How to Do a Hollow Body Hold

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Exercise guide by Woman doing Hollow Body Hold in 2 steps on blue mat

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Targets: Transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, quads, hip flexors, inner thighs, and erector spinae. 

Equipment Needed: Exercise mat

Level: Intermediate to advanced

The hollow body hold is an intermediate to advanced level abdominal exercise that targets the muscles in your core.

Because of the force required to press the lower back into the floor, this exercise focuses on maximum tension through the abdominal muscles, making it an excellent move for athletes.

If you are a beginner, you can modify this move by changing your arm or leg position. Intermediate to advanced levels can add the hollow body hold to an abdominal and core circuit or use it as part of a dynamic warm-up. 

Benefits

The hollow body hold is an excellent move for targeting the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, obliques, quads, hip flexors, inner thighs, and erector spinae muscles. It also helps build strength and stabilization in your core and lower back muscles.

When done correctly, the hollow body hold can improve your posture. Plus, when the lower back and abs are in the right position, this move can help strengthen the muscles needed to prevent lower back pain

From a functional standpoint, the hollow body hold trains your core to resist arching your lower back. That’s because when you apply force to press the lower back into the floor, you’re teaching your body how to train the abdominal muscles. This helps you build a stable mid-section and increase the power you can generate from your core. 

Another reason to add the hollow body hold to a core workout or full-body routine is the type of hold that is required during this move. Once your legs and arms are in the correct position, and your back is pressed into the floor, you will perform an isometric or static contraction. This type of contraction requires you to hold a muscle group steady for a period of time.

In the case of the hollow body hold, you are holding multiple muscle groups steady, which is why it’s such a fantastic exercise to add to your line-up.

Since an isometric exercise can build strength without placing stress on the joints, they are often recommended for rehabilitation. They are also an excellent movement to add to any sports conditioning program that requires powerful core muscles to perform the activity. 

Step-By-Step Instructions

To get the most out of the hollow body hold, you need to focus on form and technique. For extra support, use an exercise or yoga mat when performing this move. 

  1. Start by lying down on the floor, legs extended, arms by your sides.
  2. Practice contracting your abs by engaging your core and driving your lower back into the ground. Squeeze your inner thighs together to help initiate the move. There should be no room between the lower back and the floor. 
  3. Keep your abs contracted and raise your legs 2-3 inches above the floor. Keep the lower back on the floor. 
  4. Raise your head off the floor (1-2 inches) and extend your arms overhead and behind you. Make sure you are pressing the lower back into the floor. 
  5. Hold for 30 seconds before lowering the legs and shoulders to the floor. 

Common Mistakes

The hollow body hold does not require a lot of steps. In fact, the overall goal of the movement is to hold an isometric contraction for a specific period of time before returning to the starting position. Because of this, your form during the hold is the most critical part of this exercise.

Here are some common mistakes that occur when performing the hollow body hold.

Not Pressing the Lower Back Into the Ground

The foundation of this move is the ability to press your lower back into the ground. To do this, you must keep your core engaged the entire time. If you lose the connection with the floor, consider changing the arm and leg placement, which reduces the tension on your abdominal muscles. 

Keeping the Shoulder Blades On the Floor

When doing the hollow body hold, your shoulder blades need to leave the ground. If you’re not able to contract your core enough, it might be difficult to raise your shoulder blades off the floor. Remember, this is not a significant gap between the ground and your body. You only need to raise your shoulder blades enough, so you create tension on your core. 

Tucking Your Chin

Don’t fall into the trap of tucking your chin to your chest. Not only does this take the neck out of neutral alignment and increase the risk of neck strain, but it also reduces the tension on your core muscles.

Modifications and Variations

The hollow body hold is a challenging intermediate abdominal exercise. If you cannot do the full version, consider working up to it. Once you’ve mastered the move, you can add further challenges. 

Need a Modification?

It’s easy to modify the hollow body hold. Just remember that form is critical to this move. The first modification to try is with your arms and hands. Instead of reaching behind you, bring your arms and hands in, so they are pointing up to the ceiling. This reduces the tension on the core.

Similarly, you can raise your legs and bend the knees (pull them towards the chest), which takes the pressure off of the abdominal muscles, but still keeps the lower back pressed into the floor, forcing the core muscles to contract. 

Up for a Challenge?

You can make the hollow body hold more of a challenge by incorporating equipment and changing the movement. For example, the weighted hollow hold adds intensity to this exercise by requiring you to hold a small weight plate (10 pounds) in your hands during the “hold” portion of the exercise. 

Another way to challenge your body is to lower your legs close to the floor without losing the hollow shape in your midsection. You can also try the hollow body rock exercise. This requires you to do the same move, but instead of holding the pose, you will rock back and forth, holding the tension for the recommended amount of time. 

Safety and Precautions

The hollow body hold is generally a safe exercise for most fitness levels—as long as you are using proper form. That said, if you have lower back issues, neck pain, shoulder pain, or limitations that make it difficult to lay on the floor, this exercise may be contraindicated.

If you are new to this exercise try the modified version first. You can work your way up to the full movement. And if you feel any pain during the movement, stop the exercise.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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  1. Rhyu HS, Park HK, Park JS, Park HS. The effects of isometric exercise types on pain and muscle activity in patients with low back pain. J Exerc Rehabil. 2015;11(4):211-4. doi:10.12965/jer.150224