The Banded Pallof Overhead Press Combo

By Dr. John Rusin

banded pallof overhead press combo

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Introducing Functional Strength Training: 
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Your Core Needs More Stability To Display It’s Strength

If you are inherently frail and weak, you truly have no business implementing direct dynamic core work into your programming with the goal of eliciting a training effect. Dynamic core work like crushes, sit-ups and side bends using loads and intensity have minimal carryover into the pillar and core unit’s ability to create stiffness and transfer force. And for a vast majority of people, direct core training will have minimal positive effects on enhancing aesthetics due to higher relative body fat percentages.

So it begs the question…why would we be training the core to perform differently than it’s key functional role in human movement, strength training and sport performance when it’s not going to help us chisel out a six-pack and may even make us weaker and more predisposed to injuries?

Though everyone shouldn’t be training direct dynamic core work, damn near everyone can get something out of strategic pillar based training that activates the shoulders, hips and core to work as a functional unit in the  6-Phase Dynamic Warm Up pre-training preparatory sequence. Remember, if you are weak your priority needs to be getting stronger at the big compound foundational movements, but here’s how strategic pillar activation drills like the Half-Kneeling Banded Pallof Press can play a key role in strength development.

The Banded Pallof Press & Banded Overhead Pallof Press

The half kneeling developmental position is often times overlooked in corrective based training, activation and direct core work. Coordinating the hips, shoulders and core together to create tension and stability is an absolute requirement to be strong and resilient. The banded pallof overhead press combo movement works to coordinate these pillar segments with asymmetrical loading and of course, anti-rotation and side bending based forces.

The ability to activate and stabilize the core during the pallof press and overhead pallof press is highly dependent on the mastery and maintenance of this foundational half kneeling position. As they say, if you build a foundation on a house of cards it’s only a matter of time until they fall apart under you.

By cueing the glutes and adductors to co-contract together, the hips and pelvis will create internal stability. The same can be said for the shoulders with the co-contraction of the pecs and lats together pressing out against the band. Since both the hip and shoulder complexes are comprised of ball and socket based joints, co-contracting around these inherently mobile segments not only adds muscular stability, but also winds the fascial planes into rotation, thus increasing the torque output. This is highly advantageous when learning how to grade and maximize tension.

If the shoulders and hips are both torqued down and stabile, it’s going to be EASY to add tension through the core. Many core stability and activation drills miss the mark by first cueing the core to “turn on” and neglecting the other components of the pillar. In order to avoid this during the pallof press and overhead pallof press movements, cue your tension sequentially in this order:

  1. Glutes and Adductors Co-Contract Around Hips
  2. Lats and Pecs Co-Contract Around Shoulders
  3. Core Braces with 360 Degree Expansion
  4. Breathe and Brace Is Taken To Solidify Position

Once this base position become repeatable, we can add anti-rotational and anti-sidebending forces into the mix using a band anchored to a squat rack or other immovable object at approximately hip height. The traditional Banded Pallof Press was covered in depth in the article, “Do The Pallof Press: A Smarter Alternative To Crunches & Sit-Ups”.

As for the banded pallof overhead press, here’s a step by step for pristine setup and execution:

  1. Anchor a circular band to a rack at approximately hip height.
  2. Position yourself into he half kneeling position with the outside knee contacting the ground.
  3. Grasp the band between your hands interlocking the fingers.
  4. Bring the band to your chest and actively engage the pillar.
  5. Rotate the fingers upwards and smoothly press directly overhead.
  6. Peak the contraction overhead and move the hands back down to the starting position.
  7. Ensure that band tension is kept at all times and the band never goes complete.y slackened.

From this solidified pillar position, slowly execute 8-12 reps peaking contractions and moving slowly with no deviation from the core or hip position for either the traditional banded pallof press variation, or the pallof overhead press variation. But as our athletes train both of these movements regularly to tap into the internal stability of the core and pillar working as a unit, we started programming these two movements together as one. Introducing the Banded Pallof Overhead Press Combo.

The Banded Pallof Overhead Press Combo

As we’ve covered, the abs and core rarely need more strength to improve performance and function. So skip he hundreds of crunches and side bends thinking you’re getting stronger and instead train the core to resist movement with drills targeting activation and stability. The core is usually in dire need of more timely and sequential stability that is integrated with the shoulders and hips. The banded pallof overhead press combo is one of my favorite exercises that achieves that.

Start by attaching a circular band to a rack around hip height (when standing) and position your body perpendicular to the band. Drop down into a actively stable half kneeling position with the knee contacting the ground on the opposite side that the band is on. Engage the glutes, adductors, core and shoulders to build stability and tension/torque out of this base position. The goal is not only to achieve this position but to maintain it.

Grab the band with interlocked hands and fingers and make sure the band is on tension at the starting point in front of your chest. Press your hands slowly and under control put in front of your chest, maximizing tension for a split second and control back to the chest. From here, rotate the hands so the fingers are facing up and press under control up overhead, maximizing the overhead position and controlling back down. One rep will consist of pressing horizontally, then pressing vertically in alternating fashion.

This movement targets anti-rotation and anti-sidebending movements simultaneously while activating the hips and core from a half kneeling position. In order to reap the most from this movement variation, focus on smooth stability throughout the entire range of motion out in front of the body and up overhead. Stability should be derived from the base position, so when struggling to maintain stability, reset your base position for success.

This movement is a perfect finisher for an upper body emphasis or bench press centered training day. The most success is found between 8-12 reps of this combo movement totaling 40-60 seconds total time under tension for the core to be reactive to the altering anti-positions. As always, quality over quantity, as we are working on the skill of stability. Enjoy this novel anti-core training variation, it’s a game changer.

About The Author

Dr. John Rusin

Dr. John Rusin is an internationally recognized coach, physical therapist, speaker, and sports performance expert. Dr. John has coached some of the world’s most elite athletes, including multiple Gold Medalist Olympians, NFL All-Pros, MLB All-Stars, Professional Bodybuilders, World-Record Holding Powerlifters, National Level Olympic Lifters and All-World IronMan Triathletes.

Dr. Rusin is the leading pioneer in the fitness and sports performance industries in intelligent pain-free performance programming that achieves world class results while preventing injuries in the process. Dr. John’s methods are showcased in his 12-Week FHT Program that combines the best from athletic performance training, powerlifting, bodybuilding and preventative therapy to produce world-class results without pain and injuries.

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  1. Gary Mathewson August 24, 2017 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Love your work Dr. John……thank you!

  2. Nick August 25, 2017 at 7:25 am - Reply

    Hey John. Quick question here. We have been using these variations at the studio I work at for years, but we always have the inside knee down and the outside knee up. Do you see much of an advantage/disadvantage to doing this one way vs. the other?

  3. Ben April 6, 2018 at 8:21 am - Reply

    I love the Pallof Press combinations. I have found forming a 90 degree angle between the hands and the band while they are straight allows the movement to be most effective. Also I am curious about the previous question and would like to add would it be just as beneficial if one was to be in the kneeling position on both knees?

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