pallof press alternative
Fitness

22 Great Pallof Press Alternatives (No Machines Needed)

It turns out you don’t need to perform endless sit-ups to strengthen your core and tone your abs – in fact, there’s an exercise with very little movement involved at all; the Pallof Press. Named after John Pallof, this anti-rotation exercise is an excellent option for core training, though only if you’ve got the right equipment.

The Pallof Press may not be a viable option for everyone. If that’s the case for you, here are some amazing exercises that will give you core stability, strength, and mobility.

1. Plank

How To:

  • Place your forearms on the floor parallel to each other with your arms bent at 90 degrees. Stick your legs out behind you, toes on the ground, so that your body creates a straight line.
  • Engage your core and glutes, and hold this position for time.
  • Duration: 45-60 seconds.

Equipment Used:

  • None.

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

If the Pallof Press is a quirky variation on core training, then the plank is the daddy of popular core exercises. Your entire core region is working to keep your body in the same position, not just your abs but your obliques and glutes as well.

Pro Tip: 

Don’t let your buttocks rise too high; keep them in line with your torso and keep your shoulders stacked over your elbows.

2. Side Plank

How To:

  • Lie on the floor on your side, with your feet stacked on top of each other, propping yourself up with one elbow on the floor. Place your other hand on your hip for stability.
  • Lift your hips off the floor so your body produces a straight line from your head to your feet, with just your feet and forearm touching the ground.
  • Hold for time, then lower down and perform the move on the other side of your body.
  • Duration: 30-40 sec on each side.

Equipment Used:

  • None

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This plank variation requires even more core strength than its traditional counterpart as you have less stability, so your core muscles need to work harder to prevent you from tipping over.

Pro Tip: 

If this is too difficult to start, lower your bottom knee to the floor while performing the plank for extra support.

3. Crunches

How To:

  • Lie on the floor with your feet flat and legs bent and pinned together, with knees pointing to the sky. 
  • Place your hands lightly on the side of your head, contract your abs and lift just your upper body slightly off the floor, then lower back down. Repeat.
  • 12-15 reps.

Equipment Used:

  • None

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Crunches are a favorite core exercise of many people for a reason – they’re simple to perform and are great for specifically targeting your abs.

Pro Tip: 

Keep your head and neck relaxed; don’t jerk them forward.

4. Hollow Body Hold

How To:

  • Lay flat on the ground on your back with your arms and legs pointed out.
  • Keeping your limbs straight, slowly raise them off the ground by engaging your core musculature, bringing your head and neck with your arms.
  • Keep them fairly low – the closer to the ground, the more work your core is doing. Hold for time.
  • Duration: 45-60 sec.

Equipment Used:

  • None.

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This might not be one of the most popular core exercises, but it’s tough to find another that matches it for core engagement. 

Pro Tip: 

Ensure your lower back is in contact with the ground during the entire hold.

5. Plank Shoulder Taps

How to:

  • Adopt a high plank position by placing your hands flat on the ground with your arms extended, shoulders stacked over the wrists. Have your legs straight out behind you and separated with your toes on the ground.
  • Raise your left hand off the floor and tap your right shoulder with it. Return your hand to the floor, then raise your right hand and tap your left shoulder. 
  • Keep alternating for 10 reps on either side.

Equipment Used:

  • None

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

You need to maintain spinal stability with this movement, so your entire core is engaged to keep your body in control, making it similar to the Pallof Press in that regard.

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Pro Tip: 

Don’t slap at your shoulders, keep the movement controlled and fluid.

6. Glute Bridge

How To:

  • Lie on the ground with your feet flat, knees bent and arms flat against the floor, palms facing down.
  • Push through your heels and lift your hips up as far as they’ll go, lifting all or most of your back off the floor too, but keeping your arms, feet, shoulders and head on the ground.
  • Hold for desired time.
  • Duration: 60-90 sec.

Equipment Used:

  • Barbell
  • Bench

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This functional exercise is seriously good for adding upper body size as it recruits your triceps as well as your chest muscles, making it a perfect alternative exercise for chest dips.

Pro Tip: 

Keep your wrists strong and in line with your forearms.

7. Kettlebell Drag Through

How to:

  • Take a high plank position with your arms straight and your feet in a wide stance. Have a kettlebell on the floor underneath you and slightly to your right.
  • Lean your left hand over, without moving your torso, and take hold of the dumbbell, lifting it ever so slightly off the floor and dragging it over to your left.
  • Repeat the movement with your right hand, bringing the weight back to its starting point. Keep alternating for reps.
  • Reps: 12-16.

Equipment Used:

  • Kettlebell.

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Like the Pallof Press, the added resistance provides optimal recruitment of core muscles. Not only are you keeping your body stable, but you’re also moving a weight from side to side using your core as the main driver.

Pro Tip: 

Keep your feet wide to prevent any unwanted movement in your torso.

8. V-Ups

How To:

  • Lie flat on the floor with your arms pointed behind you and your feet touching and also pointed away from you.
  • Simultaneously lift your legs and arms, squeezing your core and tapping your toes with your fingers, or getting as close as you can.
  • Lower back down to the floor and repeat
  • Reps: 12-15.

Equipment Used:

  • None.

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This is an advanced exercise, but once you master it you’ll be on the way to developing a bulletproof core. 

Pro Tip: 

Bring your arms slightly beyond the halfway point to meet your legs, as this works your core more.

9. Leg Raises

How To:

  • Lie on the floor with your arms by your side, palms against the floor. Have your legs straight and touching each other.
  • Engage your core and lift your legs off the floor, keeping them straight, until your body forms a right angle.
  • Lower your legs back down as close to the floor as you can go without touching them down and repeat.
  • Reps: 12-15.

Equipment Used:

  • None

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Not only are your ab muscles working to lift your legs up, they’re also engaged when lowering your legs back down under control, meaning they are under tension for a long time.

Pro Tip: 

Keep your head and back flat against the floor at all times.

10. Russian Twists

How To:

  • Sit on the floor with your legs bent at about 45 degrees and one foot wrapped over the other. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in our hands over your stomach.
  • Lean back slightly and lift your feet off the ground. Twist your torso and bring the weight down to your right hip. 
  • Twist the other way and now bring the weight to your left hip. Keep alternating for reps.
  • Reps: 12-15.

Equipment Used:

  • Dumbbell/kettlebell

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This can also be done with just your body weight, but the twisting movement is great for your abs and obliques.

Pro Tip: 

Keep your back straight to avoid straining your lumbar spine. If the movement is too difficult, try it with your feet on the floor.

11. Single-leg Jackknife

How To:

  • Lie on the floor with your arms stretched behind you, fingers pointed and palms facing each other. Your legs should be straight and slightly separated.
  • Lift your right leg up, keeping it straight, bringing it toward your face as you also lift your upper body off the floor, bringing your arms forward to briefly pass over either side of your foot.
  • Lower everything back down, then repeat the movement with your left leg. Keep alternating for reps.
  • Reps: 12-15.

Equipment Used:

  • None

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Not only will this help strengthen your core, particularly your obliques, but if performed at a fast pace (while keeping correct form) this move will also elevate your heart rate and get you working up a sweat.

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Pro Tip: 

Ensure your lower back (lumbar spine) is touching the floor at all times.

12. Butterfly Sit-ups

How To:

  • Lie on the floor with your feet drawn up near your glutes, soles touching, and your knees opened out to either side, and your arms overhead, hands touching.
  • Lift your upper body to sit up, bringing your arms with you and then forward in front of you at the top of the movement.
  • Lower back down and repeat.
  • Reps: 10-12.

Equipment Used:

  • None

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

The position of your legs means your hip flexors can’t help you here, so your core truly has to do all the work.

Pro Tip: 

Let your knees fall naturally as far as they can on either side, don’t try to force them further.

13. Hanging Knee Raise

How To:

  • Grasp a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, arms straight, and hang from it.
  • With your feet touching, bend your legs and pull your knees up toward your chest. 
  • Lower your legs back down until straight and repeat.
  • Reps: 10-12

Equipment Used:

  • Pull-up bar

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

With your body stretched, your core muscles are more engaged and will be the main source of control for this movement.

Pro Tip: 

Keep the movement controlled and don’t let yourself swing on the bar as you pull your knees up and then lower them.

14. Flutter Kicks

How To:

  • Lie on the floor with your legs straight. Lift both feet off the ground a few inches, as well as your shoulders.
  • Flutter your feet up and down; you should feel a stretch in your abs and core. Keep this going for your chosen duration.
  • Duration: 30-45 seconds.

Equipment Used:

  • None

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

By raising your shoulders, you’re engaging your abs even more. This is a safe and easy way to give your core musculature a solid workout, making it one of the more popular core exercises.

Pro Tip: 

Keep your lower back flat against the floor, as well as your hands.

15. Bird-Dogs

How To:

  • Prop yourself up on the floor on your hands and knees. Your hands should be stacked under your shoulders, arms straight, and your knees should be in line with your hips.
  • Lift your left arm straight out in front of you and your right leg straight out behind you so they both come to shoulder height and are in line with your torso.
  • Lower them down, then lift your right arm out and your left leg out. Keep alternating for reps or time.
  • Reps: 12-16.

Equipment Used:

  • None

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This is a great move for beginners or those looking to lower strain on their joints and back. Your core is still working hard to keep your body stable.

Pro Tip: 

Focus on keeping your torso still and in the same line at all times.

16. Supine Toe Taps

How To:

  • Lie on the floor with your knees bent. Lift your legs up, keeping them bent, so that they are at 90 degrees with your lower legs parallel to the floor.
  • Keeping the bend in your leg, lower your right foot down until your toes tap the floor, then bring the leg back alongside your left one.
  • Do the same with your left leg and keep alternating.
  • Reps: 12-16.

Equipment Used:

  • None

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This is another exercise that people of all fitness levels can do to strengthen their core. Lowering each leg under control activates the lower ab muscles in particular.

Pro Tip: 

Keep your arms and hands flat on the floor for stability.

17. Bicycle Crunches

How To:

  • Lie on the floor with your legs bent and your hands behind your head. Raise your feet off the floor and pull your right knee toward your face, while simultaneously twisting your torso to bring your left elbow toward your right knee. At the same time, stick your left leg out straight.
  • Now bring your left knee toward your face, stick your right leg straight out and twist your right elbow toward your left knee.
  • Keep alternating for reps or time.
  • Reps: 12-16.

Equipment Used:

  • None

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This dynamic core exercise is also a great cardio workout.

Pro Tip: 

Don’t pull your head or neck forward with your hands. To avoid this, it can help to place your hands on your temples rather than the back of your head.

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18. Mountain Climbers

How To:

  • Assume a high plank position with your hands under your shoulders and legs straight out.
  • Pump your left knee under your chest and toward your arms, then send it back straight and down, while then bringing the right knee forward to your arms.
  • Keep alternating for time.
  • Duration: 45-60 seconds.

Equipment Used:

  • None

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

This is probably more of a cardio exercise than a strength exercise, but the pumping action and high plank position mean your core has to be engaged and active throughout.

Pro Tip: 

Try to keep a fast tempo but don’t burn yourself out; the aim is to keep the body moving for the entire duration of the round.

19. Dead Bugs

How To:

  • Lie on your back with your arms held straight up in front of you and your legs bent and raise off the floor at a 90-degree angle.
  • Lower your left leg down and stretch it straight so it hovers an inch above the floor. At the same time, lower your right arm down overhead, keeping it straight.
  • Return both limbs to the starting position, then repeat with your right leg and left arm. Keep alternating.
  • Reps: 12-16.

Equipment Used:

  • None

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

It’s hard to get this move wrong, making it a great exercise for beginners or those getting back into training after a long hiatus. 

Pro Tip: 

Don’t let your hands or feet touch the ground throughout the movement.

20. Barbell Rollout

How To:

  • Load a barbell with 5kg weight plates, then lie in front of it, holding it with an overhand grip and your arms straight, shoulders over the bar.
  • Slowly roll the bar forward, keeping your arms straight until you feel a deep stretch in your core.
  • Rise back up by engaging your abs, rolling the bar back with you and keeping the same length in your arms. Repeat.
  • Reps: 10-12.

Equipment Used:

  • Barbell

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Rollouts recruit every muscle in your core making them one of the most comprehensive exercises for this section of your body.

Pro Tip: 

The farther out you roll the bar, the harder this move is.

21. Cable Woodchop

How To:

  • Set the handle of a cable machine so that it is in line with your chest. Take hold of the handle with both hands and step away from the machine so that both arms are straight, with your side facing the handle.
  • Pull the handle across your torso so that your body twists to the other side.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat.
  • Reps: 12-15.

Equipment Used:

  • Cable machine

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

Like the Pallof Press, this move has your core working to keep tension in external resistance, but here you’re adding in a twist to activate your obliques.

Pro Tip: 

Keep your arms and back straight throughout.

22. Toe Touches

How To:

  • Lie on the floor with your legs and arms straight up in front of you.
  • Raise your shoulders to bring your hands as close to your toes if possible, tapping them if you can.
  • Lower back down, but not all the way, and repeat.
  • Reps: 12-15.

Equipment Used:

  • None

Why It’s A Great Alternative:

With the support of the floor, you can focus on contracting your abs to lift yourself up. Plus, it’s easy to track your progress with this one.

Pro Tip: 

Don’t jerk your head and shoulders upward and don’t swing your legs closer to your hands.

Conclusion

Targeting your entire core doesn’t require the Pallof Press, despite it being an excellent exercise. There are plenty of other options, most of which don’t require any equipment at all. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Pallof Press an ab exercise?

Yes, it works your abdominal muscles and most of the other muscles in your core, including your obliques and erector spinae.

Does the Pallof Press build muscle?

This depends on how strong your core is before you implement this move into your routine. The Pallof Press is typically performed with a resistance band, which will help develop muscles up to a certain point.

What is the best exercise for your core?

Countless exercises work your core, so your main focus should be finding the right one for you. That is, one that you can perform correctly and safely, and one that you can progress to ensure you don’t plateau.

George Gigney

George is a Level 3 Personal Trainer and qualified Behavior Change Specialist. He has been training clients for several years and writing for over a decade, focusing on sport, wellbeing, and fitness.

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