There are many ways to exercise more. Find out how to do hollow body holds, what muscles they work, and whether this exercise is a good choice.
The hollow body hold involves lying down with your lower back pushed to the ground and arms and legs stretched and hovering above the ground. You then hold this position.
Hollow body holds mainly work your abs and hip flexors. Potentially to the extent that you can experience growth and strength increases in these muscles.
One potential downside of hollow body holds is that they work your muscles in an isometric (static) way. This is generally less effective than more dynamic exercise alternatives like crunches.
Isometric ab exercises can be helpful for people who find more dynamic exercises uncomfortable on their spine but hollow body holds are not the most comfortable for this area either.
That being said, even if there are more effective alternatives, you can consider doing hollow body holds if you like doing them. This can help improve workout consistency.
How to do a hollow body hold
To do hollow body holds you preferably have a good exercise mat or another soft surface. This will make the movement a lot more comfortable on your back.
Once you have that, take the following steps to do a hollow body hold:
- Lie down on your back with your legs tucked in towards your chest and arms pointing to your hips. Keep your lower back pressed to the ground with the help of your ab muscles throughout the rest of the movement.
- Lift your shoulders and upper back slightly off the ground. Keep your neck in a neutral/normal position in relation to your torso.
- Slowly move your legs away from your upper body as far as you can while keeping your lower back pressed against the ground. If you are able to stretch your legs entirely, move your hands away from your body in a similar way.
- Hold this position for an extended period of time.
Your ab muscles work throughout the movement to press your lower back against the ground. If you would allow an arch in your spine, you would focus more on other muscles.
The farther your arms and legs move, the harder your abs have to work. You want to make the exercise challenging but not too hard either.
Hollow body hold variations
The hollow body hold above is the standard version of the exercise. There are also variations that are easier and harder.
If you are not ready for the fully stretched arms and legs version, you can start with your hands and feet a smaller distance away from your body.
This works similar muscles but at a more doable level.
On the flip side, you can also make the bodyweight version of hollow body holds harder. Doing this at the right moment can offer faster and more training results.
A simple no-equipment way to do this is to move your legs up and down like in flutter kicks. The momentum of your legs will make it harder for your ab muscles to keep your lower back pressed against the ground.
Another way to make hollow body holds more challenging is doing the weighted version. This is basically the same exercise but you hold extra weights in your hands or with your feet.
Some examples of weights you can use include dumbbells, kettlebells, ankle weights, weight plates, grocery bags, a heavy backpack, a barbell, etc.
Muscles worked with hollow body holds
Some of the primary muscles worked with hollow body holds include:
- Hip flexors
Some of the secondary muscles worked with hollow body holds include:
- Latissimus dorsi
A downside of hollow body holds is that they work your muscles in an isometric way. This means the muscles do have to work but they don’t shorten or lengthen.
This is a downside because isotonic (dynamic) exercises tend to be more effective for muscle growth and strength gains.
At the same time, you can likely still see muscle gains from doing hollow body holds the right way.
To do this, you have to challenge your abs and hip flexors enough. This damages the muscles in the short term but starts processes that can repair and grow them.
Core training beginners and potentially intermediates can likely build muscle with bodyweight hollow body holds.
More advanced lifters may need to use weights to challenge their muscles enough to see results. Using extra resistance at the right times can also speed up your results.
Hollow body hold benefits
Hollow body holds will not offer the most muscle growth in the shortest amount of time. However, doing this exercise can still offer valuable benefits. Some of these positive effects include:
- Stronger muscles: Hollow body holds are still a resistance training exercise that can help you grow and strengthen your muscles.
- No equipment or location required: Hollow body holds are a bodyweight exercise. This means you can do them in a variety of locations without investing in pricey fitness equipment.
- Your spine does not need to move as much: One potential downside of dynamic core exercises is that some people find all of the spine bending involved uncomfortable. Hollow body holds are not perfect in this area but could be more comfortable for you.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Hollow body holds and other core exercises can reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2). People who currently have pain in this area do want to be careful and potentially talk to an expert before doing hollow body holds.
There are exercises that are more effective than hollow body holds in these areas but this does show you what benefits you can expect from this movement.
The main thing to note is that some people will find hollows body holds uncomfortable on their lower back and neck.
If you have any (history of) pain, you may need to start with other exercises to strengthen your body first. Especially people with back pain may want to talk to an expert before doing more hollow body holds.
Experiencing any pain while doing this exercise can be a sign you are overdoing it.
In a situation like that, you may need more rest, better lifestyle habits, and/or a less intense workout schedule. It can also be a sign that hollow body holds are not for you (yet).
Hollow body hold alternatives
Some people like doing hollow body holds and decide to implement them anyway.
On the flip side, you could decide to find more effective alternatives to hollow body holds too. Some of these include:
- Ab wheel roll-outs
- Bicycle crunches
- Cable crunches
- Leg raises on the captain’s chair
- Reverse crunches
What hollow body hold alternatives are the best for you depends on details like your training goals, body strength, what fitness equipment you have, etc.
Hollow body holds can be a helpful movement to work your abs and hip flexors in an isometric (static) way.
At the same time, it is important to note that more dynamic exercises for these muscles tend to be more effective.
If you don’t mind the back-and-forth spine bending involved in these, you likely want to choose one of the hollow body hold alternatives.
On the other hand, people who like doing hollow body holds can consider doing them anyway. Potentially with weights to see more and faster results.
Enjoying your workouts can be valuable because it helps you stay more consistent.
No matter whether you choose hollow body holds or other resistance training exercises, you want to consume enough nutrients, get enough rest, and sleep enough.
Your body needs these things to repair and grow the muscles you work.