Exercises You Should Be Doing: Hollow Position Plate Rotation

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Like many of you I have been watching the Rio Olympics and often picking my jaw up from off the floor witnessing the feats of power, speed, agility, and artistry that many of the athletes display.

Whether it’s watching Usain Bolt float to the finish line or shaking my head in disbelief as Katie Ledecky almost laps the competition during the finals, it’s impressive to watch and witness years of dedication and hard work culminate into a two-week span of giving a shit about sports I never knew existed.1

As is the case every four years, much of our attention (and jaw droppiness) is fixated on the seemingly physics defying feats all the gymnasts showcase.2

Simone Biles would be exhibit #1.

To put it bluntly, she is a superb athlete and is raising the bar to standards we’ve never seen before. However, to be fair, what gymnasts as a whole are able to do seems better suited for The Matrix than real life. It’s just, you know, Simone is a real-life Trinity.

There’s no way any of us mere mortals can emulate what they do. Right?

Right. You are correct. No one is impressed by your shirtless somersault.

You may be surprised, though, that one of the most traditional “introductory” movements that most gymnasts learn on day #1 is one of the best (and most underrated) core/abdominal exercises everyone can perform; and should perform. Even you.

It doesn’t require a ton of skill nor two easy payments of $19.99. All you need is your own body and some attention to detail.

The Hollow Body Hold

I wrote about the Hollow Body Hold (and how it can be used to help women get better at doing chin-ups/pull-ups) HERE. It’s a wonderful way to teach trainees what it means to attain full-body tension, as well as helping to drive home some context (on the floor) of what needs to happen if or when someone is ready to hang from a bar.

NOTE: I think you should totally read the entire article linked above, but I’ll post the video here too. But only because because I know most you have the attention span of that dog from the movie Up (and because I love you).


Hollow Hold = body tension. This is key. As Men’s Health fitness advisor, BJ Gaddour, notes:

“The hollow-body hold allows you to properly transfer force from your upper body to your lower body without any energy leaks. The stronger and more stable you are in this position, the more power you’ll have when squatting, throwing, pushing, pulling, jumping, hitting, kicking, or sprinting.”

For most, the regular ol, “vanilla” hollow hold will be more than enough. However, if you’re interested in upping the ante try this other variation:

Hollow Position Plate Rotation


Who Did I Steal It From: the happiest person on Earth, Jen Sinkler.

What Does It Do: makes you hate life takes all the benefits of the original hollow hold, but now adds the challenge of keeping the torso “engaged” while in the presence of movement.

Key Coaching Cues: begin by assuming the “v” position as with any standard hollow hold and lower to a position you’re able to maintain. Press feet/ankles together! While holding a pair of 2.5-5 lbs. plates you’ll rotate each in as large of an arc as you can handle – starting overhead – without deviating from position.

Of course, the contraindication here – in terms of total ROM – is whether or not one has ample shoulder flexion to begin with. Those with limited ROM can still perform this exercise, but will need to be aware of compensatory patterns (excessive forward head posture, losing lower back position on bench).

Assuming a green light, try to cue yourself “palms up” in both the top and bottom positions. This will make it a little more shoulder friendly (less narrowing of acromion space and help drive a little more scapular posterior tilt).

Much like Jen, I like to shoot for higher reps on this exercise – anywhere from 10-30 total repetitions – and to ensure each is performed in a controlled manner. I.e., once you enter “it looks like you’re having an epileptic seizure territory” you should stop there.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

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  1. Yes, I’m talking to you Synchronized Pole Vaulting (and Men’s Field Hockey). NOTE: one of those sports actually doesn’t exist.

  2. Not to mention the biceps of every male gymnast. Note to Guy Who Will Inevitably Ask About How to Get Biceps Like Them: 1) perform 100’s (if not 1000’s) of repetitions of bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, ring holds, handstands, L-sits, etc every day. 2) do it for 10+ years. 3) there you go.

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