How to do a Hollow Rock – Lent Challenge Day 3

Okay, today we are going to start out Lenten observance for real, but before we get into it, I just want to clear something up: quite a few people have expressed concern after yesterday’s post that they would not be up to doing the challenge because they could not perform pull-ups or push-ups. That is certainly not the case. If you can already do pull-ups and push-ups, then great, we’ll work on doing them better and building some volume, but if you have never done a pull-up in your life before, that’s absolutely fine too. I had never done one three years ago. What we will do is work on the progressions to get you to doing your first one.

And now on to today’s exercise. I am going to give those would-be puller-uppers a week or so to get sorted with a pull-up bar, and we will work our way up from some more simple basics. And to begin with we are going to do something nice and gentle.
We are going to start with the Hollow Rock. Or rather we are going to start with the Hollow Body, as a means of working up to a Hollow Rock. The Hollow Body is a bit like an upside down plank. It is excellent for strengthening the abdominals and obliques, is a perfect start point for building the midline strength for a good pull-up, squat, deadlift, and is the foundation for almost all gymnastic moves. It is also suitable for almost all – it will strengthen the core without compromising the lower back.

The Hollow Body is a very simple move. You lie on your back with your arms stretched out above your head. Keep your fingers and toes pointed and your lower back pushed into the floor at all times.
Slowly raise your shoulders and legs off the floor – you can start by raising them quite high, then lower as far as you can while still maintaining the pose. The lower the hold the harder it it is. Keep your legs straight, and keep breathing through the exercise – don’t hold your breath. Keep your lower back firmly planted to the floor. If it starts lifting, then raise your legs a bit until you can maintain the position again.

It sounds ridiculously simple, but I guarantee you will start to feel the burn a lot sooner than you expect. Try to hold the position for at least 30 seconds. If you can make 60 seconds then you are doing very well. If you only manage 10, then that’s fine too. Then take a rest and do it again. See how many sets you can do before you really start losing form. Write down your times and sets and see if you can improve on them next time round.

If you really can’t manage the full straight leg hold, there is a modified version you can start with – bend your legs and keep your feet on the floor and just raise your shoulders. This lady demonstrates very well here:

Kristie Agan Hollow Body Scaled versions

and that’s all we need to do today. Once we have the Hollow Body hold held firmly, we will progress to the Hollow Rock, which, you will be astounded to hear, is the same thing but rocking back and forth. Again, it sounds really easy-peasy but it probably won’t be in practice.

I didn’t mention yesterday because it didn’t occur to me, but unless you have a nice soft surface to do these exercises on, or have one already, you will probably want to invest in a yoga mat.
This is the one I use. I like having a thicker one now my bones are aged and floors harder than they were in my youth. I used to have a super cheapo job that I bought in a hippy shop for about a fiver but it was really wafer thin and has since been relegated to use as an anti slip mat under the runner carpet in the hallway.



Tomorrow is the weekend, Hurrah! and in the grand Rhomboid tradition of rest days we shall not be having one, but looking instead at Push-ups. Don’t worry if you can’t do a full push-up or any kind of push-up yet. There will be versions scaled for absolutely everyone. It’s going to be tremendous fun – if tremendous fun during a period if abstinence is not contrary to the spirit of the thing. Have fun being hollow in the meanwhile, Rhomboidians!


  1. Julia Holman

    I have been doing trainee pull up training and after yesterday’s effort I have woke with very sore and stiff arms. I am not used to this and I don’t know if I should do my bodypump class today. I look forward to this all week as it’s the only time I can go due to my hectic life in the week. I am worried I may injur, or is this entirely normal to feel like this?

    1. Post
      Billy Rhomboid

      Sore and stiff muscles after working out are a fairly common phenomenon, if you have been pushing to the limits of your capability/are working on improving. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness happens when you work out hard regardless of whether you are a newbie doing your first 90 second runs or lifting (relatively) light weights or a veteran who has worked out every day for the last ten years and running/lifting huge distances/weights. It happens when you have challenged your muscles beyond what they are used to. It isn’t something to necessarily worry about – it is where the ‘no pain no gain’ maxim comes from, although it doesn’t follow that you need to ache to be making progress.
      As long as it aches and stiffness rather than acute pain then don’t worry about it. It can be quite severe soreness – I often hobble around and have difficulty standing and sitting after leg day and back day.
      As to bodypump – you are unlikely to injur yourself if it is just muscle soreness as decribed. Just take more time to warm up. Stiff muscles are still muscles. If after you have got the blood really pumping through you still feel you cannot lift amything then give it a miss. If not, push on. You will probably feel `better for it.

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