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A More Effective Way to Teach and Practice the Hollow and Arch Position

We work on getting people to practice the hollow and arch positions a lot. Some of the benefits (besides just pure torture) to teaching these two positions are:
 
1. Creation of proprioception – aka body awareness. Knowing where your body’s position is in space, and how to activate the right muscles to get there is important not just in the gym, but in daily life.

2. Development of static midline strength – I’ve seen dudes who can back squat  500+ pounds (yes, with full ROM) not be able to hold a plank for more than 60 seconds, much less get into an effective hollow or arch position. Strength under tension of a big squat or heavy deadlift vs strength in a static/isometric position are not the same thing and have to be trained/developed separately.

3. Skill Transfer to Pull-Ups/T2B/Muscle-Up – being efficient at these specific movements (and related ones) is predicated on your ability to move between the hollow and arch positions with ease.

The first step to teaching the hollow, in almost ALL cases that I’ve seen, is by starting the individual on the floor, on their back, getting everything from toes to fingers tight (gluten, abs, quads, etc) and then having them bring their body into a soft ‘C’ shape…or from the kids classes, a banana! The arch is just the same thing, but done on their stomach and they are now engaging much more of the posterior chain, the erectors in particular.

 
Static Hollow Position
Static Hollow Position

Static Arch Position
Static Arch Position

The problem that we continually run into when taking them through the hollow progression is that they have no concept of how to keep the low back in contact with the ground by contracting their abs and pulling the belly button into the abdomen. This frequently manifests itself with low back pain. We have done work arounds where we have them start with hips and knees @ 90 degrees and then slowly extend one leg out at a time until the low back pops off the ground, but thats more of a band-aid than anything.
Well leave it to me to dream up a solution just as I drift away to sleep! So here it is:
 
If you want people to experience what a fully engaged hollow and arch position are, simply set them up on a GHD.
This can be scaled up or down to fit each persons capability:
– If you move the foot pads back (away from the thigh pads that is), it makes it easier.- Closer together and it makes it harder.
– Raising the foot pads up will increase the difficulty.
– Still want to spice it up even more and feel better lat engagement? Hold a small plate (2-1/2 or 5 is plenty) in each hand.
To offer yourself help and safety, have someone spot you as you hang out in the positions. Believe me, you shouldn’t expect to hold for too long when first trying these!
Here are a couple of quick snapshots of the positions in question:

GHD Hollow Position
GHD Hollow Position

 

GHD Arch Position
GHD Arch Position

I can say, without a doubt, that I felt far more engagement of EVERYTHING when I performed these static holds in the GHD as opposed to the floor variants.
Try it out and let us know if you have questions and how it works for you!

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