BREAK IT DOWN: The Hollow-Body Hold

Enhance your core with this gymnastics and Pilates staple.

The Hollow Hold

The hollow-body hold is a beginner-friendly gymnastics and Pilates skill, but its core-strengthening properties are anything but basic.

The move begins with a crunch that draws shoulders and feet off the floor, creating a curved shape that stretches the length of the spine, from neck to pelvis. From this point, there’s a spectrum of ways to progress to a fully extended hollow, with arms and legs out­stretched. (See “Progress Your Hollow,” below.)

The hollow hold works the body’s anterior chain — the muscles in the front of the body — including abs, diaphragm, hip flexors, and quads. In addition to building strength, stability, and body control, it boasts back-friendly positioning by placing the body into a posterior pelvic tilt. In fact, the hollow position can be carried over to other strength moves, such as a hollow-body floor press, as well as prone (face-down) positions like the hollow-body plank, whose traditional variations can place pressure on the lower back, causing discomfort or pain.

Because the move can be modified to match each person’s unique skill and fitness level, it’s not a risky exercise, although incorrect form may cause some neck and lower-back discomfort. The main downside would be not doing the exercise — and missing out on its rewards.

  1. Lie on your back, knees pulled up toward your chest.
  2. Press your lower back into the floor and lift your head and upper back a few inches, as though you were doing a crunch.
  3. Extend your arms overhead and your legs outward, feet and hands hovering at about a 45-degree angle with the floor.
  4. Maintain that position as long as you can with good form. Begin with 10-second holds and work up to holding for 30 seconds.

Progress Your Hollow

Make It Easier: Bend your knees, keeping toes pointed and heels drawn close to your glutes. Raise your arms and hold them close to your sides, actively reaching fingertips toward your toes and engaging your lats as if pushing down on an imaginary box. Extend your legs straight up and gradually lower them without sacrificing the hollow shape.

Make It Harder: Lower your legs as close to the floor as possible without losing the hollow shape in your midsection. Raise your arms completely overhead without lowering your shoulders to the floor.

RKC, MFT-1, is an Experience Life senior editor.

Photos: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Fitness Model: Robert Clark

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