When it comes to core strengthening exercises the plank, hanging leg raise and sit-up are among the first few that come to mind.
There's no doubt about it that those three exercises will indeed assist with core stability and developing the rectus abdominis muscles.
But there's another exercise that's even better.
An exercise that's extensively used by everyone from gymnasts to professional basketball teams.
That exercise is the hollow body hold.
Here's How To Perform The Hollow Body Hold
Lay flat on your back and squeeze your core in as if you were trying to pull your stomach down to the floor.
Point your arms and legs as per the image above, ensuring they are straight.
While ensuring your lower back remains pressed hard against the floor begin to raise your arms and legs off the floor.
Move your arms and legs to a position you can hold for 60~ seconds, the closer to the ground the better.
Repeat 4 - 5 times.
Keys To A Good Hollow Body Hold
The hollow hold is certainly a lot easier to master than exercises such as the squat, however it's certainly harder than it looks - you just don't lay on the floor and raise your limbs... there are a number of key points that seperate an ineffective hollow body hold from one that will have you developing immense functional core strength.
Focus On Shoulder Blades Off The Ground, Not Arms
The core tension comes from having your shoulder blades off the ground, not just your arms.
Focusing on lifting your shoulder blades off the ground instead of your arms (your arms will be lifted as a result of this).
You Literally Can't Flex Your Abs Enough
In order to draw your lower back into the floor you need to focus on contracting your abs as hard as possible.
Think you're contracting them enough? Contract harder.
Leave Your Chin As Is
One of the biggest mistakes I see being made with the hollow hold is the aggresive tucking of the chin.
Not only does tucking the chin increase your risk of straining your neck it also reduces the tension on your core - by tucking your chin you're essentially doing an easier version/progression of the hollow hold while risking injury. Don't do it.
Opt to look upwards while flexing your core.
Hollow Hold Progressions
Want To Make Your Hollow Holds Easier?
Bend your knees and keep your arms tucked in close to your sides to reduce the amount of tension on your core, aim to hold each time for 1~ minute.
Want To Make Your Hollow Holds Harder?
Lower yourself as close to the possible with arms straight and completely overhead while aiming to hold for 3~ minutes per hollow hold.