In functional fitness, one of the foundational areas of training is gymnastics. This doesn’t necessarily refer to flipping and tumbling, but rather the basics of gymnastics – controlling your body in time and space. In CrossFit, this starts with the arch and hollow body positions.
Our ability to control our own body weight is essential to many other areas of training. You may have seen this little diagram floating around the gym:
As you can see from the diagram, gymnastics comes before weightlifting. Yep, that’s right – if you want to lift heavier, you need to work on your pull ups.
Two of the most basic gymnastics shapes we make with our bodies are the arch body position and hollow body position. These are very simple positions in concept, and if you master them in practice, they will aid you greatly in your ability to move and handle weight.
Arch Body Position
Lie on the ground, face down. Stretch your arms overhead, and then space them about shoulder width apart. Now stretch your legs out long and space them also shoulder width apart.
With your eyes down, facing the floor, lift your chest and thighs off of the ground, making your body into a nicely curved “U” shape. Stay as long as possible!
You should now look like this:
Hollow Body Position
Lie on the ground, face up. Stretch your arms overhead, and then space them about shoulder width apart. Now stretch your legs out long and bring feet together until your ankles touch (or as close as possible).
Draw your belly button into your spine, by sucking in your belly, and then perform a minor crunch to lift your shoulder blades up off the ground, while keeping your biceps next to your ears. At the same time as your crunch, lift your heels off of the ground about 6” to 1’, while staying as long and straight as possible.
You should look like this:
Here are some of the movements where you will see these arch and hollow positions (which may also be your motivation to get good at them):
Hanging Knee Raise
Toes to Bar
Now consider that the basic “braced” position for most any lift, requires a balance of these two positions as seen here:
So now you can see even more value from strengthening these muscles.
Need to make it easier? Can’t hold this shape for long?
The key part of these holds is the trunk portion of your body from your shoulders down to your hips.
So no matter how we change this hold to make it easier, those pieces should always have a nice, regularly curved “U” shape to them.
So how do I get good at this?
Practice! Take 10-15 minutes before or after your workout to spend some time in these positions. The idea is to accumulate time while holding this position WELL. If it starts to break own or get sloppy, then stop, and start again only once you can hold it well again.
A simple way to do this is to do a maximum length of time hold in a quality arch position, followed by a max length hold in a quality hollow position, and then take a 1-2 min break. Do that for 4 rounds, and if you practice it 3 times per week, you’ll start to quickly strengthen these holds!
Have a buddy or coach spot check your form from time to time, as it can be hard to tell how you are doing while struggling through the hold.
4 Rounds for Quality:
Max length arch hold
Max length hollow hold
2 min rest
Want to get better at your hollow and arch positions or other gymnastics movements? Book a 30-minute skill session with Coach Joe to learn how these can help you improve your lifts!
A big thank you to athlete Stephanie D. for demoing the positions seen in this post!