The problem with most rotational movements is that they produce shearing forces on your lumbar spine. One of the foundations of biomechanics is that you don’t place your spine into a simultaneous state of rotation, flexion, and side bending, and you especially don’t add an external load.
This eliminates a number of popular abdominal exercises such as dumbbell side bends and the twisting abdominal machine. Exercises like the Russian twist should be performed with care, making sure that the trunk is flexed rather than the spine.
There is a quick and easy solution to the inherent problems with twisting exercises – don’t twist.
Enter: The Pallof Press!
Pallof Press is the king of anti-twist. With sufficient loading, you will be able to train those rotational abdominal muscles without actually rotating.
How to Perform a Pallof Press
Your best bet is probably to watch the video, but I’ll outline a brief explanation of the exercise below.
- You will need a cable machine for this.
- Set the handle at roughly the height of your belly button.
- Grasp the handle and step away from the cable machine, turn so that you are standing perpendicular to the cable.
- Pull the cable in to your chest with both hands.
- Use isometric tension to prevent your body from turning towards the cable.
- Extend your arms straight out to increase the tension on your torso.
- Brings your hands back into your chest.
How does this work?
By increasing the distance between your chest and the handle, you are giving the cable more leverage to pull your body towards it. Think about trying to move a boulder. You would try to jam a long board under one side of the boulder and apply force at the further end of the board. This change in force is explained by ‘the law of the lever‘, and can be used in several areas of athletic training and physical therapy to increase resistance without compromising physiclogical integrity.
You should not rotate, especially with your arms extended. This exercise is not called Woodchoppers. If you did rotate, you’d want to make sure the rotation is coming from your thoracic spine, not your lumbar spine.
Nick Tumminello demonstrates a small thoracic movement in the video below, aptly titled Pallof Press 2.0.
Don’t neglect your diet!
I’m going to post this on every abdominal training article I write to drive the point home. Your diet is responsible for 80% of your progress! If you don’t have your eating under control, forget about ever sporting a 6 pack of abs.