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Pull-Up May – Week One: The Hollow Position

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Pull-Up May – Week One: The Hollow Position
Written by Shane Farmer

It’s here, it’s finally here. The month you’ve all been waiting for. Pull-up progression month. The whole month of May is dedicated to each of you who have been asking “Can we please learn kipping pull-ups?” Each week we’ll be working a specific skill on the blog and in classes to help you get stronger, faster, and more efficient with your kipping pull-ups. We’re excited to get you on your way.

To prepare, expect that if you want to see results you should be practicing these drills every time you step foot in the gym. We can give you lots of good cues, but there is no substitute for practice. We’re good coaches, not magicians. With that being said, let’s get the party started.

Week One: The Hollow Position

The key position we need to establish for our kipping pull-ups is called “The Hollow Position.” (See photo above.)  The position calls for three main points according to Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, our little gymnastics guru.

  1. Your lower back, butt, and heels should be touching the ground. Think about pushing your belly button to the floor.
  2. Legs and arms straight and together with toes and arms pointed.
  3. Staying tight, your head & shoulders come off the ground with ears glued between your shoulders.

If we can establish and hold this position we’re in a good place to move to the next step. If not, we want to practice getting to the perfect position here. This can be done with a patient progression.

  1. Start with your legs straight and feet together laying on your back.
  2. Squeeze your big toes and heels together.
  3. Place your arms, palms down, at your sides.
  4. Lift your shoulders up off the floor while squeezing your ankles, quads, and gluteus.
  5. Hold for 20 – 30 seconds
  6. If you can hold for 30 seconds, go ahead and bring your arms overhead keeping your elbows locked out and rotating through your shoulders. Be sure to keep your shoulders off the ground.

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Once we’ve established a strong hollow position we can begin working to strengthen our arm and shoulder engagement in the kipping pull-up. An important aspect of the kipping pull-up is that our lats (the semi wing looking muscle on the back of the armpit) and subscapularis engagement play a large roll in connecting to the bar once we’ve started accelerating with the hips (more to come on this in later weeks).

To start working this engagement we’ll implement a couple drills that we learned from Camille at our Invictus Athletes’ Camps.

1.  Partner PVC pipe straight arm pry.

  • For this drill, one partner will establish a hollow hold on the floor with a PVC pipe in hand overhead.
  • Partner two will stand overhead of the partner on the floor and hold on to the PVC pipe.
  • The partner on the floor, keeping the elbows absolutely straight, will then pry the PVC pipe down to their hips thinking about engagement through their lats and subscapularis, while the partner standing above, will give a slight resistance (enough so that the PVC pipe keeps moving, but not so much that it stalls in place).
  • Think about placing your big knuckles over the top of the PVC pipe so you maintain a neutral wrist as you pry the PVC pipe down.
  • Each partner should do 3 sets of 5 reps, alternating sets each time.


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2.  Hollow hold from the knees with partner lowering

  • One partner will kneel on the floor with arms outstretched over head as if they were doing a vertical hollow hold. They will brace their body, staying tight through the shoulders, and squeezing the glutes and feet together.
  • Partner two, from a standing position, will place their hands on their partners wrists and start lowering the partner in a hollow hold to the floor. This should be a very slow controlled lowering.
  • The partner on the floor will be lowered as far as possible maintaining a perfect hollow position. If the hips or shoulders collapse or hinge, reset the position and lower a shorter distance so the partner on the floor can maintain perfect position.
  • The partner standing will then raise the other partner back to the starting position.
  • Each partner should perform 3 sets of 2 – 3 reps. Use caution and communication in this drill as there is a high amount of trust involved.

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Use these drills and progressions this week as you prepare for next weeks installment of the Pull-Up May. Again, do these drills frequently, but also give yourself a rest if you’re feeling a little achy or tight. If you play your cards right this month, you might just find you’re hitting your first or most efficient kipping pull-ups before you know it.