How To Sculpt Your Core With Hollow Body Holds

Ready to take your core strength to the next level? Whether you’re working on resolving your diastasis recti, trying to get stronger overall, looking for a great accessory piece for your next gym day, or pursuing bigger performance improvements in your training, the hollow hold exercise is an incredible (and often overlooked) movement. That being said, don’t be alarmed when you give them a try and find out how difficult they can be! With proper form, hollow body holds are going to stimulate and grow your entire core, meaning everything from your six-pack to your obliques and down into your inner-core stabilizer muscles. Ready to grow? We thought so!

What Are Hollow Holds

Hollow holds, also known as hollow body holds, are a particular movement designed to strengthen your core. By definition, this isometric movement (static contraction), involves you to lay on the ground while lifting your extremities (arms and legs), shoulders, and head off of the ground in a banana-like position. From here, you will ‘hold’ the body in the ‘hollow’ position for a designated amount of time. This movement is great for building strength through the midline as well as building tenacity from a mental perspective (trust us, this movement gets hard quick!)

Hollow Body Hold Benefits

1. Midline Strength and Control

With hollow holds you’re going to be able to target the midline of your body to transcend overall strength and control while doing other things. Whether you’re putting a box up on the top shelf of the rack in the garage or trying to get yourself up and over the high bar, or even catching a clean and sending it into a jerk, a strong core is crucial to being able to stabilize and support the spine. When the spine is supported with the muscles worked by hollow holds you’re going to be able to avoid/prevent rotation of the spine when the body is reaching or compressing, especially during movements like squats, deadlifts, and gymnastics.

2. Improved Gymnastics

Looking to improve your gymnastic/high bar skills in CrossFit and/or your calisthenics? Then hollow holds are going to be a movement that comes in clutch for developing your midline strength, control, and ability to move your body with more force and tension. Whether you’re performing toe to bar, bar muscle ups, chest to bar, or ring muscle ups (to name a few), you’re going to need significant strength in your core. Hollow holds are a great way to get in tune with your body while holding a group of muscles steady with low impact on the joints and the body.

3. Posture and Balance

When done correctly hollow holds can improve posture and balance. As we age we naturally lose muscle and this negatively affects our ability to stay upright and balanced against gravity. On top of it, if you spend most of your day sitting, chances are that you’re not using/engaging your core much (or at all) while you sit. So then by the time you hit the gym you might feel weak and imbalanced. These are great reasons to use hollow holds as an accessory piece to any type of health, fitness, or training goal that you have, especially because they’re low impact and give you a lot of bang for your buck, so to speak. 

How To Do Hollow Holds Correctly

  • Step 1: Start by lying down on the floor on your back
  • Step 2: Extend arms and legs straight out and push the small of your back to the ground (there should be no gap)
  • Step 3: Raise your head (don't tuck your chin), shoulders, arms, and legs off the ground into the hollow body position (do not strain the neck and make sure to breathe)
  • Step 4: Hold this position tight for :10 - :30 seconds while keeping the small of the back pressed into the ground
  • Step 5: Relax and rest before you repeat

Hollow Body Hold Muscles Worked

Hollow holds are a solid movement for building strength through a variety of muscles throughout your front core. However, it’s important to note that since the legs and arms are engaged, there are other muscles throughout the body that you’ll call on for control throughout the movement. So aside from the rectus abdominis, obliques, serratus anterior, transverse abdominals, quadriceps, erector spinae, and hip flexors. 

Hollow Body Hold Progressions

If you’re unable to go right into the hollow position with the arms and legs extended overhead then we recommend modifying the movement until you build up the full body and core strength required. You may want to try getting into the hollow hold position with one leg, or both legs in a bent position. As you get stronger in the movement and your midline, begin to extend the legs until you’re able to reach the straight position. If these are still too hard and you’re having trouble with achieving the hollow hold position, we recommend incorporating straight leg raises with the arms at your side or under your booty. You can also do this with bent legs.

*Remember* The point of hollow body holds are to build strength in the midline by using the midline core strength. If you’re arching your back you’re putting an unnecessary amount of pressure on your lower and upper back while also disengaging the core. Focus on squeezing your belly button to your spine and using those abs! They’ll get stronger over time, we promise.

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