Gymnastics: Hollow Position 101

What is the ‘hollow position’?

If you take a look at a person’s normal posture, you’ll see the natural curvature of the spine.


Normal Spinal Curvature

The hollow position is the straightening of the spine, and is used in many gymnastics movements as it allows the bones and vertebrae to be aligned and stacked – one on top of the other.

This is an important position as it makes a lot of gymnastics movements easier to hold, and in most cases, a lot better looking! Since the vertebrae are stacked one on top of the other, less muscular effort is required to keep the movement stable.

Here are some more examples of where the hollow position is used:

“Arched” handstand without the hollow position (left) vs. a “stacked” handstand with the hollow position (right)


Swing during a kipping muscle-up


At the top of a ring dip


During a kipping pull-up


So, how do you do it?

If you lie down on the ground with your arms by your ears, you’ll notice some space between the lower back and the floor. This space is created by your lumbar curve.

When we assume the hollow position, our lumbar curve straightens to provide the stacking effect, and if you take a look, the space between your lower back and the ground completely disappears. To do this, try the following:
1. Lie down flat on the ground with your arms by your ears
2. Point your toes and stretch your fingertips – think of lengthening your entire body as much as possible
3. With your body lengthened, squeeze your butt
4. Then finally, squeeze your abs! If you are pointing your toes and reaching with your fingertips and squeezing your butt, then, when you squeeze your abs, your shoulders and thighs should come off the floor. The space between your lower back and the floor should disappear.

Hollow position



Common Faults

1) Too much space between the lower back and the floor:
07_lumbar_curve_floorFix: Squeeze your abs! This should bring your ribs closer to your hips

2) Shoulders on, or too close to the ground and upper back arching:
09_fault_02Fix: Reach and stretch with your fingertips then squeeze your abs

3) Legs too high off the floor:
10_fault_03Fix: I’m glad you asked! Having your legs too high off the floor isn’t necessarily a fault, however, it is a way of scaling the hollow position. Which brings me to my next topic…

Scaling the hollow position aka ‘Ouch this hurts and I can’t hold this for very long’

Let’s say you’ve tried the full hollow position and you can hold it for a second or two, but no more. To build up the strength for a full hollow position, choose one of the scaled options below, and work on it 2-3 times per week. A good target to aim for with any of the options is one full tabata set (8 sets of 20 seconds of work/10 seconds of rest). Once you are able to easily complete a full tabata set 2-3 times per week with your chosen option, it is time to move up to the next one. Just remember that with all of these options, your lower back should be making contact with the floor:

Option 1: Tuck Hollow

11_tuck_hollow1. Lie down on your back with your hands by your sides
2. Bend your legs so that your knees are tucked into your chest
3. Point your toes and squeeze your butt
4. Squeeze your abs (this should also raise your shoulders off the ground)

Option 2: One Legged Tuck Hollow
12_one_legged_tuck_hollow1. Start with the Tuck Hollow option above
2. Extend one leg out and point your toes

Option 3: Arms Down Hollow

13_arms_down_hollowNotice that this is what the top of a ring dip looks like, just on its side.
1. Start with the One Legged Tuck Hollow
2. Extend the other leg out and point your toes
If you’ve mastered the above options, it’s time to move up to the full hollow position! Just remember the key points:

* Point your toes and stretch your fingertips – think of lengthening your body
* Squeeze your butt
* Squeeze your abs


And that’s it. The more you practice the hollow position, the easier it will become for you, which means the more it will be ingrained into your natural movements. As stated earlier, this means less muscular effort, which makes you a more efficient CrossFitter!