The hollow body position is a bit like the foundation of a house: Without a well built foundation, good luck building that house.
This is especially true when it comes to learning gymnastics movements: It’s much easier and safer to master skills like pull-ups, handstand walking, handstand push-ups and muscle ups when you can maintain a solid hollow body position.
Hollow Body 101
A hollow body position happens when you contract your abs, thus shortening your torso, and tilt your pelvic to achieve a posterior pelvic tilt. Squeezing your glutes together helps achieve this pelvic tilt. This effectively puts your torso into a slightly rounded position, which is the key to the hollow body.
When you’re in a hollow hold position on the ground doing a hollow hold, this means your lower back and bum must remain on the ground, while your upper back, shoulder blades and head will be a few inches off the ground with your arms extended straight over your head. Also, your legs and feet should also hover about six inches off the ground.
Why Is This the Best Position?
Let’s consider a handstand or a handstand push-up, for example. Often what happens when athletes are pressing out of a handstand is that they end up extending their spine and effectively losing the hollow body position. This spinal extension puts a lot of pressure on both the spine and the shoulders.
Keeping a hollow body position throughout, on the other hand, ensures your shoulders, spine and hips are stacked nicely on top of each other in an anatomically safer position.
Not only that, when your bones and joints are stacked on top of each other, then the muscles don’t have to do as much work.
Thus, the stronger your hollow body position is, the stronger your gymnastics movements have the ability to be.
Four common mistakes with a hollow hold I see include, sometimes due to laziness and other times due to weakness in the core:
- Feet too high off the ground: Your feet should not be one foot off the ground, putting your body in an L-shape. Your heels should remain approximately six inches off the ground.
- Lower back peeling off the ground: Again, your lower back needs to remain 100 percent in contact with the ground.
- Hands by the sides: While putting your hands by your sides, as opposed to overhead, makes it easier to hold the position, a perfect hollow body position means stretching your arms straight overhead. That being said, a hands by the side hollow hold is still a useful way to practice them as long as you can maintain a perfect body position.
- Shoulder blades drop: When you become tired, it’s fairly common for your shoulder blades to drop to the ground. This also makes it harder to keep your lower back glued to the ground, so the position usually unravels from there.
Take the max effort hollow body challenge
Test yourself: How long can you hold a hollow body hold in a perfect position? What letter grade are you?
C + = 20-30 seconds
B = 30-60 seconds
B + = 60-90 seconds
A = 90 seconds or more
If you weren’t able to hold the hollow body position for at least 30-45 seconds, here are two ways to log more time under tension while building your hollow body prowess.
Single-Leg Bent Hollow
Get into a hollow body position and then simply pull one knee toward you, ensuring your back and bum are on the ground. If this is still too challenging, then bend both knees.
- Add 3 to 5 sets of 45 seconds to your training session
Deadbugs are a great way to be able to log a lot more time under tension. I like wall pressing deadbugs—where you get into a deadbug position while simultaneously pressing against the wall with your hands—as this allows you to build more tension through your body.
- Add 3 to 5 sets of 60 seconds seconds to your training session
And, if you scored a B+ or an A on the max effort hollow hold challenge, here are two challenges to strengthen your hollow hold even more, and transfer the position to gymnastics movements.
Hollow Body Circuit
Can you maintain a perfect hollow body position throughout?
Complete the following without resting:
- 20 seconds hollow rocks
- 20 seconds flutter kicks
- 20 seconds hollow hold
Rest 1 minute and repeat 3 to 5 times.
Toes and Nose to the Wall Handstand Holds
Toes-to-nose handstand holds are a great way to ensure you’re in a perfect handstand position.
Just like the name sounds, the only part of your body that should be touching the wall are your toes and your nose.
Focus on squeezing your abs to round out your torso, squeezing your glutes together, and pressing your hands into the ground and your feet to the sky to get as long as possible.
- 5 sets of 30 to 60 second handstand hold, ingraining this position in your mind and body