We all know it’s essential to build a solid core. Not only do ab exercises help reduce back pain, but they also allow you to move better because your core is involved in everything you do. Whether you’re doing squats, deadlifts, push-ups or carrying your little one, your midline is taking part. But there are so many different exercises out there nowadays, it can be hard to know which work best, especially when you’re short on time.
The ab exercise at the top of my list is the hollow-body hold. This move works your rectus abdominis (your superficial six-pack muscle) and your transversus abdominis (the deeper muscle that helps you stabilize). You don’t have to hold one for long to feel your core start to burn. The goal is to hold your posture properly for one minute, which is a lot harder to do than a plank. Don’t get me wrong, I love planks, too, but if you’re rushed for time and need something short and intense, try hollow-body holds.
Gymnasts, who have phenomenal abs and some of the strongest cores around, do plenty of hollow-body holds — with different variations — multiple times per day. I remember holding one for five minutes when I was 8 years old as part of a contest at my gym. Regular practice of the exercise allows for better positioning in your handstands (if you’re into that kind of thing!) and pull-ups.
Another reason I love hollow-body holds is that they’re scalable. Whether you’re a beginner or veteran athlete, there’s a hollow position that’s right for you.
To start, lie on your back with your arms straight up toward the ceiling and your legs bent at 90 degrees with your feet off the floor. Make sure your abs are engaged and your back is pressed flat to the ground. This is the most important part! There should be no space between your back and the floor. Once you know you’re in a good starting position, begin to extend your arms and legs out away from your body. Continue to lower them until either your back comes off the ground (then you will bring them in so your back is flat) or both your arms and legs are 6 to 8 inches off the ground. This is the position you will hold.
If you’re a beginner, shoot for three sets of 30-second holds. If you’re intermediate, try three sets of 45-second holds. And if you’re up for a challenge, do three sets of one-minute holds.
Give the hollow-body hold a try the next time you work on your abs and really want to feel the burn!