Building a resilient core comes from performing exercises that resist movement—extension, flexion, lateral flexion and rotation.
One of the most common anti-rotation exercises is the Pallof Press.
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Typically, you see this exercise done with a band or cable machine, which is a matter of preference. I like the constant resistance a band gives. From the outside, the Pallof Press might look easy, because nothing is really going on. But for the person executing the movement, it is deceptively hard. In addition to the necessary core bracing, tension is created essentially from the ground up.
Before you get to the basic Pallof Press, let’s review a common error so we can avoid it later. When you use this exercise, there’s tendency to resist the band with the arms and shoulders. All that does is train your arms and shoulders, with minimal core gains. Instead, this one subtle cue will be a game changer for you.
Squeeze your armpits!
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That small act creates stability through the shoulder blades, connecting them to your hips and core, which makes for a solid synergistic relationship among the three and forms a strong core, one that will carry over to the athletic field and to life.
The Basic Set-Up
- Attach a band to a rack at mid-chest height, preferably with a handle.
- Walk out until you feel tension in the band, and place your hands in the middle of your chest.
- Brace your core, squeeze your armpits, and keep your shoulders back, then slowly press your hands straight out.
- Once you are at full extension, hold for a split second, then bring your hands back to the start.
This is where the “fun” begins. Though the basic Pallof Press can be a challenge, adding variations where the arms move as an extension of the core makes different lines of resistance, forcing the body to react and contract in response to different forces. As hard as these variations are, they are just as simple as the basic exercise.
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Exactly as it states, with this variation, all you do is “write” letters of the alphabet with your arms/hands. This doesn’t mean that you let go of the tension you’ve built up from the basic set-up. You still want to maintain core and lat tension. With this variation, you can spell out words, making them different each time you do it, or run through the alphabet forward or backward. For an even bigger mental and physical challenge, mix up upper- and lower-case letters
In the same fashion as the previous variation, creating shapes with your arms/hands, whether big or small, puts different stresses on the core. For example, if you draw a circle with your arms, resistance at the top of the circle has a slightly high to low pull from the band as opposed to the bottom of the circle, where the band has a low to high pull.
Sometimes the basics need to be kicked up a notch to create a new stimulus and a new challenge. In this case, adding simple movements to the Pallof Press can take it to the next level. They may seem silly at first, but add them to your program and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.