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How To Do The Perfect Hollow Hold

Published August 17, 2019 (Revised: April 28, 2020) Read Time: 6 minutes
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Ben Kissam, BS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "", "image": "" } }, "headline":"How To Do The Perfect Hollow Hold", "datePublished":"2019-08-17", "dateModified": "2020-04-28", "description":"There's more to hollow holds than you think. Learn the 6 keys to mastering the technique of this important core exercise.", "image": "" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What muscles does the hollow body hold work?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "The hollow body hold works your ab muscles, especially the transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis. However, it can easily be argued that hollow holds are a true full-body exercise. When they're done correctly, they also activate muscles in your shoulders, arms and legs." } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What Muscles Does The Hollow Body Hold Work?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">How To Do A Hollow Hold</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">Hollow Hold Modifications</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>As far as exercises go, hollow holds are one of the best full-body exercises you can do.</p> <p>This exercise checks all the boxes: it strengthens your core, <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">improves stability</a>, and can even help you get rid of lower back pain. <sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup></p> <p>And when done correctly, hollow holds strengthen your arms and legs while forcing your body to work together as a unit. The benefits of this, as you'll see, are pretty profound.</p> <p>Even though the exercise looks simple in practice, there's a lot more to a perfect hollow hold than meets the eye. Here's everything you need to know to perform the movement correctly.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>What muscles does the hollow body hold work?</h2> <p>The hollow body hold works your ab muscles, especially the transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis. <sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup></p> <p>However, it can easily be argued that hollow holds are a true <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">full-body exercise</a>.</p> <p>For example, science has proven that practicing hollow holds can help reduce back pain. <sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a></sup></p> <p>And when they're done correctly, hollow holds also activate muscles in your shoulders, arms, and legs.</p> <p>This is why many athletes, especially gymnasts, practice hollow holds frequently in training. The position strengthens basically every muscle in your body and teaches your muscles to work together as one unit. </p> <p>But athletes are certainly not the only people who can benefit from this movement.</p> <p>Stabilizing exercises, like hollow holds, can improve your posture <i>and</i> have a carryover effect to other areas of fitness, such as planks and sit-ups. <sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a></sup></p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>How to do a hollow hold</h2> <p>To do a hollow hold:</p> <ul> <li>Lie in your back with your legs straight; extend your arms overhead.</li> <li>Press your lower back into the floor (think "ribcage down"—see the tips in #2 below.)</li> <li>Without letting your lower back come off the floor, lift your arms and legs (both extended) off the floor 6 to 12 inches.</li> <li>Hold.</li> </ul> <p>At first glance it may seem like a simple exercise, since you're "just" holding a posture. But to really get the technique down, there are 6 "keys", or points of performance, you need to master:</p> <ol> <li>Lower back touches the ground</li> <li>"Glue" your ribs down</li> <li>Make yourself tall through the head</li> <li>Activate your glutes</li> <li>Squeeze your legs together</li> <li>Point your toes</li> </ol> <p>We'll look at why each component is so important in detail below, and go over focus points for each key (as well as what to avoid).</p> <h3>1. Lower back touches the ground</h3> <p>This cue is first because it's really the foundation of the entire exercise. If your <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">lower back</a> comes off the floor when you lift your legs and arms, you're not doing a hollow. It means you've lost the tight midline position you need to do the movement.</p> <p>(The cue in #2 will help you with this.)</p> <p>In some cases, your lower back might come off the floor when you lift your limbs no matter what you do. Don't fret; simply start with the hollow hold modifications listed below and work your way up to it.</p> <p><strong>Avoid</strong>: Progressing too quickly without mastering this part of the technique first.</p> <h3>2. "Glue" your ribs down</h3> <p>Keys 1 and 2 sort of go hand in hand. By "gluing" your ribcage to the floor, your abdominal muscles get nice and tight and your lower back, almost by default, will stay on the floor.</p> <p>One simple trick to get your ribs down is to cough while lying on your back, then keep flexing those stomach muscles. </p> <p><strong>Avoid</strong>: Letting the ribcage or belly "flare out" (any arch in your back at all is a sign of this).</p> <h3>3. Make yourself tall through the head</h3> <p>Now that you've taken care of your midline, the next step is to make yourself as tall as possible. </p> <p>To do this, pull your shoulders back, get your chin away from your chest, and make your spine as long as possible. Though you're lying down, think about making your torso as 'tall' as possible.</p> <p><strong>Avoid</strong>: Slouching or tucking your chin to your chest.</p> <h3>4. Activate your glutes</h3> <p>With your core and upper body taken care of, the final three lower body cues will move "downstream", starting with <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">your glutes</a>.</p> <p>Your glutes transfer force from your back to your legs, so it's important to keep them tight in a hollow hold. You'll have difficulty with the remaining two cues if they aren't active.</p> <p><strong>Avoid</strong>: Letting your glutes go "slack" as you get tired.</p> <h3>5. Squeeze your legs together</h3> <p>Squeezing your legs together helps create one tight "chain" of musculature running from your shoulders to your feet. </p> <p>Focus on keeping the knees locked out and the thighs flexed.</p> <p><strong>Avoid</strong>: Letting the legs fall away from one another or the knees bend as you get tired.</p> <h3>6. Point your toes</h3> <p>Pointing your toes doesn't just make a hollow hold look good; it engages the remaining musculature in your lower legs, like the calves and small muscles in your feet.</p> <p>This is the final key to a perfect hollow hold, so don't neglect it! When you do this, you're making the hollow position a true full-body exercise.</p> <p><strong>Avoid</strong>: Doing anything other than pointing your toes. Activate those lower legs!</p> <h3>How long should you hold a hollow hold?</h3> <p>Technique is more important than time duration, and being able to hold a perfect hollow hold for even 5 seconds at first is much more valuable than holding it for 30 seconds incorrectly.</p> <p>That said, a good goal to aim for is 20 seconds. (That's assuming you're following all 6 of the cues above.) </p> <p>This way, you can use hollow holds in a HIIT workout like Tabata, where you do 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <h2>Hollow hold modifications</h2> <p>Here are three exercise modifications you can use. The first two are easier than the hollow hold. The third is more advanced. </p> <p>(You'll be ready for the third variation when you can hold a regular hollow for 30 seconds.)</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Reverse crunches with knees bent"> <h3>1. Reverse crunches with knees bent</h3> <p><strong>Level</strong>: beginner</p> <ul> <li>Lie in your back with your arms flat by your side; bend your knees to 90 degrees.</li> <li>Lift your feet off the ground.</li> <li>Keeping the knees together, bring your knees to your chest.</li> <li>Bring your knees back to a 90 degree angle, (keeping feet off the floor between reps). </li> <li>Repeat.</li> </ul> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Lying leg raises with hands under butt"> <h3>2. Lying leg raises with hands under butt</h3> <p><strong>Level</strong>: beginner/medium</p> <ul> <li>Lie in your back with your legs straight; place your hands underneath your buttocks.</li> <li>Lift your straight legs off the ground toward the ceiling; go until your body is at a 90-degree angle or until your butt comes off the floor.</li> <li>Slowly return your legs to the ground.</li> <li>Repeat.</li> </ul> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Hollow tuck ups"> <h3>3. Hollow tuck ups</h3> <p><strong>Level</strong>: advanced</p> <ul> <li>Start in a good hollow hold (see the 6 cues above).</li> <li>Bring your hands in front of your body; straighten your arms.</li> <li>Using your core and hip muscles, bend your knees and bring them in towards the chest (the upper body and lower body both work to meet halfway).</li> <ul><li>Your fingertips should just pass your toes at the end of each rep.</li></ul> <li>Repeat. Focus on slow and controlled reps.</li> </ul> <p>No matter what your current level is, mastering hollow holds takes time. Add them to your routine 2 or 3 times a week and slowly try to improve. Also refer back to the 6 cues listed above to make sure you're really nailing the technique.</p> <p>But in time, your performance will improve, and you'll stand to gain all the benefits of the hollow hold: a stronger core, <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">better posture</a>, and far less lower back pain (or a reduced risk of developing it).</p> </section> </article>

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