A cool new exercise and “disadvantaged training” vs isolation.

July 26, 2012 — 8 Comments

So while training today, I did an exercise that I hadn’t done or seen before, and it was really damn cool, I think. So I filmed it, and wanted to discuss it and some close relatives of it. The video is a little further down the page after I give it some background.

If you haven’t done pallof press variations before, I recommend you add them into your training. They are very cool, effective, and intelligent-I love them and have been playing with variations of them for a few years now. I’ve seen them completely destroy people (not injury!) because, I believe the amount of “stabilizers” which must act is much higher than many other exercises, or at least recruited in a new and intense way for people-and therefore it just taxes the neurological system like crazy. Or so I think anyways. At the bottom of this article I have linked a Tony Gentilcore article with videos demonstrating the pallof press and its variants. (why do another rehash of this when a good post is already done?!)

In addition to pallof press work, I think performing lifts from a half kneeling and split stance are extremely effective for a number of things: glute activation, core training, and proper sequencing and relationship building between stabilizers vs movers. Again, at the bottom I have linked an article by Brett Contreras discussing standing rotary training. It has a video with Gray that gets into half kneeling lifts and chops, and you should watch it. (again, no need to repeat info already out there)

I would like to discuss isolation and disadvantaged training, and the difference. Isolation exercises isolate one specific muscle (or muscle group) in order to specifically address that muscle (or group). I know, DUH, but the thing is, unless you are a bodybuilder (or anyone with aesthetic goals) looking to increase the size of that specific muscle (or group), or in need of specific rehab, isolation exercises probably aren’t the best training practices because there is essentially zero times in life that require an isolated muscle to function alone. Now, disadvantaged training exercises place an emphasis on certain muscles (or groups) in the context of a more complex movement. Here is Gray Cook discussing “disadvantaged training” (did I invent that term?!) in relation to the half kneeling chop and liftFirst, removing your foot, ankle and knee from the mix helps me focus just on the hip and core. Reducing your body height reduces the amount of balance reaction. With one knee down and one foot up, this puts you in a position that isolates the single side.” You see, he is disadvantaging the trainee to “focus on just the hip and core”, that is why these drills are so damn cool and effective.

Now, the idea of “disadvantaged training” leads me into the idea of efficient movements vs effective movement/training. In general we should be aiming to train to move efficiently, however there are often times when a task requires a more “effective” technique. An example would be crossing monkey bars: you could swing efficiently, spending minimal energy while doing it, and be able to do it for long periods of time….but, if you had to get across quickly, you would need a more “effective” technique, such as a flexed arm hand over hand traversing across the bars, which you COULDN’T do for an extended period of time as it’s quite taxing and difficult. As such, training “effective” movements, aka “disadvantaged” movements can and should result in more targeted training adaptations. Some people would read that and think “I should just train “effective” or “disadvantaged” movements to produce the greatest adaptations”, but they’d be dumb for thinking that since training efficiently has a WHOLE HELL OF A LOT of benefits that most people are missing in their training and as such, their abilities.

Now, onto the new (?) exercise that I did today. I was showing a friend variants of the pallof press. I was showing the standing anti extension version (which I go back and forth between liking and disliking), when the height of the bar that the band was attached to made me think to try a half kneeling version to increase the amount of pulling work (she has a shoulder/neck thing that prevents her from pull-ups at the moment). The thought was by half kneeling it would increase the amount and intensity of pulling muscles recruited, while also working on the anti extension aspect of the exercise. Well, I was pretty excited when I tried this (I try things before letting someone else get after it). Excited because this drill did the following really well:

  • The glute activation was really damn good, could have something to do with the exercises I had done before and I was fatigued, but she also immediately commented on how taxing it was for her glutes.
  • The anti extension aspect of the core was much more effective than in the standing version
  • The amount of work that the lats and other pulling muscles got was surprising, since it wasn’t a very “heavy” band
  • Keeping the scaps retracted basically happened instinctively, because otherwise you’d be whipped back-and that position of shoulders “back and down” was actually pretty easy to maintain in part due to the load coming from behind, which is really a unique loading angle for a pull. I feel, and this is just an opinion/hypothesis, that the added “ease” of being in a retracted scapular position is helpful in teaching to pull from that position and keep that position throughout the pull-since many people lose it somewhere in a pull-up, at the bottom, middle, really it varies.

I believe that this drill would be a good addition to training for the following:

  • Pressing movements. This really teaches you to have a great support to press off of because of how well it activates and keeps activated the glute, core & lats. Many people lose pressing power because one of those things goes wrong/soft.
  • Pullups. Teaching you to be tight throughout, basically hollowed out, will help with your pull-ups. You see most people doing pull-ups with poor shoulder and scap position, and soft and useless core…and that’s why they suck at pull-ups.
  • Handstands. Teaches you to have good strong linked up body in that overhead position.-General scap training, glute training, and core training!

I will be adding this into my training consistently, and hopefully I’ll see it add some badassery to myself. It is one of those exercises which is rad because it has things working together in a really cool and effective manner-disadvantaging at its best.

OK, now on to the exercise!

First, make sure your band is safe and secure, and at least as high as your finger tips at full reach! Get into half kneeling, and make sure the kneeling thigh is vertical (so that you are using the glute and other stabilizers) and not angled forward (sitting on structure in that forward position). Get the band in the lowered position, get your shoulders down and back, squeeze the glute, be strong in the core, and press up with control. Pause at the top for a few seconds and enjoy that fun, then pull it back down. You need to actively press and pull the cable, not just let it go up…stay tall and maintain control throughout.

Here are the videos

Side Angle

Front Angle

Front angle, but set up at an angle from the band origin. Depending on where you set up this will include more anti flexion & anti rotation.

Here is another exercise that beats the shit out of crunches, regular planks, and other “core work”. The plank row, at the bottom of the page are two pictures, try to keep your hips level while doing this. Another even tougher variation is to backwards bear crawl, drop to elbows, row a rope attached to a sled, then pushup up to hands from elbows, backwards bear crawl, and repeat with the other hand…this will kick your ass, fast (Thanks Tim Anderson!). https://cliftonharski.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/more-muscle-confusion/

Here is the pallof press and some of the variations that i’ve been doing for a few years (no, I’m not laying claim to inventing anything….as lots of things are done by lots of people without doing a blog post and claiming it as new)

http://www.tonygentilcore.com/blog/everything-pallof-press/ (note, side vertical pallor press is best from standing, as in half kneeling you’ll see shitty form almost no matter what).

Here is a link to Brett Contreras where he discuss rotary training and how it’s badass.http://bretcontreras.com/2011/09/standing-rotary-training-is-whole-body-training/

8 responses to A cool new exercise and “disadvantaged training” vs isolation.


    Great post, I love this blog, total badassery.


    Nice work, Cliff. Love the thought process.


    Love the post Clifferton….sans deep V?


      it was dry-fit. If I’m not wearing a v neck, it’d better be a tank top or some sort of space age material which wicks sweat away from my body. I need to have my sweat wicked.


    I think real bad asses should film there vids from the normal wide angle perspective instead of vertical. Great post though. I always thought you seemed disadvantaged.

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