Hollow Holds: A Killer Gymnastics Exercise for Toned Abs


Having the core strength to hold a hollow body position is crucial in the sport of gymnastics.

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Hollow holds are a foundational exercise for these athletes.

The side benefit of mastering this exercise is exceptional muscle tone in the abs, obliques, serratus, etc.

A truly strong core displays definition beyond just having 6 pack abs.

work the core with Olympic gymnast rings

Hollow body holds are a lot easier to envision when you see a video demo.

It looks like a simple exercise to perform but there are several things you need to pay attention to hit your core muscles hard.

The great thing is you can perform this exercise almost anywhere.

Here’s a video showing proper form and how to progress from beginner to advanced.

The most important point she makes in the video is to never let your lower back arch and lose contact with the floor.

Here’s a cue that can help with this.

Purposely drive your lower back into the floor by flexing your abs hard, then maintain this contraction as you lower your legs and extend your arms into position.

One other tip to get the most out of this exercise is to raise your shoulder blades off the floor a couple of inches.

You don’t want to completely crunch forward, just lift the shoulder blades barely off the floor to maximize tension in the core.

One of the biggest benefits of this exercise?

Hollow body holds really allow for an extended contraction of the serratus and external obliques.

obliques and serratus muscle diagram

When you only perform traditional ab exercises like situps and crunches, you largely miss the obliques and serratus muscle.

These muscle groups run along the sides of your torso and are what frame the abs and give detail to your midsection. You can hit these muscles to a certain extent with pullovers, planks, side bends, and twisting movements.

This exercise also works the main ab muscle group (rectus abdominis).


The serratus muscle and obliques get worked especially hard since the arms are extended overhead.

This is why I believe this is more effective than the common Pilates 100 exercise, where the arms are held by the side of the body.

The Pilates 100 isn’t a bad exercise.

It’s more of a warmup that happens to work the core before more difficult pilates exercises are performed.

How long to do hollow body holds?

  • Aim to hold for 30 seconds at first.
  • Work your way up to 60-second holds.
  • 2 to 3 sets of 60 second holds performed 2-3 times per week will be plenty.
  • Once you can easily do 2-3 sets of 60 seconds, progress to the Hollow Rock.

What is the Hollow Rock exercise?

This is a more advanced version where you hold the exact same body position while rocking back and forth.

Here’s a video demonstration of the rocking version.

Once you can easily do these for 60 seconds for 2-3 sets, you should have a seriously strong core.

A benefit of mastering hollow body posture is that this is useful for other exercises.

For instance, the is exactly the spinal alignment I recommend when doing the ab wheel exercise.


One thing I would recommend after hollow holds is to perform a few sets of hip bridges.

I discuss this in my ultimate ab article.

I recommend following up all ab workouts with 1-3 sets of the hip bride or back bridge.

woman doing hip bridge exercise in gym

Simply hold this position for a minute or two.

The reason I recommend doing these after ab exercises is that ab exercises can cause the spine to stay flexed forward a bit.

Bridges will reinforce good spinal alignment.

I always feel a little taller after doing these, so I know these improve posture as well.

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For 15 years I've helped fashion models get lean for photoshoots. Use my plan to Lose 5-10 pounds of PURE body fat in 14 days.


Give hollow rock holds a shot!


-Rusty Moore

As a former fitness coach to fashion models, I can teach you how to increase muscle definition without adding size.

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