Exercises You Should Be Doing: Half Kneeling Vertical Pallof Press

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It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Pallof presses – and all their variations. While I’ve definitely curbed my views with regards to core training and the whole anti-everything mantra most of the fitness industry adopted in recent years (lets be honest:  it’s perfectly okay for the spine to go into flexion every now and then. Loaded flexion is one thing, but lets try not to shit an EMG every time someone has the audacity to bend their spine.  Life……will…..go…….on), I’d still be remiss not to note that the bulk of my core training, and that of my clients, revolves around stability and preventing “unwanted” motion.

Maybe a year or two ago my good buddy, Nick Tumminello, described a cool Pallof variation called the Vertical Pallof Press, which I thought was a simple – albeit brilliant – twist into the genre.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, another buddy of mine, Philadelphia based strength coach, Andrew Zomberg, asked my thoughts on half-kneeling or even tall-kneeling Vertical Pallof Press variations.

In a nutshell he was curious as to whether or not I’ve tried them or if I saw any efficacy in including them into my programming.

Of course!

Half Kneeling Vertical Pallof Press

What I like most about this variation are a few things:

1.  It trains anti-extension.

2.  With the half kneeling version, you can “encourage” a bit more posterior pelvic tilt by squeezing the crap out of the kneeling side glute.  And when I say “squeezing the crap out of the kneeling side glute,” what I really mean is “squeeze that badboy as if you’re trying to crack walnut.”

3.  Additionally, we get an awesome active “stretch” in the kneeling side hip flexor.  I put the word stretch in quotations there because for those people who feel as if they have chronically tight hip flexors (despite going out of their way to stretch them to death with little or no improvement), it’s more likely the fact that the hip flexors are pulling “double duty” for an unstable spine.  Hence, they feel tight because they’re firing 24/7 to prevent the spine from wrecking itself before it checks itself (Ice Cube fans will enjoy that reference).

In a sense, we could make a solid argument that the reason why many people feel as if they have “tight” hip flexors is NOT because they’re short/stiff, but rather their core is weak and unstable.

If I just blew your mind or if that piques your interest at all, I’d HIGHLY encourage you to check out Dean Somerset’s post on Reasons Why You Should Stop Stretching Your Hip Flexors.

If you’re too lazy to read it:  just know that working on core stability could help resolve those “tight” hip flexors of yours.

Outside of those key points, I’d note that the other things to consider would be on the technique side of things:

– Keep your chin tucked (make a double chin).

– As you extend your arms above your head, try to prevent your rib cage from flaring out.

– For those who need to work on improving scapular upward rotation (especially overhead athletes), once your elbows hit shoulder height, you could  lightly shrug at the top of the movement.

– Try not to make this a tricep exercise.  Those who tend to feel it more in that area are pressing the cable too far outward and focusing on elbow extension.  Instead, you need to literally press straight up, preventing the cable from pulling you backward.

For an additional challenge, you can try a one-arm variation

Half Kneeling 1-Arm Vertical Pallof Press

All the same benefits apply here:  it trains anti-extension, but because you’re using one arm at a time there’s also a significant anti-rotation component as well.

Too, it’s great for glute activation, encouraging more posterior pelvic tilt, and serves as an active hip flexor “stretch” (seriously, read Dean’s post).

About the only thing it doesn’t do is multiplication tables and buy you dinner.

And there you have it.  Try it out today, and let me know what you think!


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