Stomach vacuum exercises may sound like some weird, obscure technique, but there’s a high likelihood that if you suffer from a bulging gut and feel like your internal organs are obstructing your six pack, it can help.
The exercise is not difficult to perform but could make a world of difference in the way you train your core.
Interested to learn more about what this exercise can do for you? Then let’s jump into it.
What is Stomach Vacuuming, and Can it Fight Belly Fat?
What Exactly Is The Stomach Vacuum?
No, this doesn’t refer to you turbocharging your appetite and swallowing everything in sight (much like a vacuum would), but rather the simple technique of static contractions done in an effort to strengthen and reduce the circumference of, the abdominal muscles.
The technique is great at really stimulating the deep muscles of the transverse abdominus, found behind the rectus abdominis, offering more postural support and stabilizing the spine in the process.
Other names for the technique include the vacuum drawing-in exercise, abdominal hollowing, and the Pilates hundred (though this can be modified significantly).
Who Is The Stomach Vacuum Exercise For?
While the stomach vacuum exercise can be done by anyone and incorporated into any exercise program, the fact is that not everyone will notice an appreciable difference from performing it.
Why is this?
It comes down to two factors: how much you’re currently able to contract your abs and the type of body you have.
If you already have very strong core muscles, then doing this exercise may not do much for you.
Conversely, if you have a weak core or are carrying some extra weight around your middle, the stomach vacuum can be an excellent way to really increase core strength, burn fat and enhance abdominal muscle tone.
Likewise, if you carry an excessive amount of body fat around the midsection, you might not notice any physical changes from the exercise, although you are probably strengthening the muscles of the transverse abdominis.
Many of the classic bodybuilders of the golden era were able to hit aesthetic poses that made it appear like their midsection disappeared completely – almost like a vacuum existed where it used to be.
Benefits Of Performing The Stomach Vacuum Exercise
Stronger Valsalva maneuver- this is the force of expulsion of air from the lungs, being very important in how good you are at explosive lifts.
Improved Posture- the muscles of the transversus abdominis and rectus abdominis are critical for your ability to stand upright and attain a slimmer waistline.
More control of abdominal muscles- the stomach vacuum works to improve muscle tone and in turn, can reduce your waistline by up to 3 inches in a very short amount of time.
How To Perform The Stomach Vacuum
The exercise is very easy to perform, utilizing the principle of isometric contractions.
It can also be done from a variety of positions ranging from flat on your back, standing, or even seated.
Each position works a bit differently in terms of targeting the muscle.
Start in the standing position, with shoulders back and relaxed, and knees shoulder width apart.
Breathe in through your nose and allow your belly to expand. Do this slowly, over the course of five seconds or so, and allow your lungs to fill to capacity.
Alternatively, if you are unable to do so, deep breathing through your mouth is also acceptable.
Exhale slowly, over 3-5 seconds, as you attempt to remove all the air from your lungs.
Breathing through your mouth is superior to your nose as you are able to control the speed more precisely and contract the muscles of your abdomen more effectively.
It is a good idea to also contract your abdominal stomach muscles vertically (away from the floor), as this helps raise the diaphragm and force out more air, but simultaneously stimulates the muscles from another angle.
Pull in your belly button as far as possible.
This step is important. Do not contract your upper abs, but rather ensure that your belly button is being contracted.
The deep abdominal muscles reside in the lower area, which is coincidentally the most neglected part of ab training (as evidenced by the drooping gut).
Attempt to hold this contracted position for about 20 seconds, although it might not be possible for everyone to do so.
If you cannot hold the position for 20 seconds, start with a shorter time and gradually work up to it.
Eventually, the goal is to be able to hold this position for up to 60 seconds at a time.
One important note to mention is the fact that you do not need to hold your breath for the duration of this contraction.
Some people might be able to do so, but the key takeaway is to keep the contracted position regardless of whether or not you’re breathing.
Next, release the contraction and breathe normally. This is referred to as one isometric contraction.
Repeat the contraction five times before calling in quits. If you’re able, feel free to go up to ten times before wrapping up.
Choosing A Position
As previously mentioned, there are variations of stomach vacuum exercises.
While most persons gravitate to the standing technique as their go-to, it’s actually much easier to start while laying on your back.
This is because doing so removes gravity from the equation, making it a bit easier to focus on pulling in your belly button and contracting the abs.
Your legs are also somewhat removed from the mix as bent knees reduce tension at the joint.
Once you’ve mastered the basic technique, feel free to move onto other positions such as seated or standing.
Kneeling is also another possibility.
if you work seated at a desk all day long, you might appreciate performing the seated variation as it can seamlessly be integrated.
The kneeling version is done with your knees and hands on the ground, with the back flat and parallel to the floor.
The beauty of the exercise is that there is a variation that suits everyone, irrespective of age, experience or physical condition.
How Often Can Stomach Vacuums Be Done?
The stomach vacuum can be done every day, as it is a low-impact exercise with minimal risk of injury.
In fact, if you’re just starting out, it’s best to do them every day so that the muscle memory kicks in and makes the process easier over time.
As your abdominal muscles get stronger, you can then start to space out the exercises to three times a week, or even twice depending on your needs.
It might also be a good idea to avoid abdominal training exercises while performing vacuums in order to not compromise overall core strength.
The Bottom Line
The stomach vacuum is an underrated exercise that can yield tremendous results when done consistently.
It’s easy to do, can be performed anywhere, and does not require any special equipment.
Best of all, it targets the deep abdominal muscles for a well-rounded ab workout.
It is highly recommended as one of the best exercises to build muscle in the stubborn abdominal region and will leave you well poised to deal with a more intense workload.