Last week we discussed the importance of the arch position when kipping pull-ups. This week we’re going to dive into the details of the other half, the hollow. In general, I find that this one gets a lot more attention and focus than the other, because it’s where the pull-up actually happens. Now, with the arch position dialed-in and creating tons of tension we can refocus our efforts on the hollow, and more importantly trying to arrive there as quickly as possible.
The hollow position is a shape in gymnastics that allows the entire body to move as one entity. It is characterized by posterior rotation of the hips which flattens out the lower back. Arms and legs are also fully extended and squeezed tight. When done properly this shape can create so much tension throughout the entire body that a passer-by could simply push one part of the athletes body and the entire thing would move as one, maintaining it’s shape. A hollow-rock is the best example. If we recall, our focus in the arch was to create as much tension as possible. In order to utilize that tension we need to direct it in an upward direction. This happens by changing our shape from arch to hollow as fast as possible. When we go from the arch to the hollow our shoulder angle closes, or pushes the bar down. If at the same time we can maintain the tension throughout our body by snapping into the hollow shape and holding tight, we will find lift or “weightlessness”. Common faults are swinging the legs upward ending up in a piked position, not engaging the lats to close the shoulder angle, and extending the hip up towards the bar.
First we need to be able to recreate the shape in an easier situation, such as hanging from the bar. Can the athlete hang in a neutral position on the bar and then pull themselves into an active hollow static shape? From there we can begin kipping into it from the arch position and working on our cadence. Once we’ve mastered that we can start thinking about initiating our pull-up and this is the point where a lot of things can go wrong. The lower-back arches, the legs pike upward and athletes will often violently “throw” their hips at the bar. This method will work for a few single pull-ups and it’s how many of us got our first ever pull-ups but now it’s time to refine our movements and improve upon them so they can continue to carry-over and allow us to work on more advanced movements.

There are tons of tools out there an athlete can use to drill the proper movement pattern but in the end we have to learn to initiate and execute our pull-up from the hollow position and not let everything go once we start pulling. Two of my favorite drills to work on this include the 3 position ring row and eccentrics. In the ring row we can focus on proper timing and engaging of muscles all while holding our hollow position tightly. When performing an eccentric the athlete starts with their chin already over the bar and with their body in the best hollow shape they can make, then they’ll begin to lower slowly until they arrive at the bottom of the pull-up, still maintaining the hollow shape.
Start taking your kipping warmups more serious and check to see that you’re actually making the shape that you want. Are you holding tension? Are you pushing down on the bar with your lats or just lifting your legs? Can you maintain this as you begin to pull? Deep into a metcon these things are going to begin breaking-down, so perfect them while you’re fresh, do it often, and they’ll become your norm when you’re under stress.