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Stomach Vacuuming: Does It Actually Work?

By: Holly Smith, M.D. - Osteopathic Medicine, B.S. - Dietetics, NASM-PES Certified Trainer,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

stomach vacuuming

Stomach vacuuming isn't some fad piece of equipment that sucks the fat out of your belly. It's an actual fitness movement that has been around for quite a while.

But does stomach vacuuming actually work?

Having a sculpted midsection is one part of a fit and healthy body, but a strong core and toned abs aren't just about looking great!

A strong midsection is also a sign of overall strength and fitness.

Having a strong core is the foundation of all other strength moves, and also helps reduce your risk of injuries.

So, back to stomach vacuuming. While this exercise has garnered more awareness of late, it has actually been touted for a long time in building a strong core.

It also goes by the names of the abdominal drawing-in maneuver or abdominal hollowing.

Here's everything you need to know about stomach vacuuming and if it's right for you.

Want more ways to tone that tummy? Check out these core workouts for women!

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Why Is A Strong Core Important?

Almost every move you make and most exercises you do requires the activation of your core muscles.

Getting up out of a chair, walking, bending, and lifting all require strong abs, back, and leg muscles to stabilize your body and prevent injury.

Unfortunately, women begin losing muscle mass as they age, something known as sarcopenia.

On top of that, sedentary occupations, like desk jobs, lead to poor posture and a weak core.

This puts women at a higher risk of developing back pain or other injuries.

However, strengthening the abs improves balance, coordination, and stability.

Numerous studies have looked at the relationship between core strength and low back and lower extremity injuries.

For example, one meta-analysis found that a training program that includes core stabilizing workouts helps to meet the demands associated with daily activities, exercise, and sports training.

Building a strong core requires more than crunches or planks.

Just like any other muscle group in the body, the core muscles need to contract against resistance to build strength.

Both isometric and weighted exercises are a great stimulus for growth.

So choosing exercises that engage specific core muscles will not only give you a great-looking physique but can also improve your health and overall quality of life.

One of these ab strengthening exercises is an isometric move known as stomach vacuuming.

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So What Does Stomach Vacuuming Target?

Your abdominal muscles are made up of four different muscle groups: the rectus abdominis internal and external obliques, and the transverse abdominis.

Stomach vacuuming is an exercise that specifically targets your transverse abdominis muscles.

This is important because the majority of abdominal exercises tend to focus more on the glamour muscles, which are the rectus abdominis and the obliques.

However, the transverse abdominis is just as crucial for developing and maintaining a strong core.

The transverse abdominis is the true inner abdominal muscle.

These muscles tend to be the most neglected since they lie beneath the rectus abdominis and external obliques.

The transverse abdominis muscles support posture, control deep breathing, and also help provide back support.

Unfortunately, most core exercises don’t focus on these inner ab muscles.

This causes them to become weak, which not only limits core strength but can also lead to back pain and injuries.

Plus, you can’t develop a slim waistline without focusing on these muscles.

Stomach vacuuming is an isometric contraction of the transverse abdominis muscle.

This means that you contract these muscles without moving them, sort of like when you hold a plank.

This is one of the top moves to target your inner abs and develop a slim waistline.

Also, strengthening your transverse abdominis muscles helps build a stronger core to aid you in all of your other movements and workouts.

How To Do A Stomach Vacuum

  • Start in a standing position with your hands on your hips.
  • Exhale to completely empty your lungs.
  • Then, expand your chest without inhaling, and bring your stomach in as much as possible.
  • Hold your stomach in as you visualize trying to touch your belly button to your spine.
  • Try to hold this isometric contraction for 20 seconds to start.
  • Repeat this three times.
  • As you gain strength and comfort with this exercise, increase the hold to 40 seconds, and even up to a minute if you can!

Studies using MRI have demonstrated that during this type of drawing-in action, the transversus abdominis contracts bilaterally to form a muscular band.

This appears to tighten and improve the stabilization of the lumbopelvic region.

While stomach vacuuming may have a funny name, it is actually a very effective exercise, and one of the few that specifically targets your innermost abdominal muscles.

When you ignore this muscle group, you are putting your whole core at a disadvantage.

Plus, not only will stomach vacuuming strengthen your core, but this move will also strengthen your pelvic floor which is especially important for women.

Stomach Vacuum Variations

Once you have mastered the simple standing stomach vacuum, you can also do this move from various other positions.

Sitting

You can even do this exercise while you sit at your desk or when you are at home on the couch!

If you choose to do the stomach vacuum while seated be sure to maintain proper posture.

This will fully engage the transverse abdominis muscles.

  • Sit up straight and place your hands beside your thighs.
  • Try to relax your shoulders as you keep them pulled back slightly.
  • Begin breathing in slowly and exhaling all of the air in your lungs before sucking in your stomach and holding the position.

Lying

If you prefer you can also work your abs while you lay on the ground.

  • With your back flat on a mat, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground.
  • Keep your hands on either side of you.
  • Exhale fully, then expand your chest and pull your navel in towards your back.

Kneeling

This position will have you start on your hands and knees.

  • Place your hands with your palms flat on the ground directly underneath your shoulders.
  • Your legs should make a 90-degree angle with the floor.
  • Bend your feet so that your toes are on the ground and your heels are off of the ground.
  • Breathe deeply and suck in your stomach while holding this position.

Don't Forget Other Ab Exercises

Just like your upper and lower body, your ab muscles need to face resistance to build strength.

By combining weighted resistance exercises and isometric moves three to four times a week, you will be on your way to a toned, strong core.

Other ab work should include moves that also target your rectus abdominis and oblique muscles to fully work all of your stomach muscles.

Ab exercises to work your obliques include:

Russian Twist

This move targets your obliques, and adding a dumbbell or medicine ball adds an additional strength training element.

  • To do this move, sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about a foot from your butt while holding a dumbbell.
  • Lean back slightly and keep your back flat.
  • Twist to the left, bringing the weight to your left side, then twist to the right.
  • This completes one rep.
  • Try to complete 6-8 reps on each side.

Mountain Climber

Mountain climbers are basically the cardio equivalent of a simple plank exercise.

  • Start in a push-up position with your hands below your shoulders.
  • Bring your right knee to your chest and tap your right foot to the floor then quickly move it back to the starting position.
  • Then repeat this on the left.
  • Continue alternating legs back and forth as quickly as you can for 30 seconds.

To target your rectus abdominis, add in these ab moves:

Ab Wheel Roll-Outs

Ab wheel roll-outs are awesome to strengthen the entire core, especially the rectus abdominis.

  • Start on your knees with your hands holding the handles of an ab wheel in front of you.
  • Let the wheel roll forward while your body moves forward with it into an extended position.
  • Then engage your abs to bring the wheel back in towards your body.
  • Be sure to use your abs and not your upper body to do this move otherwise you won’t be getting the core benefits.
  • Try to complete 8-10 reps.

Decline Weighted Sit-Up

Decline weighted sit-ups are a great way to add resistance work to your ab training.

  • Sit on a decline bench with your knees bent and your feet under the padded bar.
  • Hold a weight across your chest or above your head.
  • Raise your torso up to bring your chest to your thighs.
  • Pause at the top for a second before returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat 12-15 times.

This ab workout contains our favorite exercises for getting a strong and toned core!

 

Stomach Vacuuming: Just One Tool For Toned Abs

It’s important to remember that stomach vacuuming alone won’t shed belly fat.

But when combined with other core exercises and a healthy diet it will help give you the toned midsection you’ve been working towards.

The beauty of the stomach vacuum is that you can do it pretty much anywhere and any time of day.

So whenever you have a few extra minutes, try stomach vacuuming to help you stabilize your core and get an overall toned physique!

Holly Smith

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Holly is an osteopathic physician, runner, triathlete, and fitness and nutrition enthusiast.

She is board certified in nephrology and internal medicine, has a bachelors degree in dietetics and is a certified personal trainer with NASM-PES certification.

Holly has completed four full ironmans, twelve marathons, countless half ironmans, olympic distance triathlons, half marathons and numerous other road races.

Holly joined the Fit Father Project in May 2019 as a regular writer, contributing articles on health, wellness, exercise, and nutrition.

She has also recently qualified for the 2020 World Championships for Ironman 70.3, in New Zealand!

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*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on stomach vacuuming.

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