioning yourself perpendicular to the length of the cable, you’re resisting its pull by engaging your your hips and abdominals to maintain a neutral pelvic alignment and a front-facing torso. The act of extending and retracting your arms uses movement to negate a homeostatic environment so as to keep the level of muscular engagement high.
Sets of 10-15 repetitions seem to work best with Pallof presses. Tempo training methods like eccentrics can also be utilised to ramp up the intensity of the movement without straining the muscle with excessive volume or load. My favourite approach with ab work is to divide their focus between training sessions, so day one can be about dynamic stability (ab wheel rollout), day two with movement resistance (Pallof press), and day three can finish off with contractile strength (hanging leg raise)
You don’t need a lot a of weight on the cable machine to get a good workout with the Pallof press – most people with less than 10kg on the pulley. Alternatively, using a light-medium resistance band looped around a rack post can work just as well if there’s an absence of a cable machine. As with other rep-based core work, focus on maintaining a high quality of contraction and activation of the target muscles. Racking up the repetitions or piling on the weight won’t do you much good, and might even backfire in some instances!