The core performs many important functions, such as energy transfer and stabilization. There are many core exercises that athletes use to make their cores stronger. However, many people who lift as a hobby, and even some professional bodybuilders and athletes, look at the core from a more aesthetic point of view. So, they only do exercises that promise a six-pack rather than highly effective core exercises, such as Anti-rotational Press, which strengthens accessory muscle groups rather than just 6-pack “show muscles”.
One thing to note is that the core is more complex than a six-pack. To optimally maximize core usage, you not only need exercises like crunches and hanging leg raises. You also need to work your inner core; the parts that connect to the lumbar vertebrae (located around the lower back).
This is where core exercises like the anti-rotational press come in. In general, anti-rotational movements work the core by forcing it to stabilize your body regardless of strong resistance from one side. In the process, they work other muscles in your core apart from the rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscles), such as the Erectus spinae, transverse abdominis, and your obliques.
Introduction to the Pallof Press
The anti-rotational press is also known as the Pallof press, and it has several variations and benefits. A pronounced benefit is that it allows you to work your core without spinal flexion, which has been proven to cause problems like lower back pain. The press is a great alternative to oblique exercises like Russian twists that exert pressure on your spine.
General Step-by-Step Guide to Performing a Standard Anti-rotational Press
You can perform the Pallof press with both a cable machine and a resistance band. However, the more ideal instrument is a cable machine. So, if you have access to gym equipment, it is expedient to use cables.
- Set up the cable around chest-stomach height; anywhere between the sternum and belly button.
- Grab a machine handle that you can easily grip with both hands and move a step away with one side facing the machine.
- Form an athletic stance: Relax your shoulders, keep your chest and chin up, bend your knees slightly, and very importantly, keep your spine straight.
- Grabbing the handle with both hands, press forward, as if mimicking a chest press.
- Try not to swing on the reps; keep the rest of your body as stationary as possible as you slowly move your arms forward and backward.
While performing the anti-rotational press, you would notice that the resistance actively pulls you towards it, trying to force your body to bend to the side. So, you need to brace your core and force your body to stay straight on every rep.
How to Perform the Pallof Press with a Resistance Band
If you’re working out at home and can’t access a cable machine, a resistance band would also work. You just have to attach your band to a strong, heavy, and immobile object and latch onto it like you would a cable machine handle. Then, follow the steps above.
Anti-rotational Press Variations
There are many variations of the anti-rotational press. Most of these variations are more difficult and complex than the standard ones. After mastering the standard Pallof press, you should try your hands at some of the variations. Check some of them out below:
The Half-Kneeling Variation
This variation of the Pallof press is a little more difficult and forces you to use your glutes. To perform the exercise, kneel on one leg, forming a position that resembles a lunge. Of course, this also means you have to lower your cable machine handle or resistance band.
As you kneel on one leg, relax your shoulders and spine as you should, then perform the anti-rotational press. This variation would force your glutes to do some work in holding you steady because you no longer have the support of both legs. Hence, the resistance would be much stronger than in the standard Pallof press.
After one set, move to the other leg and perform the press for another set. Remember not to swing. Brace your core and move the weight slowly as you extend your arms. You would find that most parts of your core muscles would feel this exercise.
The Kneeling Variation
The kneeling variation of the Pallof press even presents more of a challenge. Like the half-kneeling stance, you kneel, but on both legs. Set your band or cable at a height that works for your height. Then grab your resistance and press.
The Split Stance Pallof Press
Stand as if you are trying to perform a lunge; put one leg out in front of you, slightly bent, and the other leg out behind you, also slightly bent. In this position, execute the standard anti-rotational press.
The Kneeling/Half-kneeling Overhead Pallof Press
This variation is quite similar to the kneeling or half-kneeling variation. The difference is that while performing the kneeling/half-kneeling overhead Pallof press, your hands go above your head.
Here’s how to perform this exercise: Set up like you are about to do a kneeling or half-kneeling anti-rotational press. Then, grab the resistance and press upwards, as if performing a shoulder press.
The Pallof Press-Up Down
Execute the standard anti-rotational press. Then, while your arms are still extended at the top of the set, kneel by putting down one leg at a time.
Now, with your arms still fully extended in your front, stand up again by explosively pushing yourself off the ground one leg at a time. After standing up, return your hands to the starting position. That’s the end of one rep.
How to Get Better on the Anti-rotational Press
Like with every new exercise you’re performing, you need to start low on the anti-rotational press. Grab some light weight and master the form first before trying to max out the cable machine.
Once you have mastered the form, you can try to make the exercise harder. Here are some ways to get better and stronger in the anti-rotational press.
1. Add More Resistance
If you’re using a cable, simply adding more weight would make your Pallof press more difficult. Using weights that allow you to do a few intense reps (around ten) is expedient. If you’re using a resistance band, you could get a stronger one.
2. Bring Your Legs Closer Together
When your legs are farther apart, they provide a firmer base for the rest of your body to rely on. Bringing your legs closer to one another on the standard Pallof press makes your core do more work in terms of stability. This, however, does not mean you should stand up straight. Still keep your legs slightly bent and apart, maintaining an athletic stance.
3. Perform Other Variations
If you cannot increase your resistance, the best way to get better at the anti-rotational press is to practice more difficult variations. For instance, if you are already using an extra-heavy resistance band, you may want to try the kneeling anti-rotational press or a split stance anti-rotational press, instead of the original standing variation.
4. Add More Sets and Reps or Reduce Your Rest Periods
If you can’t access a cable machine or get a stronger resistance band, another alternative would be increasing your rep range. You could also reduce the rest periods between your sets.
Now that you have learned how to perform anti-rotational presses, you can switch up your training to hit the deep parts of your core. Remember to keep your resistance light at the beginning and work your way up as you get stronger. And if you can’t access more resistance (no stronger resistance band, for example), your best bet at progressive overload on the Pallof press is performing many variations.
Allwell Igboejesi is a fitness and bodybuilding enthusiast who has been involved in different forms of strength and resistance training since 2015. He is also a creative content writer with experience in various fields such as career advice and technology.
Connect with Allwell online via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/allwelligboejesi/