Some bodyweight exercises are obviously spectacularly effective just from the way they look while you are doing them – for example, burpees are not only a rigorous bodyweight exercise, but are visibly and impressively so. Others are more subtle and may seem to be little more than standing or lying in one place, yet still provide powerful muscle building effects and serve as the springboard to yet more demanding exercises.
One such is the hollow rock, a rather intriguingly named standby of serious bodyweight training. To accomplish this exercise, all you will need is a smooth, level area of floor large enough to lie down on with your arms and legs extended. You will probably want a mat as well, since you will be flexing your spine against the floor, and a hard surface could be painful, even harmful, when performing this exercise.
Purpose of the hollow rock exercise
The hollow rock serves basically two functions in your bodyweight training repertoire. It serves, first and foremost, to develop your abdominal muscles (abs). In fact, it is used for this purpose by most people who employ it as part of their bodyweight regimen. You can tone, strengthen, and tighten your abdominal muscles thoroughly with the hollow rock.
Preparing for the ultimate bodyweight burn exercise, the human flag, is also accomplished by using the hollow rock, as well as various pull-ups, pushups, planks, and handstands. The hollow rock helps to develop some of the muscles that will be vital to keeping your body straight at the waist if you are planning to advance to the point where you are one of the few who can accomplish a full human flag.
Setting up for the hollow rock
Lie down on your back, and initially relax to get as much of your back in contact with the floor as possible. Your spine will be above the floor at the small of your back, so you will need to push it down until your spine is fully in contact with the floor.
Now, round your back so that it forms a smooth curve, resting your weight on a relatively small length of spine. Stretch your arms out upwards, and stretch your legs out with your feet flexed, legs kept together, in the air. Then, begin to rock up and down, first in the direction of your arms, then back towards your legs, and so back and forth.
Your arms and legs should be raised somewhere between six and twelve inches off the floor. The higher they are raised, the more rounded your back will be. This exercise sounds simple, but it is actually fairly challenging if you perform it in its “pure” form without cutting any corners (for example, allowing the small of your back to rise off the floor). Start out slowly and raise your arms and legs only six inches at first, then increase the challenge as you build your “hollow position” muscles.
Handling a difficult beginning
If you are having trouble keeping your lower back properly rounded and your abdomen hollowed, you may need to carry out a week or two of preliminary exercises first. A variant on the crunch and reverse crunch is often used as preparatory training for the hollow rock.
Lie on your back, and curl your head and shoulders up off the floor. Then pull your knees up to your chest, which will make it easy to push the small of your back out so that it is convex rather than its normal concave configuration. Rock back and forth in this position to get a feel for keeping your buttocks tucked upwards and the small of your back rounded outwards while in motion.
On successive days, slowly straighten your leg position while keeping your shoulders crunched. Only straighten your legs a bit at a time; the objective is to ease yourself into a proper hollow rock over the course of a couple of weeks. This will make it possible for a beginner to achieve the proper hollow position that will be useful for the human flag as well as many other advanced bodyweight training exercises.
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