Hollow Rocks: Muscles Worked, Exercise Demo, and Benefits

Hollow rocks are an exercise that can be widely used across most strength, power, and fitness sports to develop a strong and stable core. Proper midline stability and control allow us to withstand loading, resist rotational forces on the spine, and create tension to assist in movements like squat, pulls, presses, and explosive movements (just to name a few).

Therefore, in this article we will discuss hollow rocks, the muscles worked, proper technique and progressions, and the specific benefits it can offer coaches and athletes.

Muscles Worked

Hollow rocks target many of the muscles within the body, with a key emphasis on the core muscles, such as;

  • Rectus abdominis
  • Transverse abdominals
  • Obliques

How to Perform Hollow Rocks

The hollow rock is a more difficult and dynamic progression of the hollow hold. The movement requires a high degree of abdominal engagement and strength, as well as the coordination necessary to move both the upper and lower body without excess hinging at the hips and shoulders. The movement can be performed on its own or as one of several movements in a supplemental abdominal or core workout.

Step 1: Lie down with your back to the floor and arms extended overhead.

This is also called a supine position.

Step 2: Keeping the arms extended overhead, extend the legs and press them closely together.

This can be accomplished by squeezing the quads.

Step 3: Engage your abdominals/core, bringing both the arms and legs up off the ground.

Try to bring both arms and legs off the ground by roughly the same distance.

Step 4: Begin rocking back and forth in line with the body.

Avoid hinging at the hips and shoulders, working to keep the body in the same “hollow” position throughout the movement.

Hollow Rocks Exercise Demo

Below is a video demonstration on how to perform hollow rocks. Note, that this movement can be done for isometric holds (hollow hold) or with a rocking motion in which the core muscles are still isometrically working to resist spinal flexion, extension, or rotation.

Benefits of Hollow Rocks

Below are three benefits of performing hollow rocks (as well as the three hollow rocks progressions in the latter sections of this article).

Midline Control

Hollow rocks can be done to increase midline stability and control. The importance of midline stability is highlighted in any strength lift, explosive movement, or act of daily human life. By increasing midline stability, we can help resist unwanted rotational and shearing forces on the spine while also learning how to generate core tension and create greater stability during loaded and unloaded movement.

Prerequisite to Gymnastic Movements

Proper midline stability and coordination of the abdominals, hips, and torso is key to movements like pull-ups, dips, rings, bar work, etc. With the importance of gymnastic skills in fitness sports (as well as bodyweight exercises for weightlifters), hollow rocks can be a good option for core strengthening for any level of lifter/athlete.

Isometric Core Strength

Increasing isometric strength of the abdominals, obliques, and erectors is key to most loaded movements like squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, and carries. Strength, power, and fitness sports rely a great deal on a lifter’s ability to stabilize the core through strong isometric contractions while under load or during movement; making hollow rocks a good primer or corrective movement to teach proper recruitment of the core muscles.

Hollow Rocks Progressions

Below are few exercises that coaches and athletes can do once they have progressed hollow rocks. The key to all of these progressions is to not lose midline stability and control, regardless of the movement progression.

Hollow Tucks

Similar to a double crunch and v-up, hollow tucks simply has an individual perform hollow rocks and then pull their knees into their chest. This increases the tension placed upon the abdominals and can be a good way to force midline stability during a more movement based exercise.

Hollow Rolls

Hollow rolls entails the individual performing hollow rocks in the hollow position and rotating their body so that they do a barrel roll. The added roll creates rotation force on the body, furthering the demands placed upon critical spinal stabilization muscles, such a the obliques.

Reverse Hollow Rocks

Once you have learned how to properly perform hollow rocks you can then master this motion while lying prone on the floor (facing down towards the floor). This exercise can help to increase hamstring, glute, lower back, and scapular control and enhanced extension of the body while still maintaining midline stability.

Stronger Abs for Strength and Power Athletes

Here are two articles you need to read if you are serious about building a stronger, more functional midsection.

Featured Image: @sheila_sue on Instagram

Editor’s Note: Danny Page, Xstasis Performance Coach and BarBend reader, had the following to say after reading the above article:

“The Hollow Body Hold is one of the most effective exercises that I have personally used throughout my training career as well as teaching it to ALL of my clients regardless of their age or athletic ability. Very similar to an upside down plank, there are many variations of this exercise that can be performed by a beginner who is just learning how to use their core effectively to the advanced athlete that can stack a 45 lb. plate on their hands and on their legs. Though it is relatively easy to perform, I always put extreme focus and care on the athletes low back, making sure there is no space between the back and floor, eliminating any anterior pelvic tilt that could cause harm to the lower lumbar. Once this is obtained, variations then can take place with the arms and legs at full extension to increase the work load on the mid-section, again always making sure the low back stays intact with the floor. Advanced variations can follow and one of my favorites is the Hollow Body Rock – where the body actually rocks like a boat while maintaining locked arms and legs – this is an incredible exercise and really works not only the core but the central nervous system as well.”

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Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.