8 Hollow Body Hold Progressions to Level Up Your Core Workouts

These hollow hold progressions incorporate arm movements that create more instability, making your core work harder.
Image Credit: Stacey Zielinski/LIVESTRONG.com

Nothing fires up muscles across your core quite like the hollow body hold. This isometric exercise ignites the deep abdominal muscles, like the transverse abdominis and obliques, to keep your body stable and strong.

And you want a robust core because that's what's ultimately going to help you move better in everyday life. Core stability not only enables you to walk or run for longer periods of time but also helps prevent injury. A mighty midsection, for example, allows you to catch yourself from a fall while going down a flight of stairs.

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In addition to solidifying your core, the hollow body hold targets your quads, hip flexors, adductors and the erector spinae (stabilizing spine muscles). And once you've built up your midsection to handle the tension, doing hollow body hold progressions will enlist other muscle groups, further enhancing its benefits.

"By mixing up the exercise, you can also improve stability across different muscle groups surrounding your spine, hips and shoulders," Stacey Zielinski, CPT, a trainer at AKT GO, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

These hollow hold progressions incorporate arm movements that shift your weight, creating more instability, so your body has to work harder to anchor yourself to the ground.

8 Hollow Body Hold Progressions

Warning

The following exercises are most suitable for intermediate and advanced exercisers. If you are new to hollow body holds, work on mastering the movement before attempting these progressions. Avoid these exercises if you experience any lower back pain or injuries.

Move 1: Hollow Body Hold With Resistance Band

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Skill Level Intermediate
Body Part [ "Abs", "Back", "Arms" ]
  1. Sit down on the ground and loop a resistance band around the arches of your feet. Hold the ends of the band in each hand.
  2. Lean back until you feel the tension in your abs and lift your hands over your shoulders, keeping your shoulders and upper back off the ground.
  3. Extend your legs long on the floor (or lift them off the ground for a bigger challenge) and zip them together with your toes pointed. Inhale, exhale and pull your chin into your chest.
  4. With your legs long, pull the resistance handles toward your feet, and then reverse the motion and bring your hands over your shoulders.

The addition of the resistance band makes your back muscles work harder. At the top of the movement, your lats (the V-shape muscle running down your middle and lower back) and rhomboids (muscles in the top and middle of the back) will activate against the pull of the band.

Move 2: Hollow Body Hold to Side Seated Leg Extension

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Skill Level Intermediate
Body Part Abs
  1. Lie on your back with your arms by your sides and tuck your chin into your chest.
  2. Inhale, exhale and push your abdominal wall into the floor as you lift your legs together and extend them straight to a 45-degree angle, toes pointed.
  3. At the same time, bring your arms toward your feet, lifting your shoulders and upper back off the ground.
  4. Keeping your core tight, rotate your body to sit on one hip. Brace yourself with your bottom arm and extend your top leg and top arm to contract the obliques.
  5. Return to the center, lower back down to the ground and repeat on the other side.

This hollow hold exercise rotates the spine, which is helpful for movements that involve extending, flexing and bending your back. In the seated position, your obliques and side glute muscles work together to stabilize your spine and hips.

Move 3: Glute Bridge Swing

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Skill Level Advanced
Body Part [ "Abs", "Butt", "Shoulders" ]
  1. Sit down with your legs extended in front of you and your feet hip-distance apart. Your fingertips should be facing your hips flat on the floor.
  2. Dig your heels into the floor and lift your hips up toward the ceiling in a reverse tabletop position.
  3. Swing your hips through your arms, pulling your abdominal wall into your spine as you exhale. Return to the starting position.

A cardio and strength move in one, this hollow body hold progression encourages the mobilization of your shoulders and targets your upper back. And as you lift your hips toward the ceiling, your glutes and lower back muscles activate.

Move 4: Pelvic Tuck

Skill Level All Levels
Body Part Abs
  1. Sit down on the floor with your knees slightly bent and your feet hip-distance apart. Place your hands flat behind you with your fingertips facing your hips.
  2. Exhale and create a C-curve with your back by pulling your naval into your spine.
  3. From this position, perform small pelvic tucks by tucking your tailbone under and pulling the front of your pelvis up into your rib cage.
  4. Use your breath making a “shh” sound with every pelvic tuck.

Pelvic tucks are a gentle exercise to build up the muscles in the pelvic region while stretching your lower back. This hollow hold exercise is great for anyone experiencing tightness or pain in the lower back. Bracing your abdominal muscles throughout the exercise will strengthen them, which prevents you from compensating with your lower back.

Move 5: Hollow Hold to Teaser

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Skill Level Advanced
Body Part Abs
  1. Lie on your back with your legs together and extended in front of you, and your arms down by your sides.
  2. Inhale, exhale and push your abdominal wall into the floor as you lift your legs to a 45-degree angle, pointing your toes, and raise your arms by the sides of your torso. Tuck your chin into your chest.
  3. Maintaining the hollow hold position, reach your arms toward your feet and swing them overhead as you squeeze your inner thighs. This is the teaser.
  4. Lower back down to the hollow hold position and then down to the floor.

Combining the benefits of the hollow hold with the Pilates teaser, this advanced exercise is an exemplar at working the stabilizing muscles. Aside from doubling the intensity with two core movements, it also helps to improve balance, control and flexibility as you elongate muscles across the body.

Move 6: Hollow Hold With Chest Fly

Body Part [ "Abs", "Chest", "Shoulders" ]
  1. Lie on your back with your chin pointed toward your chest and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Inhale, exhale and push your abdominal wall into the floor.
  2. Extend your legs together and lift them off the ground to a 45-degree angle, toes pointed. At the same time, lift your arms off the ground with your hands above your chest.
  3. Maintaining the hollow hold, open your right arm out to the side, then return to the center and repeat with your left arm. This is 1 rep.

Your chest muscles get in on the action with the addition of the fly. As you open each arm out to the side, your core fires to minimize movement.

Move 7: Hollow Hold With Chest Press

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Skill Level Advanced
Body Part [ "Abs", "Shoulders", "Chest" ]
  1. Lie on your back with your chin pointed toward your chest and hold a dumbbell in each hand by the sides of your chest. Inhale, exhale and push your abdominal wall into the floor.
  2. Extend your legs together and lift them off the ground to a 45-degree angle, toes pointed.
  3. Maintaining the hollow hold, press the dumbbells directly above your chest. Then, lower them back down and repeat.

Just like the chest fly, adding a press helps target the pectoral muscles, especially the pectoralis major. You'll want to pick up a light set of weights for this move as your core will be doubly challenged to maintain the hollow hold.

Move 8: Hollow Hold to Resistance Band Row

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Skill Level Advanced
Body Part [ "Abs", "Back", "Shoulders" ]
  1. Wrap a resistance band around the arches of your feet and hold one end in each hand. Make sure you are creating enough tension in the band to straighten the arms.
  2. Inhale, exhale and push your abdominal wall into the floor.
  3. Extend your legs together and lift them off the ground to a 45-degree angle, toes pointed.
  4. Maintaining the hollow hold, pull the ends of the band toward the sides of your ribs. Squeeze your shoulder blades together behind you.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat.

The resistance band intensifies this move by forcing the core to stabilize during arm movements. And thanks to the row, your back muscles will get a workout. This is a great pulling exercise to help counter some of the slouching effects of sitting all day.

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