I’ve not met a single person who HASN’T done, or at least tried, a plank.
- It seems easier than a push up, I mean all you have to do is hold the position.
- It doesn’t require any equipment, so it can be done seemingly anywhere.
- It has almost endless variations: side plank, shoulder taps, mountain climbers etc.
But, for those same reasons, there is something I’ve found more effective: Half Kneeling Pallof
First off, what the heck is a Half Kneeling Pallof.
It’s an exercise involving a single knee on the floor with a band or cable attached to a fixed point. Here’s a quick video demo of an anti-extension half kneeling pallof hold.
So, why is it more effective than planks?
- You can start by just holding the position, like a plank, but you can’t fake good muscle tension, the band or cable forces you to work properly
- It requires equipment, which means you need to make a concerted effort to take action and do the exercise. When something is always readily available to you, it’s that much easier to, “put it off until later.” AND, the equipment is NOT expensive. Currently you can purchase an utility strap and red band from Resistance Band Training for $28 plus tax & shipping. When you commit money to something, you immediately feel the need to exact value from it. I will show you how 🙂
- The half kneeling Pallof has nearly endless variations as well, of which I will show you the best ones to get started below.
A Half kneeling stance is a great way to start because it forces different muscle activation from the lower body on one side versus the other. If you have knee pain with direct contact to the floor, use a pad under your knee.
You simply create two 90 degree angles with your legs, one in front and one behind. The back leg’s toes should be actively engaged with the floor to create as much lower body tension as possible.
Everyone likes to feel their 6 pack muscles working AND create a strong trunk to minimize low back pain. This is the variation for that!
The key is to exhale aggressively through the hold to activate the obliques and low abs thus taking stress off the low back and teaching proper tension through the front side of your core.
The straighter your arms are overhead, the harder it becomes!
Anti- Rotation position
This one is great not only for the obliques but also for anyone who feels imbalances running, lunging, throwing or swinging bats/clubs/rackets. It will expose that imbalance while giving you an opportunity to figure out how to activate it and right the ship before an injury.
In the video, I show the leg closest to the anchor point down. I have found that it is easier to start with the leg closest to the anchor point up, or forward, to take advantage of leverage and then challenge yourself over time to switch to the kneeling position shown in the video.
I think a great time to put either, or both of these into a training plan is right at the point when your warm up starts to get serious. As you ramp up for training, this is a really nice gauge to not only feel out where your body is THAT DAY, but also gives you a chance to adjust and activate so you can make the most out of your training session.
Make it simple on yourself, do 2 sets of this superset
a. Half Kneeling Anti-Extension Pallof hold 30 sec/kneeling stance
b. Half Kneeling Anti-Rotation Pallof hold 30 sec/side
Rest long enough between to get to the new position then rest 1 min between the first and second set.
The second set is your opportunity to really fire up the core and hip muscles or adjust to work through imbalances you are recognizing.
Advancing the exercise
There are 3 simple ways to advance the exercise that don’t have to involve adding more resistance, because that’s the obvious one and the one most people gravitate towards.
But, trust me, these simple tweaks will make anyone feel the effects of minimal resistance.
- Narrow the Stance
When you get started with pallofs, it’s all too common to see people with their feet in a WIDE stance. Instead, to increase the difficulty, imagine standing with your feet together and then getting into the stance without changing that width between your legs.
Taking it one step further, you can do what we call an “in-line” stance. That is where your back foot, back knee and front foot create a straight line (as if you are on top of a balance beam).
It will force everything in your body to activate and brace against falling over or backwards.
2. Create movement
Up until this point we have just discussed HOLDS and I find those incredibly effective early in training sessions to get a feel for your body and your ability to activate your muscles. However, any Pallof hold that you do can also become a Pallof PRESS.
By bringing the hands closer to the body and then further away, you create a dynamic environment forcing the core and hips to adjust and stabilize through a variety of environments
3. Change the angles
I put this one last because it should be the last thing you use and because the options are borderline UNLIMITED here. You can adjust where the band or cable is relative to your body, you can adjust the angle you press or hold at, and you can even adjust the angle of your stance relative to the anchor point.
This is all about YOUR creativity and deciding what you want to get out of the exercise.
Find an anchor angle that targets your lats and obliques just the right way, run with it!
Find a pressing variation that balances your body when throwing, get after it!
Find a body position that activates your old hamstring injury so that you can do RDLs without inhibition afterwards, embrace it!
I think everything has standards for a reason. You need to master the basics of ANY exercise you are using. But, once you have that, embrace exploration and see what you can get out of it.
If your mission is to keep things simple and develop a mastery of it, exploration is NECESSARY and we often miss out on creative outlets as adults. Here is your opportunity!