Hurtling yourself through the air, going upside down, and balancing on various limbs requires a combination of strength and coordination. When you’re able to get those components to work together, you’re achieving mind-body control—which is exactly what you need to begin a gymnastics practice.
But activating those muscles doesn’t just happen without training. In fact, there are three moves that Elisabeth Akinwale, a certified personal trainer with a background in competitive gymnastics, who is leading Well+Good’s ReNew Year movement plan this month, describes as “foundational gymnastics positions”: The arch body, the hollow body, and the straight body.
And while they’re gymnastics essentials, Akinwale also says, “These are great places to start any strength-training program.”
All three moves involve fully engaging your core (which includes your glutes and back) while relying on muscles in your arms and legs for support. Akinwale demonstrates each in this new video for Well+Good’s The Right Way series.
Let’s get started with the hollow body. Lying on your back, you want to turn on your core by tucking your tail bone, contracting your ribcage, and pushing your lower back into the floor. Then you’ll extend your arms and legs out straight without bending at the hips or shoulders, so you’re one long curve.
After getting concave, you’ll want to get convex. To do the arch body, flip over onto your stomach and extend your arms out in front of you. By once again getting taut throughout that core, raise your arms and legs off the floor (similar to a Superman).
“We’re thinking about squeezing up from the spinal erectors, the back, and the glutes to lift the arms and legs, without having any hinges or angles in the body,” Akinwale says. “Making everything nice and fluid.”
Round out the set by becoming a straight line. Still on your stomach, you want to push your hips into the floor while contracting your ribs up.
“It’s gonna be a subtle movement, but it’s applicable to anything that’s in a straight position,” Akinwale says. Think: a handstand, a pull-up, or just standing around in everyday life.
Are you ready to fly through the air with the greatest of ease? Okay, maybe not quite yet, but keep contracting and expanding, and you’ll get there!