Mastering The Hollow Hold To Help Build Core Strength And Stability

This isometric core strengthening exercise can target your hard-to-reach deep ab muscles, helping to boost balance, stability, and functional fitness

hollow hold

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The hollow hold is an isometric core strengthening exercise that can help target and strengthen the deep abdominal muscles, including the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and obliques.

Hollow Hold – An effective exercise for working and strengthening your core muscles

Hollow Hold – Targeted Muscles

The hollow hold principally targets the muscles in the core region. These include:

  • Transverse Abdominis
    The transverse abdominis is the deepest layer of abdominal muscles. It wraps around the sides and front of the abdomen. It helps stabilize and compress the abdominal contents.
    Hollow holds activate and strengthen the muscle to help build the core muscles and keep it stable.
  • Rectus Abdominis
    The rectus abdominis, aka the “six-pack” muscle, runs vertically down the front of the abdomen. It helps with spinal flexion or the forward bending of the spine.
    Hollow holds engage the rectus abdominis to help maintain the position and stabilize the trunk.
  • Internal and External Obliques
    The internal and external obliques are on the sides of the abdomen. They assist with trunk rotation and side bending.
    You activate the muscles during the hollow hold to help stabilize the body and maintain the “hollow” position.
  • Deep Stabilizing Muscles
    In addition to the above, hollow hold engages various deep stabilizing muscles, including the multifidus, erector spinae, and pelvic floor muscles.
    The muscles help to stabilize and support the spine, leading to proper posture and alignment.

The primary focus of the hollow hold is on the core muscles, but the exercise also engages and strengthens other supportive muscles. That can help to improve stability, posture, and functional fitness.

  • Hip Flexors
    The hip flexors help to lift the legs off the floor during the hollow hold.
  • Lower Back Muscles
    The lower back muscles help to stabilize the spine and prevent excessive arching.
  • Shoulders and Upper Back
    The shoulders and upper back muscles, including the delts, traps, and rhomboids, help to lift the shoulders off the floor and keep the upper body stable.

Hollow Hold – The Exercise

The hollow hold is a bodyweight exercise that requires no equipment. But an exercise mat can keep you comfortable during the movement

Steps to follow

  • Lie flat on your back on a mat or the floor.
  • Extend your legs fully and stretch your arms overhead.
  • Draw your belly button in towards your spine to engage your core. The action helps activate the deep abdominal muscles.
  • Press your lower back downward, ensuring no arch or space between your lower back and the floor. That will help maintain spinal alignment and prevent unnecessary strain on the lower back.
  • Lift your shoulders off the floor, maintaining a slight chin tuck to avoid straining the neck. Your head and neck should be in line with your spine.
  • Simultaneously lift your legs off the floor, keeping them straight and together. Aim to make a 45-degree angle between your legs and the floor.
  • Maintain a “hollow” position by creating a slight C-curve with your body. Imagine flattening your lower back against the floor while simultaneously reaching your arms towards your feet and extending your legs away from your torso.
  • Focus on breathing steadily throughout the exercise. Inhale deeply through your nose, and exhale through your mouth.
  • Hold the “hollow” position for 20 to 30 seconds, or as long as possible.


  • Avoid arching your lower back or lifting it off the floor.
  • Keep your core engaged throughout the exercise by drawing your belly button towards your spine.
  • Lift your shoulders and legs simultaneously, maintaining a slight chin tuck.
  • Maintain a “hollow” position by flattening your lower back, reaching your arms towards your feet, and extending your legs away from your torso.
  • Breathe deeply and rhythmically.

Hollow Hold common mistakes

As with all exercises, it is vital to get the form correct. That will help you to maximize the benefits.

Below are some common mistakes to guard against when doing hollow body hold exercises. Making these errors can take you off course or negate the effects of your efforts.

  • Arching your Lower Back
    Allowing your lower back to arch or lifting it off the floor during the hollow hold is one of the common mistakes. Doing so will take the tension away from the core. It can also strain the lower back.
    Focus on flattening your lower back against the floor and engage your core to maintain a stable, hollow position throughout the exercise.
  • Lifting your Legs Too High or Low
    Raising the legs too high or too low can compromise the position and effectiveness of the hollow hold.
    Ideally, your legs should be at a 45-degree angle with the floor. Do not lift them too high, as it can strain the hip flexors, or too low, as that reduces the challenge for the core muscles.
  • Allowing your Shoulders to Collapse
    Do not allow the shoulders to collapse or hunch forward. That can reduce the engagement of the core muscles and strain your neck and shoulders.
    Keep your shoulders off the floor and maintain upper body stability during the hollow hold.
  • Holding your Breath
    Holding your breath or breathing shallowly during the hollow hold can limit the engagement of the core and increase tension in the body.
    Focus on breathing deeply and rhythmically throughout.
    Inhale through the nose and exhale via the mouth, allowing your breath to flow naturally.
  • Lack of Proper Core Engagement
    Not engaging the core muscles is another common mistake
    For best results, draw your belly button towards your spine, engage the deep abdominal muscles, and maintain tension throughout your midsection. That will ensure you’re effectively targeting the intended muscles and maximizing the benefits of the exercise.
  • Overstraining or Overexertion
    Ensure you listen to your body. Do not overstrain or overexert yourself during the hollow hold.
    Start with a comfortable duration and intensity and gradually increase the challenge.

You can optimize the effectiveness of the hollow hold and minimize the risk of injury by being mindful of these common mistakes.

Always consult a fitness professional for guidance and support if you have doubts or concerns.

Hollow Hold Benefits

Incorporating hollow hold into your training regimen can give you several benefits to help boost your fitness and well-being.

Core Strength

The hollow holds target the deep abdominal muscles and are great exercises for developing core strength.

Incorporating the exercise into your training can help strengthen and stabilize your core muscles.

That can help you to maintain proper posture, support your spine, and improve overall functional strength.

Improved Stability and Balance

The hollow hold requires you to engage your core muscles and lift your shoulders and legs off the floor simultaneously.

The exercise challenges your balance and improves your body’s stability.

That can enhance your ability to control your body’s movements in various activities.

Postural Alignment

Hollow holds promote proper spinal alignment and posture.

You focus on flattening your lower back against the floor and keeping your core engaged during the exercise.

That helps counteract the effects of prolonged sitting and poor posture, leading to better alignment and reducing the risk of back pain or injuries.

Functional Fitness

The strength and stability developed through hollow holds can translate into improved performance in daily activities and sports.

You need a strong core in almost all movements, whether lifting objects, bending, twisting, or participating in athletic endeavors.

Strengthening your core with hollow holds can enhance functional fitness and make it less challenging for your body to function.

Abdominal Muscle Definition

Including hollow holds in your fitness routine can help tone and strengthen your abdominal muscles.

The increased muscle tone from hollow holds can contribute to the improved definition and a more sculpted appearance in your midsection.

Core Activation for Other Exercises

Strengthening your core through exercises like the hollow hold can benefit your performance in other exercises and activities.

It provides a stable base for various exercises and movements, including squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses.

Accessibility and Convenience

Hollow holds require no equipment. Thus you can perform them anywhere, making them highly accessible and convenient.

You can easily incorporate them into your home workout routine or while traveling, making it easier to maintain consistency in your fitness practice.

Progression and Variations

You can modify hollow holds to suit your fitness level.

You can increase the duration of the hold, lower your legs closer to the ground, or incorporate movements like bicycles or scissor kicks to make it more challenging.

The versatility allows you to challenge yourself constantly and prevent plateauing.

Hollow Hold Variations

There are several variations of the hollow hold exercise that you can incorporate into your workout routine to add variety and help challenge your core muscles in different ways.

Hollow Hold with Leg Lifts

It involves getting into the standard hollow hold position and lifting one leg off the floor while maintaining the “hollow” position with your torso.
Hold the position for a few seconds, lower the leg, and repeat with the opposite leg.

The variation increases the demand on your core and adds an extra challenge for balance and stability.

Hollow Hold with Arm Reaches

Begin in the standard hollow hold position and extend one arm overhead while keeping your shoulders lifted.
Hold briefly, bring the arm down, and repeat with the other arm.

The variation challenges your core stability while engaging your shoulder and upper back muscles.

Hollow Hold with Flutter Kicks

Get into the hollow hold stance and perform flutter kicks with your legs.
Lower one leg towards the floor while the other remains elevated, alternating back and forth in a scissor-like motion.
Focus on keeping your core engaged and your lower back pressed into the floor.

Hollow Rock

The Hollow Rock involves adding a dynamic element to the exercise instead of holding the position statically.
Go into the hollow hold pose and initiate a rocking motion by rolling back slightly and then forward, using the momentum to lift your shoulders and legs off the floor.
Maintain control and balance throughout the movement, rocking back and forth while keeping the “hollow” position.

Hollow Hold Roll-Up

It involves lying flat on your back and performing a hollow hold.
Then initiate a controlled roll-up by lifting your shoulders and upper back off the floor, reaching your hands towards your toes.
Next, lower yourself back to your starting position slowly and under control.
The variation adds challenge to your core strength and control.

Weighted Hollow Hold

You can hold a weight, such as a dumbbell or a weighted plate, against your chest while maintaining the “hollow” position. That will increase the intensity and challenge of the exercise.
The added weight increases the resistance and demands more strength and stability from your core muscles.

Hollow Hold Alternatives

The hollow holds are excellent exercises for strengthening your core. But to help eliminate boredom and plateauing, consider the following alternatives.

These hollow hold alternatives can add variety to your workout and help target different aspects of core strength and stability.


forearm plank - hollow hold alternative and transverse abdominis exercises

The plank is a highly effective exercise for core strength and stability.

It targets the abdominals, lower back, shoulders, and glutes.

Assume a push-up position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to heels.
Engage your core and hold the pose for about 30 seconds or more.

Dead Bug

dead bug - hollow hold alternative exercise

The dead bug exercise is excellent for core stability and coordination.

Lie on your back with your arms extended toward the ceiling and your legs at a 90-degree angle.

Slowly lower one arm and the opposite leg toward the floor while maintaining a stable core and pressing your lower back against the floor.
Return to your starting position and repeat on the other side.

Russian Twist

russian twist

The Russian twist targets the oblique muscles and improves rotational strength and stability.

Sit on the floor, bend your knees bent, and lift your feet slightly off the floor.
Lean back slightly while maintaining a straight spine.
Twist your torso from side to side, touching the floor on each side with your hands or a weighted object.

Bicycle Crunches

types of crunches - bicycle crunches

Bicycle crunches are dynamic exercises that target the rectus abdominis and oblique muscles.

Lie on your back with your hands behind your head and your knees bent.
Lift your shoulders off the floor. Bring one knee toward your chest while simultaneously extending the opposite leg.
Twist your torso to bring the opposite elbow toward the knee, alternating sides in a bicycling motion.

Side Plank

side plank

The side plank targets the oblique muscles and improves lateral core stability.

Lie on your side with your forearm on the floor, elbow under your shoulder, and feet stacked on each other.
Lift your hips off the floor, forming a straight line from head to feet.
Hold the position while engaging your core muscles.

Hanging Leg Raises

hanging leg raise - lower ab exercises and hollow hold alternative

Hanging Leg Raises target the lower abs, hip flexors, and core muscles.

Hang from a pull-up bar with arms fully extended and engage your core.
Lift your legs toward your chest, ensuring they are straight, and then lower them down in a controlled manner.
Newbies can bend their knees or perform knee raises instead.


medicine ball exercises

V-ups are advanced exercises that engage the entire core, including the upper and lower abs.

Lie on your back with arms extended overhead. Simultaneously lift your legs and upper body off the floor, reaching your hands towards your feet. Aim to create a “V” shape with your body.
Lower yourself back with control and repeat.

Lying Leg Raises

man doing leg raises calisthenics exercises

Lying leg raises work the lower abs and hip flexors.

Lie flat on your back with your arms by your sides. With your legs straight, l

Lift your legs toward the ceiling, ensuring you keep them straight.
Lower them to the floor under control, ensuring your lower back stays pressed against the floor throughout the movement.

Bird Dog

bird dog transverse abdominis exercises

The bird dog exercise is a great way to engage your core muscles while improving balance and stability.

Start on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Extend your right arm forward while simultaneously extending your left leg backward. Keep your core engaged and your back straight. Hold briefly, return to your starting position, and repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

Incorporating the hollow hold alternatives into your core routine can help target different muscle groups, add variety, and prevent boredom.

Programming suggestions for hollow holds

Below are some programming suggestions for hollow holds to consider


Aim to include hollow holds 2-3 times in your weekly routine.
That frequency allows for sufficient rest and recovery between sessions while providing regular stimulus for core strength development.


Newbies should start with shorter hold times, such as 20-30 seconds.
Gradually increase the duration of your holds as you gain strength and stability.
Aim for 45-60 seconds as a target to work towards.
However, note that it is better to prioritize quality over quantity and focus on shorter, controlled holds.

Sets and Repetitions

Perform 2-3 sets of hollow holds per session. Newbies can start with one if necessary. Remember to take short breaks between sets to recover and maintain proper form.


Progress the exercise to continue challenging your core muscles as you become stronger and more proficient with the hollow hold.

You can increase the difficulty by incorporating variations such as leg lifts, arm reaches, or hollow rocks.

Additionally, you can add resistance by holding a weight against your chest during the hold or using ankle weights.

Integration with Other Exercises

Consider combining hollow holds with other exercises to target the core from different angles.
Planks, Russian twists, and bicycle crunches are some examples.

The variety can help enhance core strength and stability.

Warm-up and Cool-down

Warm your body with light cardiovascular activity and dynamic stretches before performing hollow holds.
That can help increase blood flow, loosen up the muscles, and prepare your body for exercise.

Do static stretches or foam rolling to cool down and promote muscle recovery after completing your hollow hold workout.

Final words from LiveLIfe

Hollow holds are some of the most effective exercises for targeting and building core strength.

Adding the hollow body hold to your exercises can help target your hard-to-reach deep abdominal muscles, helping you to boost balance, stability, and functional fitness.

Incorporate the hollow hold and some of the alternative exercises into your training regimen to help build a stronger core, improve your performance in various physical activities, and reduce the risk of injury.

  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

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