Exercises You Should Be Doing: Hollow Position Hold Pull-Up

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A quick heads up: In celebration of its two-year anniversary of being released my good friend Meghan Callaway is putting her renowned Ultimate Pull-Up Program on sale all this week.

  • You can purchase it at 40% off the original price.
  • You also have the option of purchasing both her Ultimate Pull-Up Program & Ultimate Landmine Program as a packaged deal at a pretty sweet discount as well.
  • Also, and don’t quote me on this, Meghan is giving away a free hug/high-five (whichever is less weird to you) to anyone who purchases.

If you’re someone who has struggled conquering the pull-up or you’re a trainer/coach who wants a better understanding of how to program for any of your clients interested in performing their first pull-up (or doing more of them), you’d be hard pressed to find a more thorough resource.

I’ve used the program myself many times.1

Exercises You Should Be Doing: Hollow Position “Pull-Up”

In light of Meghan’s re-release I wanted to share one of my favorite drills I love using with anyone interested in conquering their first pull-up.

I think there’s a common misconception that the only way to train the pull-up is by doing pull-ups. I mean, yes, that will be a thing – specificity matters – but if someone is unable to perform one, well, what do we do?

I’m a big fan of implementing FLOOR-BASED drills to help build context and confidence.

My starting point for pretty much everyone is to learn the correct way to perform a Hollow Position Hold.

Photo Courtesy of StrongFirst.com (Karen Smith)

  • Lie on your back.
  • Feet off the ground.
  • Arms, shoulders off the ground
  • Press/squeeze everything: feet, legs, abs, eyeballs, everything.

What’s so great about this drill – outside of allowing people a better appreciate of full-body tension and how much it really sucks – is that the position itself emulates how I’d want someone to hang from a bar when they attempt an actual pull-up; as the body is a more “connected” unit.

Again, context.

Now, there are numerous ways to progress the Hollow Body Hold.

  • Perform for “x” time (and then add more time each week, say 5-10 seconds).
  • Perform with an emphasis on a FULL exhale (and aim for “x” repetitions).
  • Juggle chainsaws (but only if they’re also lite on fire)
  • Perform the hold but add a little flair to it by having people press or rotate things:


Like I said there’s an infinite array of progressions and shenanigans to consider.

To up the “specificity” ante a little more, however, I really like adding a “pull-up” into the mix.


Who Did I Steal It From? – Another good friend of mine, Artemis Scantalides.

What Does It Do? – If anything I feel it provides a bit of an “ah-HA” moment for the trainee. Once they grab the stick or PVC pipe and begin to perform the “pull-up” in the hollow position a light goes off as if to say” oooooooh snap, now I get why we’ve been doing this stuff!!”

Also, context…;o)

Key Coaching Cues – I wouldn’t add this variation until someone is able to hold a strict hollow position for 30 seconds. Once they’re there hand him/her a stick and wammo-bammo…it’s pretty self explanatory.

One thing of note, though, is the breath.

It behooves everyone to start cueing/coaching an exaggerated exhale/snake breath with each repetition. As the trainee emulates the pulling motion (s)he should perform an aggressive exhale; this helps to maintain tension and core recruitment.

Also, because I said so.

2-3 sets of 6-10 repetitions should be money for most beginner and intermediate lifters.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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  1. For clients, of course. I mean, let’s not get crazy. I can TOTALLY do a pull-up. More than one actually. With no arms.

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