In this previous blog post we had an insightful interview with coach Wilson on the importance of gymnastics, which is a key component of CrossFit. In this post we explore the Hollow Body position.
Now that the value of gymnastics is not in question, we can begin to look at the benefits of specific movements. Of course, we all wish to be more flexible and volatile in our movements. It takes much practice and effort. A real desire to achieve, understanding that it all happens in steps – scaling – and getting out of our comfort zone. One of our Kwetu crossfitters shared this link with us, where psychologists have emphasised the importance of challenging what we think our threshold is, so as to achieve results that count (If it Doesn’t Suck, it’s Not Worth Doing).
The hollow body involves flattening the spine, that is, making it absolutely straight. You can imagine how straight your spine should be in a strictly done handstand, as much as we often end up looking like bananas. Not that curving your spine is wrong, but seeing that many end up in that position because their core is not tightly held (unlike a pro gymnast), this could strain your back.
So to flatten the spine, one needs to tilt the hip backwards. This is referred to as the posterior hip tilt. When standing upright this could be practiced by squeezing your glutes (belly sucked in). It may on the contrary appear as though you were moving forward because your chest lifts.
It all sounds very easy, lying down, and all you need to complete that view is a cocktail. But in fact, it is quite a difficult movement because it requires your abs to work hard with legs lifted straight off the ground, and arms straight overhead parallel to your ears. Abs is a weak link for a good number of us. Aha! Here goes the major benefit: this movement will help strengthen your core. With weak abs, we strain our lower backs by transferring the weight there. Consequence: back injuries! That’s the demon we all avoid as much as we can, for it jeopardises our entire CrossFit life.
If you lift your arms and legs but do not tuck in your belly to tighten your core and squeeze your glutes, then that is not the hollow body. You would be holding a position which is compromising your lower back. To scale, you may start off by lifting your legs and arms higher, and with time as you build strength, trying to get them lower without breaking the position.
I found, from my attempts at pilates, that first lying on the floor and breathing in deeply, then slowly breathing out as you consciously lower your spine, helps to set you in a better position to go into a hollow.
The hollow body position acts as a proxy to better performance in other movements because in strengthening your core you create better support for your body and therefore protect your spine, and as already mentioned, prevent injuries. You also gain greater ability to control the distribution of force throughout your body.
Last and quite important too, you might just get that six pack you’ve been dreaming of. Fine, CrossFit is about fitness first not looks, but who does not admire a set of those? They are the certificate you get to walk around with all day for the hard work you put it!
P.s Kindly note coach Leeroy’s perfect demo of the hollow body!