A strong core isn’t what you think it is. Most believe it’s all about floor crunches and ripped 6-pack abs. But your core’s main job is stabilization.
That’s why the Hollow Body Hold is so effective. It builds the type of core strength you actually need for most athletic activities.
It’s a simple movement but there’s some important nuance to doing it effectively.
In this tutorial we’ll walk you through the progressions to strengthen and master your Hollow Body Hold. And once you’ve built a solid base of stabilizing strength, we’ll show you how to apply it to dynamic and rotational movements for an even more capable core.
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Hollow Body Hold Tutorial (and why to do it)
Here’s a glimpse of what’s possible when you build up your core strength with Hollow Body Holds.
Verity didn’t get here by doing a bunch of crunches, but by specifically working her full body in a strategic and functional way.
When it comes to core strength, we focus solely on what having a strong core allows you to do. Anyone can do lots of of crunches or side bends and be ‘strong’ but it probably won’t lend to being able to leverage that strength to move your entire body in ways that you want.
A better way is to learn the Hollow Body Hold.
Here’s a quick tutorial where Ryan shows you exactly how to do it properly:
Why You Need More Than Just “Strong Abs” For A Hollow Body Hold
When working on these holds, you’re working many muscles at once:
- transverse abdominis
- rectus abdominis (abdominal wall)
- internal and external obliques
- hip flexors
- erector spinae muscles
When you only rely on crunches (ab flexion), you’re missing out on engaging all the muscles involved in the holds.
And when you practice the hollow body hold, you get a stronger, more developed core faster.
But what does that matter?
It allows you to move in all directions and get into different positions more easily.
More core strength is especially helpful for high impact sports like martial arts and trail running, or activities like weight lifting or grappling.
And it makes other activities like dancing, hiking, or playing with your kids on the floor much easier and more fun.
When you can move easily and be in control of your body, a whole new world of potential opens up for you.
How To Do The Hollow Body Hold Correctly
Most people try this movement and struggle because it’s deceptively hard.
At first, it doesn’t look too difficult, but if you have a history of sitting a lot, or haven’t worked out much, it’ll reveal some weaknesses pretty quickly.
Here’s an example of what a good hold looks like compared to a hold that needs work:
As you’ll see, on the left, Eduardo has his shoulders back and needs to pull his knees up higher to keep his back flat.
If this is what you experience, it’s because you don’t have the strength yet in your core to keep your back flat. And your hip flexors might be tight from too much sitting.
On the right, he’s doing the hold properly with his back flat on the floor.
Here’s How To Do It:
- Lie down with your back flat on the floor.
- Bend your knees up toward your chest.
- Tuck your chin and bring your shoulders up slightly off the ground.
- Keep your arms to your sides and straighten them out to be in line with the floor.
Once you’re comfortable in this position, you can start to push your feet out away from the body, and eventually extend your arms out and over your head.
Only go as far as you comfortably can without letting your lower back off the ground.
A good way to practice this, and to make sure your back stays flat, is the band test. You can put a band or a towel under your lower back and give it a pull. If it slides out, you’ll know your back isn’t flat.
Hollow body holds help you strengthen all the muscles that make up your core:
- The abdominal wall (the visible 6-pack)
- Lower back
And a stronger core helps you with movements like handstands, L-sits, push-ups, squats, and even pull-ups.
Next Step: Hollow Body Rocks
Hollow body rocks are a staple in most gymnastics gyms, because they teach yo to brace the core while the body is in motion, which is pretty important when you’re flying through the air.
Extending the Hollow Body Variations
Once you’ve mastered the hollow body exercises, you’ll have a very solid, stable core. The next step is to add more varied movements patterns and positions.
Here are 5 movements you can work on that are built off the Hollow Body Hold position:
- Rotating Cobra (found in our recovery program Regulator)
- Side Shrimp
- 4-Arm Leg Thread
Here we have Ryan showing you exactly how to do these:
Hollow Body Holds are a great exercise to work into your training, but it shouldn’t stop there. Your program should incorporate movements that build your core strength as a byproduct of what you’re doing regularly.
This is why we focus on animal movements in our foundational Elements program.
When you begin to walk around on all fours, you naturally engage all the muscles in your abs, obliques, low back, and shoulders. This way, you’re building functional core and rotational strength at the same time.
Build a Stronger Core With a Foundation in the Basics
With Elements, you’ll get stronger, more flexible, and build the body control of an athlete, setting you up for a successful lifetime of staying fit and active.