Core strength comes from the Hollow Body Hold. (And other exercises too, obviously, but I’ve always found this one most effective working with clients.)
Foundation Strength means having control, stability, and strength with your own body’s movements before you think about adding anything else on. Everybody should be able to do push-ups on their toes. Everybody should be able to do pull-ups on a bar. Everybody should be able to squat and get their butt to their heels. And, everybody should be able to fully extend their legs on a hollow body hold.
If you can’t do those things right now – don’t worry. We’ll get there. All we need to do is find out how strong you currently are, and get stronger from that point.
By working up to the fullest expressions of the four Foundation Strength exercises you’ll be building a body that can stay strong as you get older and be much less likely to get injured in whatever kind of fun stuff you choose to do.
The first thing you need to understand is that your body is currently – and will always be – a work in progress. Your body is constantly rebuilding and changing according to what you feed it, and what you ask of it.
If you ask it to be strong and flexible – it will gradually make you that way. If you ask it to sit on the couch, be inactive, and not need to be strong or flexible – it will gradually make you that way.
What we’re going to do is ask it to start making you a little bit stronger than you are right now. Then tomorrow, ask it to make you a little bit stronger again. We keep on doing that to make you a little stronger every day. Until eventually – you’re doing things you thought were impossible for you before.
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you’re doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi
What’s necessary is reading this article – then getting off the couch and trying it. What’s possible is for you to work at it a little bit everyday. What’s impossible soon won’t be.
Let’s get building that core.
The first movement you want to get down when it comes to strengthening your core is the Ab Raise.
This exercise teaches how to start properly contracting and engaging the muscles in your abs.
Lay on your back with your knees bent. Hold your arms out in front of you and try and reach the ceiling.
You should feel a serious squeeze in your abs. But remember, you’re not sitting up, just getting that crunch on.
Once you’ve got that nailed and you can really feel that contraction, move on to the big fella: the Hollow Body Hold.
Hollow Body Hold
This is my absolute favourite exercise for building strength in your core. Because it’s brilliant at building self-awareness within your body and you can actually see yourself getting stronger as you go.
You start like you’re in an Ab Raise, but with your knees lifted up. Veeeery slowly start to extend your legs out along the floor.
The thing I want you to focus on is your lower back. It should be pushing down into the floor at all times. If it lifts up off the floor that means you’ve gone too far. You’re not strong enough to go that far yet. Which is okay. Remember, little steps. A little bit stronger every day.
So if your back lifts off, pull your legs back a little bit, crunch those abs to push your lower back back down into the floor, and HOLD that position.
That’s why it’s called the Hollow Body Hold. You’re in a Hollow Body position, and you’re holding it.
So, extend your legs out along the floor to the point juuust before your back starts lifting up (this is where we build that self-awareness). When you reach that point, squeeze hard and hold it there for 10 seconds.
If you find 5 minutes to squeeze these in every day, you’ll find yourself going a little bit further every time until eventually, you’ve got your legs fully extended with lower back still on the ground.
Which means you’ve built one hell of a strong core.
So get to it, get yourself on the floor, you don’t even need to get changed, and start Ab Raise-ing. And if you can nail that no problem, start practicing the Hollow Body Hold.
Let me know how you get on and how that strong core starts benefitting all those little unexpected areas of your life.